Tag Archives: customer

The Moment You Realize You Picked the Wrong Sugar Daddy

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The guy must have been at least 60. His beard, neatly trimmed close to his face, was completely white. He wore a ball cap and t-shirt and shorts.

The woman was younger, no older than 35, slender and going for a neo-hippie look. She wore a golden tunic with long sleeves over tight pants. The tunic was form fitting, made from fabric that seemed a little thicker than the warmth of the day warranted. Her dark hair was straight and hung below her shoulders. She had no bangs, but she did have a beaded headband tied around her forehead. I suspect quite a bit of thought had gone into her outfit, which seemed a little too pulled together for an afternoon in the woods. (The beaded headband really made it seem like she was trying too hard.)

The guy walked in first and asked if he could park in the lot outside the Mercantile.

5 Us Dollar BanknoteSure, I told him. There’s a $5 access fee. You can take care of that right here, I said as I reached under the counter for a day pass.

Since when do you charge for parking? the old man asked. I could tell he was not down with paying to park.

I’ve been here four seasons, I answered, and there’s been a parking fee as long as I’ve been here. If there’s no attendant on duty, it’s on the honor system. You put your payment in a self-pay envelope and drop it in the iron ranger.

Usually when I say honor system to old guys who’ve visited the trail before and not paid for parking, they shut up because they know they’ve behaved dishonorably and don‘t want to admit their moral failing. Not this guy. He just kept fussing about having to pay the whole time he did so.

The young woman came in during the access fee transaction. From the way they spoke to each other, I could tell they knew each other, but I couldn’t determine their relationship. The age difference suggested father and daughter, but that’s not the vibe I was getting from them.

The young woman began exclaiming over how expensive everything was. Maybe, like me, she is accustomed to shopping in thrift stores. We sold t-shirts as low as $18.95 and ball caps for as low as $16.95, not excessive prices for souvenirs on top of a mountain in California as far as I could tell.

I always wondered about people who complained about prices right in front of me. What did they hope to accomplish? Did they hope I’d haggle with them, offer them a better price? I always wanted to tell them I didn’t set the price, I couldn’t change the price, and I didn’t want to hear their bellyaching about the price. Instead, I just kept my mouth shut and felt uncomfortable.

The couple (not a couple?) left, but the young woman soon returned. She said she needed water and walked over to the beverage cooler where she studied the price list.

$2.50 for a bottle of water? she exclaimed.

That’s right, I said mildly.

I believe $2.50 for a 16.9 ounce bottle of water was wildly overpriced. I think it’s wrong to overcharge people so steeply for a basic human necessity, especially since packs of 24 bottles of that size could be purchased most anywhere in the valley for under $5. It seemed wrong to me to charge $2.50 for something that cost $.20 (or less!), even considering it was hauled up the mountain and keept cool. Charging $1.50 or $1.75 would be pricey, but understandable, but $2.50 just seemed greedy, especially for water. Sure, jack up the price for Gatorade or iced tea or potato chips—things people don’t need—but don’t screw people on the water. However, no one I worked for asked my opinion on the price of water, and when I offered it anyway, I was largely ignored.

Of course, this young woman with her neo-hippie headband had no way of knowing who set the prices or how I felt about them. I suppose I could have explained myself, but really, I just wanted her to buy her water (or not) and be on her way.

About that time, the old man walked back into the Mercantile. You getting some water? he asked the young Clear Disposable Bottle on Black Surfacewoman.

It’s $2.50! the woman exclaimed. I just really can’t afford that right now, she told him melodramatically.

She must have told him at least three more times, I just really can’t afford that right now before the old man reluctantly asked, Do you want me to get water for you?

I don’t know if she could tell, but I sure knew he didn’t want to spend $2.50 on a bottle of water for her.

The gallons are $3.95, I said helpfully. Personally, I’d rather spend $3.95 for 128 ounces of water instead of $2.50 for 16.9 ounces of water.

The old man bought the gallon.

I never did figure out the relationship between the old man and the young woman, but if she was hoping he’d be her sugar daddy, well, I felt sorry for her. I’ve never had a sugar daddy, but I know a good one should be generous with money, not complaining about having to pay $5 to park and being slow to take the hint about buying water.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/abraham-lincoln-american-dollar-banknote-cash-259258/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/clear-disposable-bottle-on-black-surface-1000084/.

You Don’t Belong in This Campground

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It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. While the Mercantile had been slow all morning, the parking lot had been hopping since at least 10 o’clock. The Mercantile got busy right at noon, and the shopping barely let up for the next four hours.

