I don’t know if I’ve told you all this yet or not, but I’m kind of an idiot. Not an idiot as in stupid, but I don’t take much of anything seriously, and I can usually find something to laugh at in just about anything. You want proof? I laughed during my own mother’s funeral …in my defense, the CD player broke before it could play my mom’s favorite song, and her black cloud was legendary.
I was recently watching episodes of “Big Mouth” on Netflix and there was an episode when two guys were going to write a screenplay for an adult film based on their occupation. Idiot mode engaged. I decided to take my favorite art form, satire, and apply it to a work situation. Mama always taught me to laugh at tough situations and sometimes people are tough to deal with. For your reading enjoyment: a short story about a workplace encounter.
[DISCLOSURE]: This blog may be deemed inappropriate for some readers. You may want to avert your eyes if you are sensitive to steamy subject matter or treat people like garbage in public. You’ve been warned.
No Receipt, No Surrender
By: A.P. Miller
© 2021-2022 A.P. Miller. All rights reserved.
A long time ago, in a day when you could breathe air with no concern.
The night had fallen and I was restless. The life of a store associate stationed at the customer service counter was a life full of adventure and sexy intrigue, but I was bored with being asked for autographs, and the sidelong glances from beautiful women undressing me with their eyes. I needed something more, something that made me feel alive, and like I was more than just an object of lust draped in a red polo shirt and khaki pants. I needed a new kind of heat and I wanted to be burned by an unfamiliar flame.
Customers would come, present their receipts, and give valid reasons for returning the merchandise like drones. I pitied them. Spending day in and day out respecting their fellow human beings, blissfully unaware there was more to this life than just being a decent person. The retail lemmings were ignorant to the wild world of experience before them and I wept.
A woman plodded up to the counter and asked to return clothing too small for her daughter. The tags were still on the items, still neatly affixed to the white plastic hangers, and she had her receipt. This monument of mediocrity standing before me had the gall to smile. My stomach lurched in disgust.
“I’m sorry ma’am, your receipt has expired,” I said, hands trembling with the anticipation of her righteous fury.
The woman leaned over the counter and examined the receipt, confirming that I was correct.
“I am so sorry,” she said. “You know, it’s no big deal. I think my niece is this size, I can give them to her, or I can donate them. I’m so sorry for the trouble.”
No anger. No rage. No righteous indignation or asking to speak to my manager. Silently, I hoped her husband was bedding the neighbor-lady, experiencing the passion this woman clearly lacked. Poor wench would probably apologize to her spouse for his infidelity. What a wretch.
“No need to be sorry. Is there anything else I can help with?” I asked. My tone was the synthetic pleasant that everyone who works in retail had developed out of the preservation of their gainful employment.
“No. Please have a great day.”
The saccharine smile on the woman’s face made my gallbladder boil with contempt.
I languished in despair after she’d left. The moments between customers were opportunities to reflect on my bleak, boring existence. Is this how Van Gogh felt before he cut his own ear off?
Just when I thought my meaningless march through time had reached its apex, I saw her. She pushed the door open like it owed her money, her posture was stiff, and she was wearing round sunglasses two sizes too big for her face. The woman’s skin was an unnatural shade of orange, her hair was the kind of blonde that only chemicals could produce, and her bleach-fatigued locks were styled longer on one side of her face, and cropped on the back. She wore a t-shirt that said “Forever 21”, but her scowl said “Clinging to Forty-Nine.” The woman’s fingers were aching for conflict and the tips were weaponized by comically large acrylic fixtures.
My heart skipped a beat and blood rushed to my face. This goddess before me was the deity of life I’d been looking for. I asked the heavens to bring me deliverance and it sent an angel.
“Hello, can I help you?” I asked. My legs quaked and my stomach became a butterfly sanctuary of nerves.
A sharp nail popped up, telling me to wait. She was on the phone with a bluetooth earpiece in. This angel was important, too important to give the time of day to scum like me. When she finally spoke, her tone was venomous, and she was telling someone on the other end how she was going to leave a bad review. I breathed in deeply, trying to capture the moment of abundant blessings as completely as I could.
She tapped her finger to the earpiece. “Sorry about that. It’s just so hard to find people who can follow instructions.”
“Isn’t that the truth?” I asked. I was light-headed and certain my voice cracked. “What can I help you with?”
