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Bookstore Slave's Italian Ah-choo! Tale

BookstoreslaveBookstore Slave with two tales, one of smugness, one of misery.

I am a picky eater. Certain foods and textures literally make me sick to my stomach. This also translates to smells; I'm sensitive in all sorts of weird ways. Now, apply this to retail, and you get an inkling.

Sometimes it's an advantage, particularly over my coworkers. There was a gentleman who entered the store that some of my fellow employees were recoiling from. And I call him a gentleman because he had the heart to be apologetic and to aim his mouth away from the people he approached. He explained that he had paid a visit to the newest addition to our stip mall: an Italian food restaraunt. Yep. Garlic. And not like the mild "I just ate garlic bread, sorry" kind of garlic smell. This poor fellow smelled like he plucked a clove straight from the bulb and chowed down on it, fresh and straight.

Luckily for our store, I'm an Italian mix (great great grandma was 98 before she passed away and was an immigrant from Sicily) and we make use of garlic in our family recipes. So while the poor guy smelled strong, he did not smell bad to me. The fresh garlic smell was potent, but my only complaint was that it made me hungry. I wanted me some spaghetti after helping him, let me tell you! I was able to help him find his books and ring him up while the other cowards hid themselves away. I felt particularly smug about that. No one else wanted to help him.

Now for the other end of the spectrum. As some people here at RHU have complained, some people fucking marinate in their spray on. And unlike the garlic in my last story, I cannot handle some brands. I can only describe it as being allergic, though I don't have allergic reactions in the way you'd expect. No hives. No itching. No anaphalactic shock or epi pens.


I sneeze.

And I don't mean "Achoo! Ugh, sorry!" I mean I start sneezing and I cannot stop until I flee.

This  woman comes in through the front door and just a waft of it tickles my nose. She had to have liberally sprayed herself from head to toes. My eyes water and I get that horrible itching sensation deep in my sinuses that says all torpedos are loaded and they are waiting for the command to fire.

I flee to the manager and have a desperate whispered conversation that I'm allergic to this woman's purfume and please dear god someone else has to ring her up. I will shelve DVD's, I will alpabetize CD's, I will individually polish each and every book in the musty, dusty back room if you just send anyone else but me to the registers for five goddamn minutes.

"I'm sorry Bookstore Slave, but you're just going to have to muddle through this. We can't spare anyone and you cannot insult a customer by refusing them service because of the way they smell. Now get over there before she starts complaining."

asdfghjkl; I didn't say she smelled bad I said I was fucking allergic, you asshole!

I shlog back to registers and she's waiting patiently by the registers. And I get a face full of the 6 foot cloud she has wafting around her. WHAMMO! My nose, which had been tentatively calming down during the time I had been having my desperate conversation with the manager, screamed RED ALERT and fired. And kept firing.

*ah-choo!* I- *ah-choo* th- *ah-choo* think *ah-choo!* I *ah-choo!* Son of a *ah-choo!*


The lady looks startled by my reaction. "Goodness honey are you all right?"

*ah-choo!* N-No... *ah-choo!*

I manage to dive under the registers and seize three tissues, in between three more sneezes, and cover my nose. The tissue helps filter and my sneezing slows down, but my eyes are now watering like hell and probably redder than a stoner's.

"Good gracious! I've never seen an attack like that. Run to the restroom and wash your face off with cold water. It will get the allergens off your skin. I'll ask someone else to ring me up."

"T'ang kew!" I flee to obey the customer's surprisingly knowedgeable suggestion and she waves over the manager, who has been standing at Info watching the whole spectacle.

Total: 14 sneezes in less than 2 minutes, a pounding heart, eyes that watered for five minutes, and red stoner eyes for the rest of the evening.

I was a mess and basically splashed water all over my face and scrubbed it with those cheap paper towels they have in the bathroom for drying hands off. On one hand, Jesus Tapdancing Christ Lady! Tone down on that shit! On the other, thank you for being understanding enough to give me a reason to send me running in the opposite direction.

The manager never apologized, and I ultimately repeated that incident three times over the course of my job at Hoarders. I still have yet to find a way to prevent such incidents. It's not like blocking the actuall smell of the stuff will stop me fron sneezing, as my reaction is to the particles of perfume themselves.

May all your customers be nice,

--Bookstore Slave





Have you tried nasal spray antihistamines? I have the same problem with some perfumes and plants - its a form of hay fever. The tablets aren't that good but the nasal sprays work really well and they're small enough to keep in your pocket

The Last Archimedean

I feel for you. I have similar allergic attacks, where my eyes water and I can't stop sneezing, but I've never been able to figure out to what. It involves citrus, but citrus alone won't trigger it, so it's some combination of that and other things -- and I've had it set off by perfume/cologne, food, and once by breathing in smoke from someone's backyard barbecue that floated over their fence.

I can't believe your manager was that stupid. It's an ALLERGY. You can't control it and you won't be able to give good customer service while you're sneezing every 5 seconds.

Hope you never have any more attacks.


