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The ‘Wrath Of God’ customer

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This one is a little long so you might want to get a drink, use the bathroom, or otherwise prepare to settle in for this tale. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

All set? Good. Now, let me tell you about one of the worst customers I’ve ever had to deal with. I shall call her “The Wrath Of God”, mainly because I don’t know if I can get sued for posting this story.

Let me set the scene. It was the 80’s, that decade of decadence, when there was good music on the radio, good movies in the theatres, and I was in my twenties. It was Christmas time, and I worked at Waldenbooks (remember them?) in the local mall. Santa had his Christmas village display in the area right outside our store, and there was a line of little tykes eager to sit on the big man’s lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.

Being Christmas, and a retail establishment, our store was packed with shoppers. I was on the floor trying to help customers when I walked up to one woman.

“Hi, can I help you find anything?”

“Is your manager in?” she asked. I could tell by the look on her face that something wasn’t sitting well with her.

“I’m the assistant manager, if I can be of any help.”

She screamed her reply at me. “I want to complain about all the naked breasted women on the magazines at the front of your store!”

That certainly gets your attention. And it got the attention of several other shoppers nearby.

“Why don’t you show me what the problem is?”

I headed toward the magazine rack. Now, we carried Playboy and Penthouse and had them on the magazine rack, but they were on the very top row and on the end closest to the cashwrap, so we could sort of keep an eye on them. (This was before we were required to put them behind the counter.) Sometimes, obnoxious teenagers, or perverts, would take a Playboy off the top rack, open it up to the centerfold, and spread it out along the front row of the rack, and leave it there. We’d put them back where they belonged when we found them but there was no telling how long they might have been there. I’d assumed this was the case with The Wrath of God.

Standing in front of the last section of the magazine rack, I scanned the shelves looking for an open Playboy or Penthouse, and not finding one. “Yes?”

The Wrath of God was at the other end of the magazine rack, near the front entrance of the store. I walked down there, thinking maybe one of our vandals had gotten creative and moved the centerfold to the other end of the rack. I got down there, and I looked but I couldn’t find anything out of place.

“Yes?” I repeated.

The Wrath Of God points at the shelves and screams “These magazines all have to be taken off the shelves. Now!”

I looked at the magazines she pointed at, and it was the fashion magazine section. We had things like Elle, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and similar titles there. Now, back in the 80’s they might have had some cleavage on the covers but certainly nothing naked.

“You mean the fashion magazines?”

“These are all filth and you have to take them off the shelves.”

My mind went into a whirl trying to figure out just what was going on. She was having a conniption fit over fashion magazines, but not the actual porn magazines at the other end of the rack?

“You are corrupting all the children in front of your store by having these magazines here!”

I figured the diplomatic approach was the best way to handle this situation. It also finally helped me understand the saying “diplomacy is saying ‘nice doggy’ until you can find a big stick.”

“Well, ma’am, I appreciate your point of view, and I will take it up with my manager tomorrow, but I’m not going to remove the magazines from the rack.”

This set off The Wrath of God. She spent the next fifteen minutes screaming at me, and telling me how awful I was, and how I was going to lose my job over this. Fortunately, I’m patient.

When she finally ran out of steam, I repeated what I’d said before. “Yes ma’am, I appreciate your view, and I’ll take it up with the manager, but I will not remove the magazines from the shelves. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Apparently there wasn’t anything else, as she left the store. I looked to see if one of the mall security guards might be strolling by but no luck there. I returned to the mad rush of trying to help the other shoppers in the store.

The next day our District Manager was visiting our store. I told both her, and our store Manager, what had happened the previous night with The Wrath of God. Our District Manager said “Don’t worry about it. You acted appropriately and handled the situation.”

There is more to this tale but I’ve gone on long enough for now.

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