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That was a first for me.

She was an elderly woman. Her coat was dirty and her eyes were glaring before she even came up to the counter. She reminded me of some members of the homeless population around State St. Not the people who sit out on the sidewalk and ask passerby for change. The people who come into stores and walk up to people demanding change. Verbally aggressive and physically aggressive in her stance.

She came into the line, cutting in front of a bunch of people and put a candy bar on the counter. $1.63, I told her. She said she wanted a plastic bag for it. When I went to grab one I wet my fingers in order to separate the bag from the others, she freaked out and threw an enormous tantrum in the middle of the store.


We cancelled the transaction. The other barista on staff quietly told me to go wash my hands.

About an hour later, the woman came back. This time she ordered a pastry from the bake case, which my co-worker handled for her. When she got up to the register, she threw a second tantrum -- "oh I gotta deal with HER again!!!" My co-worker tried to reassure her that I was "an excellent server, I'll vouch for her..." I understand that a big part of any customer service job is to weed out the truly crazy people, the people who can turn violent, the people who can hurt the staff or other customers and that the way we're taught to deal with crazy people is to indulge their whims.

I wouldn't indulge her. I told my co-worker to complete the transaction and started taking orders from the next few people in line.

It's been two days and it's still in my head and I don't know how to get it out. It was an assault on my person as real as a punch to the face and, whatever the protocol may be, whatever safety concerns we may have for ourselves and others, it never feels good to be called a whore and have the person standing next to you do nothing. Not even ask if you're all right afterwards.

I'm not all right.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
I am sorry to hear about your experience. Verbal abuse is not given the credit that it can do harm, at least shake us up, especially from someone we don't know. Hopefully she'll just stay away from your place for quite a while. It does sound like she might need to chill out with some psychiatric help.

I know some people have told me to shake it off when things happen (used to work in the ER) and had quite a bit of verbal abuse and some days it was easier but once in a while there was someone who could word things just the right way that it seemed to creep under my skin. It was difficult especially when others of the floor just would shake it off as if nothing happened. :( I think in some fields it's just easier not to pay attention then to figure out to stop and ask how someone is. Not a trait of society that I like.

Hope the week only improves for you and gives you reasons to forget about.
Apr. 5th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry that fucking happened.

I know how insults and hurtful words can stick to you like tar. I hope you feel better soon.
Apr. 5th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
I still think that your co-worker should have checked on you, and something should have been said. After working in a pharmacy, I know that there are going to be those people you deal with who aren't all there mentally, and clearly she wasn't, but the difference between the crazy people I dealt with and the ones like her is that the ones I dealt with were medicated and usually not verbally abusive. She was downright verbally abusive, and the supervisors should have done something to make her leave and shouldn't have in anyway dressed you down (telling you to go wash your hands when your hands were clean is dressing you down).
Apr. 6th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
It is incredibly rare that anything even so much as sticks with me after work. Most of the customer-specific yuck slides right off, even if the prick stretched one transaction into a 40-minute argument necessitating 6 managers and a screaming fit.

Co-workers and bosses being bitches is a separate matter. I don't get over that very well. I don't manage to let that kind of thing go until I get some kind of positive comment from a person of equal or grater position than them, or someone I actually esteem whose opinion matters to me, in a similar position.

It's not a cure-all, but honestly, read some customerssuck or check out Retail Robin or Coworker Cow posts on Tumblr. Sometimes it's therapeutic, sometimes it's just so rage-inducing you come right out the other side of it and accept in a zen-like manner that everyone is fucking BUCKETS of insane, sometimes it's nice to know you don't have someone else's job. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. But you could still try it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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