Do yo ever have phrases that people have said to you that just stick with you? It can even be 10 years later and it’s still there, fresh in your mind like it just happened yesterday?
When I was in university for my undergrad, I worked at a grocery store as a cashier. When I started, I had basically no cash experience at all but quickly rose to the ranks of assistant manager within a few months. I think it was just because I had the availability to take on more responsibilities quickly but then the manager started trusting me with more and more things. It was great.
When she wasn’t there, I was. That was our rule. And I made the schedules so there was never a day when the store was open that neither of us were there until at least 4 pm (except if one of us was on holidays). I was also in charge of training the new cashiers. That’s the teacher in me I guess.
So one summer, we had just finished up a round of hiring and training and our new recruits were on the floor working by themselves now. I was proud of that bunch! We always hired more than we needed because some of them just couldn’t hack it on their own.
But this one trainee was great. She was in her late 30’s or early 40’s and had experience. She quickly jumped from training, to buddies, to solo work. She was of Indian background, which I normally wouldn’t say but I think it’s important for this story.
One day, she was working, and doing great, and I was a few tills over doing my own thing and I kind of hear a little bit of a kerfuffle over at her till. I look up and there is a man standing there, and she’s talking to him. I only looked over for a second because this lady was sometimes very animated with her customers. We all form different relationships with the regular people that come in so I didn’t really think too much of it until about a minute later when I could hear the anger in the man’s voice.
I stopped what I was doing (thankfully not serving customers) and walked over to the till to see what was going on. The cashier was trying to remain calm as she kept putting the divider bar where it needed to go and the gentleman was agitated and upset that she was scanning his items incorrectly. Like you pick it up, let it go beep over the light and then put it on the other side. It’s not rocket science. But he was flipping out that she was turning the items “the wrong way” to scan them.
I tried to calm the guy down, and tried to scan the items for him instead of her, because she was getting upset now. And then the phrase happened “I don’t need no condescending Jezebel telling me what’s right.” as he pointed his finger at her and jabbed the air aggressively.
And that was the last straw for me. I put the items down and said he could speak to our boss. The cash manager wasn’t in that day and if she was then this guy was in for a world of pain. She was a scary person when upset lol I’m still intimidated by her and I’ve known her for over 10 years.
But the store owner? Oh man. He was a 6’5, 275 lbs, brick wall type of guy. And Greek. He was all sunshine and rainbows most days but when he was angry, the entire block knew it.
So I paged him in my most loveliest paging voice, and he came over to the till. I explained to him, in front of the guy, what was happening, and then this guy started going off about brown people and called the cashier a Jezebel again. My boss turned to the cashier and told her she was excused from the situation. I stayed and he asked me to delete what was in the register already from this man’s transaction. And then my boss proceeded to get all angry and huffed up at the customer telling him that he has no right to come into his place of business and treat his employees like that and how dare he throw around racist slurs and derogatory terms towards anyone and that he could leave and never return to the store and we would be more than happy to put his items back on the shelf for him.
While it was extremely uncomfortable to stand there while it all happened, I was really impressed with my boss. He was kind of a dunce most of the time but he was fair and kind and very protective of his workers. The cashier was given a little reprieve to collect herself and she went outside for a smoke, and we never (to my knowledge) saw that guy again.
Have you ever had to deal with something like this in person? How did you handle it?