Snobby Shoe Store Custy Gets Told
And Now For Another Round Of: Which Joke Works Best?

Without Nametag Shares A Story and Discussion Topic

Hey there, Retail-keteers. It's Without Nametag again, and I have a short story and a discussion topic for you.

First, the story:

Skullies eewwThis one is about a friend of mine, who used to work in my store. She worked in the home section, and sometimes got stuck in Luggage, so let's call her TravelPro. A few years ago during the holiday season, TravelPro ended up at a satellite register set up in the kitchen gadgetry section. It was busy, and she had a line, and was trying to be polite and professional, despite the fact that the crusty at the front of said line was hassling her about coupons. Now, if something is on sale, and then you have a coupon, more power to you. But you can't stack more than one coupon.

System will only accept one per transaction. Most sales people will look at your coupons and figure out which one will get you the best deal, which TravelPro was doing. This little Asian lady was having none of it. She insisted TravelPro take more than one. My friend pointed out that she was already getting great deals because her items were on sale, and her coupon was making them even better. The transaction finished, and the customer walked away muttering and angry. TravelPro begin ringing up the next customer.

Now, the set-up here is important: the satellite register has no back. It's just a desk and a till, and is not backed up by a wall or anything. However, maybe 10 feet behind it was a table covered in random clearance items. Beyond that, the door to the parking lot. You can see where this is going...

The angry customer goes to the table to peruse the clearance items while my friend cheerfully greets and checks out her line. A few moments later, TravelPro hears "ptooie!"… and now she's got spit in her hair. This woman FUCKING SPIT on her. She then yelled "HA!" and bolted out the door before anyone could grab her.

Ever the professional, TravelPro turns tearfully to her line and asks if she might have a moment to wipe the spittle from her hair with some tissue paper at the register. But the custies in her line won't hear of it: one of them tracks down a manager (no mean feat during the holiday rush), and insists that TravelPro be allowed to go to the bathroom to wash her hair. The stunned manager took over her post so my friend could run to the bathroom.

*

Jason oopsNotice that I described the customer as "Asian"? I did that because TravelPro described her that way. The funny thing is, it happens all the time. We rarely describe a customer to a coworker unless it's specific to the story... or unless it's one of those "you know what I mean" camaraderie things. Now, TravelPro isn't racist. I'm not either.

None of my coworkers is racist. And outside of work, none of us describes people in this way. The only thought you've had about your Korean neighbor is that his dinner always smells better than yours, and that he once held the door open for you when your hands were full.

Yet, when we talk about annoying customers and coupons, that customer always seems to be a tiny Asian woman who yells at you in broken English about discounts. What the hell is it about retail that makes us "racist at work"?

One of my coworkers is Indian, and can't stand helping Indian customers. Why?

"They return EVERYTHING," she insists. "Why should I sell them something when they're just going to bring it back?"

When questioned further, she told me that retail works differently in India: you bought it, it's yours. No such thing as a return. She says they return things because they can.

Even my Asian coworkers will do this: "Ugh, Asians. Always with the coupons."

And when describing the conversation, the customer is always given a horrible, generic Asian accent, "You have discount? You have coupon?"

I have a two-part theory: the first part involves stereotyping. Stereotypes aren't built on nothing. They come from some tiny kernel of truth, then get exaggerated and stretched to fit a whole group of people.

For example: "All gay men have a fabulous sense of fashion." Yeah, no. I know some gay guys who can't dress for shit. Some Asians have a thing for coupons and discounts. Some do not. But they all get painted by that same brush, like fashionable gay guys and women drivers.

Carolanne hear no evilPart two is guesswork. In many a country, retail prices are set in stone, and the only way they're changing is if something gets marked down, is on sale, or a coupon applies. This is probably frustrating for people who come from countries where the price always involves bartering. The price they're given is too high to begin with, and both the seller and purchaser know it. They barter to a more reasonable price. So when shopping here, the demand for discounts and coupons comes into play. The price tag must be the starting point, and the coupon must be the bartering tool.

