Penny Pincher

5 Jul

I am starting to think that there is a pattern to the timing of annoying or bitchy customers coming into the store. From what I’ve experienced, the most common time for the most terrible customer of the day to arrive is around twenty to forty minutes before you are about to leave. You can go the whole day ringing up the nicest, most sweet customers, but if you should be cursed enough to receive even a single terrible one–even if it’s only a few minutes before you are scheduled to leave–it can be just as unsettling as having ten bad customers in a row. Which brings me to my first “I Live To Make Your Life Miserable” category customer–The Foreign Penny Pincher (literally):

It’s twenty minutes before I leave, and my situation is a perfect recipe for disaster: my only other co-worker is on the floor assisting a customer who has a handicap, my shift supervisor is off the clock and gathering her things, and the next shift who is supposed to be coming in is sitting in her car in the parking lot twiddling her thumbs.  In other words, there is no way I’m getting cashier backup even if my life depended on it.

A foreign elderly lady walks up to my register and starts fiddling with coupons in her purse. As she fiddles, several of them either rip in her hands or fall onto the counter. She looks around and says “I had a few items here…where are they?” I see a box of hair color and a greeting card, so I hold them up and ask if they are hers. “I cannot SEE THEM!” she says, so I basically hold them dramatically high above my head. She nods and says “Yes, those are mine.” I put them on the counter, and she is STILL looking around as if she doesn’t know where she is.

“I had something else…where did it go? It was a package of pads…I want to use this coupon for it.” I hold up the coupon and notice that it is for Tampax, and I explain to her that Tampax only makes tampons, not pads. I then proceed to raise two different packages of pads that I have behind the counter up for her, and she picks the one that she left up there.

As she continues to ask me why she can’t use her Tampax coupon, I look up and see about five other people in line glaring at me. I try to get through the transaction as fast as I possibly can because there have been times where I’ve had customers just throw down their things and storm out of the store (Honestly people–where’s the fucking fire? Are our lives in that great of a rush that we can’t wait in line for things anymore?).

I tell her the total, and I’m praying to god that she is going to hand me a credit card so that I can snatch it, run it through, and send her on her way. That would be too simple, though. Instead, with hands shakier than the earthquake in Haiti, she proceeds to give me exact change. You know–the kind of change that lives in the darkest, most evil depths of an old lady’s purse or wallet. The kind of change that prides itself on being hard to find…the kind of change that almost acts like a magnet and sticks to the nether regions of the purse that no fingers seem to ever touch. Finally, after what seems like several light years, she hands me the change and I move my hands quickly around in order to catch all of it falling from her shaky hands. I put it in the drawer, and I give her the one penny back that I owe her. And, let’s face it, up to this point this has been just a typical old lady story, but even with four years of retail behind my back, I have never heard a customer ask me this:

“Can I have a penny that isn’t dirty?”

I kind of looked at her and completely expected her to laugh, wave her hand (shakily) around and tell me that she was joking, but she was dead serious. At this point the line was so long that it was out the door and people were starting to play guitars just to pass the time. Okay, not really, but it sure felt like it.  So I raised my eyebrows and said okay, I had to sign off of my drawer to open it, and I picked out the shiniest fucking penny you could ever imagine.

First of all, a “clean penny” is an oxymoron–there IS no such thing as clean money. Second of all, why the hell would it matter if a penny was dirty or not? That’s what coin purses are for–to keep money separate from touching other things. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve heard a lot, but this one takes the proverbial cake.

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