Thursday, July 27, 2006

She called me "tacky."

This happened about 30 minutes, ago:
I'm home sick, today, because my throat hurts like hell.

I also had an errand or two to run, though. One of the stops I made was at a local grocery store, Albertson's.

As I entered the check-out line, I noticed the little, old, white lady ahead of me was taking quite a while to finish her transaction. The Black clerk who was helping her was exceptionally patient and eager to offer assistance.

While this was mildly inconvenient, I figured I'd take the opportunity to disengage my mobile phone and iPod from their belt-clips to examine the similarities between them. I'd just found a hard case for the iPod and was comparing it to my mobile phone's hard case.

Around that time, the clerk, ready to scan my item, noticed my gadgets and said, "How do y'all walk around with those big ol' phones like that?" Despite my throat, I was prepared to explain that 1) the cases make'em look larger than they are and 2) one is a phone and one is an mp3 player.

Before I could do that, she went on to say, "It just looks so tacky."

. . .

(Did this 3$^#$ just call me "tacky?")

Determined to deliver a very measured response, I quietly, but sarcastically said, "Well, that was nice." She paused, then said, "I'm sorry..."

Right then, her co-worker, who'd been smiling before that, made one of those Mr. Bill-style "Oh, no," faces.

Without missing a beat, the clerk continued saying, "...but I guess that's how those older phones are. But people keep using them. I don't know why... I guess it's just for show."

Now this 3$^#$%& is saying I'm shallow?!

Right after that the old lady who'd gone before me (but STILL hadn't left) said that she needed someone to help her put her items in her vehicle. The clerk was about to call someone, but I turned to the lady and said I'd do it.

The little old lady smiled saying, "Really? Thank y..."

The clerk wasn't having any of that, though. She quickly said, "Noooo, we'd better get one of our employees to do it."

The little old lady shrugged her shoulders and made the Mr. Bill face. I told her that the clerk, "doesn't like me very much."

The clerk offered no response or explanation (like insurance liability or something).

The clerk fumbles around with some papers, then I asked if we were done. She finally hands me my receipt, thanks me, and calls me "sir." As I walk out the door, I tell the little old lady to have a nice day, as I hear the clerk calling an employee over the intercom system.
What do you think? was up with this situation?

To recap: The clerk was exceedingly pleasant and helpful with the old, white woman ahead of me, but was rather rude and distrustful with the 32-year-old Black male who was next in line (i.e. me).

Now, I'll be honest, if the clerk had been white, I'd have concluded, with some confidence, that her responses to my presence and actions were racially-motivated. The fact that she's Black makes me doubt that, but I'm not prepared to fully dismiss the notion, yet. (One day, I'll have to post about the Waffle House incident from a couple of years, ago, which primed me for such situations with my people.)



I really hope there are a number of responses to this one because I'm very curious about what you all think of this situation.

19 comments:

Bobbalicious said...

I don't think it was racially motivated; I think she was operating off of some stereotype she had of people with "those big ol' phones".

West said...

...what, that they're not to be trusted around little, old white ladies' groceries?

Luke Cage said...

West my man, I don't think it had anything to do with race, I think she just had something personal against you. I've been there, same situation, same black female clerk. Notice how she stopped and then began her personal harangue against you a second time?

I'm assuming she don't know you from adam, meaning she's never seen you in the store before, but felt she had the right to talk about your personal items which weren't hurting anyone.

You'll find that some of our own, regardless of sex feel that they have to "say" something about us in some way that kinda barely crosses the line as a form of racism. It's more "I don't really like you" more than anything else. That's my take on it. But I liked the way you handled it. Cool, calm, polite and collected.

chele said...

I think it did have to do with race. Because I doubt very seriously if you were white the black clerk would have made judgements about you and your gadgets.

I'm not sure what part of the country you're in, but I've noticed here in the (semi) South that there is alot of hateration among black folk. Sounded like the clerk was hating on you because, in her estimation, you were one of those "uppity negroes" that thinks he's better than her because she's a clerk at Albertson's. Maybe I'm over analyzing.

You handled the situation real well. Better than I would have.

West said...

luke cage: You're right that she and I didn't know each other.

So, I'm not sure what else there was about me that would set her off.

It was clearly SOMEthing, though, since she'd already demonstrated that she knew how to provide good customer service.

Really strange situation, that.


chele: You know I thought of you, when this happened, right?

I feel you when you say that if I'd been white, she probably wouldn't have said that. That's a big chunk of my personal litmus test when it comes to these kinds of things.

