Tales From Retail: Black Friday

I actually wanted to put this up last week, but I’m still traumatized 6 years later.

Listen. If you’ve never had to work a Black Friday before, count yourself lucky. It is some of the most dehumanizing foolery you can imagine. The customers turn to creatures possessed, and the workers end up snapping at each other out of frustration.

Let me tell you my story of the first Black Friday I had to work.

Picture it: day after Thanksgiving, 5am. I am up before Jesus and the sun and NOT happy about it. I’m working with one of the most horrible managers I have ever worked with in life (this holds 6 years afterwards. She was THAT bad, y’all.) I was volunteered for the early morning shift because, well, nobody else liked her.

I didn’t like her either, but I can get along with anybody.

The aggravation started early, as she was an hour late, so I was outside waiting for her to get there. Doors opened at 7 and we still had setup to do. And as I am that early in the morning, I’m not communicative. I am trying to get this store ready so that we can be as prepared as possible for the crowd. They had their faces pressed against the windows and doors as we worked. I might mention she never apologized for not telling me that I didn’t have to be in that early. So I’m already annoyed.

So. Doors open, and we’re swamped. It’s just two of us (why in heaven would you only schedule two people on Black Friday?! Why?!) and we’re running about like chickens with no heads. I leave the manager to run the register, and I’m helping on the floor. We have a customer who wanted a fragrance that was still in the cage. I needed the key, so I ask Snotty (name changed to protect the stupid) to hand me the key so I can get the product.

Snotty: “I can’t hear you; you’ll have to speak up!”

Ok. It’s loud in here, so I raise my voice a bit.

“Could you toss me the fragrance key?”

Snotty: “I really can’t understand you!”

She’s standing next to me now, so I don’t…*sigh* Ok.

“I need the fragrance key please!” I speak loudly this time.

Snotty: “Don’t you dare yell at me! You could ask nicely!”

Me: “…”

Snotty: “Act like you have some sense! You have some nerve…”

And it was here that I think I blacked out a little. Let paint this picture for y’all. I am on the sales floor. This foolishness is happening in front of a throng of customers and she’s getting in my face. Like, personal space bubble in. my. face! The customer I was helping didn’t know what to do, cause she saw me ball my hands into fists. I was trying to calm myself down, but it wasn’t working. Once she finished her tirade, the look I laid on her was something like this:

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Snotty gets quiet. The crowd even gets quiet. One woman in the line goes: “This poor girl is about to snap.”

Me: “I asked you three times for the key. All three times you claimed you couldn’t hear me, so when I get loud enough for you to hear me, I’m yelling? Let me tell you something…”

Snotty: “We will talk about this later—“

Me: “Oh, no ma’am. You yelled at me out here, so we’re gonna handle this here! I am here to help you because nobody else likes you, but please know I can clock out and go home RIGHT NOW. Is that what you want? Cause you don’t ring as fast as I do and you definitely don’t know the product like I do.”

Snotty: “No. But we’ll talk about this later.”

Me: ” No, we won’t, unless you’re firing me. Now, give me the key so I can get this customer what she’s asking me for. Thank you.”

After that, I don’t know that I have ever moved as fast as I did. I kept the key, got folks what they wanted, and virtually rang up 4 customers for every 1 she helped. By the time 2pm rolled around, the crowd had thinned, and it was time for me to go. The assistant manager was so impressed with how I was working, she asked if I would stay late. At this point Snotty pulls her to the side and tells her what happened.

AM: “OMG, you didn’t make her quit, did you?!”

Snotty: “Did you not hear me say she yelled at me?”

AM: “And you started it. I swear, if you made our best cashier quit–“

Snotty: “…”

Me: “I’m not quitting. But I’m not staying late either. I’m going home. Let me know if I still have a job tomorrow.”

AM: “You do. And I’m sorry about today.”

Gotta love how the assistant manager had more pull than the store manager! I stayed with that company until I packed up and moved to NYC, but the experience scarred me. Now that I’m a manager, I schedule myself off on Black Friday despite the fact that my company doesn’t even do Black Friday deals!

Sending love to my fellow workers in retail this month. I know it’s gonna be long, but you’ll make it through. I hope your customers are all kind and the unkind ones step on their children’s Lego with no shoes.

