(Note: "no frills" is the name of a chain of grocery stores in Ontario.)
I was afraid that CoN was losing its nasty touch. Lately we've been more serious than ever, so although some of the articles here today are a tad on the serious/deep side, I'll start this week with my typical "no frills" blasting.
Those that never worked as a waiter or a clerk haven't lived life yet. These type of jobs allow you to develop a thick defensive layer around you and prepare you for the stupidity of the world that has yet to come. Since hydrogen and stupidity are two common elements in the Universe, and no frills a grocery store with low prices, you can figure out pretty much by yourself the magnetic attraction this place has. For idiots, not much for hydrogen. As a matter of fact, I think we are losing hydrogen molecules, since the various refrigeration units at no frills were there when my grandmother arrived in Canada. That was 51 years ago.
Stupidity at no frills comes in various shapes and forms.
Customers: They are the worse kind, because they always outnumber you, and what's worse, they think they are always right. I think there is nothing worse than having to tell an idiot, that yes, although they have completely fucked things up, that they are right. Or at least, as a clerk (or as a waiter, I'm sure) this is what the training is all about. The best part though is to be nasty to them, make them feel like complete morons, and get away with it.
"Do you work here?" is the most common question I ever get. I used to answer "Yes! How may I help you?". After the 500th time you decline in using that sentence and you go for a simple "Yeah".
Several million times later you start freaking out and you hear yourself say "For fuck sakes, why do you think I'm dressed this way, because I like it?".
This has the unfortunate effect of upsetting customers who will promptly go to your manager and tell them on you. If they are smart enough they will ask you your name and who is your manager. A proven technique is to give them your name tag, and point your manager to them.
Nine out of 10 times, their brain starts to hurt because they did not expect this. They'll drop the nametag to the floor and leave mumbling something. If they don't do that, you'll have to learn how to put a good poker face when the manager questions you. Make sure you deny everything. Stay calm, and look surprised. Usually the customer's voice has reached 12 to 25 decibels. In the eyes of your manager they will look like some mentally disturbed freak, and he will kindly and diplomatically tell them to leave.
After a few years of experience however, you learn to say "No, I don't work here." This turns the majority of people off. If they are still not convinced or they point out that you are wearing the store's uniform, don't slap them on the head and scream "ahh, so you saw my uniform you bastard eh?". Instead smile and reply with a: "I am from the bread company". The customer will turn all red, apologize and leave.
"[Product here]?" questions are the ones where I smile and become evil. A customer walks up to you and as they exhale their hideous garlic breath on you, they say the name of something in the form of a question: "tuna?"
I used to answer "Tuna? Down by aisle four, section A, bottom shelf, sir". Didn't forget to smile and click my heels. Customer would walk away, and if I was lucky receive a grunt. How hard is it to say "Thank you"? For some people it must be pretty tough, just like signaling when driving.
Now it's different. If a customer dares to walk up to me and say "Tuna?" several things happen. I stop what I am doing. Slowly I turn to face them, after making sure a few precious seconds have been burnt between stopping and actually turning.
Facial expressions are crucial here, so I try to have that typical pissed-off combined with a little bit of surprised and a touch of "what's this guy talkin' 'bout?". To add a little drama I pull out my knife, which I've learned to pull out in such a way that people probably think I'm some sort of part-time ninja.
The stock no frill knives don't cut anything, not even plastic, although they can slice your finger in half. Makes you wonder if it really was the knife that gave you the perfectly straight and clean surgical cut. You can see through the other side of your hand at times.
The knife flipping thing usually makes them step back an inch or two saving me from the toxic waste emanating from their unwashed mouths. I give them a quick visual examination from head to toe. This not only makes them feel more uncomfortable (especially if they are wearing K-Mart clothes) but less confident in themselves.
Finally I open my mouth and I speak: "What about the tuna?". Here the eyes play a crucial part. Stare at them as if you are going to jump on top of them, ripping their rib-cage open and ripping their heart out (if you happen to do that, don't forget to lick the blade on the dull side, and laugh like a maniac). The customer right now feels naked, and he just wants to disappear from the face of the earth. He might mumble something like "uhm, I was wondering where the tuna was...".
At times like these I feel like grabbing them by their necks and say very quietly: "ahhh, so you are capable of constructing a proper sentence after all. Gee, and I kept on criticizing the Education system of this country". That would be cool, but if the customer is an old fart, he might have an heart attack right there and then (and that's a bitch of a clean-up, let me tell you).
At this point you smile, wait about 2 or 3 seconds and then you reply "It's by the Salmon section, sir". Keep smiling, and quickly go back to your job. The customer would be too scared to ask you where the "Salmon section" is (considering it doesn't even exist anyway) and quickly leave the aisle in search of another (hopefully more friendly) clerk. Little does he know...
Tips from the clerks:
Tommy a clerk from "no frills" plays a different tactic: when customers approach him with the individual question (i.e. "tuna?"), simply smiles, and replies with "fish!" and then he leaves. This has the effect to stun the customer for a few seconds.
Rob is a pretty big guy, with plenty of muscles to go around. To the "Tuna?" question he puts one of those killer faces, flexes and says "Did you just call me a tuna?".
Next week we'll look into playing some funny jokes on someone you really can't stand too much. Remember, play safe, and don't get caught. Kids, don't try this at home.