I found my college portfolio stories. I wanted to make these into a book one day.
In The Beginning
I didn’t hate humanity until I started working retail. I worked at Borders Books, Music, Movies, and Café for nearly two years out of my life, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish it never happened.
Borders was my eighth job, and I was 19 when I first started working there. It was my first retail job (and the prior seven included camp counselor, grocery store clerk, pizza maker, lifeguard, movie theater worker, barista, and hotel worker) and I never thought it was possible to have so much distaste for the human race.
Borders attracts a special kind of customer. There are jerks and people who are a little off at any job that you will ever work at, but there’s something about Borders that just attracts some weird, weird people. I don’t know if it was just the area I was in or the company itself. (Although there is a website – iworkatborders.livejournal.com – that makes me think it’s all of them.) But there were some weird people that came in there. I relate a lot to the other website called peopleofwalmart.com… Because it’s basically people like that who come into Borders. Except for instead of those weird outfits, they keep those outfits at home and only put it into their personality.
I’ll get around to specific customer stories in a bit, but I really want to just focus on the pure psychosis that was the corporate of this company first. Employees were really treated as nothing more than a name on a piece of paper and treated us like robots; only robots who demanded pay.
Now, I’m a male, but I will never forgive them for the way they treated our female employees. There was one in particular – I’ll call her Anita – who put up with so much I’m surprised she didn’t come into the place with a gun and shoot anybody who looked at her.
Anita was a very beautiful girl. She was very sweet to everyone and very down to earth and very relaxed – and that attracts some freaks. She would get catcalls from some of the men, they would hit on her while she was behind the counter, give her their phone numbers…Those are pretty normal things for weird guys to do for pretty girls sometimes, right? It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. But that’s not what upset me about these men…They wouldn’t only hit on her, they would actually get physical with her.
There was a time when Anita went out into the lobby to do a sweep, picking up magazines, books, and dishes to clean up the place, and a guy actually pulled her into his lap. Another time, she had a stalker following her around town. She got into a car accident once and had to get a replacement car, and he left her a note on it telling her he liked her new car. Another time, she dropped a book and a guy picked it up for her and very obviously looked up her skirt.
And what did management do about this? Nothing. Absolutely. Nothing.
When she complained about the guy pulling her into his lap she was being “overdramatic”, and when the guy was stalking her she “made a big enough deal” until they made it so she had to get escorted to her car every time she left, and one of the managers was actually standing next to the guy who looked up her skirt and watched him do it and said nothing.
It was ridiculous. I never felt so underappreciated in my entire life. I honestly think I’d get more respect and better treatment as a tarantula that broke into someone’s house.
I understand that every job has its ups and downs. By the time I was 21 I had a firm nine jobs under my belt, and there were things that I loved and hated from each one of them. However, since the majority of them had happened in high school, I never stayed longer than three or four months before I got bored and moved on to my next job, so I never really got to experience the stupidity that is the human race. (Granted, I also job hopped before the insane economic recession, so my possibilities at the time were still endless.)
I never thought it was possible for a corporate to take “The Customer is Always Right” to such extremes as Borders did. I understand, in a lot of senses, customer service needs to be a top priority in order to keep a business running. If you don’t have customer support, you don’t have a business.
That doesn’t mean you have to let the customer walk over you like a doormat.
The first time I ever got a complaint about me, it went all the way to corporate. I’ll get into the details later, but basically I had to refund a lady’s money because she had bought a carrot cake the day before and it was stale. Big shock.
We also had alarms around our doors that we were supposed to monitor at all times. However, if we saw a customer putting books into their bags, we weren’t allowed to confront them for danger of “being wrong” and if they set off our alarm and we know they took something, we weren’t allowed to chase after them because we weren’t allowed to leave the building without getting checked out first. (An employee once actually chased someone down and got in trouble for not getting a bag check before running out. Way to show your appreciation, Borders!!)
