It brings out the worst in me … #73

I don’t even know where to begin. Really, I try to be polite and respectful, and I try not to embarrass myself. Really. I’m struggling with this one. But I have a confession … cashiers who don’t take customer’s money seriously brings out the worst in me. And really, I think everyone ought to feel this way. Some people should never be allowed to handle other people’s money.

Since this place is local, owned by a local family, staffed by local people, has a local family’s name on the building, has very specific products that would identify the store, and appears to be beloved by everyone but me, I can’t give specific details because I still have to live and function in this town. These details are a lie:

  • The particular product that we really like and that I can only get at this store
  • The cashier’s name

I have been to this store twice in the past month, and each time the same person has made me angry. I swear, the dialogue and the sequence of events in this story are true. Only the names involved and the exact product have been disguised.

There is a particular brand of egg (it’s not eggs) that only comes from one farm and is only delivered on one day a week to this particular farm stand in town. These eggs (they aren’t eggs) are so popular, locals know when they are delivered and buy them that day or the day after. If you wait two days, you’ll be out of luck and have to wait until next week. So, I put it on my calendar and make it a point to go to that side of town and see this particular farm stand on one of those days each week. I actually only do that maybe once every three weeks, but I remind myself on the calendar anyway just in case. That way, if I can combine errands and do everything on that side of town on that day, we get a treat and get these great eggs (they’re not eggs) for dinner that night.

Earlier this month, I was able to visit this store on the exact day the not-eggs were to be delivered. I checked the cooler and there was a blank space where the not-eggs were supposed to be. I asked an employee about it, and she said “Yes, they had delivered them, but someone bought all of them right then, so we won’t have any more until next week.” Fair enough, they’ve got a business to run, supply and demand and all that. I needed some other vegetables and stuff anyway so I browsed, selected some apples, tomatoes, and a few other things, and got in line to pay.

At the front of the store near the entrance/exit, there’s a counter with a cashier stand with two cash registers. There was no one behind the counter but there were two people waiting in front of the counter to be checked out. The first person was a short woman in her 60’s, nicely dressed, holding a shopping basket, facing the counter, waiting. The second was a short man in his 60’s, dressed in working outdoors clothing, holding a shopping basket, facing the counter, waiting. Then there’s me, I’m a good bit taller than the other two, in my 40’s, dressed in office attire, holding a shopping basket, facing the counter, waiting. The three of us are all facing the counter, silently waiting for a cashier to materialize. We are not facing each other or speaking to each other. We are each holding a separate shopping basket. These details will be important in a minute.

A woman who is clearly an employee rushes through the store and bustles behind the counter, staring at the floor. As she gets behind the counter, she looks up and almost jumps backwards when she sees us, as if she was scared of us. Seriously, it was weird. The three of us were standing there, motionless and silent, waiting, and did not lunge at her or scream or anything. And we had been standing there the whole time, from the time she decided to scramble from the back of the store to the front of the store, and she had to rush by us to do this. We didn’t pop out of the floor or drop down from the ceiling, we were in the exact same spot the entire time she made a huge big show of hurrying to the front counter. This woman looks like the female version of Doc from Back To The Future. Wild long gray hair, skinny, frantic motions, exaggerated facial expressions, all that. She’s wearing a nametag, not a scribbled paper sticker, but an actual name tag with her name printed in plastic, permanent. So, obviously, the people who own the store expected her to be there and made at least one gesture towards proclaiming she is an official representative of the store. Except it’s not her name. It’s a … nickname? Title? Endearment? Joke? It’s something sweet and homey and just makes you go awwww … like “Mama Debbie” (that’s not the actual name). Anyway, not-Mama Debbie is out of breath from her run across the store and her scare at our presence, and she’s wide-eyed and looking us up and down. Then she says, and I’m not kidding, “Oh, are you three together?” Remember the description I gave of us last paragraph? Does your mental picture of the three people seem like they are together?

For some reason, this absolutely angers me. Just the sheer stupidity of the question, and the irrelevance of it, and her whole … thing. Her whole “I’m trying so hard and I’m so busy and I’m just worn out!” thing. The useless bustling, the manic act, the pretense. I half expected her to wipe her brow and claim she felt faint from her efforts.

