Isn't it cool when some kind of life change coincides with the start of a new year? Like when you go into labour during a New Year's Eve party? Or you go Boxing Day shopping and someone shoots your leg clean off? Life changes. And when these things happen towards the end of December, you begin to look at them cosmically, as if these things were meant to happen at this time to give you a very different 2012. I'm proud to announce I'm in the throes of such arrogant pontificating because January 1st, 2012 will be my last day at the drugstore where I've worked, at two different locations, for four years. A few days later, I start my first big boy job, as a full time Media Writer for one of those daily deal websites I'm hesitant to name lest I queer some obscure part of my contract by claiming association with the company before I actually start at the job. It's basically doing funny writing for your inbox explaining why you should get this spa deal, this vacation, this remote control helicopter, that kind of stuff. It ain't a column in Vanity Fair, but it's a full-time writing gig, which is better than a kick in the petunia.
As I excited as I am to start the new job, I'm even more excited about leaving the old one. Christmas is a terrible time to work retail because everybody's anxious, they just need one more thing on their lists, the lines are long, things sell out fast, and there aren't enough hours between now and Christmas to be the least bit courteous to anyone. Now I'm luckier than most because not only to I get to quit in the New Year, I actually get to go home for Christmas in between, so I really have nothing to complain about. And if this were a movie, not only would the customers be awful, but I'd have a terrible group of coworkers and mean boss and I could throw down my punch card and be like, "Fuck y'all!". But this is not a movie and the only bummer to finding this awesome new job and giving only two weeks notice is that I know I'm screwing over some good friends and really kind bosses who have to deal with the same lousy customers and work longer days until they can hire another me, or a monkey with long hair, or an upside down mop with a nametag. This is only a mild bummer, though, and doesn't convince me to stick around even a second longer than I have to, but I do have one Dream, not only for myself, but for the coworkers and friends I leave behind.
Dream: Vengeance on terrible customers.
Goal: Unachievable. I've always thought the major problem with dealing with a crappy customer in retail is also its saving grace. Love them or hate them, one only has to put up with a customer for as long as it takes to find their purchases, ring them through, and get them out the door. Unlike food service, where you might have to fake nice to a table of assholes for an hour, I can be through with one asshole in ninety seconds (gross). But the brevity of a transaction is, unfortunately, a two-way street. A customer reasons he is only stopping in a store (in my case, a store that has identical locations all over the country) for two minutes and therefore can leave all niceties at the door, he's just going to do that.
This Goal is also unachievable because, despite appearing to have all the power in the transaction, there's very little a cashier can do to appropriate punish a rude or mean customer. If you purposefully give bad service to someone who's already being a jerk, they will have no qualms asking for a manager, asking for your name, emailing Head Office, or whatever it takes, especially when you work at a chain store like I do. Obviously violating customer service protocol only serves to get you in trouble, not the customer, and as such, is barely worth considering. That being said...
Plan: Get creative. I should stress that these are things I would never actually do, not by a long shot. Attempting even one of the following would not only cost me any future job offers, I'm sure they'd be illegal, too. But it does my blackened heart good to imagine these scenarios after dealing with a rude customer, and often just imagining them creatively is enough to help me face another hour on the clock.
- If you decide after carrying an item across a store that you don't want to buy it anymore, don't just stick it on the closest shelf. Put it back or bring it to the cashier, who'll do it for you. If you just put it down wherever, I'm going to go into the drawer of your bedside table, extract your dildoiest dildo, and place it on your dining room table.
- If you bring in an obviously photocopied coupon or expired voucher and belligerently insist that we honour it because it's still good, I'm going to cut the power to your refrigerator and insist you consume all the dairy because it's still good.
- If you object strenuously to the price of something because "it's only 2.99 at WalMart!", I will draw you a map to the nearest WalMart.
- If your child knocks stuff over and screams and you don't do anything about it, I'm going to come to your house, knock stuff over, and scream into your baby's face.
- If you pay with a twenty that's been folded over ten times, I'll sit and make you wait while I painstakingly unfold it and smooth it out (I actually do this one).
- Sorry we don't stock that thing you like. If you really whine and complain about it, I'll be able to magically produce it from behind the counter, but then I will destroy it, just to watch your face.
- If you don't tell me you're a senior on Senior's Day and you're mad when you don't get the discount, I won't tell you about the time I fucked your super-old dad on Father's Day. I don't know how that makes sense but, recent seniors, just be glad I didn't assume you were old.
- If you stand there and tease, humiliate and belittle me for my perceived incompetence, I will follow you home, out with your buddies, and then to your workplace until I find the person in your life who makes you feel like shit. Then I will grandly gesture and say, "This is how it feels! Are you glad to be perpetuating this?" And you will know.
Again, I would never do any of these things, despite how much I might want to fuck your super-old dad. I feel like, sooner or later, we're all somebody's cashier. There will always be situations in life where you are unfortunately, are at the total mercy of someone who does not respect you. The trick, I know, is to let it roll of your back. But I wonder if we don't do that too often, sometimes. If we witness negative behaviour and words so often that it barely registers anymore and we begin, slowly but surely, to lose respect for ourselves. That is the serious consequence to a very un-serious job. So please, shoppers at Shoppers, and any other retail store this Christmas, I beg you once again to consider your cashier. Consider that they are just like you, though they probably make a little less money, and they just want the courtesy they are required to show you reflected back to them. I'm thrilled with the possibility that I might not have to be a cashier for awhile, but I'm really grateful for the past seven years or so spent in the retail industry because it's taught me, above all else, the importance of being a better customer or, if you like, a better man.