The following is a mostly true story. It is mildly embellished, like all good stories are, but the man was real, and the quotes are as direct as possible without getting anyone in trouble.
It always shocks me. It shouldn’t, but it always does. I stand in line waiting patiently for a clerk to allow me to check out of a store. It’s the holidays, or at least 2 days after Christmas. They’re busy as hell. The store’s back counter is a tower of trade ins, the clerks all look hassled, with previously combed hair sticking out in all directions as they try to move as quickly as possible, while still trying to help people. At the same time, they are still bound by the ropes of their corporate masters. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something they have to follow in order to keep order.
And then it happens. As I pay for the used copy of Skies of Arcadia I’m getting a friend for a slightly late Christmas gift, the man next to me goes nuclear. Over a $30 DS game.
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t actually have this game.” The clerk states apologetically.
“WHAT!? HOW CAN YOU DISPLAY THE BOX! HOW WILL YOU MAKE UP FOR MY TIME? I’M WAITING ON A VERY IMPORTANT BUSINESS CALL AS I STAND IN YOUR LINE! HOW WILL YOU MAKE IT UP TO ME? MY TIME IS VERY IMPORANT.”
“WHY DO YOU HAVE THE BOX!?”
“HOW DO YOU PROPOSE TO MAKE UP MY TIME!”
“Sir if you’ll-“
“NO, HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS BULL****!”
After reiterating his outrage and getting louder and louder for another 30 seconds, he finally lays off her enough to let her explain that he grabbed a game from a marketed section.
“I’m sorry sir,” says the female clerk, “it’s just a display box. We have to display the marketing for that game. I have no control over marketing. I’m very sorry that we don’t have it in stock. Can I make some recommendations based off that game and what we do have. I can offer a discount for the inconvenience.”
Somehow he manages to sound both outraged and condescending. As if the people at the other registers were not as important as him, as if the clerks didn’t have 12 million other tasks they’d rather be doing. The other customers in the store look at him incredulously. The only movement is the two other clerks, doing their best to ignore the mess at the center register and try to clear out their customers so they don’t have to witness this man embarrass himself further.
He harrumphs and practically pulls his kid out of line to go search for another DS game to allow his kid to keep up the sad illusion that his father cares for him remotely as much as he does his Blackberry.
I check my watch. I’ve been in line about 6 minutes, he, maybe 8. He actually walked into the store after me, maybe 15 minutes ago, looming over his child as he compulsively checked his Blackberry for whatever “business” had to be accomplished in a major video game retailer chain around the busiest shopping times of their year.
Mind you, he didn’t even look at the game that his child picked out as he threw it on the counter, as if to gesture to the poor clerk “get this for me, peon.” Realistically, he didn’t even look up from his phone until she informed him that the store did not have the game. It was like a switch had been toggled, from apathetic asshole to some tough guy who thinks he is important because he has a Blackberry and BMW 3 series in the last year of a 3 year lease.
Another 2 minutes pass, and it is finally my time to approach the register. My prize in hand, as I know my friend loves the game I have chosen and does not own the game on GameCube. As I step up, Mr. Self-Important nearly pushes me out of the way as he throws another DS game onto the counter.
He loudly announces “AM I TO ASSUME YOU DON’T HAVE THIS ONE EITHER!? I CHOSE IT FROM THE SAME SECTION WHERE I GOT THE OTHER ONE.”
This leads myself, and likely every other customer in the store, the clerks notwithstanding, to immediately wonder if this man has grabbed another empty game box from the marketing section. Our bad, turns out that some other customer, likely a child, had simply set the display box of the first game in the active games section. Hardly the fault of the clerk he is still in the process of badgering, who probably has not been able to organize the section in a week, let alone during the chaos of the days immediately following Christmas. He scoffs as she grabs him the game he requested and gives him a large discount, muttering to himself how entitled he is to the discount.
His kid seems happy enough at the prospect of a game, any game, as he is at that age where it isn’t about whether it is good or not, but more whether it is new and exciting and has bright colors. The game he gets is from the same series of games. I doubt the father has even looked at the actual cover, merely checks the checkout screen to be sure he gets his discount. Why bond with your kid when you can get a game cheaply and let that raise him?
He is back to his Blackberry as he swipes his black Visa card, no doubt chosen because of its resemblance to the infamous American Express “Black Card.” He doesn’t even look up as he fumbles for the pen with which to sign on the pad. He throws the electronic pen down, grabs the kid’s hand and storms out of the store, as if he was in the right to be such a colossal dick to the clerk. As he leaves, I’m certain he feels like a big, important man for having acted like a complete jerk to a retail store clerks on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
I step up to the clerk and am politely given my game. It isn’t that bad. I can see it in her eyes that the man did not get to her. She has seen it all before. The other customers and the other clerks seem somewhat uncomfortable, but she seems fine. She knew all along what she was dealing with. Another self-entitled jerk who thinks he deserves the world. She moves on with her life, while the jerk is probably telling his other mid-management friends about how awesome he was as he told that store clerk how to do her job.
It was a surreal situation. A grown man out with his young son, and the man throws a legitimate temper tantrum. He embarrasses himself and his child and has no idea. He doesn’t realize he was in the wrong. As much as I would have liked to interfere, I already know he won’t listen to me. The clerk has the right idea, to just take it, disregard his entirely irrelevant opinion, do a quick check of her walls to make sure nothing overt is out of order and move on with her day.
As I stated in the disclaimer, this story is mostly true. It isn’t the first time I have seen someone go out of their way to act like an ass to a retail clerk, but it stands out because it was so recent. A few details were exaggerated, but I assure you that the man’s behavior is exactly as it was, as I stood in line behind him, ever more uncomfortable at his entirely disrespectful and boorish behavior while he yelled at the poor clerk and never let her get a word in. He never did look or speak to his kid other than to hurry him, never thanked the clerk for the ~70% discount she gave him on a new game. His entitled rudeness was one of those things that I don’t think I will ever understand.
The people you interact with at their jobs, whether they’re making a business deal or your sandwich, should be treated with a minimum level of respect. If they screw up, or if something goes wrong, there is no need to act out of control. The other 15 or so customers in the store understood this, and were all polite from what I saw. They understood that the clerks can’t control everything. There is a minimum level of respect that most people deserve, especially those that have clearly been working like crazy to ensure that others have a good holiday season. Don’t be a petty jerk, retail sucks, don’t make it worse.