So, my face immediately scowls, while the two other innocent bystanders look around at the three of us, and almost in unison, the two others pleasantly say “No.” They don’t seem bothered by this. But, I’m not going to answer her stupid question while she gets her bearings of the unbelievably stressful task of appearing busy. I said, “What?”, perhaps a little louder than their “No.” Not-Mama’s head whips around and she looks at me and said “Well, you’re standing next to each other.” Okay, piling stupid on top of stupid. I can’t believe it. I said, “Isn’t this the line to check out?” She says, “Yes, but I thought you were together.” Me “We were waiting for the cashier. I thought this was the line to check out.” And it doesn’t end. I let her have the last word, I can’t even remember what it was, because if I hadn’t stopped, she wasn’t going to stop, and we would never be able to check out. I can’t remember what she said last, but it was yet another protest that we appeared to be together, and she thought we were together, and it seemed like we were together, and she wanted to know if we were together, because it was important for her to know that we were together. I still don’t understand why it was important or relevant to her task whether we were “together” or not. We had three separate shopping baskets, and besides, even if they were to be combined, someone would have said something while it was being rung up.

It’s a pattern I recognize. People who say so many stupid things, who often put their foot in their mouth, and are used to other people reacting with disgust, anger, or sarcasm, become incredibly defensive. Instead of dealing with the problem and, oh, I don’t know, thinking before blurting out something half-thought, they just spend most of their energy explaining to the world why the stupid thing they said wasn’t stupid, but fully valid. Everything takes ten times as long, because ninety percent of the effort is spent explaining what the ten percent was supposed to mean. So, I gave up, and let her trail off in her protests as to why it was essential to ringing up the first basket of stuff to find out if the three people were together.

She rings out the woman. She rings out the man. Then it’s my turn. I only have four different loose items, and then one bag of products that was on a discount table. I kept those in a separate bag, because the discount table has one price per pound no matter what the items are. They all cost the same per pound. And I kept them in a bag separate from the full price items. Before she started to ring up, I explained, “These loose items were full price. This bag was from the discount table.” This seems to thoroughly confuse her and she picks it up, puts it down, picks it up and spins it around, looks at the contents, puts it down again, and said, “But they’re all different.” Keep a few things in mind here. The discount table is in full view of the cash register. It’s a small store. She has a permanent name tag, which means she has been there longer than just today. The store makes the prices. The signage is very clear on the table to anyone who looks. The sign makes it clear that on the table, there is a single price per pound no matter what the item. Swallowing my frustration, I explain again, moving slightly to the side so I can point to the table that is fully in her view, “The sign said they were all the same price per pound. Would you like for me to separate the items and put them in different bags?” She thinks about this, does not answer yes or no, just says again, “But they’re all different.” My response, “I didn’t realize that was a problem. I thought that since they were the same price they would be weighed together. I’ll put each one in a different bag if that would help.” Again, she doesn’t affirm or deny this offer, just says, “Well, they’re all different.” What do I do? Does this mean put them in a different bag or not? Or does it mean to go back in time, and do it all over again? I have no idea how to fix this. So, I say, “Never mind, I don’t need them. Just keep them.” I just want her to ring up the things I do want and get out of there before I’m exposed to any more stupidity. Then, she protests, “Oh, it’s okay, you can buy these, it’s just that they are all different.” WHY is that the relevant point? Why is it necessary to state that over and over? What am I supposed to say? I really have no idea how to react, so I take a deep breath, remain silent and just stare at the vegetables on the counter. She starts to ring them up, and as if to fill the silence, says at least three more times that they are “different”. She does ring them up, I pay, and head out to my car, really bothered by all this.

Is it just me? Do people find that kind of act cute or enjoyable? If you are trying to conduct business, do you want to be entertained by a clown while you hand over your money? I don’t understand.

This is not the end of the story. Like I said, I’ve been there twice in the last month.

