Friday, March 23, 2007

Retail relations

Two nights ago, a guy and a lady walked into the store together. They spent about 10 or 15 minutes looking around the place and eventually got into line with 2 bottles of liquor. As I'm waiting on the customer in front of them, I begin to look them over to decide whether or not to ask for their IDs. They are over 21, but not yet 30 which, according to law enforcement, requires me to ask for their IDs. The guy sees me eyeing them. As I'm ready to ring them up he informs me that he left his ID in the car. I set the bottles aside and tell them that I'll have them waiting for him and go on to the next customer in line.

The guy walks in as I'm finishing up with that customer. It seems that he's left his wallet at home. He's apparently seen the big button on my vest that says "No ID, No Service, No Way" and says he'll be back. "No problem," I reply, "I'll have your merchandise waiting for you here when you come back." At this point, to my knowledge, we don't have an issue.

The guy must live near by because he's back in less than 10 minutes. He's got an attitude that could be spotted from the moon. He literally throws his license at me like a person pitching cards. It bounces off of my chest and onto the counter. I look at it, notice that he is indeed 28. "Have we got a problem here?" I ask.

"You've got the problem. I'm obviously over 21."

"Actually, I'm required to ask for ID until your 30. You're 28. Most people take it as a compliment when I think that they are under 30."

"Whatever. Let's get this over with."

"You've got a problem. I suggest you lose the attitude. Buying liquor in this state is a privilege; not a right. If for any reason I think a customer might be a danger to me or the community - drunk or not - I have an obligation not to sell the liquor."

"What?!?"

"That's right. Now, lose the attitude and we can continue with this."

I scan his bottles. In the meantime, he is angrily swiping his debit card in the reader. I ask him to confirm that it's a debit card. He ignores me. I hit debit on the register (it won't read the card unless I do so). He swipes it a third time. I tell him to press the blue button first (confirming the price he's paying) before swiping the card. He swipes it a forth time and a fifth time - each time I tell him to press the blue button first.

Initially, I was shocked and angry at this treatment. By now, I'm calm and amused, though still bewildered. How am I responsible for this man leaving his wallet and ID at home? I'm not. I'm just a focal point for his anger. He finally gets the sale right. Receipt in one hand, bag holding liquor in the other, I present it to him. Without looking in my eyes, he angrily takes the bag from my hand and stomps out of the store. Once outside, he flips me the bird. I laugh.

Lesson: This person is not going to be served by me again. It's likely that he won't ever come back into this store and if he does while I'm there, he'll go to another register. However, if he comes back in and gets into my line and presents me with an attitude, we're not going through with the sale. Unlike other retail outlets, I don't have to take the abuse of the customer and the state backs me up on that. I don't enjoy playing the heavy and being an asshole, but I will also not be treated as a punching bag. There are a number of examples daily where members of the public treat us with disrespect, but it's only in very rare cases such as this one where I feel I need to protect myself and the public and that mandate looms large. No one likes an angry drunk. So, be nice to the clerks behind the counter. And not just at liquor stores - at all outlets. For every nice person, there's someone who's a jerk just two customers away and the nice person makes it easier to get over the person who is, say, too busy on their cell phone to acknowledge that you're not an ATM.

2 comments:

Scott said...

I had a woman arrested in a small grocery/deli. I asked her to leave as I suspected her of shoplifting, she refused and the officers having a coffee arrested her for criminal tresspass and grand larceny -- she had more stuff than I thought.

I saw a clerk in a busy line ask someone if they minded going first so the person at the counter wouldn't have to interrupt their phone call. I was full of admiration, I don't know if I could have pulled that off.

B.D. said...

As an employee, I wouldn't pull the cell phone ploy unless my employer specifically posted "No Cell Phone" signs. I've made the argument that the liquor stores should do that since our responsibilities include checking sobriety and age. Both are impeded by customers clinging to the cell phones instead of addressing the clerks in conversation. Indeed, training videos suggest engaging the customer in conversation as a method for determining both.

My manager suggested that he would have taken the license, thrown it in the trash, kicked the customer out of the store, and then called police to report someone driving without a license. Blowhard. He wouldn't have actually done that. It was a fantasy of his that he was representing as truth to action. Still, I feel better about refusing someone the next time that situation arises.