In a slightly related/unrelated story, I was approached early on in my retail career by an young Eastern-European man with a high-end jacket. He told me that it was $160 on sale, but that he wanted to pay "around $70". I told him that none of our coupons at the time could get him there, and this guy tried flirting with me, and asked if he could use my employee discount. Now, I'm not cute, and I have "player-radar", so I could see that the flirting was this guy's bartering tool. My point being, it's not just "Asians" who ask for discounts. It's anybody, including the whitest people you know. It just seems like people who come from "bartering-type" countries are the ones that come up most in conversations.

I could be totally wrong, though... maybe I'm just looking for an answer as to why otherwise non-racist people make those remarks at work.

--Without Nametag

Comments

Hellbound Alleee

The reason we are "racist at work" is because of confirmation bias. We count the hits, and not the misses. You said so yourself in the post, when you were making that examples of stereotypes coming from a grain of truth. The fact is, we already know not all gay gauys are fabulous fashionistas, so we discount the ones we see who are not, so we can uphold our assumptions.

Your co-worker doesn't want to help Indians. But she knows very well that not all "Indians' were born in India. Not all of them know anything about the style of shopping in, say, Bongaigaon. Or maybe there's a different one in Sitarganj.

Then there's Asia. Asia is so massive. Have you ever looked at a world map of Asia? Why would someone in Harbin, Heilongjiang China the northernmost city) be just like someone from Java, Indonesia, when we claim that a Portlander (OR) is SOOO much different than, say, someone from New Orleans? Culturally? White Americans don't know because most White Americans, gone through the public school system, know shit about Asia.

So we shouldn't act as though we do.

lisa

i know the stereotype thing always comes into play but it should be left at the door along with people's attitudes i work at a grocery store i experience this alot people wanting to get a good deal sure who wouldn't? but don't bitch at me if u don't get it be more understanding and read the fine print i've seen it all the coupons the price checks etc the thing that gets me is the indians they come in alot and buy all the items on sale then use a million coupons and pay with a credit card or gift card and i wonder why they keep doing it but i guess its for their many family members and relatives and the asians always pay with a credit card on everything i say if you're well off you have money to buy food pay rent mortgage car payments clothes bills and other things then stop bitching there are other people not well off and struggling so shut the fuck up

JGM1764

I’m a former retail slave from a town that has a pretty high Indian population. I never found that they returned purchases with any more frequency than any other nationalities. However, about once a month or so, I would get one who tried to haggle with me. The first time it happened, I was about 16 and didn’t realize that’s what a customer was trying to do. She asked me for the price of an item, I looked at the tag and said “19.99” or whatever, she said, “too much,” and looked at me expectantly. I was an ignorant teen and didn’t know what she wanted, so I just said, “oh…uh…sorry.”
I was working in a well-known store that sells accessories to the teen set (let’s call it “Blaire’s”), and oftentimes, given the Blaire’s demographic, the women who tried to haggle were accompanied by their American teenage daughters who got very embarrassed by the attempted haggling. There were a number of eye-rolls and, “mo-o-om, you can’t DO that here!” It was actually because of one of those embarrassed daughters that I learned what the mom was trying to do. I learned to recite the line, “I’m sorry but this store is a chain, and our prices are set by the Blaire’s corporate office and employees do not have the authority to change them.”

Queer Geek

Again, everyone has a little bias in them. It's human nature and can't always be helped especially with environmental influences. That's not to say it that everyone is ignorant but there is always someone or something that might sway a person's way of thinking due to some incident that happened.

With that said, every culture or group is going to find some bias fault within their own community which the vast majority outsiders refuse to believe but it happens. Asians hate other Asians. Latinos hate other Latinos. Gays hate other gays. And the list goes on and on. See where I'm getting at?

Again, it really depends on the individual to work on their bias and try to understand why attitudes and behaviors affect the way we think. Sometimes a negative experience might trigger the effect but in order to overcome such prejudices we have to learn through empathy what set created the assumption in the first place about that particular group. It's a long, process and takes time.

For example, some people who might have approved of homosexuality in the beginning might later change their way of thinking after spending time with the GLBT community. They might find that they are not much different than regular people other than their sexual orientation.

It's up to the person to change. Personally, the Asian lady who spit in your friend's hair. Well, she's a bitch and should dies a slow painful death!