I finally was able to leave Borders and go into Chili’s, a company I’m actually happy to work for. I kept my two weeks notice to Borders; I had never been so happy to submit one before. I didn’t even have the job at Chili’s when I left Borders. I just had had enough. So I peaced out.
Chili’s was treating me better. They appreciated their employees much more than Borders ever did, I was making so much more money because I was a server and I have the personality of the Coca Cola polar bear, and the team really, truly seemed like a family.
But that didn’t stop the idiots and crazies from coming in.
As long as the doors or open, the weirdos will enter the domain of the sane.
Customers: The Borders Years
The Chai Tea Latte Guy
To this day, I’m not sure how to react to this particular customer. I was the opener in the café, and I usually had some interesting people come to me in the morning, half awake and unleashing the crazy.
People tried to pull fast ones on me all the time, bringing in cups from the day before and putting them down in front of me and thinking they would be sneaky by asking for a refill. No, bitch, I’m not an idiot, the doors have been open for 20 minutes and I’m the only one here. There’s no way I don’t remember you buying a coffee when I’ve only had six customers.
So this guy comes up, and I see him holding one of our small cups in his hands. I glance at the clock and noticed that it’s about 9:30. I’m the only one in the café, as usual, and I knew for a fact I hadn’t helped this guy before.
I know this guy better not be asking for a refill right now, I thought to myself.
He puts the cup in front of me and says, “I bought this chai yesterday.”
Really? Congratulations, I bought a bagel yesterday! Maybe we can be friends and bond over spending money on café food.
“Ok?” I asked questioningly, not knowing how to respond to this.
“Well, I tried it this morning and it was sour.”
This is a joke, right? Like…The You’re On Candid Camera guy is about to pop out at any minute…Ashton Kutcher’s about to tell me I’ve been Punk’d…? Right? I mean, there’s no way this guy is for real right now.
“Are you serious?” I asked. There was no way I could hide how stupid I thought he was behind my voice. No way I could have pulled that off. I wish someone would have taken a picture of my face when this guy told me this.
“Yes,” he said calmly, not catching on to how incredibly stupid he sounded.
“So, let me get this straight…You bought this chai yesterday?”
“And you tried it today?”
“And it tasted bad.”
“Did you have any of it yesterday?”
“Did you refrigerate it?”
I wanted to smack myself in the forehead. No, no…I wanted to smack him in the forehead. How is this guy serious right now?
But alas, I must remain customer service friendly, so I ask, “Well, sir, what would you like me to do about it?”
“Make me a new one,” he says, pulling out his receipt.
Oh, how about no? This is shenanigans, there’s no way I’m going to make this guy a new drink right now.
“Um, I’m sorry sir, I don’t think I can do that.”
His demeanor changed. “Why not?”
“Well, you bought this drink yesterday and milk products go bad if you leave them out overnight and that’s no fault of ours.”
“But I do this all the time.”
I’m surprised this guy hasn’t died from lactobacilli.
I actually did slap my hand to my forehead now, rubbing my temples and trying to keep my cool.
“So you always come into coffee shops and buy drinks and leave them out overnight and drink them?”
“And this is the first time it’s ever tasted wrong to you?”
I’m surprised my hand only made contact with my face.
“Well, I’m sorry sir, but there’s really nothing I can do about this.”
“That’s absolutely ridiculous.”
“I’m sorry. Would you like me to get a manager?”
This was getting out of control. I couldn’t believe this was an actual interaction I was having.
I picked up our walkie and turned it on. “Hey, Service Manager, I have a problem in the café.”
“I have a gentleman here who bought a chai yesterday and is complaining because this morning it tasted sour.”
There was a long, long pause.
“And he wants me to make him another one and is upset because I said no.”
Another long pause.
“Well…uh…unfortunately milk products go bad when they’re left out overnight so I’m afraid we won’t be able to do this one.”
Yeah, idiot. Do you know how this stuff works?
The man was upset, but pulled out a coupon for a free small drink. I could have punched him. The coupon was actually expired, but I just let him have it. I didn’t care.
This is my life.