By Christmas of 1999, when I was sixteen-years-old, I had still been working at the Target store in front of my apartment complex since the previous October.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I had been scheduled to work on one of the cash registers. It must have been on a weekend, because I think I remember working a six-hour or seven-hour shift in this particular incident. But it didn’t matter what day of the week it was, there were customers, some with two or three cartloads of merchandise, coming through my line. It was as if we were the only store in the city of Louisville that was open during the Holiday Season, and my line was the only open line in the store. And just when I thought that I was the Lone Ranger, I’d finally get a break, and I’d go into the break room to hear it from my co-workers.
On this day, a woman came through my line with a massive cartload of merchandise. I think that there were even two carts. Oh, but I was just getting off of my break, and I was standing behind my supervisor, Scott, who was filling in for me until I got back from my break.
“Let me finish this one, then you can sign on,” Scott said.
Scott must’ve thought that I was eager to get back to work, because he hit the wrong button as he tried to hurry. When Scott told this poor woman that she’d just been overcharged and needed to take her receipt to the Customer Service counter to get her money back… well, let’s just say that she wasn’t exactly filled with the Christmas spirit.
Scott had a pretty good sense humor, so I thought I’d cheer him up.
I said with a chuckle, “The customer is always right!”
That Christmas Eve I was scheduled to be the cart attendant for the entire day. That was my favorite job, but I was just a little over five-feet tall, at the time, and I weighed one hundred-and-twenty-pounds and I asked my supervisors how they expected me to beat the last-minute shoppers when I could push only six carts at a time without them escaping and rolling all over the parking lot on me? Plus, there were other things that I had to take care of, like gathering the clothes hangers, taking the defective merchandise to the back of the store, fetching more bags for the cashiers, and cleaning up messes made by customers.
But when I looked outside of my bedroom window on Christmas morning, I hollered, “Yes, snow!”
I was hoping for a surprise vacation-day. What? This is work, not school. No way any store would be closed on Christmas Eve. Nobody called me, so I went into work at eight o’clock that morning.
The ground was covered with two-to-three inches of snow, and under that was a layer of ice. Nobody was coming into the store, so I just helped with some other things around the store for the first couple of hours. By the time I got my first break at ten o’clock, the store was still quiet.
But somewhere out there in Louisville, some little Louies were going to be very disappointed if they didn’t wake up on Christmas morning to a beginners tool-kit, or a two-sizes-too-large, neon green, long-sleeved shirt. If some “for-the-year-2000-I-resolve-to-stop-procrastinating” Louie husbands didn’t get their wives a Turtle Wax Value Pack, they’d be sleeping on the sofa, or even worse, in the doghouse.
Shortly after my first break, I was out in the parking lot pushing three carts at a time through the now melting snow. After a few hours, the snow had melted and there was slush and ice in the parking lot, which called for some kitty litter at the store’s front entrance for traction.
At about one o’clock in the afternoon I was able to push more carts. I went for six carts and headed towards the front entrance. As soon as I started crossing the street, a woman came through the exit doors with her head buried in a paper, down the ramp, and directly into my path.
The street was still slick. Had I lunged forward to the front end of my train of carts in an attempt to stop it, I may have taken a nasty spill. There wasn’t even time to yell, “Stop!”
Bam! The load of carts that I was pushing hit the side of the woman’s cart at an angle.
I guess that got that woman’s attention, because after she regained control of her cart, the woman threw the paper into her cart and gave me a dirty look as she said, “I’m going to start shopping at Wal-Mart!”
I replied “Merry Christmas!”
There was also an SUV coming from the other direction. Had I not been in that spot at the moment, that customer may have become a hood ornament.
The next time I saw Scott, I told him about this incident. As that poor woman didn’t see that load of carts coming, neither did I.
Scott said with a chuckle, “The customer’s always right!”