How Did He Know?

So, I was up at the store trying to get some shit framed and they are chronically understaffed (I debated about naming the store, but I go there often and like it and the people who work there are lovely and it’s not their fault they’re perpetually understaffed, plus I’m about to tell you a story that could get the guy I ended up liking in trouble, so… no name).

I’m waiting for someone to come help me and a woman and her two kids join me. They’re getting a Hatch poster framed. Since there’s nobody there, she goes behind the counter and starts pulling frame samples off the wall. When someone finally comes to help us, I insist she goes first, because mine–the tarot cards–are rather complicated.

The guy helping us is almost immediately snotty to her, telling her that her one choice of frame is crappy. I was a bit taken aback but she seemed completely oblivious and then she proceeded to be atrocious to him, but in that really smooth, almost subtle way. She complained about the price, telling her daughter that she’d framed a poster for her “at that other place” for half the price. And then, when the guy told her she could pick it up in a couple of weeks, and she was all “And how will I know to pick it up? Am I supposed to just check in every day?” and then her little son was all “But I thought you needed it by Valentine’s day” and she was all in a stage whisper to the kid “Well, I guess it will just be late” before the guy could tell her “No, they would call her.”

So, at first, i was like, oh god, if he’s that hostile to her, he’s going to loathe me with my big complicated thing. But he could not have been nicer or more helpful and got me all set up and even stayed after his shift ended to do it.

And I know, reading this, it sounds like he was the aggressor and that it went downhill from there. But watching it play out, it didn’t seem that way and it became clearer and clearer that he had been trying to be preemptively hostile. Somehow he knew that this woman was going to be an enormous pain in the butt.

But I don’t know how.

I wonder if it was that she went around behind the counter when there was no employee there to get the frame samples? I mean, that seems like a huge issue. Customers do not go on the same side of the counter as the drawer. That’s just a big no-no.

I’m not sure, though. I feel like I missed some important social cue. And not that he handled that cue all that gracefully, maybe, but he recognized a good five minutes before I did that she was a pain. And now I wish I knew what he saw.

10 thoughts on “How Did He Know?

  1. If you work with retail customers long enough you will get a feel for this sort of thing.Her going behind the counter clearly showed an arrogant attitude.

  2. He may have remembered her, though I didn’t get that feeling. She definitely didn’t know him.

    Kosh, i do think it was that she went behind the counter, the more I think about it. It was really fascinating to watch, though.

  3. I’ll echo kosh iii’s sentiment — I worked in a restaurant for a little over a year and within a relatively short amount of time I could look at the person walking in the door & tell with astonishing accuracy not only if they were going to be a PITA, but whether they would tip and/or leave a collosal mess behind. Working with the public is a thankless job for the most part. And if you don’t learn to read people and take the temperature of the situation relatively early, you won’t be able to save yourself some headaches.

  4. I was personal friends with my framer and spent probably $15,000 with him on framing, when I first bought my house, and I would *never* have gone behind the counter and started pulling frames off the wall.

  5. What others have said. I was in retail long enough–and telephone-based customer care after that for just as long.

    You get to know pretty quickly who is browsing, who can be shifted into a sale and who is going to be a problem. It’s hard to explain, but it is a sense you develop. It’s especially necessary if you are in customer care in one of the environments which times you. You have to learn whom you can get off the phone quickly so your time isn’t sunk by a browser and is instead saved for the complicated ticket purchases.

    Talking about this reminds me just how much I hated those jobs after awhile.

  6. Okay, you guys. I have an answer. I had to call up there to get my order solidified (they saved me a shit-ton of money) and so I ended up talking to the dude again. And, after we were done with business, I said, “Can I ask you a question about yesterday?” And he said, “Sure,” and I said, “How did you know that woman was going to be a pain in the butt?” And he said, “It’s really weird, isn’t it? But I’ve gotten so that I can just tell, usually within ten seconds of seeing someone, what they’re going to be like.” And I said, “Oh, I wondered if It was that she went and got her own frames from behind the counter,” and he said, “No, I knew before I even saw that.”

    So, there you go. Instinct honed by experience.

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