Our marketplace was without wifi service recently due to a fiber optic cable being accidentally cut. Since I have unlimited data on my smartphone, I was put in charge of all credit card processing for two days. I met a lot of regular market customers who have never made it into my Doorbell Cosmetics shop.
After processing over 600 credit card transactions in one three-day weekend, I have come to the conclusion that the shop with the weirdest customers is our organic produce stand. All three entries in our Trifecta of Weird (™) for this week happened within a 2-hour period.
Less than one minute after the opening bell on Friday morning, a woman entered my shop carrying a bag of potatoes. I processed her card and printed a receipt. She scrutinized it carefully, probably because my receipts look different from the standard cash register receipts produced elsewhere in the market.
The woman handed the receipt back to me. “This receipt only has the last four digits of my credit card on it.”
Me: “Yes ma’am, most cash registers do this. It’s to protect your credit card information.”
Custy: “I want my whole credit card number printed on my receipt.”
Me: “None of our registers are set up to do that.”
I knew that this was untrue, but she wouldn’t listen to me. I offered to handwrite the number on the receipt and sign it.
I don't know if I let my retail fake smile slip for a moment, but suddenly things escalated out of nowhere. She puffed herself up and threatened to call the police. As usual, my response was “let’s go to the coffee shop, they’re usually in there.”
Then suddenly I was struck with a solution to her problem which was so flamboyantly insulting that I was glad to be my own boss so I could do it without being written up.
My shop has a small display case of Doorbell Cosmetics memorabilia dating back to my great-grandmother. Among the items is a 1970s vintage manual credit card imprinter, and a selection of blank credit card slips from different eras.
I unlocked the display case, took out the imprinter and a blank slip, then majestically inserted her card and pulled the lever. I then removed the receipt, wrote the amount and the date, and handed her the original slip and all three copies.
She smirked at me. ‘Was that really so difficult?”
Our food shops are set up to receive payments by EBT (the “food stamp” card). So when the cash registers crashed and I took over credit card processing, we put up signs everywhere saying, “Sorry, no EBT”.
Nonetheless, I spent much of the weekend explaining to people that EBT cards are not “just like credit cards”. They do not have PIN numbers. They are not linked to any national debit or credit card networks like Visa or MasterCard. And they can only be accepted by shops that sell food, which must have a special system to process them.
A man entered my shop, weighed down with over $50 worth of produce. And he handed over an EBT card from a distant state, halfway across the country. The customer and I went round and round about his refusal to accept that I didn’t have a license to process EBTs because Doorbell Cosmetics are not meant to be eaten.
“Just run the @#$%!” he demanded. So I put the card through my system, and it was rejected. I tried my secondary credit card system, and it said the same thing. Meanwhile, customers were lining up from my doorway almost to the vestibule.
The man got red-faced and leaned threateningly over my counter. I stood my ground. “See those bikers in the food court?”, I asked him, referring to my delivery driver Kenny K. and his friends. “If I say one word, they’ll take your ass out to the country and bury you so deep that Indiana Jones won’t be able to dig you up.”
The man let go of me and pushed his groceries off the counter and onto my feet. I shrieked at the sheer gooshiness of it all. Kenny and his entourage rushed in, and they manhandled the custy out of the marketplace. My work shoes smelled like salsa for the rest of the weekend.
Then came the craziest customer in my entire retail history. Let's call him Tinfoil Hat Guy (THG).
He was a large, angry-looking man who smelled like dead things. I used to work with the homeless, and this was the worst body odor I’d ever smelled. People were walking away with their hands over their mouths to keep from vomiting.
He bought a several bags of organic produce. When he received his ticket and was directed into the credit card processing line, he demanded that a clerk from the produce stand should take his place in line while he lounged near the florist’s shop. (The florist later reported that even surrounded by hyacinths and other fragrant spring blooms, she could smell him clearly from 30 feet away.)
When the clerk reached the front of the line, I took the credit card and discovered that the 3-digit security code AND the last 4 digits of the card had been purposely burned off. I asked the clerk to bring in the customer, who grudgingly agreed to speak to me. Here’s what happened next:
ME: Sir, I will need the last four digits of your credit card to process it. I can plug the numbers into the system if you tell them to me.
(He grabbed back the card, accidentally cutting my finger with the card’s edge before I had time to let go.)
THG: Now you have all my personal information! I demand that you hand your phone over to me right now!
ME: Sir, I don’t have any of your information in there because I couldn’t input your card number without the last four digits. I hadn't pushed a single button yet.
THG: Give me that!
He reached over and grabbed my phone, and he tried to remove the back plate while I came roaring out from behind the counter, screaming for Kenny.
THG (dancing backwards as I tried to retrieve my phone): I want your SIM card! And I’m going to wipe your memory! You can’t steal my personal information!
THG fell backwards straight into the not-so-welcoming arms of Kenny K. The customer's attitude suddenly made a complete turnaround, and he began to apologize. I plucked the phone from his grimy hands and started dousing it in hand sanitizer, while he begged the guys to not throw him out of the market without his food.
I reluctantly agreed that he could stay long enough to pay his bill.
And then Tinfoil Hat Guy calmly brought out his wallet and paid cash.
As the biker dudes rushed him out the door with his groceries, I said to the produce clerk, “Doesn’t he realize that all our cash registers are attached to the internet? And so is the bank that gave him the card?”
I heard later that he'd gotten up enough gumption to tell Kenny that he would call the police if there was anything wrong with his bank statement. Kenny pointed toward the coffee shop and said, "Want to talk to them now? They're usually in there."