At 1:30, I ducked out to eat my lunch, leaving the complete operation of the store in the capable hands of the other clerk. As soon as I stepped off the yurt’s deck, I looked across the small front lot and saw a young woman walking toward Javier the camp host. The young woman was speaking loudly enough for me to clearly hear her say, You don’t even belong in this campground!

I looked around. Surely she was speaking to someone other than Javier. Javier was in full uniform–brown shorts, tan shirt with a collar. If anyone belonged in this campground, it was Javier.

I didn’t hear the first few words Javier said to the woman, but I did hear him tell her, You yelling at me is not going to help me help these people.

As this interaction was happening, I’d been walking toward my van. I took a few steps more so I’d be close if Javier needed some sort of backup or support.

I looked over at the woman who’d told Javier he didn’t belong in the campground. She was young, and appeared to be drunk or under the influence of some drug. Her eyes didn’t seem to be focusing correctly, and her face was contorted, but maybe that was from anger or just the way she looked.

We’re trying to help! she insisted.

A large man was standing off to the side, silent. He was ignoring the woman. Maybe he didn’t didn’t know her. Maybe he wished he didn’t know her.

I looked over at Javier. He was standing in front of a small sports car. I glanced over at the car and realized the driver of the car had somehow driven it up over a very large log set there as a barrier. Now the car’s front passenger tire was on the wrong side of the log. Apparently the driver was having a problem getting the tire back over the log, because Javier was asking the fellow who seemed to belong to the car, Do you think it’s light enough  for a bunch of guys to lift it off the log?

At that point the drunk woman seemed to have backed off, and in any case, Javier seemed to be paying her no attention, so I figured my assistance was not needed. I climbed into my van and had some lunch.

Later I asked Javier how they’d released the car from the log. He said a half dozen guys had pushed the car while it was in neutral. It must have been good teamwork because I don’t think the car sat stranded for very long.

How’d they even managed to driver over the log that way? I asked Javier. Let me just repeat, it was a very big log.

Oh, you know, he shrugged, just being themselves.

I probably shouldn’t talk, as just a couple of days before, I backed into a tree and dented my back door. It still closes, and it still locks. The Man says I’m lucky, but I say if I were lucky, I wouldn’t have backed into a tree.

I probably shouldn’t talk, but damn! Driving a little sports car over a big log barrier in a parking lot has got to be a mark of bad driving.

I took this photo.

Love for a Son

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On Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to focus on romantic love and forget about all the other kinds of love that live in the human heart: love for siblings, love for children, love for friends, love for animals, love for parents, love for caregivers, love for students, love for teachers. On this Valentine’s Day, I want to remind you of these other loves and share a story about one woman’s love for her son.

The farmers market was almost over. Some of the less patient vendors were already packing. I’m an until the bitter end kind of gal, so I hadn’t put away a single item I wanted to sell.

Two women walked up to my table. They seemed to be Native Americans, probably from the local tribe if I had to guess. They appeared to be in their late 50s and were maybe sisters or maybe cousins or maybe close friends. In any case, there was an easy companionship between them.

We were about a month from Valentine’s Day, so I showed them, as I’d shown everyone who’d approached my table that day, the stone hearts cut from labradorite, rose quartz, agate, and carnelian that I had for sale. I also pointed out my new septarian concretions and the Arkansas quartz points I’d picked up earlier in the week. The women discussed the stones, slipping seamlessly from English to their native language, then back again.

Heart Stones

The woman to my left had long, dark, curly hair, and she wore glasses. She picked up a septarian nodule and it slipped from her hand and fell onto the concrete sidewalk. She couldn’t apologize enough.

Septarian Nodules

Don’t worry about it, I told her. That rock is a million years old.* It’s been through a lot. 

Her companion giggled at my joke, but I could tell the woman who’d dropped the stone was mortified. Of course, I prefer my merchandise not to hit concrete, but there was no sense being mad at someone who’d had an accident. I know the woman had no intention of being disrespectful towards me or my stones.

The woman with curly hair returned the septarian nodule to the bowl with the others of its kind and began sorting through the heart stones. Her companion had wandered to the next table before the woman with the curly hair found the perfect heart stone, a red agate.

My son died six years ago, she told me. I stopped what I was doing and looked into her eyes.

Oh, I’m sorry, I murmured. I never know what to say to people when they confess their heartbreak.

