The Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake Guy

At one point in my life, I would like to put together an anthology of various interactions I’ve had with customers. I’ve had quite a few crazy interactions (as I’m sure most people have if you’ve ever worked with the public), and now that I’ve had some time to reflect about them, I find them humorous.

A smidge of backstory on this short story I’m about to post, I used to work at the cafe in Borders in Sand City, California. And I met…the craziest…people…ever. For my senior capstone in college, I wrote a collection of some of my favorite guest interactions, and since I slacked on posting a chapter on my Jensen Carpenter blog yesterday, I will share another one for my lovely friends, family, and readership. =)

(Expect some more of these, because I really like writing them. So I hope you enjoy reading them. =))

The Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake Guy

I have only told one customer to shut up in my entire life. And I did it with a clenched fist and a knife in my hand.

Every week at Borders, the food order came on Monday (which provided some very – uh – stressful shifts), but this particular week the food order didn’t process and the café supervisor didn’t realize this until the food didn’t arrive. So we had nothing. Literally, only bagels, scones, and pretzels. We were having a promotion coming the following week, so I put out the food for it early because I figured we needed something.

There were four things that made me want to punch customers in the face while working in this café (apart from general rudeness), and the following guy broke all four of them – and then some.

It was a casual Tuesday night, but busier than most. There had been some drama involving potential stealing and a couple of employees were in the process of being let go, and I was asked to cover the shift for one of them, which in retrospect I definitely regret agreeing to. I entered into our dimly lit café, more like an abandoned cave, with sometimes only enough light from the food case next to the main register.

This guy walked up, snot rolling freely from his nose and had a drool issue, and his aura immediately forced me to keep my guard up.

As he approached, he was instantly rude. He pointed at the food case from where he stood, which is the first thing that drove me crazy.

I can’t see where your finger is pointed when I’m two feet to the left of it.

Seriously, people would be like, “Can I get this?” while pointing. When I responded with, “What would you like?” they would look at me like I was incompetent and further jab their finger into the glass of this food case like it would help and just repeat, “This.” It came to the point where I stopped walking over to the food case to look at it and just continued to ask them what they wanted until they gave me a straight answer.

Come on people, the food has tags on it. If you don’t know how to read, a bookstore is definitely not a place you should frequent.

Anyway, this guy stood at the register and pointed towards the food case and said, “Give me a piece of carrot cake.”

Oh, strike two!

I hated the utter disrespect some people had when they just came up and said, “Give me.” You can be a little more polite about it. “Can I get…?” or “May I have…?” Anything apart from “Give me.” That phrase became so demeaning that I still cringe when people say it. However, there are different types of “Give me’s”. There’s the, “Yeah, gimme a….” where the person is just casually trying to order a drink, not being a demeaning douche. Then there’s the, “Hmm…Give me a….hmmm…” where the customer is pondering what they want still and subtly slips the “Give me” in. Those are “Give me’s” that I appreciate.

Then there’s what this guy and oh so many other customers do. “Give me.” It’s not subtle, it’s not casual – it’s demanding, it’s derogatory, and it’s rude. They’re the kind of people who think people in the food business are nothing more than a cold medicine – they can’t stand using it, but they need it for their well being.

By now I’ve been in interaction with this customer for no more than five seconds and he’s already knocked off two of my biggest pet peeves.

I glanced over at the food case.

You’re an idiot.

There was no carrot cake in there. He clearly didn’t even look over before he placed his order. Since the food order didn’t come in that week, it was a little difficult to produce something that wasn’t there.

“Oh,” I responded, caught off guard by the sheer brainlessness of this man. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t have any carrot cake right now.”

“What do you mean you’re out of carrot cake?”

And strike three.

I absolutely hated it when people would say things like, “What do you mean you’re out of…?” What do you think I mean? I mean we don’t have it. It is not here. It does not exist at this location at this time. It is absent from this place. I’m not hiding it in the back refusing to sell it to you, it is physically not in the area. However you want to phrase it or think about it, the fact of the matter comes down to the verity that IT IS NOT HERE. I DO NOT HAVE IT.

I took a breath. “Sorry, sir, but our food order didn’t process this week, and we don’t currently have any carrot cake because it never got delivered.”

“This is ridiculous. I drove all the way down here for a piece of carrot cake.”

Are you serious right now?

You clearly have other issues that you need to work out apart from us not having carrot cake. Like why you would drive all the way down to a bookstore that’s right next to a grocery store for a piece of carrot cake when you can buy an entire carrot cake from the store right next to it for probably around two dollars more than you would be paying here?

I was doing my best not to let my irritation get the better of me, but it was rapidly becoming more difficult. Very calmly, I responded, “Well, sir, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, but unfortunately there’s nothing I can do right now. I’d be happy to get you anything else out of the food case over there, but we’re out of carrot cake.”

He proceeded to waddle his overly obese ass and put his beady little eyes right in front of the food case to look for something else.

He pointed at the food case. Again.

 I see we’re going to repeat strike one.

“Give me this cinnamon pecan coffee cake right here.”

Oh, we’re repeating strike two as well? Awesome.

