Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Only Three Dollars

I know working retail sucks because I've done it. They pay is lousy and goes up very, very slowly. Your hours are at the mercy of the manager, who can make sure you get the worst ones if you displease him, or just because he gave his girlfriend the best shift plus the first shot at overtime. You're on your feet all day. Customers are demanding and sometimes unpleasant. Too often there's more work than all of you together could possibly do, even if everybody worked hard--and there are always some who coast. And corporate, those greedy bastards in their offices with ergonomic desk chairs, demands that you greet every customer with some perky store catchphrase. Ugh, just ugh.

So I get why store employees seem exhausted, act they they could give a rat's ass about my shopping experience, and are clearly just marking the hours until they can get the hell out of there. (Which makes a store where they're not like that all the more amazing.)

This is why, for most of my adult life, I've tried hard to personalize every transaction. It doesn't take any longer to ring up my stuff if I say, "How's your day going?" then listen and respond to the answer. I keep it light and attempt to be mildly funny, the general idea being that I'd like to be a customer the employee doesn't mind, maybe even enjoys. Do it long enough at the same store, and you get small bits of favoritism--they take your word on the shelf price of an unmarked item, remember that you like double bags, like that, nothing unfair to other shoppers.

Today my friendly question met with silence. Everybody has bad days; who knows what else she's got going on in her life? I would respect her preference for just doing her job. The woman rang up my purchases, a total of five items. I handed her my store membership card, which got me a discount on some of the items, and three coupons. Two went through without a problem, reducing my total. The third did not.

"It says you didn't buy the product."

"I did, though." I dug into the bag and pulled it out.

"Oh, right." She reread the coupon. "That qualifies."

"Can you override the computer saying I didn't buy it, then?"

She didn't answer, just punched buttons. After what seemed like several minutes but was probably less than three, it turned out she could not. "I have to get the manager, I guess."

"Okay." I shrugged my helplessness to the short line behind me.

"Where's Steve?" she called to the cashier closest to her.

"Lunch, I think. He's late."

"Figures." To me, she said, "It's only three dollars."

It was hard not to snap at her. I had a coupon that applied to the product I bought. Why should I have to wait for Steve the Manager, and inconvenience other shoppers, because she either didn't know how to override the computer based on what she'd seen with her own eyes, or because she didn't have the authority to do that?

Just then Steve arrived--laughing his apology for being late again!--and he did the override without any trouble, deducting the three dollars. In a dead voice, the employee thanked me for shopping there.

But Steve and the greedy bastards at corporate should know that because they either did not adequately train or did not trust their employee, I'll think twice about shopping there again.

It was only three dollars, but those were my three dollars. I wish she'd pretended that mattered.

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