Stories

Tales From Retail: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble….

Picture it: NYC, 2011. Late Night.

I’m finishing up my closing duties, and I’m on my way back from the bathroom when two men streak past me. One of them has a full garbage bag slung over his shoulder.

I already know what this means, so I head upstairs as quickly as I can to alert the loss prevention (LP) on duty so they can file a report.

Didn’t seem to be a need, because by the time I made it up the stairs, there was a standoff.

There was a third man involved, who upon seeing things were getting just a little bit too hot for comfort just kind of strolled out of the door.

The second man, who had nothing in his hands, was pleading with LP to let his friend go. His friend had the full garbage bag of all manner of medicines, whitening strips, you name it.

Yes, people steal these things. They also steal makeup testers, because they’re gross. They’ll steal YOU if they could figure out how to do it so you won’t know. It’s that hard out in these streets.

Anyway.

The thing is, we can really only hold the person who has the product, so second dude is pleading with LP to let first dude go.

“Man, you got your stuff back. Let him go,” he said.

LP wasn’t having it. “I advise you to go ’bout your business before I have you arrested, too.”

And the argument was starting to escalate.

It went from pleas to cursing, until I saw the first punch thrown. I ran to call 911 (not knowing they’d already been called) and did my best to calm down the customers in line. I remember there was a family of French tourists, mom, dad, and little boy. The little boy, who had to have been about 11, was so thoroughly enjoying what was going on. He looked like most folks do when they’re watching an action movie: eyes so big you could see the whites all around. His mom was petrified (rightly so), and kept trying to drag him towards the back of the store as he (and his dad) kept trying to inch towards the front to get a better look.

Meanwhile, LP and first dude are still going at it: LP trying to hold him till the cops got there, and dude trying to break free. LP is continually saying: “Dude, you’re going to jail. Stop fighting me,” until..

HulkGIF

Seriously, before any of us knew what was happening, LP had flipped this dude on his back in the floor. “Now STAY DOWN, I said!”

Whoa.

My reaction:

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It was dead silent for a few seconds as we all processed what we’d just saw.

Dude was too shocked to keep fighting, and about 5 minutes later, the police walked in and arrested him.

I keep telling y’all: retail is dangerous. I was really trying my best to keep the customers out of the way. Let’s be real: this could have gone south real quick, and when you have customers more involved in trying to see what’s happening rather than getting out of the way ( *side eye emoji*) it makes life more difficult for us to make sure folks stay safe.

Hope y’all’s week is going well so far! See you next week for another installment of Tales from Retail. πŸ˜€

Stories

Tales From Retail: Holiday Edition

Yesterday was Memorial Day. The unofficial first day of summer for us Americans. A day filled with cookouts, beer, friends, and family.

I, like quite a few other folks that work retail, had to work. Because Memorial Day sales and whatnot.

Anyway.

Before I begin, let me first say thank you to the servicewomen and men out there that keep us safe, and I send peace to the families that have lost loved ones.

So. Yesterday.

Listen, I don’t know what it is about holidays that turn some shoppers into entitled snots, but I swear, anytime it’s a major holiday folks tend to get really snippy.

I’m helping a customer, right? She’s looking for correcting concealer (these are the concealers that come in orange, yellow, or green; most often used for correcting skin concerns), so I’m showing her a concealer palette we carry. Now, it’s clear that the person I’m speaking to is a customer, as I’m handing her product and explaining the best way to apply it when I hear a crash on my counter.

I look over, as does my customer.

Here stands a woman with giant sunglasses on and one too many lip injections tossing items on my counter.

“Hi, ma’am. Can I help you?”

“Yeah. You ring up here, right?”

I look. My customer looks.

“Well, it might be a moment, as I’m helping someone right this second–”

“But there’s a register here. You ring up, so get to it.”

I blink. What in the actual…

“I do ring, but I am currently with a customer, who was here before you were. We do have other open registers with no line, and if you don’t wish to carry your items, we have baskets to your immediate right. But I cannot ring you up right this second. If you want me to help you, you’ll have to wait a moment. I’m sorry.”

She looks at me. I look back like…

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She sneers (or tried to sneer, cause the Botox wouldn’t let her frown), snatches her things and takes off to the other register. That was less that 5 steps away. With NO LINE. *side eye emoji*

My customer: “Did she not see me standing here?”