Every food and drink item at our café had a code for it on a piece of paper, so most of the time when people ordered something we’d pull out the sheet of paper to look up the code. It was when I did just that that this lovely man broke the fourth thing I hated people doing.

“It’s $2.15.”

Listen, I don’t care how much the price is people. There are inventory and audit reasons that we need to type in particular codes so we know how much we’re selling. We can also track things on the computer and synchronize them with the video camera watching us to prove we didn’t give away something for free, just in case the auditor came in and had any reason to think we were giving away free stuff.

However, like the “Give me’s”, there were certain people who were okay when they did this. You could tell in their tone of voice that they weren’t trying to be rude by telling you the price, but they didn’t want you to have to do any extra work by looking it up and really were trying to help you. For them, I would kindly explain that we need the codes so that way they never did it again.

Then there were the people like this asshole, who deliciously personify ignorance. For them, my response would be, “That’s not how it works. There’s a code.”

As I was looking at the sheet for this food item, my heart began to drop as I realized something: This was the food item that was promotional that didn’t come out until the following week. It didn’t have a code.

I was trying to stall, not wanting to increase our respective impatience already on a line thinner than floss. I read and re-read the list of all of the food items, hoping beyond hope that it was there, when I realized some evil employee decided to cross it out (probably Tabitha, who I still insist is a direct product of Satan) because it wasn’t “supposed to be sold yet.”

“What’s taking so long?” he snapped.

I was caught now. There was no escape from this situation. “I’m sorry, sir, but it doesn’t seem like that has a code yet. It’s a promotional item and it’s not supposed to come out.”

“Are you serious?”

Nope. I think this is funny.

I put the sheet down in front of him so he could see what I was talking about it. “You see, sir? These are all the codes and that item doesn’t have one yet.”

“This is ridiculous. If you don’t know how to do your job, maybe you should step aside and find someone who does.”

One of the very few times in my life I physically bit my tongue to keep from saying what I really wanted to say was this moment right here. Was this guy being serious? He had no right to talk to me like that, especially when I was showing him exactly what I was talking about.

“Actually, sir, I do know how to do my job. There’s just nothing I can do if I don’t have a code for something.”

“Why can’t you just type in 215?”

Because that’s not how this works, you insolent cretin. I can’t just type in “215” and make all your dreams come true right now.

Jennifer, my coworker during this interaction, suggested that I should type in 215 just for fun to see what would happen, and it ended up being the code for something that was $17. I should’ve just taken his advice and demanded his money. It’s not like he wouldn’t have deserved it.

“I’m sorry, but for inventory purposes and everything, I can’t just type in 215. That’s not how this works.”

“This is outrageous. I can’t believe we’re in the middle of an economic crisis and we have to hire retards like you to do simple stupid work like this.”

Oh, hello left hand. I didn’t notice you curled into a fist… Strange…

My teeth were clenched as I said, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about this right now.”

“Get me your manager.”

I stepped away from the register to a radio to call a manager, trying my best to breathe and keep calm. Jennifer stood at the espresso machine, a look of shock etched around her face at how this guy was acting at the moment.

“Service manager, can I get you to the café please?” I said into the radio.

“Sure, I’m with a customer so it’ll be a minute.”

The radio was on loud enough for the guy to hear her say that, to which he said, “This is so stupid. You’re such a fucking retard.”

My left fist still clenched, I asked him to step aside and wait so I could help the next customer. When the next customer approached, I could tell they felt bad for me. The whole time I was helping them, this guy stood there running his mouth.

The next customer ordered a bagel, so I grabbed a knife to slice it in half when he said, “I can’t believe how stupid you are. Where’s your fucking manager?”

I spun around, left fist clenched, right hand holding the knife and said, “She’s coming! Just shut up!”

To this day, I am so very thankful this guy had a hearing aid, because he didn’t hear me say this. I don’t know what came over me; I just snapped. The customer who was buying the bagel, however, did hear me. Thankfully, they were one of those good Samaritans who noticed the employee getting mistreated and laughed, probably thinking this guy deserved the knife from my hand into his gut.

Finally, the manager was able to come over. As soon as she arrived, the man pointed at me and said, “Your employee –”

No. No, no, no. There was no way I was going to let this guy try to make me look like an idiot in front of my manager. So I casually interrupted him.

“Actually, let me tell you what just happened,” I said. He didn’t look too happy that he had just been interrupted, but it’s funny how my empathy for this man seemed to fade.

The manager, unlike me, was in fact able to “just type in 215” to give this guy a price so he could pay for his cake. I couldn’t believe how long he waited for this, and how much drama he started about it. If I go somewhere and they don’t have what I’m looking for, generally I leave. Most sane people do. I suppose there’s an exception for everything.

After the manager typed in 215, she left. When the man gave me his money, he had the audacity to close this argument by saying, “I’m sorry I was such an asshole. I had a rough day.”

Turn. Around. And leave my store. Before I jump over the counter. And kill you.

Jennifer’s already shocked face turned into a look of disgust as this guy walked away. When I finally did get a hold of the code, I made sure I memorized it lest someone else ever have an issue buying it: 6584.

Needless to say, I needed a break after this.

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