The Greatest Christmas Gift

I probably shouldn’t be proud about this sort of thing, but today at work I made a sixty year-old woman suffer a total breakdown. (And by “suffer” I mean: totally enjoy.) A complete “stop texting, put your phone away to check out what’s happening in the lane next to you” type of breakdown. This is clearly why I get paid the big bucks.

The lady came to the counter with four bags bursting at the seams with various types of cheap, clearance Christmas candy. Tons of it; it was marked down 75% off, she saw her chance to own more chocolate peppermint candy canes then anyone else on her block, and she took it! She had also bought some random, non-holiday items (milk, phone cards, etc.), none of which were as exciting as the candy canes.

She starts out our conversation by exhaling loudly, followed by dumping her bags out on the counter, asking, “Okay, are you ready for this?” I’ve worked in retail a short four years, but that’s plenty of time to learn that when a conversation starts with that disclaimer, there’s trouble ahead.

So I ask her, “What can I do for you today?”

“Okay, wellIjustboughtallthisstuffandIneedtoreturnsomeifitfor$10foracabridehome.”

Unsure, but picking up the receipt to end the transaction more quickly, if nothing more, “You need to return ten dollars worth of items, correct?”

“Yes, yes, so I have enough money to get home!”

Thus starts the saddest slide down the rabbit hole starting in maturity but ending in madness.

“Is there anything you want to hold onto?,” I ask, desperately hoping to somehow find a faster way through this bag of wayward Christmas goodies.

“No, no, I just need…”

So I’m scanning, starting with the bag closest to me, “No, no! Wait! I need at least one candy cane,” she interrupts, snatching the candy cane box from my hands.

I start scanning again, this time making sure to keep my hands well away from her clutches. I’m still interrupted three or four more times; for scanning items she doesn’t want but can’t leave behind.

While all this is happening, I’ve also been periodically checking the total on the register’s screen to see what her return has reached. Grim results stare back at me. I notice she had paid with both cash and an EBT card.

EBT are government funds given as assistance that can only be used to buy food. (Or, in this case, candy.) So all these food items I’ve spent the last three minutes scanning are going back onto her EBT card, and won’t be available as cab-paying cash.

We’re through two bags and all we’ve scanned are food items. She only has a quarter coming back for her cab.

Finally I spy our savior hidden within one of her empty bags. A phone card costing $10; perfectly accounting for the $10 she keeps stressing she paid and needs back to get home.

Quickly I pull it from her bag. “Ma’am this is what we need to return to get you your money.”

“No, no, try this,” offering a frozen TV dinner.

“Ma’am, that’ll just give you back more EBT money.”

“What about this?,” holding up a bag of tater tots.

“No, Ma’am, that’s not going to work either.”

“You mean to tell me you took my $10 and now you won’t give it back!?!,” she screams.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but in order to get your ‘cash’ back, you’ll need to return something that you paid ‘cash’ for. And the only item here that’s not food is this phone card,” motioning toward the receipt.

Dejected, she says, “You know what? Just return everything.”

A split second later, angry, “GIVE ME ALL MY STUFF BACK!” Throwing everything on the counter back into her bags. Everything up to and including the telephone a prior guest had returned. At this point everyone was staring at her.

“I’LL JUST WALK HOME!”

Finally! A solution both of us can agree on!

Turning toward the petrified three year-old sitting aghast in a cart next to her, “I’m throwing a tantrum, just like little boys do, aren’t I?” The child, too terrified to respond, can only sit and stare. All that was missing would be a witch’s cackle, which, at this point, really wouldn’t have been too out of place.

Luckily, after she left, all my other returns went amazingly smooth. I guess after seeing how they would look to others when they don’t get their way, everyone was on their best behavior. Settling instead on the rational approach to dealing with problems.

A four year degree and I gave up teaching for this?

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2 Responses to “The Greatest Christmas Gift”

  1. Tim, great post! Why did you give up your teaching career??

  2. This story was fucking great.

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