Guests don’t typically break down and sob in front of me when I refuse their return or exchange. Normally, they (rarely) gracefully accept the fact that those are the rules and that’s that or they will rage at me until steam is coming out of every orifice on their bodies.
But that changed the day that a pregnant woman with two kids under five in tow came into my store one morning. She wanted to exchange her digital camera. Okay, does it not work, I ask her politely, waving at her children who are running around slamming their hands all over my registry kiosk keyboards. She replies matter-of-factly “I want the upgraded version of this one.”
I take a look at the box, open it up, it’s clearly been used. So, I tell her that I was sorry, but since she opened and used this camera, I can only authorize a return for this exact same camera, model and everything.
“But I don’t want this camera.” Tears started to well up in her eyes and immediately I wanted to run away. Was she really about to do this to me?
“I’m sorry ma’am, but that’s all our return policy allows.”
She starts blubbering. Red eyes, red cheeks, tears spilling out of her eyes, snot dripping out of her nose. She keeps repeating how much she doesn’t want that camera, she wants the new one.
Oh. God. Save me now.
I try my best not to sound annoyed with her. She’s pregnant, she probably can’t help the fact that she is having a total emotional breakdown in front of her kids and a stranger over a digital camera. I backed up a little and gave her a moment to collect herself. I apologized again and told her there was still nothing I could do and she collects the camera and her children and pushes their cart off toward the exit doors. I thought maybe she was going to leave or head off throughout the store to shop.
No, she hung out at the cart well near the exit doors crying for another ten to fifteen minutes. Every now and then she would sneak a pathetic look at me and I would pretend to not see it out of the corner of my eye.
I felt more embarrassed for her than angry that she was trying to go against our exchange policy. I wondered if I were to ever become with-child (not exactly likely) if I would ever be that bad. I can get pretty bad when the monthly package comes around, so I can image I would only be a million times worse pregnant. I hate crying in public. I will cry my eyes out at home, or in the car, but I will do all I can not to tear up in public. I don’t want anyone else to come up to me and ask me if I’m okay, even though I’ve got snot bubbling out of my nose, and my eyes are the size of a puffer fish. Obviously I’m not okay, but that’s okay, because the next store might have that triple chocolate fudge brownie whipped cream ice cream that I just really, really wanted!
Finally, she must have left because when I sneaked a look again, she was gone. I didn’t think anything of it, and someone came to relieve me for my break. I went and grabbed my purse out of my locker and got on the phone with my girlfriend to tell her about the sobbing woman I had just encountered. As I’m walking through the store and just about to round a corner, I see her. Oh god. We met in the center of the shampoo aisle. Our eyes locked for a split second, and oh if looks could kill. I hurried out of sight as quickly as I could. I really thought she was about to grab me and try to choke me with the hair accessories.
Maybe I should have been nicer and let her exchange it. Just let her return the old camera, and then buy the new one. But I couldn’t resell the old camera because it had clearly been used, some of the paint had even been rubbed off of it and it had been originally purchased only two weeks before. Maybe I could have kept her from breaking down and crying and humiliating herself. Thankfully, there were no other guests around. It was just me, her, and Timmy Junior and Tabitha Junior.
But come on, crying? Aside from being five and crying because mommy wouldn’t buy you a little dolly, when was the last time that crying got you what you wanted.