He loved loved loved rocks, she said with a big smile. I’m going to leave this on his grave, she explained, showing me the heart stone in the palm of her hand.

I miss him, she said quietly. I love him so much.

I’m sure he loved you too, I told her. Loves, I corrected myself. I’m sure he still loves you.

He does, she said with absolute confidence. He tells me he loves me. He tells me he’s ok. He tells me he’s happy. 

The woman paid for the heart stone and caught up with her friend who had moved on down the row of vendors.

I enjoy selling stones that make people happy. I like selling Arkansas quartz points to kids who look at the clusters as if they were diamonds. I like selling septarian concretions to people who enjoy the way they feel in the hand. I like selling ammonite pairs to folks who give them as meaningful gifts and kyanite pieces to jewelers who use them to create pieces of wearable art. Most of all, I like selling stones to people who share their pain and joys with me and let me know they’ll use the stones to maintain a heart connection with the people they love.

*According to BestCrystals.com, septarian nodules were actually


formed between 50 to 70 million years ago…

so that stone was more than a single million years old.

I took the photos in this post.

Impatient and Rude

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The family at the register was taking a long time.  It was a weekend morning at the Mercantile.Things were getting busy, and it was taking forever to get these folks on their way.

The other clerk was ringing up the items they’d selected while I bagged everything. A brown plush bear that was really a backpack went into the shopping bag, then the mom decided she wanted to buy another one. She left the counter to pick up the plush black bear backpack.

Do you have this in brown? she wanted to know.

No ma’am, I told her. Everything we have is out.

We had exactly two plush bear backpack available for purchase, one brown and one black. The brown one was already in a shopping bag, waiting to go home with this woman. If she wanted another plush bear backpack from our store, it would have to be the black one. She decided to take it too.

The other clerk couldn’t get the black bear’s tag to work with the register. When she scanned the barcode, the message “item not on file” appeared on the computer screen. When she punched in the item number from the tag, the computer told us it did not exist. Finally, she pulled the brown bear backpack out of the shopping bag and scanned its tag again. Of course, what she’d done was going to mess up the store’s inventory, but I guess she figured it was better to sell the backpack today and worry about the inventory later.

When the other clerk was finished with the brown bear, I put it back in the shopping bag, but when I began to tuck the black bear into the bag, the customer asked for a second shopping bag. It’s a gift, she explained. I reached for a second shopping bag and placed the black bear in it.

Then there was a problem with the dad’s debit card. The other clerk ran it a couple of times, but each time the message on the screen was “NSF” (Non-Sufficient Funds). While the customer fished another credit card from his wallet, I asked if maybe his bank had put a hold on his card because he was using it outside his usual shopping area. He decided that was probably the case.

At some point during the transaction, I realized the next person in line was growing increasingly agitated. He was a tall guy, in good physical shape, with short hair. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he was a cop or in the military. He had an uptight, regimented look about him. He was alone—no buddies, no lady friend, no kids. I could tell from his body language that he was tired of standing in line, tired of this family in front of him showing down his very busy day. I’m not sure how I knew he was unhappy. Maybe the stiffness of his shoulders or the pinched expression on his face gave him away. In any case, I was not excited to have to deal with him next.

Sure enough, when the slow family stepped away from the counter and he stepped up for his turn, the guy with short hair barked Parking! That was it. He had not a single kind or pleasant word for us.

I wanted to bark out Asshole! but I didn’t. I knew calling him out wasn’t going to help and would, in fact, certainly make matters worse. Instead I tried the kill ‘em with kindness method, which at least got me a thank you muttered through clenched teeth as he took his credit card and day pass and left. He got through the entire transaction speaking only three words.

I was livid when he left. I shouldn’t have let him get to me, but I did. The other clerk and I had done nothing to deserve such rudeness. It wasn’t our fault the woman ahead of him decided she needed something else after she was already at the counter. It wasn’t our fault the price tag was out of date, and the item was no longer in the system. It wasn’t our fault the fellow’s debit card didn’t work. It wasn’t our fault the impatient man hadn’t brought cash to pay the parking lot attendant and needed to come into the Mercantile to pay for parking with a card. It wasn’t our fault the impatient man had come to see the trees during busy hours on the weekend. It wasn’t our fault the store had only one register, and we could only take payment from one customer at a time.

For the rest of the day, I’d intermittently snap Parking! at my coworker when no customers were around. I probably shouldn’t have made fun of someone who was obviously so unhappy, but maybe he’d be happier if he worked on being less impatient and rude.