Chicajojobe

Part is stereotypes/ confirmation bias. Part from what you described may be the idea of 'I can say shit about x's because I am x.'

Jennifer

I definitely understand this. You can go into a retail position without having or being aware of a bias to cringing every time someone of a certain group walks through your door. I work at a store in a location with many different types of shoppers - there're the middle class whites, there're the blacks who bus up to the mall from the inner city, there're also a lot from Russia or other Eastern European counties, Chinese, Arabs, and Hispanic, all of whom speak little to no English. It's been my experience the only ones of this group who don't try haggling are the Russians and Hispanics. As far as Indians go, the ones that have been "Americanized" don't try to haggle, and the ones who haven't been (still wearing traditional garb with very thick accents or don't speak English) do try to. As far as returns go, our biggest return problem comes from the middle class whites who have a shopping addiction and constantly like to make purchased of hundreds of dollars and then bring it all back to get to enjoy another shopping experience that they will soon return. Unfortunately stereotypes do often come from truth but it's mostly due to different cultural norms.

KC

Culture plays a part in language and manners too, I've found. The city where I live has a relatively large Polish population and when I first started working in the shop their lack of manners drove me insane - no "please", no "thank you" and very abrupt in their conversation (at the checkout).

After talking about this with a couple of Polish friends, it turns out that when having the same conversation in Polish, this is entirely normal. Adding a "please" would be the equivalent of saying "Please could you pass the salt, please?" - just doesn't make sense. The rudeness is just them applying a literal translation without taking into account British customs.

Mind you, some customers are just dicks. :)

Bored at the Bookstore

... and sometimes, maybe, the terms, "Asian", "Indian", or "white" are simply adjectives describing the person so that the listener can more easily envision the story? Like "tall", "short", or "male"?

cashierbtch

I use terms like "that crazy Russian lady" or "that old lady with the really lazy eye" because I'm warning my coworkers about them. the Russian lady (she has a thick Russian accent, which is not common around here) is kind of a bitch, getting mad at me because something rang up at 90% off instead of 70% and because I didn't stop helping a customer because she needed me. and the old lady is a shoplifter who also writes clearance prices on items that arent on clearance and does it all the time. I describe them in a way that would help identify them most easily. Of course, the most common description I use isnt even race related. The most common term used is "sketchy" or "tweaker"

AnimalIntellegent

Normally I try not to bring race up unless its a great or terrible customer with an accent so my fellow workers know what to expect. Like the Russian lady who feeds feral cats but can't speak English well. The nicest customer you'll ever meet! I actually use my employee discount for her, because she tries so hard to speak a language that is not her own, and yet is more polite than most of my customers.

Larry Berry

"confirmation bias. We count the hits, and not the misses."

This! I've caught myself thinking the "some stereotypes are true" when and Asian person would cut me off in traffic, or some other bad driving. It seemed like it happened a lot. However when I really thought about it, I had probably been cut off more and seen worse driving by many others, but due to the stereotype, I tended to remember that it was "an Asian driver" more often, and the others passed into a generic area where I didn't recall the looks. Since there was the stereotype it stood out to me. If the stereotype was that white people were bad drivers, then I would probably have remembered the white bad drivers more.

Of course there are certain characteristics that arise from culture (bartering and such) and that get passed down through generations. You do as your mother did (maybe to some extent) as her mother did, as her mother did, who grew up in a culture of.......

NC Tony

The problem with bias is you can get it no matter how tolerant you think you are. If you get five black/Asian/Indian/etc people in a row who are assholes, NATs or discount rats you'll dread the next black/Asian/Indian/etc person who comes to your register. I think people specify race when submitting to the site is so we can get a picture in our mind of what the customer looked like, or in more specific cases if the customer screams discrimination. However, if race is not relevant to the story it could be left out. I've submitted several stories over the years where I've never included the race of the customer because it wasn't important to the story.

Point is, race CAN be important to the story, and it's up to the person submitting the story whether it is or not.

qwerty

This reads as, "I'm not racist, I just hate asians." No, you're racist

Techtyger

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXnM1uHhsOI

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