Me: “I know, right?! What in the world…”

“Honey, I work retail too. I get it. But listen. I’m going to take this concealer, so…can I get rung up here?”

At which point we look at each other and dissolve into laughter.

And yes, I rung her up there. πŸ™‚

Just a little something to make you smile on the first day back at work. Happy Tuesday!

Stories

Tales From Retail: Anatomy

Picture it: NYC, 2011. I’m going about my duties at work, when I’m approached by the (very confused and flustered) assistant manager. He has a woman with him, and she’s carrying two boxes with her. I can tell by how he’s looking around he needs ME to help him sort this out, and I immediately get nervous.

I step from around the corner to see how I can be of service.

“Yes, um, this young lady needs some council on this, and she doesn’t want to speak to the pharmacist about it.”

I’m confused by this, until I see the two boxes she’s carrying: the Today Sponge, and the Instead cup. Ok then, I think. The pharmacist is a guy, so she wanted a woman’s opinion. No problem, I can oblige.

“Sure, I got it. How can I help you, ma’am?”

“So, I am seeing a handsome man tonight, and we want to get into…activities. {I snickered. Couldn’t help it.} How do I use these things? I am on my menstrual.”

Hmm. Having never used either of the items she was holding, I did a quick read of the box.

“Well, the sponge here you wet it, lather it, stick it in there, and leave it for up to 48 hours, and the cup you put in there and leave it for up to 12 hours. You’ll have to take it out, dump it, rinse it, and put it back in periodically.”

Her: *blank stare* “So, I just put everything in there? I can do that.”

Me: *headshake* “No, you can’t put both of them in there. It’s either or, and unfortunately, you can’t use the Today sponge when you’re menstruating.”

Her: “But I need both.”

Me: “Ma’am, please forgive my bluntness, but how much room do you think is in there? If you put both in, there won’t be enough room for activities.”

We look at each other.

Her: “And you’re certain about this?”

I nod.

I see her face drop. Aww. I felt bad, so I decided to offer her an alternative.

“I’d do the Instead cup and have him use a condom. That’s gonna be your best bet.”

“Well, I hate condoms, but if that’s the best option…Do you have a favorite?”

“I have some suggestions. Let’s have a look.”

And I went and helped her pick out some condoms so she could enjoy her evening with her handsome man.

If this isn’t a PSA for proper sexual education and anatomy, I don’t know what is. But I hope her evening had a happy ending! πŸ˜€

Stories

Tales From Retail: Still Got It

Picture it, April 30th, early evening.

I’m in GNC getting some protein powder for my smoothies (trying to get healthy, don’t ya know), and one of the two salespeople ask if I need help.

So, you know that customer you ask if they need help and they say no and wander aimlessly until your coworker asks if they need help and they say yes and you get annoyed?

I was that customer. *hangs head in shame* I wasn’t trying to be, but I needed unflavored protein powder and couldn’t find it where I thought it should be.

Anyway.

So, the guy asks if I need help and I finally admit I do, so he takes me to the protein powder I want.

Me: “Let me get the smaller bag. I need to make sure I’m going to stick to this before I commit to a larger container.”

Him: “That seems wise. This will help make breakfast easier; just make sure you have a good workout plan too.”

Me: “Oh, I do. Today’s my birthday, and I’m trying to get my life together.”

Him: “Oh, I know that balance. Trying to do both work and school can be rough.”

When he says school I realize he thinks I’m around his age. He’s got a baby face, so I just have to ask.

“School? How old are you, hon?”

Him: “20.”

I had to stifle a laugh. That’s precious. When I was 20 I was pulling all nighters writing papers and trying to figure out where I was gonna get my liquor for the weekend. You aren’t concerned about getting your life together. You’ve just discovered you have one.

“Aww, hon. I’ve got 10 years on you. Enjoy this part of getting your life together. It’s the fun part!”

“You’re 30? You honestly don’t look it!”

“That’s super sweet of you.”

And I got my protein powder and my vitamins and headed home to eat my slice of German chocolate cake.

