Friday, June 19, 2009

it's the inability to boycott that really got me

I just had an incident at the Navy Exchange. Again.

I wasn't planning on going. I was just going to go grocery shopping at the Commissary. But by the time we all got out the door, it was 11am and time for lunch. So we had pizza at the food court. And then I thought, hey, why don't I pop into the NEX real quick and pick up some new floaties? We haven't been to the pool yet but I want to go, and we don't have any floaties anymore, we didn't bring them with us when we moved. So we popped in and I found a couple and I looked for an open register.

I got in a line with two people in front of me. When it was my turn, I put my items down on the counter, and the cashier held up her hand and said, "I'm closed."


If you're closing, you tell the people getting in line, "don't get in this line, I'm closing after this person." I've never been a cashier but I've certainly been shopping enough to know how things work. "You can move over to the next register," she said. So I picked up my floaties and walked over to the next register...where she was already ringing up somebody else!

"Excuse me, I was next." I was a little surprised at my vehemence and my apparent inability to conceal my annoyance. I'm usually much better able to retain control and, at the very least, a sugary-sweet, obviously fake, kill-them-with-kindness veneer of polite behavior. But this came out a little louder, and a lot more annoyed, than I usually allow from myself in public.

"He's been waiting a long time." Apparently the customer she was helping at the other register had been a few people in front of me in line, and had been waiting for a price check on a pair of pants. (I did not find this out until later.) And that's why she had moved over to the other register, the one I had waited on line at - to help a few people while she waited for the price check. Or something like that. I don't really know, apparently she didn't feel it was necessary to explain what was going on, other than, "I'm closed, move over to the other register" - in other words, get on the end of the line. Again.

I was not about to do that.

I left.

I was halfway to the Commissary (Brandon crying for the floaties, of course) before I thought the better of it and turned around. I told the employee checking ID's at the front door that I had to speak with a manager. While I was explaining the situation to the employee, the customer who was stupid enough to try to buy a pair of pants with no price tag came out and started yelling at me. As if I was complaining about him, as if it had anything at all to do with him. It didn't. As I explained to him, and the employee at the door, and then the manager - if you're only going to take two customers at a certain register, don't let the third person get in line. May I add, there wasn't anybody else waiting at the other (presumably original) register when my turn came up. (Because there wasn't a cashier there!) She could have taken the priceless pants guy ahead of me, at the register where I was standing, and then rang me up. But she didn't. She told me to get on the end of the line that had now formed behind jackass pants man within a matter of seconds. (Because it was lunch time and there were maybe two registers open.)

Pants Man's parting shot, "She did her job."

I beg to differ.

The manager asked where my merchandise was; he offered to ring it up himself. I said, "no, I'll come back later when different cashiers are working." (Accepting would have severely diminished the effect of my having stormed off, don't you think?) What I should have said was, "Yeah, right. All I was buying was pool floaties - I can get better ones, and cheaper, off base at Livin or Home's." Curse my slow-reacting brain.

I told him that I didn't know if it was a language thing, or a culture thing, but I've been to enough stores to know that when a cashier is closing a register, they tell the customers that they're closing and not to get in that line. (Or at the very least, they say, "This man has been waiting for a price check, so I'm going to take him before you, okay?") They don't wait until you have your stuff on the counter, then hold their hand up and say, "I'm closed." Then walk away. At least f&*@ing explain what's going on, for f*&*'s sake!! Am I that unimportant that I'm not even worth an explanation? If she had bothered to explain what was going on, I wouldn't have flown off the handle the way I did. I really think that's what bothers, and bothered, me the most - the utter lack of regard. I complained to one the Commissaries in Hawaii for the same attitude once: the idea that "Customer Service" means taking care of this customer, right here, just the one right in front of me, and to hell with the rest of them.

I was so shaken up that I went to the Commissary and bought all of the ingredients for the slow-cooker turkey chili I want to make...except for the ground turkey. Curses. And then when I was standing in front of the cans of beans, dumbfounded because there were four brands of dark red kidney beans but no black beans (turns out they were in a different section, goodness only knows why), I suddenly thought to myself, "I want to go home." And I started to cry.

It isn't the "otherness" of living in a forgein country. It isn't the language barrier or the inter-cultural misunderstandings. That stuff is fine, honestly. It's being tethered to this base, to this one grocery store and this one department store, with no other options. Oh, sure, I can go shopping off base - but if I want American-sized besheets? Strawberry-banana Juicy Juice? Hormel turkey pepperoni? Special K Chocolatey Delight? I have to get it on base. And if they don't have it...which they don't...well then I'm screwed. So we have plain white sheets, because the selection is nonexistant (you'd think that, knowing they're the only place in the whole damn country where you can get American sized bedding, they'd make even an infinitessmal effort); Jack doesn't get his favorite juice, Brandon doesn't get his favorite snack, and I don't get my favorite cereal.

In Hawaii, if the first Exchange or Commissary didn't have what I needed, there were any number of different stores I could go to. Stores on different bases. Civilian grocery stores and department stores. Malls. Drug stores. Even the evil Pearl Harbor Commissary that made me have panic attacks the minute I walked in. But here? There are no other options. There's no ability to say, "screw you, I'm not coming here anymore." There's no boycotting. They have you by the balls. And they know it.


Mother Hoodwink said...

Ugh, Kerry, I'm so sorry. It has got be so annoying to deal with all this. Can you ask the commissary to start carrying a product? I know most commissaries take requests. I hope things get better.

Kerry said...

Yeah, I picked up a request form the first time I went there, but I wanted to wait a few weeks and get a better feeling for what they really don't carry and what was just out of stock at the time. Now I can't find it, urrrgh.
Not much I can do about the cashiers who don't give a shit, though.

Dawn's Thoughts said...

Your trip here is not far off, hang in there and smile at the _itches to really tick them off!