Asking for the manager has unintended results
“I want to speak to the manager!” The famous last words of many assholes at the center of our favorite stories online. But trust me when I say that this story comes with an extra wrinkle that makes the notion of “speaking” to the manager a little more difficult than most.
Prior to being a bartender I worked at a retail chain called Big W. I’m a nerd, I tend to switch to autopilot when tired (almost always at the end of shifts) and can be a dick when annoyed. Me in a nutshell.
It’s a slow Wednesday afternoon, the A/C is broken again and it’s about 5 degrees C hotter inside than it is outside (29c). I’m in autopilot, rigor mortis smile on my face and retail greetings are droning out of my throat. A guy walks into my register, demanding a refund for something trivial. Probably his panties were the wrong colour, I don’t remember.
I inform him in a monotone voice that refunds are issued by my supervisor, not me. There’s a surprisingly substantial line at the supervisors desk, people wanting cigarettes, refunds or information. He informs me that he’s not waiting that long for something trivial.
He demands I do it, because “Even someone as dumb as you can do this”. Well that snapped me out of autopilot and the smile fades. I repeat, in a much more direct tone that “Only the supervisor can do refunds.” The customer is having none of it. “Refund my item.” He demands again, saying it very slowly as if I was the dumbest potato in the strawberry patch. “I am unable to-” He cuts me off.
“I want to speak to your manager, I don’t want to talk to you.” Now this is where people need to be careful with their words. As a cashier I report directly to my supervisor, one of the two at the desk. They’re in charge of me. My Manager sits out back managing the store, and usually never has to interact with customers unless the supervisor calls him.
So I nod, calling through the headset for my manager (let’s call him Fred). Fred’s a great guy, he tells good jokes, he’s always ready to help his friends and he’s a caring soul. He’s also a mute; and after wrapping his ute around a tree as a teen, he’s also deaf. As such he knows Auslan (Australian Sign Language), but can’t read lips to save his life. I also can’t speak Auslan at all.
This probably took about 5 minutes for someone to alert Fred that he was needed and for him to come down. All this time I’m smiling but not saying a word to the gentleman, as he told me to. He comes up to the registers, sees it’s me waving him down and pulls out his pda to communicate with me.
“What’s up?” Fred types. I take the pda and type “Customer has a complaint, wants to speak to ‘my manager’ not me.” Fred raises and eyebrow at me and I just shrug. The guy is turning red with anger, probably thinking we’re ignoring him.
Fred turns to the guy who launches into a full on verbal assault that would curdle milk chcocloate. Something about incompetent employees and terrible service. Fred just stands there. Eventually the guy runs out of breath and Fred has a chance to show him the pda with the words “Sir I am a deaf mute, please use this to communicate with me.” The guy practically screams and storms out of the store.
Tl;dr: Guy gets angry I can’t issue a refund and demands to speak to my manager, who can’t speak because he’s a mute.
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