Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hey, how much do you want for those?

So this wizened old character rolls in Saturday. He's like a "Hee-Haw" farmer in a wheelchair cart. Straw hat, frayed blue jeans, faded blue plaid shirt and battered leather boots with a faint whiff of the barnyard to them. AND A BOLO TIE WITH THE STATE OF TEXAS.

His face is a ruddy brown, but he's obviously not moving too well, because he has to position the cart right by the counter before he can fumble a bag out. He nearly knocked out two blabbering teenagers, which was actually fine with me because the pair were clogging up counter space to do a MoneyGram. But he never even knew they were there. Deaf as a doornail.

When he gets the bag open, it is a carton of Marlboros. Lord, I bet this old buzzard thought he WAS the Marlboro man a few decades ago.

I don't go any further. "Do you have a receipt sir?" We can't return cigarettes or alcohol without a receipt from our store. If you bought a bottle of wine from the store across town, it has to be returned at that store. ZERO EXCEPTIONS.

He's got a receipt all right. From November. 90 days. This being well past that.

"Sir, I can't return these cigarettes for you." WHAT?

I repeat myself, louder. "WHY NOT?"

I make it a general rule not to yell, and in fact try to LOWER my voice with customers, especially the nasty one. It's a subtle thing. But I'm practically yelling now and the entire line is getting a threepenny opera for free. "BECAUSE YOUR RECEIPT IS FIVE MONTHS OLD. YOU CAN'T RETURN STUFF AFTER 90 DAYS."

"BUT THE CIGARETTES WERE STALE." I bet they were stale if you waited five months to smoke them!"


"I don't know, sir. Why didn't you return them LAST YEAR?" His answer? "Well, I was busy."

As he's rolling out, an Asian woman goes "Hey, how much do you want for those?" And THEY START BARGAINING RIGHT THERE IN THE LINE.

He's trying to get her to pay full price. She's saying "No, you said they were stale." And some other alterna-scruffy white guy with a full sleeve tattoo is like "Lady, five months and any tobacco is stale." People are watching with avid interest. No one cares that I'm open for business. All the drama is on the bargaining.

The guy in the wheelchair cart keeps saying how he feels like Wal-Mart cheated him and she should help him out. She's standing firm at the fact that she's at least giving him something for what he's got, which he doesn't even want right now.

She knocks him down to ten dollars and he forks them over. The tattooed guy is shaking his head. And I'm like "What just happened?"

It was like a freaking swap meet.


chunes said...

That's awesome! I love that "well what am I supposed to do with it?" question. I always feel like telling them to go to a pawn shop.

Looks like this guy lucked out. That's so awesome - haggling for personal merchandise in a Wal-Mart. I'd like to see more of that.

astonished said...


I love your blog. People are just totally crazy, which is sooo funny when you don't actually have to deal with them yourself.

My sympathies.

kelmeister said...

OMG that's so awesome. If I still smoked I probably would have done the same thing, because Marlboros are crazily expensive!

Funny story: my mother smokes Salem Lights, has for years. She, too, is obsessed with "freshness." She would buy a pack a day not to smoke, but because every pack she bought was "stale" and she'd have to get a new one. Back when they were still in soft packs, she's squeeze each pack like it was a tomato to make sure it didn't make the tell-tale crinkling noise of a stale pack. She'd insist I do the same if she sent me out for a pack.

When Salem switched to the box, my mother was sure it was a conspiracy to force consumers to buy the stale ones.

Anonymous said...

when a customer asks me what they should do with items that I can't return, deep down I really want to tell them what they can do with them... I just think it's crazy that they have a product (even expensive items) that they mean to return... I had a guy with a VCR that said it wasn't worth making an 'extra' trip just to return it, and he kept forgetting it. Oops, 8 months old. When I told him we couldn't do anything for him and he asked what he was supposed to do with it... ooo...

Anonymous said...

I think one of your best re-tellings of all time! The visuals from your description are just priceless!

Anonymous said...

I AGREE! I felt like I was right there watching this mini flea market!

Chimera said...


And that is how the little angel ended up on top of the Christmas tree!

j-yo said...

Wow, Wal-Mart is now comparable to a third-world bazaar. No offense to the third-world bazaar.

High-Maintenance & Hostile Heidi said...

You rule. This is by far one of your most hilarious posts yet.

Keep up the fantastic work!

Amanda said...

hahahaha. this is probably one of the best things i've ever read. i love people.

keep it up, your posts are hilarious.

i too have heard the "what am i supposed to do with it?" question, and it's usually followed by the "get me your manager, you will accomodate me!" line. haha yeah right.

Tenacitus said...

You rock.
I wish you worked at my store...

Jayne Dough said...

I posted some excerpts from your blog on mine (while giving you credit and a link). Your descriptive insults are really quite creative. I find that part of your blog a real pleasure to read.

I'm no expert but I wonder if you ever tire of your current job if you will consider seeking your next career as a writer. You certainly have gained the audience and the experience for it.

Really, your descriptions (and storytelling) are exceptionally good.

Anonymous said...

it's whacko stories like these that have me coming back for more

SpotWeld said...

Haggling for mechandise that has been refused a return. We are witnessing the future. It's like instant eBay. Wal-mart better get on top of this opportunity if they want a piece of the action.

Anonymous said...

I've bargained with people in return lines. I bought a video game off a 40 year old creepy guy who was returning it one week after it was released (obviously played it continuously as a substitute for human contact). He was whining that the store wouldn't give him much for it, so I offered him 5 bucks more than them (still a 50% discount for me, the poor student).

He was so happy to "stick it" to the retailer he didn't even barter. To quote Jim Morrison, people are strange.