Friday, October 10, 2008

Customers: Part 03 - Exchange Lady


   "I need to make an exchange," she flashed two CDs in front of me. "I don't have the receipt. Sorry. These were gifts. From a gentleman admirer of mine. Don't know why he gives me these discs. But I need to exchange them for something else. If that's all right with you?"
   That last sentence was not a request, it was a statement. The woman had already deposited the CDs on the checkout counter and walked away.
   The Exchange Lady.
   Arguably the customer most detested by the entire staff.
   James told me she had been a Regular for years. Entered monthly, almost like clockwork. Always with brand new, unopened, still-in-shrink-wrap CDs. And they weren't Record Club editions. These were bonafide, direct from the factory, recordings. Always Classical music.
   Never. Never, had the Exchange Lady actually purchased a single item.
   Oh, she wasn't doing anything illegal. She simply requested a favor month after month. Year after year. Long ago, courtesy had become entitlement. That's what chapped the staff. The Exchange Lady may have been a Regular, but she was not a "customer." She shamelessly took advantage of store good will.
   Eventually, a customer or new hire identified the Exchange Lady.
   She worked in the school system. Alas, I have conveniently forgotten which school.
   A school that a stream of CDs flowed into.
   NOT that any of those CDs were diverted into someone's purse. That would be pure speculation.
   Speculation was what most of us excelled at.
   Mooch, leech, time waster. Call her what you would. Stephanie also added the definition of "cheater" to the Exchange Lady.
   No one despised the Exchange Lady more than Stephanie. Stephanie resented that special treatment the woman expected every month. The Exchange Lady had not bought the CDs from us, had not bought them to begin with.
   Most of the staff, however, had surrendered. The Boss, Dan, John, even Rob. They gave the Exchange Lady her switcheroo without comment. Not worth the headache. Stephanie, on the other hand, dug in her heels. She lost every encounter yet she persisted. Requested the receipt every time. Methodically cross referenced the CD stock number off the Phonolog. Stalled and stalled and stalled. Even when Stephanie smiled sadly, "Sorry, no." The Exchange Lady demanded a Manager (who buckled).
   I walked up after Stephanie had lost another skirmish. Still seething.
   "She's not playing fair. She's cheating. I don't march into the mall and trade my old tops every month."
   "Remember, these were gifts," I argued.
   "That woman doesn't have one boyfriend," she complained. "Probably swap them for a jelly sandwich anyway."
   "She always describes them as admirers."
   "Oh, excuse me, admirers. What time does drinking start? Admirers. She's built like a telephone pole."
   Stephanie was blonde, and she frequently tied her hair back with a bright yellow Sound Warehouse shopping bag. Bags were convenient and didn't break her hair. For 98% of the population, that bag, flared out in a yellow bow, would look childish, stupid or trashy. Stephanie was young and cute, though, with a voice of soft sandpaper. Purring rasp. As she got older, her words would burrow into a man's system and linger.
   "Hmm, some guys prefer girls on the lean side," I commented.
   "Most guys I know prefer something they can hold onto," she retorted. "Not a human ironing board. And what's up with that hairstyle of hers?"
   "Ah."
   "Hello, Beauty School Trainee, could you please cut my hair like this French croissant?"
   "Ah."
   "Then after you've weed whacked it into a pancake sandwich, spray on six coats of varnish and bake it until it's harder than a football helmet."
   "Ah."
   "It's not for me, you know. My 126 admirers like it hard."
   I strolled away. As predicted, Stephanie's barbs lingered.

(all thanks to joseph for character reenactment)
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