I’m writing this a week after getting back from a recent comic book convention. I was there promoting my comic, Halloween Man. The con was Anime Fest in Dallas,Texas, and it was a huge success! I touched base with existing fans, and made a ton of new ones. I also appeared on a number of successful panels. It was a lot of fun, and a big boost to my ego. After doing conventions like Anime Fest, it’s humbling to go back to my day job. I go from being treated like a celebrity, to being more or less anonymous. Just another face in the grocery store.
As I said in my previous column, you could walk past me hundreds of times and not give me a second thought. Mostly I’m okay with that. As a writer, I like to study the human animal, and a grocery store is a wonderful place to do that. While my general observation is the human race is better than I often give them credit for, there are a lot of real-life monsters that make retail hell. These creeps can make your day to day grind really painful. How do you define which kind of monster you’re encountering? Let me clue you in on the three I most regularly meet.
“I tried regaining control of the situation, but it was too late. Her eyes looked like blazing coals. This chick was mad!”
Probably the most common type of creepy customer you’ll run across. You know the type. They start out friendly, then turn on you the first chance they get. I encountered such a creature yesterday.
My shift was almost over, so my spirits were high. My last duty of the day was drawing attention to a new type of cheese. I happily chopped up some chunks, and began handing them out to people in front of the deli. I noticed a well dressed, middle-aged blonde woman pushing her cart my way.
“Would you care to try our new Italian Herb mozzarella madam,” I asked with a smile.
“Always!” She smiled, and took a piece from my tray.
Then without warning, she slammed the cheese back down on my tray with a force that almost knocked me over.
“Nevermind!!” she snarled, shoving the palm of her hand in my face. I tried regaining control of the situation, but it was too late. Her eyes looked like blazing coals. This chick was mad! After a moment of futilely trying to calm her down, she went on to terrorize some people working in the bakery. I never did find out what upset her so much.
Customers like this are upsetting, because most of us are doing our best to be friendly, and deliver good service, despite often being tired. While it’s important to remember you never know what kind of day a customer is having, it still doesn’t feel good to be ripped into like that. Still, as dangerous as this Jekyll/Hyde is, I think our next type of monster is even worse.
The original Ghostbusters said it best. “Actual! Physical! Contact!” These types of customers are the grocery equivalent of angry spirits. They’re seldom seen, and if they are, it’s brief. Yet, they’re certainly felt! Yes, I’m talking about those customers who actually knock you around a bit. Let me explain this phenomenon from another personal experience.
Last Thanksgiving, I was unloading a large order of my company’s holiday hams. I’m mindful of the space I’m taking up in a busy store, but the same can’t always be said of our customers. I turned my back for a second, and then WHAM! Next thing you know, I’m flat on my ass. After a second, I figured out what had happened. A hurried customer had knocked me over with their cart, and kept right on moving. No stopping to acknowledge what they had done. Customers like this probably make me feel the most dehumanized, because I’m treated as a nuisance at best. They bang me up, and bruise me, but that’s not going to slow them down. Still, as bad as that seems, our next monster is definitely the worst.
Like the Poltergeist, the Dracula often makes unwanted physical contact with you.These people can be very draining on your mind, body and spirit. This type of customer is often flirtatious to the point of being gross.They tend to break into your territorial bubble with unwanted shoulder rubs, pats on your back, and even your behind. These psychic vampires tend to be regulars too. There’s a degree of familiarity they have for you which I believe is why they feel it’s ok to treat you in such ways. They’ll go out of their way to make sure you wait on them, and that’s when they strike!
The Dracula will suck all your time away if you let them. They often see themselves as charming, and will be offended if you try to break away, and go back to your work. And then comes the touching! I can’t count how many back rubs I’ve had to break away from over the years. These personal space invaders make my skin crawl.
The Dracula can be male or female. The only defining trait is they see you as a piece of meat. Something that satiates a need they have to be liked or seen as charming. The bottom line is, despite the superficial niceties, they don’t see you as a whole person. The respect just isn’t there, and you shouldn’t have to put up with this.
I’m sure by now a lot of you are nodding your heads with the familiarity of these situations and types of people. So boys and girls, what do you do when encountering a monster? What do you do when your normal life inexplicably turns into a horror movie? Well, the good news is, you aren’t as helpless as you might think.
If you have co-workers you get along with, you can draw their attention to these monsters. While they may not be able to fix the situation or help at the time, maybe they can warn you next time this customer comes your way. You can also talk to a manager. I know complaints to upper management often fall on deaf ears. Don’t let that sway you. Bring attention to what they’re doing! If you’ve endured a physical encounter with a Poltergeist or a Dracula where actual physical contact occurred; it should typically get a quick reaction from management. No one wants to feel violated.
The most important thing to understand is, silence is the enemy here. As retail employees, we’re almost trained to think we don’t matter as much as the people spending money. However, we deserve respect, and it’s not wrong to demand it. If nothing else, I hope my writing this will get people talking. Maybe ya’ll can identify a few more monsters of your daily life? Until next time, good luck fellow working stiffs, because it can be a real horror show out there!