Oh, I hear you... smells set me off too. I actually had to trade assignments with a less-sensitive coworker when the dumb newbie I was supposed to be training showed up stinking like he'd rolled in aftershave, 'cause I couldn't breathe. Funnily enough, I'm also about half Sicilian...


I can't wear perfume, because what might be a nice light scent and an appropriate amount on me will grow and grow and just get stronger.

Bored at the Bookstore

Sympathies... Been there, sneezed that! We have a beauty shop next door to our shop, and quite a few of their customers come in to browse after their treatments. Oy. Between the perm lotion and the hair spray and whatevertheheck it is they marinated in at home, it's sometimes all I can do not to run screaming for the great outdoors.

Maybe your kindly but scented customer knew what to do because it happened in her presence frequently?

BTW, your manager was an idiot. What if your attack HAD progressed to anaphylactic shock? Would he have waited to call 911 until you'd rung up that customer? Or until you were twitching, semi-conscious, on the floor?


Hold on, you're calling other people cowards because they were adverse to a certain smell, yet you say that you're a picky eater and get sick from certain food/textures? What if the dude smelt super strongly of a food you disliked?

Sounds a tad hypocritical.


At the nursing home that I work at we had one resident that had one of those scented oils in a bottle with sticks coming out (sorry, the technical term isn't coming to me) and at first it was weak and somewhat pleasant, then after a day it got so strong that I would get severe headaches every time I smelled it. There were a couple of times I would go into other residents rooms in order to get away from it. I've talked to the manager about it but he says that it's their right to have it, so now I have to be sure I load up on ibuprofen and Zyrtec before I go into work. >_>

~Bookstore Slave

I can't stand those things. You know all the side effects about nosebleeds and stuff? Happens to me. :(

Then I would have done my job. I wouldn't have liked it, but I wouldn't have run off and hid. I've dealt with smelly customers before and survived. See, they hid because they didn't like the smell. I was forced to endure the woman in spite of being allergic to it. Big difference.

NC Tony

If it was me, I have a feeling my sarcasm gene would have kicked in. I would have explained to the manager (slowly, as if speaking to a child) "I am not offended by her perfume, I'm ALLERGIC to it. I will get physically ill if exposed to it. Do. You. Understand?"

While I, myself am not allergic to any perfumes or fragrances, I still recoil when I smell someone who bathed in their perfume/cologne. It's one thing to smell nice, but soaking yourself in perfume/cologne takes you from smelly to nice to OMG in one fell swoop. In my old apartment complex, I had one neighbor, you could always tell when he had recently been out because you could smell the cologne he bathed in wafting through the parking lot.


I'm a bit like you. I don't have a particularly sensitive stomach, but I do have a sensitive nose.
I don't mind the smell of most foods, but I can smell smokers and people who use too much cologne a mile away!
I think it has to do with how many fragrances you're used to in your life. I hate strong or particularly fruity or sweet scented air fresheners.
My roommate used to use a scented fabric softener. I didn't want to whine about it, but it would make our laundry room reek of it for a week! If it was supposed to be floral scented and 'make the clothes smell pretty' but to me it smelled like chemicals and made my throat itch. I was so relieved when she switched to unscented.

Book Baby

I can't deal with certain perfumes, but it's waaaay better than the folks who smell like a cat box or (worse yet) human urine/sweat/bad breath. These aren't always the homeless!

I have a very good sense of smell and can often even tell what folks have had for dinner just by the odor on their clothes.

I can also smell COFFEE on their clothes. As for coffee breath? GAG.


I hate managers who don't understand allergies. I once took an allergy pill in the kitchen (where no customers could see me) and my manager got all huffy about not "popping pills" at work. I walked away mid-rant.

Long Time Retail Slave

I totally understand, as I have very similar allergies. I remember working at a store that sold Tide in an obscene amount, and how allergic to it I am. I merely TOUCHED the bottle once and had an allergic reaction. Luckily, my managers actually understood the situation.

Honestly, I would just flat-out tell them, "I have severe allergies to certain perfumes/cologne, which can cause me to go into anaphylactic shock. I'd hope you would be a little more understanding, seeing as how I can go to the emergency room or WORSE." They can't force you to do something if it's going to cause you bodily harm. I've had issues of managers not understanding my allergies (which are many and very strange) and I've told them all off. Stand up for yourself and tell them to shove it if they have issues. Your co-workers are complaining about a smell that bothers them, not that they are allergic. It's two different things, people.


As someone who has had anaphylactic reactions to allergens, I know how serious they can be. It may start out as a sneezing, but one day it may go all out on you and if you are lucky, like I was, you'll get to the hospital complaining of "heartburn" and rash and then you'll feel like an idiot when the ER staff tell you, "You idiot! That was your breathing shutting down!" "Oooohhhh. You'll have to excuse me, this was my first one." What can I say, my allergies before had centered around excessive swelling after stinging insects. My only other known serious allergy is guinea pigs. They couldn't even treat me when I had 3 years of allergy shots.

Don't ignore those allergies, and if you can, next time you see your regular dr, ask about getting an epi-pen just in case. If you are already starting to get reactions that badly, then you never know when the next one might be serious. Pens last about 2 years, but I've held on to mine for longer when my finances were tight.

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