Scruffy

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Shortly before Labor Day Weekend, two coworkers quit suddenly. The Man was sent to work my old job in the parking lot, and I continued to staff the mercantile. The manager and I worked alone on the two days the other had off each week, and we worked together on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

After Labor Day, weekdays were very slow. Some weekdays, the mercantile took in less than $100. Slow was fine with me. I entertained myself by writing or reading, and I got paid the same no matter what I sold.

One Wednesday I was working alone. The weather was cold and rainy, and only a few people had been in the store all day. Late in the afternoon, a man and a woman—both with totally white hair—came in.

Are y’all here for the trail? I asked the couple.

They said they were. I told them there was a $5 parking fee.

The fellow with the white hair started to laugh. That’s what the guy down the road told me, he said.  I told him to take a hike!

I assured him the parking fee was real. The fellow with the white hair insinuated The Man (who was working the parking lot alone that day) was an imposter ripping people off $5 at a time.

Don’t you think it’s a long way to come up this mountain to hustle people?  I asked the fellow with the white hair. It’s a pretty slow day for that too, I told him.

He didn’t have on a uniform, the woman said.

He didn’t have on a uniform? I asked incredulously. I was confident The Man was wearing a uniform when he’d dropped me off at the mercantile that morning. He wasn’t wearing a jacket like this? I asked,  gesturing to the company insignia on the jacket I was wearing.

He was wearing a uniform, the fellow with the white hair said, sounding irritated.

That’s not what you told me, the woman said.

The fellow with the white hair looked at me and said, He was kind of scruffy.

I was aghast. That’s my boyfriend! I told the fellow with the white hair. He had the decency to look embarrassed.

The Man has facial hair, it’s true, and his jacket may not have been pristine clean since we live away from civilization and can’t always do laundry the moment our outerwear gets dirty. However, I’d call him handsome, perhaps rugged, but not scruffy.

The fellow with the white hair continued to defend his doubts about The Man’s validity as an employee empowered to collect parking fees. He knew a woman, he said, who hustled people by collecting money in parking lots…

Where? I shot back at him. Grateful Dead shows?

He nodded, while his lady friend grew increasingly embarrassed.

I told him again it sure was a long way up the mountain on a slow and rainy day to tell lies just to get a few bucks. He continued to look embarrassed, but not nearly as embarrassed as the woman with him.

The fellow with the white hair may have doubted The Man’s valididy, but he didn’t doubt mine. Not only was I wearing a uniform and a photo ID, I was standing behind a cash register in a store. I collected that old coot’s $5 parking fee before he went back to his car.

 

Bold and Germ-Free

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There were several customers in the mercantile. I stood next to the cash register, angled so I could see the people near the back door. The manager of the mercantile stood behind the back counter, facing the front of the store.

I noticed an older woman standing almost directly across from me, looking into the glass display case. She was definitely older than I am, in her 50s for sure, maybe in her 60s. She caught my attention by rubbing her hands together over and over, as if she were rubbing in lotion or carefully spreading hand sanitizer over her skin. I figured she had her own lotion or sanitizer or that maybe this hand rubbing was a nervous tick. It was a little strange, and our pump bottles of Purell were between her and the manager, but I tried to keep my thoughts about the woman positive. After all, I hadn’t seen her do anything wrong. I’d only witnessed her rubbing her hands together.

When the store cleared out, the manager took a step toward the Purell display and reached down. The hand that came back up was holding a pump bottle with the pump in a fully upright position. Someone had twisted the top so sanitizer could be pumped out of the bottle.

The manager said she smelled the sanitizer when the woman helped herself to a squirt. I hadn’t smelled anything, but said I’d seen the woman rubbing her hands.

Is it possible the woman had brought her own sanitizer into the mercantile and a squirt of her own sanitizer is what the manager smelled and I saw her rubbing on her skin? Sure, that’s possible, but the time frame is mighty suspicious.

Is it possible someone else turned the spout so sanitizer could be pumped out and the woman only helped herself to a product that was already open? Yes, that scenario is also a possibility, but using something open but not marked “tester” is still wrong. Nothing about the setup of the hand sanitizer made it seem free and available for public consumption. The woman had to know the Purell was for sale and she was using it without paying.

The manager hid all but three bottles of sanitizer. The three on display were placed close to the register, on top of the glass display case where we were able to keep an eye on them.

Before this event, I’d never imagined sanitizer theft could be an issue.