The particular not-eggs that I wasn’t able to obtain the first visit, I attempted to buy again the next week. Again, empty in the cooler space even though I was there early. I checked with an employee, and she said, “They delivered them a day early this week. All of them were gone in an hour.” OK, that’s just the way it goes, I needed a few other things anyway. I picked out a bag of onions, their packaging, the red netting you usually see pre-weighed bags of onions in (I think the price was $3.99). Then I selected four apples, in season, that really looked good (I think they were about $1.79 a pound, it was about 2 pounds. This will be important later.). I was a little bit tense walking up to the register because I noticed Doc, I mean Mama, was flinging herself around behind the counter doing … something … appeared to be moving a package of dry beans to different locations on the checkout counter. I couldn’t exactly tell why the consternation over the placement of the package of beans, then as I got closer to the register, I noticed a sign taped on the counter in front of the register that said something to the effect of “Don’t place your purchases on this counter until you are ready to check out.” I wondered if maybe a customer had placed the bag of beans on the counter and either was not ready to check out, or had changed his/her mind about buying the beans, but I guess I can’t be sure. Or maybe Mama had brought the bag of beans with her when she walked behind the counter, then forgot it was her that had the beans with her, and was at a total loss as to how to handle the dilemma. Anyway, it seemed to really have her in a stir, so I warily placed the three-pound bag of onions and the bag of four apples directly on the pad next to the cash register in the most logical place to check out, and at that point my hands were empty, with just my purse hanging over my shoulder, and I hoped for the best.

And, the drama begins. She’s flustered. She still doesn’t know what to do with the beans. She moves them again, this time kind of right in front of the cash register, right where my empty hands are resting on the counter, so I have to move a little so that her perfect bean bag placement can be achieved. In fact, she almost slams them down on top of my knuckles, but I pulled my hands back right as I got the vibe that the beans were aimed at me. I’m the only one at the counter and there’s no one in line behind me and it’s a long counter. Or she could just place it anywhere on the entire counter that’s behind her, but whatever, apparently the exact spot where my hands were resting was the right place, so I move. This seems to stir her up a little more and she picks up the bag of onions, types mightily into the cash register, and picks up the bag of apples, weighs it, and types again. So far so good. I’m expecting to pay somewhere around $8, maybe slightly more with tax. I’m not prepared for what she says next.

“That will be $32.96.” That’s what she says. I kid you not. Like I said, she has a permanent name tag, and I’ve seen her before, and I’m the only one at the counter, and there was no one ahead of me, I didn’t rush her, there’s no one behind me, and I only set two items on the counter. I pause and say nothing, expecting a miracle of logic to take over and for her to say something like she hit the wrong button or something. She just stares at me and sort of frowns. I’m instantly really, really pissed.

How hard is your job, really? How difficult is it to total TWO common items that are of relatively predictable and stable price, that you sell every day? It’s not like I was buying unicorn meat and leprechaun eyelids. Flipping onions and apples. Really.

This is one of those situations where I struggle to be polite and respectful. I probably fail, but I just said, “No, it isn’t.” and I stared some more. She looked at the total, looked at me, and stammered something about “$32.96” again. I pointed out to her that the onions were pre-bagged and pre-weighed and were from a display that said $3.99. I said that the apples were $1.79 a pound, and there were only four apples. I asked her to check again. She grunts and sighs and seems really put out. She picks each one up and sets them down again. Types furiously again. Prints out something. Prints out something else. Picks them up and puts them back down. She’s shaking her head and frowning. At some point during this, another customer gets in line behind me. I don’t look at this customer and I don’t apologize for this taking so long or anything like that. I’m watching Doc like a hawk, but I can’t figure out what she’s doing. A few transactions run through the register and she staples the papers together. Picks up the products and sets them down again. Types again. Then prints out some long receipt, and asks me to sign it. I say, “No, I don’t know what that is, I’m not signing it.” She said I have to sign it, because it’s a return. I said I am not returning anything, I only want to buy these two items. I really just want to walk away but the onions look good and the apples look good and I don’t want to have to make another stop. She says she has to do the return before she can ring anything else out or it “won’t work”. I don’t know what that means.

Aside note … either someone in this place is stealing, and someone is covering up for it, or there is just massive incompetence. Just saying.

I refuse again to sign anything. I state again that I’m not returning anything, that I’m just trying to purchase these two products, and that perhaps she should sign the papers herself if she needs a signature. She asks my name. I don’t give her my name. I say again I’m just here to buy apples and onions, and if she’s got a problem with her cash register, maybe she should call tech support or something, but I’m not signing anything.

Frantic at this point, she rings up the two items and says “That’s $8.13.” Sounds about right to me, so I pay cash, and at this point she is rolling her eyes at the other customer, apologizing, and I wait for my change and leave.

Something fishy is going on there, but I’m not going to stick around to find out. People like that bring out the worst in me, and I’m not going back.

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