The one less traveled…

Difficult Customers…

This is a tough one to write…so many thoughts floating around as to where I should or could go with this….and yet here it is.

We have this customer at our store…she’s a right pain-in-the-ass! She’s likely in her sixties and I guess can’t get around much on her own legs…so she uses one of our “mart carts”…you’ve seen them…little powered scooters with a basket up front for groceries etc.  That’s all well-and-good but she also insists on bringing in her two yapping little beasts…a yorkie and a pomeranian.  All these two dogs do is yap yap yap from the minute they get in the store till they leave…well come to think of it…she doesn’t shut up either!  She doesn’t shut up…but her attitude is one of superiority…like she owns the world and you in it.

She shows up daily and hangs around for hours…riding that damned scooter up and down the isles…and picking out stuff that she only ends up leaving behind at the register…as though she’d ultimately used her superior judgment and deemed those items not to her standards. GROAN!  A lot of the items we have to “claims”…because she puts them in the cart with those damn dogs and the law says we have to.

There’s a collective moan when she comes into the store…we’re all plain tired of her coming in and pushing her proverbial weight around and breaking rules and policy…in general wreaking havoc!  She’s become a regular topic in the lunch room…well her and those damn dogs…and no-one wants to really “cash” her out…since she’s so difficult.

Well yesterday was no different than any other day at our store…except AFTER we closed!  I had ended my shift right at closing…lucky not to have to stay the extra half hour and zone all the shit people carelessly toss about when they’re in the store…so I headed to the shopping lot next store to hit the grocery store…only to discover they were closed….arrgghh.   I trek back up the incline to our store to meet the person who said they’d give me a ride…but by now I’m locked out of the store and must wait on the bench outside for said ride….so I decide to call a taxi to get home.

While waiting for the taxi…I notice a few stragglers pull up and try to get into the store…not knowing we close at 9 on Sundays…we have small talk then they leave.  Then this mint green van pulls up…and I instantly know who it is…earlier in the day I’d been informed that “she” had been living in our parking lot for a month or so in that van.

I sat in mute observation as she descended from the van…a heavy older woman…with flowing waist length gray hair.  She pauses for a few moments…outside the vehicle door…to run her hands through her long hair and catch the cooler air in it. She adjusts her rumpled clothing and leans in to scoop up her companion…the yorkie…then closes the door and gingerly makes her way across the parking lot to our entrance.  It’s a silent traverse filled with the weight of her life’s journey.  This is a human who’s story I do not know…yet I see the anguish of where she is right now.  She’s aging and her limbs do not support her as they used to…and all she has left in the world are her two dogs and her mint green van.  This night I read the pain…solitude and anguish in her movements…her body. My heart and soul melt.

This woman is no longer that pain-in-the-ass customer no one wants to wait on…she is a homeless human being…adjusting to yet another journey in life…even at this later stage. The veil of judgment drops and I’m blessed with seeing beyond the limitations of the expanse of a register.  The tetonic plates of my paradigm shift with the realization of this person..this human being’s experience.

Perhaps it’s because I was homeless not too long ago…that I feel this connection…or perhaps it’s just because I’m also human.  Either way…my heart and soul connect to this solitary figure…and return changed.  She is no longer that pain-in-the-ass with the yapping dogs, that spends hours in the store…only to buy a few paltry items.  Her star was illuminated this evening…gifting me with the light of her journey….and I am blessed.

Those dogs are her life companions…she is literally fighting for her if she casts a bit of superior attitude our way…well HELL we can handle that!

Each person that comes into your life brings something…something deeper than the facade of what they’ve learned to present.  Though it’s not UP to us to dig past that facade…it is always to our benefit that we do. The verdant soil is always worth cultivating.

So the next time you’re in line and chatting up a “cashier” and she’s super friendly and perhaps even a bit flirty…take a moment…she may be me.  I’m not friendly because I HAVE to be…I’m friendly because I choose to be…and I like engaging people beyond the facade…getting to touch who they genuinely are.

This woman is a tough cookie…a hard shell (understandibly) but I promise this…the next time she comes through my line…she will be treated with respect and all should be…nothing else matters…dignity is but one of the few things she maintains…and it is not up to me to dismantle that.

Her gift to me is…reminding me that even difficult customers have lovely life lessons to  share.


9 responses

  1. bronsont

    Awesome insight, I have tax clients in the same shape and try to always make them feel speical!

    August 5, 2008 at 2:40 am

  2. Ian

    That’s a touching story, and one which should remind us all that there is more than meets the eye in every situation we encounter and to everyone we meet.

    August 10, 2008 at 11:01 am

  3. Thanks for sharing! I like the serious side too!Glad I found you on plurk!

    August 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

  4. Evangeline

    I did wonder where that story was going and then it arrived!
    Through your open and easily understood words I feel in 10 short minutes that I have been reintroduced to you.
    I am glad I followed your plurk to here, today.
    Thank you. x Evangeline.

    August 14, 2008 at 7:19 am

  5. Hurgoll

    Hi, This story is something that I learned long ago. I got lucky and had a great teacher about people. My Grandpa. I hope I have taught this to my kids through both word and example.

    You are a great writer and deep thinker. I too am glad I found you on plurk. 🙂

    I will be back to read more posts for sure.

    August 17, 2008 at 1:22 pm

  6. *nods* i know the experiance. I think every store has a customer or two like that. The last grocery store i worked at had an older gentleman who worked there for about a year, bringing in carts. come to find out that he was homeless before that and remains so to this day, 14+ years.

    August 17, 2008 at 5:43 pm

  7. What a wonderful post! And what a wonderful heart you have!

    I’m glad I followed your reponse to one of my friend’s plurks and found you here. Thanks for warming my heart today. 🙂

    August 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

  8. Glad to say I do not have that problem yet at my store. For now it’s online. In case someone is wondering what the address is it’s . I sell things from the home to gift items for almost every event. Including a few comic book items like the hulk.


    September 18, 2008 at 1:52 pm

  9. WT

    Good on you for understanding.

    November 21, 2008 at 9:57 am