My queen threw a bag on the counter with little regard for anything outside of preserving her nails. “I want to return that?”
“Okay,” I said, opening the bag.
The smell of stale cigarettes and cheap wine wafted from the bag. It was a white blouse with subtle stains on it.
“The tag is in the bag,” my muse said, offering preemptive direction. She knew I was inferior and I loved her for it.
I fished the blouse out of the bag and the accompanying tag. The tag was for a brand our store didn’t carry and the garment had been clearly worn. The anticipation of the domineering exchange to come was making my mouth dry.
“I don’t think we carry this brand,” I said. My tone was serious, a little push to coax the fire I knew my warrior woman was capable of. I wanted her to let me have it and give it to me good.
“Well, I bought it here.”
My heart fluttered. I didn’t come to work each day to be paid, or advance myself in life. I clocked in at the store to be treated like subhuman trash and this poetry in motion was going to fulfill my needs.
“I’ll take a look. Can I see your receipt?” The game had commenced.
“I don’t have it.”
Of course you didn’t, my darling. Why would creatures as exquisite as you bother yourself with such trivialities as documentation or proof of purchase? If I were worth the cotton weave of my required uniform, that I had to pay for out of pocket, I would have just known you bought it here. I was scum and grateful for the mercy this epitome of excellence was showing me.
I pursed my lips to stifle the animal lust raging inside of me. “Well, I might be able to look it up with your credit card. Can I see your card?”
“I paid cash. I’d like a cash refund, too,” the woman said. She had cocked her hips in an annoyed posture and she was tapping her bejeweled flip-flop against the commercial-grade carpeting in front of the counter.
“Okay. Let me see if I can have someone find the item in our system. If it’s there, I’ll have a better idea of what I can do.”
“Do what you have to do, but you’re giving me cash.”
That’s right, you tigress. Tell me what I am and am not going to do. I was aimless and this cult of personality was demanding my obedience. If I hadn’t been distracted by how her face was contorting in annoyance, I am certain I would have heard angels playing harps in the background.
An associate who worked in the clothing department arrived, answering the clarion call I’d sent for her. I showed her the garment my siren was trying to return. The associate was Maude, who was going to be quitting soon, and her tolerance for assholery was at an all-time low.
“We don’t sell that here,” my salesfloor colleague said.
“Yes, you do.”
“No, we don’t.” Maude.
“I bought it here, it doesn’t fit, and I need to return it.”
Maude looked at the blouse. “You’ve clearly worn this. I can see your deodorant in the armpits, you’ve spilled something on it, and it smells like a tobacco factory.”
“I wore it once and it didn’t fit.”
“So you put it on, knew it didn’t fit, and then let a room full of people use you as an ashtray?” Maude asked.
“Are you going to give me my money back or not?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t return this item. If it’s not in the system, I can’t do anything with it,” I said.
“The price is right there on the tag. Open the drawer, give me that much, and stop arguing,” she said. Her words were angry and I could feel in my bones she’d never been told no before.
“I can’t do that,” I said.
“This is RIDICULOUS!” she shouted, stomping her foot. “Get me a manager, NOW!”
“I’m the manager,” Maude said, unimpressed by the tantrum in progress. Maude was a filthy liar and I loved it. Maybe if my tryst with the angelic fury on the other side of the counter didn’t work out, I’d ask her if she were doing anything after work.
“I want your manager!”
“I’m the only manager here tonight. I’m telling you no and that’s final,” Maude said.
“This is f***ing ridiculous! I’ve never been treated so poorly and EVERYONE is going to hear about it!” The woman snatched her bag, tag, and blouse off the counter and shoved them into her purse angrily. “Your store SUCKS! I am going to call corporate and I am going to get both of you FIRED!”
The woman stomped out of the store and out of my life. That kind of fire isn’t meant to last. I often think about that woman, how she made me feel like dirt because she was more important than I and at a time when I needed to be reminded.
I didn’t go back to work after that. If my goddess wasn’t coming back to the store, then I had no reason to be there. I asked for fire, I was burned, and I was off for new thrills. I hope she remembers me.
Songs listened to while writing this blog:
- “Square Hammer” – Ghost
- “Dance Macabre” – Ghost
- “Boys of Summer” – Don Henley
- “Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
- “Black Smoke Rising” – Greta Van Fleet
- “Killing in the Name of” – Rage Against the Machine