Occupational Hazard

by: Huggies20 | Complete Story | Last updated Jan 2, 2009

Christina learns the hard way that the customer is always right--even when he's wrong.

Chapter 1
Sticks and Stones

Chapter Description: When Christina becomes annoyed with a patron at the height of the holiday shopping season, her manager invokes one of business' oldest creeds: The customer is always right.

“I’m sorry you don’t like our policies, but that doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it.”

The petite woman’s pink lips turned down at the sides as her green eyes bore holes into the tall man standing on the other side of the counter. Her eyebrows drew in tight under her pony-tailed blonde hair that stopped just below her shoulder blades.

“And now I’m going to need to see your manager...” the man paused to read the oval nametag on her red shirt. “Christina.” He smirked, still clutching his slightly battered black wallet. He stood about half a foot taller than Christina, which she figured placed him at just over six feet. His long-sleeved green fleece, topping off a pair of flat-front tan khakis, made him look vaguely like one of the generic models in the clothing ads that packed the Sunday papers at this time of year. His slightly shaggy, sandy brown hair and matching brown eyes didn’t hurt that perception.

In fact, if not for his coffee-stained teeth, she thought she may have recognized him from that week’s Kohl’s insert. But instead of flipping past him on her way to twenty percent off Misses fashions, she was summoning her manager for him. The line of customers stretched away the impulse candy and bookmarks, past the gift card racks and into New Hardbacks, stopping just short of the Employees’ Picks.

Christina glanced left toward her fellow Red Shirt and caught a brief eye roll. It was bad enough that their two seasonal co-workers had called out that afternoon, but that was to be expected during finals week. College kids, Christina knew from experience, had no sense of responsibility, especially when it came to a job they generally took for six weeks to earn extra money for gifts and then “quit” by just not showing up anymore.

She briefly chided herself for generalizing, but at the same time could not think of a single college student...except herself...who had bucked that trend as long as she had worked there. Thank God she had been mature enough to give her notice...in writing no less...when she quit the week before Christmas her senior year. Her supervisor at that time remembered that when she came in to re-apply for the position nine months later. The girls who had called out today would learn their poor business etiquette wasn’t going to do them any favors when they graduated in five months...or a year or a year and a half or however long it would take...and found out there was no such thing as a job with a starting salary of $60,000 a year working two days a week. Indeed, in many fields, there weren’t any jobs, period. And so they would end up putting their newly minted bachelor’s degrees to work at bookstores. Or perfume counters. Or sunny little bistros that paid $2.15 an hour plus tips.

Still, their eventual lesson would do nothing to change the fact that only one person was left to wait on a line of about two dozen people during the Christmas rush while Christina waited in limbo.

“Hi, I’m Gary. Is there something I can help you with?”

The words “Shift Manager” appeared below his first name on his oval badge, which caught a glint from the overhead fluorescent lighting as he reached out to shake the man’s hand.

“Gary, I’m Thomas, and I hate to complain, especially three days before Christmas, but I’m afraid your employee was very rude to me.”

“Thomas, I’m sure we can take care of whatever you need. Christina is usually a very trustworthy employee, and I’m sure we can work this out. Now, what can we do for you?”

“Well, I’m trying to purchase a fifteen-dollar gift card, and Christina here tells me they only come in increments of five and ten. I told her she was in luck because fifteen was an increment of BOTH, and she got very snippy.”

Christina looked at Gary. She knew she would have a turn to tell her side of the story later.

“Well, Thomas, I do apologize for Christina’s behavior today. It’s true that we don’t have fifteen-dollar gift cards, but we do have five- and ten-dollar cards. Would one of each work?”

“I don’t care if you have to give me fifteen one-dollar gift cards, as long as I walk out of here today with fifteen dollars’ worth of cards that I can take home and wrap for my office’s Secret Santa gift exchange.”

“No problem. Christina, can you please ring these up for Thomas?” Gary said, pulling two pre-packaged gift cards from a shelf beneath the counter. “Now, Thomas, is there anything else we can do for you today?”

“Oh, no thank you, you’ve done enough,” Thomas said, flashing his coffee smile. “And I’m really not trying to get anyone in trouble. Everyone gets a little stressed out at this time of year, and I’m sure Christina is normally a very good gir...good employee.”

“Thank you for shopping with us, and please come again,” Christina said, handing him a green bag that dwarfed the gift cards and smiling a weak “because I have to” smile.



End Chapter 1

Occupational Hazard

by: Huggies20 | Complete Story | Last updated Jan 2, 2009


To comment, Join the Archive or Login to your Account

The AR Story Archive

Stories of Age/Time Transformation

Contact Us