If It Doesn’t Scan, It Must Be Free

I think too many years in customer service scarred me in some ways.

Yesterday morning, I stood in the usual line to catch my usual bus to go to work, but when said bus arrived it took the driver a really long time to open the doors and let us all on. When he finally did open them, he stood in the doorway and announced to all of us that the meter thing that takes money wasn’t working, so we didn’t need to scan our cards or pay any money. “Just get on the bus”, he explained.

While I felt that his instructions were rather straightforward, this turn of events apparently stirred a deep need in many of my fellow riders to ask clarifying questions or make their glee at not having to pay bus fare known to the driver. “Are you sure I can’t pay you?” one woman asked. “What a nice gift for us!” a man in track pants enthusiastically said.

During these exchanges, I eye-rolled so hard it’s a miracle I didn’t hurt myself, all the while thinking just shut the hell up and get on the bus already, quit stopping in the doorway to act like your stupid joke is the funniest thing the driver has ever heard in his life, oh for the love of god people just freaking sit down already. Lady, he already SAID not to pay, so stop making such a show of searching for coins in your Louis Vuitton knockoff bag and SIT YOUR ASS DOWN ALREADY. My inner voice was getting decidedly shouty.

Naturally, the majority of the people who got on at the next two stops repeated the exact same stupid comments, because of course they did.

When I was but a starry-eyed teenage cashier back in high school, I quickly learned that any item that didn’t ring up would prompt the customer to say “I guess it must be free!” because, yeah, that’s exactly what happens now, Susan. Look at you, finding the hidden free stuff in the store, you clever clever girl! It was at that young age that I learned the valuable skill of pasting a smile on my face and forcing a “haha” while quickly calling for a price check. Another one I grew to know all too well was during my call center days, when customers would shout the very triumphant “Thanks for nothing!” right before hanging up on me when I couldn’t make whatever thing they wanted happen.

Lest I seem completely persnickety, let me pause to say that I really do enjoy funny people and witty comments. On more than one occasion, an angry customer would hit me with a one-liner so good that I would chuckle appreciatively before I could stop myself, and when they’d demand to know what was so funny I would reply honestly that their comment was clever and I appreciated their sense of humor even when they were mad. Those conversations would typically end pretty well, and I think that’s probably because witty people are usually smart too and they can appreciate reasonable explanations even for things they don’t like. The “thanks for nothing” crowd, on the other hand, seemed to feel that reasoning and logic was a lot less valuable than giving them whatever they were demanding.

Perhaps these experiences left me hopelessly jaded and unable to experience the joy that comes with telling the cashier, “Yes, and many things I wasn’t!” when asked if I found everything I was looking for. We all have our burdens, and I suppose this is mine.

One thought on “If It Doesn’t Scan, It Must Be Free

  1. Ugh I feel your paaaiiiinnnnn! From the ages of 16-26 I was also a retail girl. Christmastime in retail will jade even the tenderest of hearts! And I am not one to hide my feelings well – you can tell how I feel by the expression on my face – so when I would get the “it must be free!” joke, I probably scowled at more than one customer. I send up a prayer of thanks more than I probably need to that I no longer work with the general public. It’s better for everyone. 🙂
    Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving!

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