Sunday, December 10, 2006

mean people

A customer made me cry at work yesterday (Saturday). We were so busy and the line just never stopped. I mean, it was saturday afternoon two weeks before christmas, in a part of town where all the people with more money than they deserve go to spend said money. So we were insanely busy all day. As much as I love my job, even I was stretched to the limit. Mostly our customers yesterday were pleasant. They were out with their families, enjoying beautiful weather, and they didn't mind waiting in line, since they were aware of the fact that we were all working our fingers to the bones and going as fast as possible in as pleasant a mood as possible.

Until Ms. Lunatic Bitch came in. First, she got angry with me after she paid for her order (a latte and a newspaper) and learned we were out of large shopping bags. She hollered at me for not telling her this before she paid for her order. How was I to know, based on her order, she'd want a bag?? Who needs a bag for a drink and a newspaper? But I smiled anyway, apologized, and as she requested, refunded her money for the paper, as that is evidently what she planned on putting in the bag. Then, about five minutes later, she came up to me in the cafe, pointed her ugly finger in my face and asked, "Who can I talk to about placing a complaint?" I politely told her I was the manager on duty and that she could talk to me. She said, "This is absolutely the WORST Starbucks I've ever been to and I think you need to be fired." I was astounded and could only manage to say, "I'm so sorry." I was about to ask her what happened to make her say this and ask how I could rectify the situation, when she interrupted me and said, "This is pathetic. I'm from New York and I've never seen anything like this." What her being from New York has to do with anything is beyond me, except that there are a ton of transplants living here from NYC, many of whom seem to think they are better than everyone because they're from New York, when in reality most people don't give a shit and aren't impressed by where they come from. Anyway, I assumed her problem was with the fact that she'd had to wait in line for a while to order and then again to get her drink. I was going to say, "I'm truly sorry. I know we're really busy right now, because of the holidays and because our store is undergoing a lot of transitions at the moment, but we're going as fast as we can. What can I do to make this better for you?" blahblahblah...or something along those lines. But--again--before I could get out one full sentence, she cut me off and said, "I'm from New York. Don't tell me about being busy. Things are busier there than here." Seriously, I don't know why the hell she thought I gave a shit about her being from New York, but she kept bringing it up. And no matter what I kept starting to say, she cut me off after about two words and went on to yell at me that she was going to contact our corporate offices and make sure I was fired because I was rude to her and because the store was so poorly run. This was happening in the middle of the cafe, right in front of all the customers and employees. AND the district manager and my store manager were just in the back room and could have walked out at any second.

She stormed out of the store, and I burst into tears. Right there in front of everyone. I don't know why that was my reaction, because I have dealt with plenty of shitty, rude customers. Though, none has ever been quite this bitchy. I had ridiculously bad PMS and I'm frankly just exhausted from how busy we've been lately because of the holidays. No matter how much someone loves their job, it's just not easy to smile for 8 hours straight and never snap at someone who's being an asshole. I'm pretty good at keeping myself under control, but after this women left, I totally lost it. Normally, though, when I lose it over something work related, I get mad, but this time I cried. It sucked. I couldn't stop working to go somewhere and pull myself together, because of how busy we were. There simply wasn't time. So I tried with everything in me to pull the tears back in and get over it all and focus on work. But I just couldn't. And I also couldn't go into the back room for a moment of privacy while I stopped crying, because that's where my bosses were and I especially didn't want the district manager to see me like this. So I tried to go into the bathroom, but there was a line. I felt so trapped and the tears were still coming, and I just looked ridiculous. Eventually, I was able to focus on work long enough to stop crying, until the DM left and my manager asked me to help her with something in the back room. As soon as I got back there, I burst into tears all over again. My manager said, "Oh no! What's wrong?" I told her and, honestly, I was a little afraid she'd have something critical to say about how I handled things, but instead she laughed and told me that if she had a dollar for every time a customer said something horrible like that to her or made her cry, she'd be rich. She was totally cool about it and even said, "I hope she does call corporate, bacause you did nothing wrong." But between the PMS and being overtired, it stuck with me all day and even though I didn't cry anymore, I was low for the rest of my shift. It sucked.

I don't think some people realize what a difference their behavior has on other people. Clearly, this bitch of a woman was in a pissy mood about something unrelated to me and has some issues of her own, but she took it out on me. Normally, I'd be able to shrug it off and just smile and say, "I'm so sorry. Please accept this coupon for a free drink next time you come in" while I was actually thinking, "Fuck you." But this time, she caught me at a bad moment and left me in a pile of inarticulate, weepy nerves.

When I came home and told my sister about it, she said I should have looked at the woman and said, "Go home. Go back to New York if it's so much better. And eat shit." I like that idea, but it wouldn't get me promoted to assistant manager.

On the other hand, I dealt with a crappy customer the other day, and my reaction was to laugh. This guy came in and purchased four pounds of whole bean coffee and after he paid, he asked if I could grind it for him. No problem. Before I turned around to get started on this, he slid a wrinkled five dolalr bill across the counter and told me that he was in the middle of dinner at a nearby restaurant and explained in detail where his table is. And then he told me to bring his ground coffee to him at this table in about 20 minutes.


He seriously thought this was an acceptable request.

I wanted to laugh so hard, but I calmly apologized and explained that I couldn't do this, as for starters we don't deliver and mostly because I couldn't spare any of the staff for even a few minutes. He couldn't really comprehend what I was telling him, that I was saying No. I apologized again and promised that I could instead have his coffee ready to go and all bagged up so that when he was finished with dinner, he'd only have to come in and grab it off the counter. He was reluctanly satisfied with this answer and went on his way.

The next customers were a couple young women. They stepped up to the register and ordered drinks, and then one of the women said, "And I'd like for you to deliver this to me at a restaurant across town." And then she laughed and said she couldn't believe that guy's request (though it was more a demand than request). I died laughing and was so glad for the chance to release the laughter that had built up while dealing with the guy. She reminded me, "This is West Palm Beach, where people think they can buy everything. Of course if we were a mile away, across the intracoastal on Palm Beach, he'd have slipped you a hundred instead of a five."

So true.

The thing is, if we hadn't been busy and if he'd asked nicely, I might have brought him his coffee on my break, just to help him out and to be friendly. But since he was an asshole and since he thought he could make my day by offering me a lousy five dollars, there was no way in hell I'd do that. But it did give me a good laugh after he was gone.

Some of the people around here treat us like we're "the help" and only exist to make their empty lives easier. It makes me miss my old store, which is in a totally laid back, working class neighborhood with lots of artistic types who linger for hours chatting with us and nursing a $1.65 cup of coffee all day.


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