This past Tuesday morning my son tried to convince me to let him skip school so that he could come to work with me. It was an intriguing offer. I love being a father. I love spending time with the kids and little Jack does nothing but help me learn more about the world around me.
As a child we spend endless hours asking “why” about anything and everything. We are still young enough that the world is consistently filled with wonder. We haven’t become worn down with worries or jaded by repeat experiences. So it really is refreshing to be around the kids. Even though it is sometimes hard to consistently be barraged with questions it is a job that I relish.
On the third shelf of my third bookcase there is a book called “The Way Things Work,” copyright 1973. My father bought it so that he could use it to help teach my siblings and I about the world. It is a book that I have always loved. It holds nothing but good memories for me and for a long time I looked forward to being able to share it with my kids.
It also helps to show me how old I am. Chapter VI discusses radios and has a large section devoted to various aspects of television including information on vacuum tubes, transistors and a discussion about black-and-white versus color television.
Chapter VII is called Handling Messages and Data. It starts out with a discussion on typewriters (I still have my old Smith-Corona) and then heads off to cover typesetting, phonograph records/players, tape recorders and punched card systems. I imagine that there must be an updated version covering a few minor details like computers, email, the Net etc. But I digress.
Little Jack’s request to play hooky was denied. I explained to him that his education is among the most important things he does and that every time we are together I try to find something to teach him. He was disappointed not to be able to hang out with me, but he understood why. Besides I promised that we’d have some time to hang out later to which he said “what will you teach me?”
I explained that it would be a surprise and we let it go at that. Truth is that I had no idea what I was going to teach him about, but I knew that something would come up. The opportunity came later in the week during a trip to a store that uses a bullseye for a logo.
We were standing at the checkout line. The cashier was ringing up our items so that we could pay and get out of dodge. As she was scanning the various items we tried to give her a couple of coupons. There was no response but I assumed that after she finished scanning the items she’d simply take and scan the coupons as well.
While I was waiting for her to do so I inserted my credit card into the machine.
(Note to the Shmata Queen. When you know that you are going to have to pay for something it is useful to take out your cash/credit card/checkbook in advance. Or the rest of us can wait while you rummage around in that enormous bag of junk.)
Soon enough the cashier finished her scanning and I tried to give her the coupons. “We don’t do double coupons,” she said. I told her that was ok. I didn’t care about that, I just wanted to get the normal benefit from using them. She snarled something at us and said that we should just pay.
I explained that I had mentioned several times that we had coupons to which she replied “I was busy doing something.” For a moment I considered asking her in the most unpleasant way possible if she needed to be skullfucked back into reality. But I figured that while it made for a pleasant image in my head it wouldn’t solve the problem and would exacerbate the situation.
So I asked her to adjust the total. She looked at me and said that I created a problem because I had already placed my credit card in the machine. Here is how the conversation went after that.’
Cashier: You need to cancel your purchase.
Me: I can’t. There is no icon, no link and no button to push. Can’t you cancel it.
Cashier: You are asking me to do more work.
Me: No, I am asking you to do your job.
Cashier: Fine. I’ll cancel it.
Me: Thank you.
Cashier: The coupons aren’t working.
Me: I am sure that you can fix that.
Cashier: It is only two bucks.
Me: Are you suggesting that I should lose two bucks because you are incompetent.
Cashier: You are holding up the line.
Me: If you don’t change your attitude and immediately refund my two dollars there will be a major problem.
Cashier: Sir, I don’t like your tone.
Me: If you don’t like it now try telling me again that this is my fault. Better yet suggest that I am at fault because you can’t figure out how to do your job.
I won’t bore you with the exchange that came after this. She told me that she didn’t know how to work the register and I asked her to get a manager. In between this another customer in line yelled at me for being cheap. I must have given him my best steely eyed glare because as soon as I looked at him he turned away and looked at the floor.
Approximately fifteen minutes after she began scanning my items I received my two dollar refund. It was an incredible waste of her time and mine, but as I explained to the children it was the principle of the matter.
It wasn’t my fault that she ignored the entreaties to take the coupons, nor was it my fault that she had trouble processing it. Had she been pleasant and apologized for the inconvenience I might have said screw it and walked away.
If you are going to work in retail you need to know how to just nod and smile.