Takin What Their Givin'

Cause I' workin' for a livin'...

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: June 22, 2005

Takin What Their Givin'

We were in Rite Aid/Wal Mart/Longs whatever, the other day when this angry little guy in a mail order suit, rudely cut the line, pushed up to the cashier waving the stores advertisement pointing to a $4.99 power strip. The customer was obviously a foreigner because he was rattling something off a Peking menu, while wearing a 50s tie, in the middle of the day and he didn?t have a badge.

The cashier was obviously an earnest financially strapped housewife who was trying to earn a couple of bucks while the kids were at school. Hating life, she was no doubt incredulous at this guy?s brash insistence on saving one buck. I was going to offer this manic skin flint two bucks for his tie just to see if he would do it, but my wife was with me and discourages that type of behavior.

If my son Los was with me he would probably have made an offer on the shoes, forcing others to take some side action on if he wore socks or not.

Working retail is one of the hardest and thankless jobs you can have. Many people nowadays are self indulgent narcissistic jerks, who treat clerks like servants. We try to think of the clerks as single Mom?s, kids working their way through college, or famous musicians of the seventies.

My experience in retail is remarkably different than the norm. Back in the day I was a managing partner of a good size motorcycle dealership in the inner city and the rules of retail decorum were significantly different.

We had a sales guy named TW, for Tumble Weed, because of his hair. He was an IRA radical, who tried to run a sports book off the sales floor. A stout, round wire rimmed guy with the vocabulary of a Rhodes Scholar, would eye potential customers. If he knew that they were killing time or were motorcycle want to-be posers, he would come up to the person and say in a measured voice, ?Excuse me Sir, Are you lost?? The ?Mooch? would always say ?No just lookin?. TW would say after a dramatic pause sizzled by manic eye contact, ?Then get lost??

Our axiom and dealership credo was, there is two ways you can leave the dealership, you can walk our or be carried out. The motorcycle business including and especially Harley Davidson is no longer like that, it has become sanctimonious and seeker friendly.

My only other short lived retail experience was managing a tire store. I would have to work behind the counter and sell people tires and depending on their attitude a bunch of brakes and front end parts that they didn?t need.

Since the tire store was part of a larger chain, I would get written up routinely by the district manager for talking down to the customers, which I still consider an impossibility. First there was the time when a ?fortune teller? Miss Dora came in and was yelling at me because she said she didn?t know that her brake pads were down to the metal. I told her given her line of work, how could she not know?

Then there was the time this Middle Eastern fellow came in and tried to tell me that the tires we installed on his car was making a ?bippity bump, bump? noise on the freeway. I said are you sure it?s not a bump, bump, bippity, thump? He said, no ?I remember quite vividly it was a Bippity, bump, bump?. I asked what radio station were you listening to?

He said, ?News talk, always news talk?. I said oh, it wasn?t the rap station then. You ain?t run over a duck or nothing??

He started to get really mad, and told me ?So you think I am decidedly stupid with this tire noise song thing Mr. Blue smarty slacks??

I paused for an uncomfortably long time, and then said, no man. The guys checked out his car, contrite for being a world class jerk. I might have given him a free tire or two.

You need to know that most people behind the counter don?t want to be there. They are underpaid and verbally abused by often time?s frustrated people who want somebody to pick on.

I?ve have learned to say please and thank you, because you never know when the economy is going to turn bad for you, and you end up on the wrong end of a discount coupon or a blue light special.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos seldom has exact change.

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