Overheard at the Mercantile; or, Dear Customer Goes Antiquing

Back in the spring of 2018, I had been, essentially, a free agent, job-wise. The previous six months have not been enjoyable on that front, but I have been able to flex my muscles a bit in some areas and test my limits in others. Eventually, something good will come my way.

In the mean time, I had been afforded the opportunity to help my parents out with getting their house in order for a reunion they’re hosting in May. Suffice it to say, I’d done a number of odd jobs and ton of painting. And I had enjoyed it quite a bit. I stained their deck, repainted their entire front porch, and built a garden patio. It had been fun, actually.

One day, my mom decided she wants a large clock to place over her fireplace. Normally, she keeps a wreath of some seasonal variety up there year round, but after having seen a really neat, possibly nonfunctional, large rooster clock at a shop on our way back from Minneapolis, she realized she wanted a change.

So, as we do in our family, we initially thought of antiques. The vast majority of mine and my parents’ furniture are antiques. The running joke in my family is that when my parents pass, we’ll just open an antiques store out of their house.

Anywho, off to the mercantile we went. Originally, this particular mercantile had been a fully-fledged antiques store, but in the decade or two since, it had skewed toward the boutique, which was a shame, really. I’d found such cool stuff there over the years. I still have an amazing Ready Kilowatt lapel pin I bought there when I was a kid.

We were pleased to find that, in the year or two since we had last been in there, the mercantile had seemed to find more of a balance between the boutique and the antique. In fact, I actually enjoyed their selections, even though we failed to find a clock that suited our goals. We did however find a sign and some local art prints to hang on my parents’ wall.

And that’s when a shopper emerged from the proverbial shadows.

I should have seen it coming sooner. The clerk behind the counter began by calling the seller who operated the stall at the mercantile. Of course, I only heard one end of that conversation, but it’s not difficult to figure out how it went. It was in regard to a woman who wanted to purchase four china plates on wall hangers.

This woman told the clerk that the seller had previously given her a discount on items she had previously purchased from him and was hoping that he would extend that offer to her again. Red flag, number one.

So, after that first phone call with the seller, the clerk confirmed that, yes, the seller would extend that discount to her again. Here’s why that’s a red flag: Just because you get the discount once does not mean you should expect to ever receive it again. Yes, it never hurts to ask, but those who do ask for it are usually in a certain category of shopper that makes clerks raise an eyebrow. What makes it more of a solid red flag was the fact that the woman informed the clerk three times, as she was on the phone with the seller, that the seller had previously given her a discount. Danger, Will Robinson!

Anyway, she gets the discount (15%). As she and the clerk are examining the plates to package them up, the clerk notices stickers on the plate hangers, reading, “Not for sale,” or something to that effect. An honest question then arises: Does it in fact apply to the hangers or is does it apply to the plate/hanger set? Or, if it does in fact apply tot he hangers, would the seller make an exception for her? Call number two.

Clerk: “Hey, yeah, it’s so-and-so again. We noticed the ‘not for sale’ tags on the hangers, and she was wondering if you were firm on that or not?”

Woman: “He gave them to me last time.”

(Mind you, the clerk is not talking to this woman and is on the other side of the checkout area from her to make this call.)

Clerk: “Oh, you need them? Ok, so, can’t sell them? Ok, just wanted to make sure.” <returns to woman> “He says he absolutely needs them, so, we can’t sell them.”

Woman: “What? But he gave them to me last time!”

Clerk: “I’m sorry. He says he needs them.”

Woman: “But last time, he let me have them.”

Clerk: <shrugs> “Well, he needs these.”

Woman: “Really?”

Red flag, number two. Shut. The fuck. Up. Lady. Listen to what the clerk is telling you. The answer is no, and she has absolutely no power to change it. Take a fucking hint, you whiny twerp.

I did a search on Amazon for plate hangers and found a ten-pack for $11 available with Prime shipping. For just over a dollar a piece, she could’ve had hangers within a day or two, without having to put herself as a pain in the ass.

Now, perhaps I’m being too hard on her. It’s a genuine possibility that my years in Retail hell have soured and jaded me to all customers. But this just rubbed me the wrong way. It’s the entitled customer mentality, that sellers and stores should bend over backward to the every whim of a customer in hopes that they won’t take their business elsewhere or leave a bad review.

Here’s the thing: If the seller is present, it might be a different story. Once the seller tells the clerk “no”, that’s pretty much it. If I were the seller, I’d have sold those hangers to her for $5 a piece. That would shut her up real quick. Shoppers will always beg for more. They’re awful when it comes to discounts and freebies. Ever see people go nuts at a sporting event over a free shirt with twenty sponsors all over it? Yeah, that’s the kind of ridiculousness I’m talking about. (If you live outside the U.S., just google “t-shirt canon”, and you’ll have a good idea.”)

The more I think about, I’m not being too hard on her. It was a power move over a fucking coat hangar, and I’m glad the seller pushed back. Especially in this age of Corona, customers have been pushing more than they ever had before, and it’s all motivated by a selfish drive for power. They lash out even more than usual because they feel that their power, their personal liberties, are slowly being revoked, one at a time. (They’re not, though.) it’s just another example of how selfish and entitled Dear Customer can truly be.

-The Retail Explorer