Heh. Still got it. πŸ™‚

Stories

Tales From Retail: Why I Stick Around

I know I tend to make y’all laugh and shake your head at my stories every week. And I bet a question sits in the back of your heads:

“Why does Char even stay?”

Well, for one: paycheck. Eating and having an apartment is a good thing. But that’s not the sole reason or I’d probably be fired by now.

For every horrid customer, I have at least 20 nice ones. It’s just that the bad customers do things so egregious I can’t help but share them with y’all. So, to help balance out the foolery (and kick off my birthday week), let me share a story of a really sweet customer I had.

Picture it, NYC 2012. The rush hour is starting to calm down and I’m cleaning up and restocking products, and this lovely woman walks up to me to ask for mascara advice.

I’m giving her some suggestions, but I notice she looks really sad. Even though it isn’t my business, I still ask: “Is everything ok?”

Her: “No. I just got some troubling news, and I figured spending money would fix it. Well, not really, but I needed a distraction? I don’t know.”

I understand the idea of shopping it away. In the end, it really only brings credit card debt, but sometimes it helps you feel better for just a while. So, I went and got her a basket, and we did some shopping.

We went over great skincare, all of the eyeshadow, let me get you some brushes, all types of stuff. We’re just tossing things in the cart and chatting about everything and nothing. I see her mood start to improve.

Sidebar: more often than not, when you work retail, you get to be people’s counselor. You get to listen to their relationship issues, and they want some help with the solutions. I never mind that part so much because I’ll talk your ear off if you let me.

So, once we’ve filled the cart with all type of stuff (including the mascara she came for) I take her to the register, dump everything on the counter, and say “Ok, what are we keeping?”

She’s stunned. “You wouldn’t be upset if I put some of this back?”

Me: “Nope. Sometimes you just have fun throwing it in the cart. I know you wanted the mascara. What else did you want to get?”

Her: “All of it. Ring it up. Doesn’t matter what it costs; I got the husband’s card today!”

She whips out her Black AmEx.

Well, damn.

“Are you sure? Because, really–”

“Seriously! You’ve been so kind to me, and I love all the things you helped me pick out. I’ll take all of it!”

Y’all, that was a $500 purchase.

And she gave me a huge hug before she left and emailed my boss how well I did.

*warm fuzzies*

See, this is why I do what I do. Even though the hours are long, and it can be tiring, and some customers make me want to high five them in the forehead, when I get customers like this–ones who are kind, who are happy with my help and are happy to be helped–it makes the headache worth it. It really does. A woman who had tears in her eyes when she came in left with a smile on her face, and even had she left with nothing I would have felt like I’d done my job.

πŸ˜€ Happy Monday!

Stories

Tales From Retail: Classism

Picture it, Dallas, 2008. I’ve just started my first retail job, and I’m running the registers like a boss.

So far, all of my customers have been pleasant, and while I made a couple of mistakes, everything is running smoothly.

While walking the floor, I run into this very pleasant lady and her daughter. The little girl is around 10, and she’s doing a little homework while her mom shops. I hear her trying to figure out if the word “everyone” is singular or plural. I had a brand new shiny degree in English I wasn’t using, so I went over to help.

“Sounds like you’re having a bit of trouble there, hon. Anything I can help with?”

“Yes! I have to pick the right verb, but I don’t know if “everyone” is one person or more than one person.”

Common question, since the word makes you think of more than one person. If you’re reading this and feel a bit rusty: everyone/everything and anyone/anything are singular, as they refer to a single group (one unit.)

So, I answer the little girl, and help her with her work so her mom can shop in peace. When the mother is ready to ring up, I go to the front to check her out.

Her: “Honey, you are so intelligent! Thanks so much for helping my daughter out.”

Me: “Thank you so much, and you’re quite welcome. I used to tutor for a spell.”

I keep scanning items.

Her: “You know, you’re so bright. Way too intelligent to be working here. Why don’t you go to school and get your degree? Then you could quit working here!”

*record scratch*

Y’all. Y’ALL. I cannot stand when people do this. College degrees are not indicative of high intelligence. Do not assume the person working in the service industry is unintelligent and retail is their penance. At the time of this incident, the economy took a nosedive, and I had just graduated college. I didn’t get into law school, and I wasn’t into the idea of teaching (I feel as though your heart has to be in teaching, otherwise you won’t give the students your all. And I knew then as now that I just don’t have that passion.) I work retail because I enjoy eating, keeping a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. Also, oddly enough, IΒ enjoyΒ it, even when customers get out of pocket.

