Can you imagine?

I respect people who work. I know this sounds strange, but I’ve always held people who work for a living in high regard – regardless of where they work or the job they do. I think it’s a character thing, really. I think that those willing to put forth the effort of going to work should be rewarded. It’s why I don’t generally support welfare as an institution for more than short-term support.

That said, I expect those who are in a particular job to do their very best while they are “on the clock.” It’s how I approach my day in the office, and it’s what I expect out of others. For some, this means really working at accomplishing a project, for others, it means improving a system or piece of data, and for others still, it means providing the best customer service possible. I try my hardest to treat those serving me with the utmost respect. Just because someone’s bringing me a coffee doesn’t make me the master and him the slave.

With this in mind, I’m infuriated at the complete disaster that customer service has become in the past few years. Clerks who talk on their cell phones while you’re trying to buy a Snickers, rude employees at the movie theater and my personal favorite, cranky tollbooth collectors. I try and make a point to drive through the booths that are staffed – even if I have correct change – so that I can have some human interaction during my trip and offer a friendly “hi,” and/or “have a good day.” Almost invariably, they grunt at me to move on, even if there’s no one in line behind me.

This rant is being brought on by a series of events that happened to me last night at Best Buy. I was going to buy a new external portable hard drive for me to back up my files on my home computer to, so that I can take them off-site for storage, should our apartment burn down. (This is the very VERY best advice I can give you, the home computer user… back up your data on a Western Digital Passport hard drive, and then take that hard drive to a different physical location than your home. You’ll thank me if you have a fire or lighting-induced power surge.)

I got to the checkout line, which had five or six people in it, and waited my turn. There were two people ringing people out, both somewhere between 16 and 20, (the further away from those years I get, the harder it is to figure out someone’s age who’s still there.) The one young woman ringing up people’s purchases was really being efficient. She was moving people through her line brilliantly, while maintaining a friendly demeanor. The other guy was making a fool of himself. He would barely acknowledge the customer in front of him – with money in their hands – because he was talking to another post-adolescent girl wearing a BAE shirt. I crossed my fingers and hoped to get the efficient woman so I didn’t have to stand there like an awkward third party while I purchased my hard drive. Before you ask, the Best Buy in Salem has one of those bank-inspired common feeder lines, so I didn’t get to pick who ended up ringing me up.

“Can I help you?” Crap. Checkout guy, Chris, his nametag said, called me over. I sighed and walked over.

“So, are you going to go?” Chris inquired of …. let’s call her Stacy. Probably not her name, but let’s run with it.

“I don’t know, he’s being such a jerk about it. I told him I’d rather just hang out at home, but now he’s all pissed at me, and won’t answer his phone.” Stacy was obviously having some trouble with her gentleman caller, whoever he might be.

“Well, he’s being wicked rude. You should just tell him that you don’t want to, and that’s it. That’ll be $119.99.” Chris finally acknowledged my existence. “Don’t go.” And promptly forgot about it, as he continued his conversation with Stacy.

“I don’t know,” Stace (I like that, Stace. Let’s stick with that monosyllabic nickname) replied. You could tell she was torn over whether she should go to this mysterious whatever-they-were-talking-about.

Chris looked at me as I held out three Best Buy gift cards. I had them from my birthday, Christmas and something else, and was about to get a free hard drive. “Oh, a handful of gift cards, huh?” He was thrilled. Really.

He continued talking to Stacie as he went through the process of swiping my cards. I paid slightly less attention, but even a dog who’s hard of hearing could have figured out that the scenario was pretty bleak for Chris. Chris has a crush on Stace (still sticking with the nickname, here), who was probably a good friend of his since middle school, but Stacy (back to formal names) was dating the super-popular football captain or something, who treated her like crap, but drove her around in his awesome BMW. Chris was doing everything in his power to convince Stace to dump the loser by doing everything except saying “dump the loser,” and failing miserably.

Somewhere in this ridiculous teenage drama, Chris stopped swiping the gift cards, and just listened to Stace as his heart yearned to tell her how he cared about her, how he’d treat her like a goddess, and even let her sit on the handlebars of his schwinn.

“Hey, uh.. Chris,” Uh, oh.. I opened my mouth. “Listen up, Romeo. My wife is waiting in the car for me, and I should get out there before she dies of starvation. This young lady isn’t going to leave her boyfriend for you. She considers you a girlfriend, not a boyfriend, so would you mind at least cutting your losses and finish ringing me up so I can leave without talking to your manager about what a lousy job you’re doing?”

Chris blinked, swallowed harder than he had to, and swiped the third card, never once making eye contact with me. Stacy sort of sauntered away from the checkout line, but not too far - she was very suddenly and inexplicably interested in the rebate slips attached to wall behind her. $10.50 back on DVDs via mail in form? What a sweet deal. The silence was bliss.

Chris quickly put my receipt and drive in a bright yellow Best Buy bag (Turn on the FUN.. Best Buy!) and dropped it checkout table without so much as a word of thanks.

I picked it up and offered a polite “Thanks, man,” and winked at Stacy on my way out. I could clearly hear him utter “jerk,” under his breath.

I mean really, can you believe how rude some people are?


Danielle A. said...

I saw that same BAE girl while I was at Linen's N Things. She must have ditched her mom to lead Chris on and interrupt your flow. :)

Kimberly Pye said...

Nobody ever wants to hear this (maybe it's because it's too much responsibility or seems like too much work or there's just a lack in confidence), but you should write. As in, be a writer.

Unless, of course, you don't want to. But if there is the slightest desire in there, do it, man.

You're a satirist all over.

Ben said...


ah, fall... when the thoughts of the married shopper turn to thoughts of stockpiling acorns for the winter.