Things That Happened When I Was In The Service Industry
Yesterday, I went shopping for holiday presents in New York City, which is kind of like any scene in Planet Earth where a baby seal is eaten by a shark, except the shark is a white woman loudly saying "this is ridiculous" to a salesperson who is working a double shift. And you better believe I heard the phrase "this is ridiculous" at least 5 times during my 3-hour shopping stint. I heard it in Barnes and Noble over the charismatic warble of Michael Buble's I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas, which has replaced Santa, Baby in it's ability to make me uncomfortable now. I heard it in the Union Square Holiday market when somebody had to wait over five minutes for a mulled cider. I heard it in Sephora when an employee tried to tell a group of people clutching $45 facial mists to please please stop forming a line that wasn't really a line, but an amorphous blob that burped VIB points. And I heard it from my own mouth, when my cardboard bag broke in the middle of the street next to a small dog, vomiting kibble next to an Elizabeth Arden spa.
The holiday season is beautiful for many reasons, but there are a few reasons it is not beautiful. It is not beautiful when you're considering elbowing somebody in the face for an NES Classic. It is not beautiful when people double down on the whole "it's called CHRISTMAS" thing, like the thing that's really at stake in this country right now is how you end a conversation with your mailman. And it's not so beautiful if you work retail or are in the service industry.
I am not anymore, but I was for seven years. And so whenever I have an interaction with a cashier, I try to be patient and smiley and also try to morse code blink at them if they need some Xanax or something. I wish the retail workers the merriest of holidays this season, and I hope they get short lines and the kinds of people that don't suddenly ask for a gift receipt after the transaction is over. To commiserate with them, here's a list of things that happened to me during my years at coffee shops and clothing stores:
- one time, I had an older man tell my coworker directly behind me that he wanted to put whipped cream on my body instead of on a drink, and my co-worker had to respond "she's in high school."
-a woman wanted to check the level of her Venti tea because she didn't trust me to do it right, but when she popped the lid she knocked the whole thing over and the burning hot water got all over my hands and clothing and dripped down into my socks. I had to run to the back and rip my socks off and put burn cream on my feet, which is very sticky. I do not recall an apology.
-When Boston turned off the water supply because it might have been poisoned, we couldn't make fresh espresso, so a customer threw the instant coffee I offered him at my head.
-There was this gentleman that would come into my suburban Starbucks at night and ask for a cappuccino, and when I would make it, he would ask me to weigh it on the drink scale (we kept a drink scale on site for training employees, which I guess he found out about). On my first month working the espresso bar there was a night he made me weigh it six times even though my co-worker offered to make it for me instead since I was new.
-My first week, at 16, I was also called a bitch by a grown man when he asked why I served his espresso in a small cup, and I responded "it's 2 oz, which isn't a lot of coffee." He put his finger so close to my face, I can't believe I didn't bite it. The next week, he came back with his son and said to him while I was working the coffee bar, "this is why you go to college."
-Somebody told me to fuck off because I charged them for an extra espresso shot, which they asked for.
-I am just reminded somebody threw a cup at my head, but I can't remember why.
-A woman ran up to me angrily and said that there was an asian man with a bucket in the bathroom and could I please get him out, but he was my boss, wearing an apron, and he was cleaning.
-We had to keep a lookout for a guy who used to come on, heat packets of honey in hot water and use it like lube in front of the employees. He came into our store many times and we had to kick him out every time, and eventually he got arrested (?)
-I cleaned a used tampon off a mirror
-I fell into a garbage can
-These teen girls came in once because they ate a spoonful of nutmeg to get high, then they threw up and their parents picked them up.
-I had a co-worker who said she was allergic to touching coffee who eventually quit..working..at a...coffee shop.
-I had to trail people I "thought" were going to steal, even though I am 4'11 and would in no way confront somebody I thought was stealing a six dollar t-shirt for the amount of money I got paid.
-I jokingly meowed at one of my co-workers and this guy came up to me and angrily asked "Did you just...MEOW at me?!?!"
-On my last day of high school, I got a card with 20 bucks in it.
-A customer brought us a bunch of pizza because we all had to work overtime
-On a busy day, during the busiest time of the day, one of my co-workers asked a customer to repeat their order. The man replied "learn English," probably because my co-worker was not white but Asian. The guy behind him went "I know you guys can't tell this guy off, but I can. FUCK OFF." That guy got a free drink.
-Gus Fring used to leave really good tips!
Leave your worst/best retail stories in the comments below, because I love reading them. Oh! And be nice to people this holiday season.