Smokers, it seems, are worse than anybody else for making a show of themselves in Food Place dramatically enough to warrant a Hall of Shame entry. Many entries about nasty customers seem to relate to scenes that have unfolded at the kiosk and this one is the worst of them all. Looking back, I think I handled the situation well, although very unprofessionally. But nobody who witnessed it really cared that I was a little out-of-line.
This, I should point out, happened before I rose to being a supervisor. I was just a kiosk assistant and was nearing the end of an eight-hour-shift of non-stop serving customers. I was sick of the sound of my own voice saying "hi", "bye", "please" and "thank you". I was thirsty. I was tired.
A lovely old chap, a frequent Food Place visitor, approaches the lottery desk in his mobility scooter. He can't walk very far on his own, so he uses this vehicle to keep his independence. He seems to like coming in for the social activity more than anything. He's always bumping into people he knows and most of the staff, myself included, enjoy a good chat with him. He's one of those old people that can get away with rambling on about his life because he actually has something interesting to say about it.
Back to the story, he's in the lottery queue. He hands me his slips and begins to chat to me about the weather which, if I recall correctly, is pretty horrible. When I get to the last slip he's given me the machine throws it back at me and makes one of it's many silly noises. A quick investigation yields the explanation.
"Oh, I think you've filled this one out on the wrong type of slip. Was it the main lottery game you wanted it on for?"
"Oh yes, why what have I done?"
"Oh you've written onto a Hotpicks slip, that's all. Never mind, I can type the numbers in for you."
The lovely old man apologises, I assure him it's not a problem, and proceed to enter the numbers. Within seconds I'm disrupted by an overly-dramatic sigh coming from the queue. I look up and see a young-ish man - hair gel, leather jacket, shirt and tie - giving me the evils. He's looking at his (flashy) watch and shaking his head.
At first, I ignore this blatant show of impatience and bad manners and continue typing the numbers. Seconds later, the sigh sounds again only this time with far more emphasis. I look up and return the death-stare, determined not to be the first to look away. The man crosses his arms, sighs again, and looks to the roof.
This momentary distraction causes me to lose track of what I'm doing, forcing me to start all over again. I apologise to the man in the scooter for the delay.
But somebody else isn't amused.
"For fuck's sake, I haven't got all day you know." He clearly hasn't got the guts to shout it though. He just mutters. But I bloody well hear it. He's got one last chance. He gets one final death stare from me as a stark warning to behave himself.
I return to typing the numbers, but I've barely got the first one tapped in when he flares up again. But he really makes me see red this time...
He directs his venom at the poor man in the mobility scooter: "What are you playing at holding us all up like this?"
I'm not having that: "OI! This gentleman is a customer like anybody else, and he'll be served just the same. I'd do the same for you, so just back off. You've no right speaking to people like that."
He's stunned. Obviously he thinks lowly shop assistants aren't allowed to challenge his disgusting conduct. "What did you just say to me?"
"Basically, I said mind your manners and stop speaking to people like they're dirt on your shoe."
"I don't fucking believe this. You're paid to do a job, so do it..."
"Well, if people waited patiently and respected the fact that they're not the only customer in the shop, maybe I'd be able to get on with doing my job!"
The man puts on a flabbergasted face and gives me the 'your card is marked!' look. He does more huffing and puffing and it's really distracting the poor old gent caught in the middle of this unpleasant charade.
The man, ever polite, turns round to the jumped up, spikey-haired pillock. He touches his arm and begins to apologise for the delay. I'm about to run over there screaming at him not to apologise, when the pillock launches his next tirade:
"Don't touch my jacket!"
Oh my God! How far up his own arse can he get? Mind the jacket? Does he think it's special or something? Jesus Christ I have a leather jacket! Half the population have a leather jacket!
"I'm sorry, I'm just trying to say sorry for the delay, it's my fault for filling out the form wrong..."
Pillock cuts him off: "I haven't got time to wait all day because of your arse-ups."
I've had enough now. "Any more swearing and I call the manager and have you removed." I turn to the old man, "And you've got nothing to apologise for, it's an easy mistake to make." And back to Pillock, "You're only holding yourself up by making such a scene, I could have sorted this out three times over if you hadn't been such a drama queen."
Pillock turns a bright shade of red and backs down. He turns his back to me and allows me to finish dealing with the gentleman. Soon it's his turn to be served.
I'm not the in mood for all-singing-all-dancing customer service. "Yes?"
I toy with the idea of calling the manager to give this drama an explosive end, but, after more death-stares, I decide to proceed with serving this piece of filth. I get what he wants, violently scan the barcode and fling the packet onto the desk.
"Four-seventy-two." (You can tell how long ago this was) Even after all that had gone on, I still felt very rude for omitting the please. But he'd have to have some bottle to comment on my lack of manners.
He tosses a five-pound-note onto the desk. I snatch it up, hammer the buttons on my keyboard, slam my cash drawer lid down and drop his change onto the counter. He makes a big show of slamming his fist onto it, sliding it across the surface and scooping it into his pocket. He walks away doing his tough-man walk.
But I just know he's going to go back to his flashy little car and try to crawl into the boot to hide and recover from the humiliation. Serves him right. He tries to look hard by abusing shop assistants and defenceless customers, it backfires. Shop assistant bites back and he ends up looking a right prat in front of a queue of people.
If he hadn't involved the poor man in his little attempt to look powerful, I'd have laughed in his face. Arrogant little wotsit.