So, I’m staring at her as I put her purchases in a bag. I felt like this:

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IRRITATED!

But I had to keep it cool, because I needed that job.

Me: “Oh, I have a degree in English, actually. But I could use an extra job. Is your company hiring?” *bright smile*

Her: *shifts her gaze from me as her face reddens*

I hand her the bag. “Have a great day!”

She walks out quickly, and I wave goodbye to her daughter.

My manager: “Welcome to retail!”

Me: *deep sigh*

That night, I understood the concept of happy hour. I enjoyed that rum and coke!

Happy Monday!

Stories

Tales From Retail: Naturally Brown

Picture it: Dallas, Texas, 2008. I’m applying makeup to a young client; she’s competing in a pageant and needed a test run of some of the products her mom was purchasing.

She had to have been about four or five, but she knew what she did (“I love the glittery lip gloss!”) and didn’t like (“No smoky eye, please!”)

*blank stare* Well, ok then.

She was better than a lot of my pageant girls, because you could really tell who competed because they loved it and who competed because their mamas enjoyed it for them. She loved it though.

At any rate, she was a pleasant little girl, and we had a great time putting together some looks while her mom shopped.

Once I got done with a look both I and my little client could agree on, I called her mom over to see how she felt.

“This is perfect! Ok, we’ll take those three glosses, that bronzer, and those two eye shadow palettes.”

Now, I’m geeked, right? Because selling is ultimately the name of the game in retail.

“Awesome! Would you like to check out now, or would you like a basket so you can continue browsing?”

“I’ll take the basket, thanks. Also, could you show me some foundation for myself?”

So, we keep shopping, and the basket gets more and more full.

“Ok, I have one more question for you.”

“Sure, what can I help you with?”

“I need a good self tanner. Which one do you use? That brown is the absolute perfect color!”

Pause.

In case any of y’all had no idea: I’m Black. This isn’t to say that Black folk don’t tan or wear bronzer, but anyone who’s seen self tanner on knows its a self tanner. But I gave this kind woman the benefit of the doubt and said, “Oh, I don’t use self tanner; this is my natural skin color. But I’d be happy to help you pick out a product.”

She pauses. “Oh, really? Are you sure?”

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Am I sure I’m Black or…

I had to have that internal dialogue many retail workers have when ignorant foolery comes out of someone’s mouth: you NEED this job. Breathe. Have a drink or two later. BREATHE.

So I’m just looking at this customer after her last statement, and she’s actually waiting for an answer. So I say “Yes, I’ve been this color for quite some time. Would you like me to help you find something that works for you?”

She scoffs. “I suppose not. I thought you were tanned, not Black. We’ll just take these things.”

…sigh.

She ended up spending about $500, but I was mentally drained after from holding my tongue.

I had a couple of glasses of wine after work that day. I needed it.

Happy Monday, y’all! πŸ™‚

Stories

Tales From Retail: Five Finger Discount

I’m coming back from lunch, and I’m headed to the office to get clocked back in and get some paperwork done.

As I’m walking across the store, I notice a commotion in the beer aisle.

Really, it wasn’t hard to notice the commotion because it was pretty loud, but I digress.

I see one of the managers asking for a man to pull the beer out of his pants and give it back to him.

Yes, y’all. Folks steal beer, socks, makeup testers–anything that’s not nailed down. Even if stores have security, they can’t be in all places at once, so it falls on us as staff to keep an eye on the goods.

Anyway.

As the manager is asking for this beer back, the thief is getting louder and more belligerent, which eventually scales to him threatening to jump on the manager.

The manager, naturally, was NOT here for that foolery and was ready for that fight. At this point, the stock guys are out there trying to calm everyone down. The cashiers are calling the police, customers are horrified, it’s borderline bananas at this point.

As one stock guy is holding back the manager, the other stock guy is pushing the thief out of the door (sans beer; he handed it to the stock guy when he put his hands up to fight.)

It’s at this point I walk into the thief’s line of sight.