I'm in Tallahassee, Florida.


I can't believe I never laid out the details of The Waffle House incident to you fine folks. I'll have to do something about that.

Thanks for the input, folks.

asdf said...

Just seems like a rude/weird employee. Trust me, I work in retail and you get some odd mother fuckers working there, and they say and do things they don't even realize they are doing.

David E. Patton said...

Could it be that the check out lady felt more comfortable with you that she let down her gaurds and talked to you as she wound to any brother?

Remnants of U said...

Yes, you were very nice.

I think I would have held up 1 and said "iPod", then the other hand "Treo"...
But I hope as far as the little old lady is concerned that they would always make sure an employee walks them out.

West said...

Welcome, David!

re: "Could it be that the check out lady felt more comfortable with you that she let down her gaurds and talked to you as she wound to any brother?"

It's possible, but I think she demonstrated the true meaning of "tacky" by saying the things she said... and continuing to do so after I told her, politely, but seriously, that her words weren't very nice.

If I'd been in the wrong mood (and with all the stuff that's been going on in my life, recently, she's lucky I wasn't), it could've gone much differently.

This is also a good example of the value of experience, which was another reason I wasn't as ticked by her statements (which, by the way, weren't said with a smile or in a very joking fashion).


Hope to see you back here, soon.

West said...

re: remnants' "But I hope as far as the little old lady is concerned that they would always make sure an employee walks them out."

...meaning that she should've gone out of her way to send an employee, instead of me, or that they should just look out for little old ladies, in general?

I took it as an insult, although I didn't let it get to me as much as it could've. If she'd said it's their policy or something (again, like the insurance thing), that would've been something.

*shrugs*

Anonymous said...

Your adventures are very amusing. Personally, I think people with many accessories like cell phones, iPods, etc are very corny.

She may think the same as I did and did not have the filter to not say what she thought.

It could be that she felt comfortable telling you what she thought. Have you been chatty with this cashier before?

West said...

Welcome, anonymous.

re: "Your adventures are very amusing. Personally, I think people with many accessories like cell phones, iPods, etc are very corny.

She may think the same as I did and did not have the filter to not say what she thought."


It seems she's not the only one lacking that particular filter, eh? ;-p

That's okay, I guess because, at the same time... I don't have a very high opinion of folks who judge others harshly for taking advantage of technology.

re: "It could be that she felt comfortable telling you what she thought. Have you been chatty with this cashier before?"

As I said above, I'd never seen this woman in my life. We have no pre-existing relationship, no long- or short-term rapport.

She made an inappropriate comment, apologized, then followed-up with another inappropriate comment, all in the same breath.


Just so you know, opinions are welcome here, even if they differ from my own - and even if they're anonymous. That includes yours.

Feel free to "sign" your comments with "-Larry" or "-Mbutu" or whatever, if you like. It makes it easy to respond to a particular comment, in case there's more than one "anonymous." We'll never know if it's your real name, so you'll still be anonymous.

Just a suggestion.

Remnants of U said...

Where's West? Is your throat still sore?

West said...

Hi, remnants of u. I'm still around, on a somewhat limited basis.

My throat's a helluva lot better, now, though it was pretty bad for a while.

I'm in the process of moving, so between that and not feeling so great, I haven't been able to post as much.

I hope to be "back" soon, though, I try to check out other folks' blogs, when I can.

Thanks for asking.


-West

Blah Blah Blah said...

Just maybe...

She's been having these reoccuring dreams of a nice attractive verile black man...

She sees you and realizes your out of her grasp...so she acts out in a ridiculous manner because her self esteem won't allow her to believe that she can have someone such as you. SHe sabatoges any inkling of of male and female realtionshions, thinking that she is not good enough.

Unbeknownst to you...she has a a desire for what she sees in you...

Serial_Dater said...

West man I'mma call it like I see it and keep it short and sweet.

Alot of black folk are haters. Point blank.

If they weren't tearing you down, they'd feel like they weren't doing their jobs.

SD

West said...

blah blah blah: Hehe.
I never knew my life was so tragically romantic.


serial dater: Kinda hard to find anything to disagree with there. You're probably right.

oldsisthagirl said...

Darling,
She was flirting with you, but she has no game and that was all she could come up with. Trust me, I've been around a long time and I know what I'm saying

West said...

Welcome, oldsistagirl.

I see. How does not allowing me to help another customer fit into that theory?