July 22, 2007

"Who knew I could miss large, strung-out, racist white women so much?"

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I take customer service extremely seriously. Having worked in secondhand retail for several years has heightened my awareness of truly terrible customer service when I’m on the receiving end, but it also reminds me that the poor saps don’t deserve to be screamed at over it. I have often been one of those saps, taking it all with a smile, while some strung-out junkie or overpaid yuppie vented their rage at being treated unfairly. The best part about working in the trading of used materials (books, music, magazines, hookah pipes) is that it's a buyer’s market, and you don’t really have to buy anything from these jackasses. I was always more than happy to negotiate with a rational person, but the minute it turned ugly, I had no remorse in turning everything down, even if the deal contained an item that I would covet myself (Buffy DVD boxed sets, broken-in knitting needles, etc).

There were several occasions where I could have just flipped the table over and stormed out on my job, and most of the time they were bug related. Living in the scorching southwest, it’s not unusual to come across your fair share of roaches and scorpions, but when they are neatly packed in between DVDs and “vintage” (read: old and smelly) books, where is the line? The worst such incident didn’t actually start out too badly. Someone had decided to trade in their prized VHS Hercules and Xena boxed sets. These had been lovingly placed into a large clear plastic tub and set up on the trade counter. I had no idea how much we would sell these for, I was new to the Music Department and still all fresh-faced and eager, so I called another buyer over to school me in the ways of the boxed set. He proceeded to reach into the tub to inspect the product. He took one tape out of its Lucy Lawless-encased shrine, and what came spilling out were roaches, potato bugs and spiders of Temple of Doom proportions. He dropped the set back into the tub and slammed the lid shut. This ruckus caused the other box sets to stir and very quickly the entire bottom of this tub was filled with bugs and I was gagging in horror. That could have been me! Not wanting to humiliate the customer (Lord knows having to carry out a bucket of bugs would be embarrassing enough) we calmly paged the owner of these tapes to the front.

What arrived at our counter could only loosely be described as female (the braless breasts unleashed under the homemade tank top confirmed this), covered in tattoos (a few swastikas for good measure), half of her head shaved, half dredlocked, with few-to-no teeth visible to the naked eye. My co-worker, God bless him, simply stated that we would not be able to take any of her items due to the condition of them (meanwhile, a tornado was forming in this tub, perhaps a West Side Story rumble between roaches and stink bugs, all visible to anyone with eyes). She snorted. She saw the bugs. She grabbed her tub and with a “Fuck you guys,” walked out of the store with her flea circus in hand. I was fully pressed against the back wall, trying to shake the imaginary bugs out of my hair, when I got a parting shot of the tattoo that was on her calf: a Diet Coke can and a Pepsi can leaning against each other. Classy.

While insects are certainly traumatizing and most people would have thrown in their apron after something like that, I was always far too curious as to what was going to be next. What was to be found in the giant box of porn brought in by a man we only knew as “Bedsores”, a scaly, Jabba-the-Hut of a man who would sit in our adult section for so long that a ring would form around him, like a moldy pumpkin that had leaked? Usually it would require the discreet use of rubber gloves and an employee with a sturdy constitution. Or, when something that can only be described as a pink, crocheted penis cozy (with a place for one’s balls mind you) was unearthed from a box containing cook books and random knick knacks, did you take it in, did you touch it, did you pretend like it’s not there? If I remember correctly the deal was left unclaimed and, after closing, we chased each other around with the cozy stuck on the end of a pencil. You have to admire that kind of craftsmanship.

Sadly, it wasn’t the bugs, rude customers or amusingly crafted pornographic objects that led me out of the store after three years, it was the simple need of more money. My husband still works there and is still generally happy, while I sit here in my cube and wonder what kind of tales he’ll tell me tonight over dinner. Who knew I could miss large, strung out, racist white women so much?

contributed by M. Maiden

1 comment:

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