It’s important to reiterate: at this juncture I have little clue about what’s going on since I’m coming back from lunch, and I see one of the cashiers on the phone calling the police. I’ve said before that in retail, you see everything, so I was pretty unaffected by the commotion. I just wanted to clock back in and finish my paperwork so I could go home.

The thief sees me walking past. I stop to make sure the cashiers are good and to tell the customers everything’s cool. And do you know what this thief says to me, y’all?

“Oh, what bitch? You want some of this?! What you wanna do?!”

*record scratch*

Most folks have a part of their brain that keeps them from doing stupid shit on a whim. I’m missing that part of my brain, because after I took a moment to do this:

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I then pulled out my box cutter (ain’t just for cutting boxes, y’all!) and said “Sir, we can handle this right here.” He pauses in shock, and that was just enough for the stock guy to shove him out the door finally.

I sheath my box cutter. And walk to the office to do my paperwork. Like a boss, as the young’uns say.

Sigh.

I’m glad I didn’t have to use it, and I was equally glad I had it. But know I would have.

Yep, retail can be dangerous, y’all.

Also? This same thief came BACK to the store, right? And stared daggers at me across the store. I suppose he wanted to intimidate me, but I don’t scare easily.

I just went back to collapsing boxes. πŸ˜€

Stories

Tales From Retail: Racial Scents

Picture it: NYC, mid-morning, 2012. I’m approached by a male customer wanting to purchase fragrance for his sister and niece before he flies home to India.

So, I grab the fragrance keys and pull out some of the fine fragrance we have to keep locked away because thieves. He’s not happy with the prices, and wants to know what I have around the $40 mark.

I pull out some Amarige. I have that scent, and I love it. It can be strong, so a dab will do, and it’s priced at $39.99. He wants a bigger bottle at the same price.

Sir. This is not a flea market where you can haggle. Corporate sets the prices; I enforce them. That’s it. But there was no point in going to all of that as I only carried the smaller bottle.

“Oh, fine. What other scents do you have?”

I walk this man through the store, showing him different items and spraying all manner of different fragrance, and he had complaints about every.single.thing!

I tried to narrow it down: what are the ages of your family members? (old, and young, said he.) Ok. What type of things do they like? (What do all women like? said he.) Ok. I sigh. Now what?

I’m trying to keep the veneer of helpful employee up, but he’s slowly starting to piss me off. I’ve known customers to do this so that they can get what they want, but that doesn’t fly with me.

He finally decides he wants the fine fragrance again. Ok, I think. I’ve smelled almost all of these, so this should hopefully go quickly. He initially picks Pink Sugar for his niece, which leads me to ask exactly how young is she? Because this smells like cotton candy. Most popular with teenagers.

“Ah, she’s about 25. Never mind, I won’t get her a fragrance. What about my sister? She’s in her 40s.”

I’m thinking, 40s is old? But I pull out the Amarige again for him and describe it to him. Since it’s one I own, I know how good it is.

“You wear it?”

Didn’t I just say…”Yes, I do. It’s one of my favorites.”

“So people…buy it?”

…”Yes, they do.”

“Do White people buy it?”

Family, this man was not white. He was Indian and the same shade of brown as me. I could only assume his family would be around the same color so…what in all of the hell was he trying to say? At this point, the veneer cracked, y’all. The look I laid on him said:

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I didn’t say it out loud, but I wanted to…

If looks could kill it would have been some slow singing and flower bringing, you hear me?

I think he realized then that a) whatever patience I had was gone and b) he done fucked up and had better remedy that quickly.

“Oh, well, you know, other people like different things, so…”

I’m still leveling my death stare at him.

“Yes, sir. White people buy it. Were you interested in this fragrance, or did you want to look elsewhere? I’ve shown you all I have.”

What I wanted to ask him was if he would like me to get someone White to give their opinion. Providing him with customer service is fine for a Black woman, but her opinion means nothing. Mhm. Got it.

An hour later, this man left my store with only one piece of fragrance and left me with a headache.

Bonus: he came back in my store two days later looking specifically for me. Why? Because he “liked the service I gave him.”

*blank face* -_-

Y’all, if you ever come across a salty customer service clerk it’s probably because they had a similar customer to mine. Please don’t hate them. It’s just trauma.

Come back next week for a new Tale from Retail!

Stories