So I think I’m gonna take the opportunity to relate another anecdote from my checkered work history. This was not the Job from Hell. This was my time at electronics and appliance superstore Crazy Eddie, which I only imagined to be the Job From Hell at the time, and as I’ve said, there were any number of regular customers whose default position was abuse, as a way to get what they wanted.
I proceed directly to the case of a guy I’ll call Mr. Shnodblatt, who figures in many of these stories. Mr. Shnodblatt took the chain’s “We’ll never be undersold” promise as a personal challenge. Now, we did have such a promise, and we did honor it, but there were reasonable common-sense limitations. To wit, you couldn’t do what he did several times, come in with an ad reading COMPUTER PRINTER – $50 that didn’t specify the make and model, and angrily demand that we give him the thousand dollar top of the line printer at the same price. But explain this to him, and he started yelling and threatening calls to his lawyer. Nor could you bring in an ad from an outlet that was selling used or refurbished or even display-model merchandise, an ad that said something like UNBOXED DISPLAY MODELS AS IS, and get the same equipment sealed in boxes with full warrantees. You couldn’t. But he would come in yelling. Mr. Shnodblatt called us crooks and liars and pieces of shit so often that we scattered when we saw him coming, and only the slowest salespeople had to wait on him. Not that it even mattered if we were dealing with other customers. Mr. Shnodblatt would interpose himself between those other customers and ourselves, demanding immediate service.
Not to put too fine a point on it: I hated Mr. Shnodblatt. Hated him. Had I the power I would have afflicted him with hemmorhoids, scales, and that parasite that plants itself in a victim’s mouth and replaces his tongue with itself. Mr. Shnodblatt was a nightmare. And one of the worst things he did was show up twenty minutes before closing and behave so obnoxiously in pursuit of the purchase he wanted, even if it was something we could not give him at the price he wanted, that we would still be there half an hour, an hour after the doors were locked, enduring his abuse and finally giving him something well below cost just to get rid of him. He was, in short, an extortionist.
Comes Sunday at 4:15. The store closes at five. It’s a busy day. The nightmare of the day is an ad from some hole of a retail establishment in the city that offers a computer printer at $55.00. Unlike most such ads this one provides the make and model. It is printer from a company that went out of business five years before Crazy Eddie was founded. It doesn’t use ink available in the United States. I repeat this. It doesn’t use ink available in the United States. It doesn’t use paper anybody would ever want to use in business, but thermal sheets available in rolls. We have spent all day telling customers that we have never carried any merchandise by this manufacturer and that the printer is a relic from the stone age and that the ad doesn’t entitle them to take the eight hundred dollar top of the line printer — this being rather early in the age of home computing — from a top manufacturer that is the Ferrari among our merchandise. We have spent all day being yelled at by people who somehow thought this was us changing the rules on them. We have fended most off and actually made sales. But we have reckoned without Mr. Shnodblatt.
Mr. Shnodblatt has this ad and he shoves it in my face and he demands that I give him THAT printer, which we’ll now call the XL-CRAP, or permit him to pick any printer he wants. I start to explain. He starts yelling that I’m a crook. He wants me to know that I’m a con artist, that I’m a piece of shit, that I clearly rape nuns, and that he is NOT LEAVING THE STORE UNTIL HE GETS WHAT HE WANTS. 4:30 passes. 4:35, 4:40. I am stuck with Shnodblatt, who is making a scene that can be heard throughout the store, while my co-worker Ray is driving himself to exhaustion trying to wait on all the customers who are being denied service because Shnodblatt is monopolizing my time.
Another word about Shnodblatt: like most problem customers, his immediate fallback position is “I Demand To See Your Manager!” He is forever demanding to see my manager, always when I cannot give him what he’s asking for at the sale he wants. I have said to him, many times, “Sir, I do not have a manager in charge of just letting you loot the store.” It never matters. He demands to see my manager. I have to abandon my post and get yelled at, later, for once again failing to resolve Mr. Shnodblatt’s mental illness on my own, and bringing the manager into it.
Mr. Shnodblatt demands that I bring the manager. It is 4:45. There has already been an announcement that customers should select their purchases and go to the registers. Shnodblatt is still not budging. He is perfectly willing to do what he has done in the past, keep us at work and away from our own lives until 6 and beyond, in pursuit of impossibilities. The manager, who is irate that I bring him to Mr. Shnodblatt when he has a million and one things to do to wrap up the store, comes over.
The problem is explained. The manager tells Mr. Shnodblatt what I have told him, that Crazy Eddie does not carry the XL-Crap, and has never carried the XL-Crap, because the XL-Crap precedes us, and we are not obligated to sell him any top of the line printer at the same price as the XL-Crap.
After another bellowed characterization of us as crooks and liars and con men and child molesters, Mr. Shnodblatt yells, “I know the way you people work! You promise to beat all prices, but when you see an ad for a price you don’t want to beat, you HIDE AWAY THE MERCHANDISE IN YOUR STOCKROOM AND PRETEND YOU DON’T CARRY IT!”
He says this. Like we clear out the floor space of all our saleable merchandise, every Sunday’s ad.
He demands that we allow him into the stock room, to confirm for himself that there is no XL-Crap there.
He actually demands this.
Now, I don’t know about you, but at this point I would tell him, “Sir, please go patronize another store and never bother us again.” Our manager is a pro. He tells Mr. Shnodblatt that his demand to inspect the storeroom himself is unacceptable for insurance reasons, but that he will, if it’ll solve the problem, order me to search the stockroom, just to confirm that there is no XL-CRAP anywhere on its shelves.
Mr. Shnodblatt actually says that he knows I will only pretend to look and that he will deal with my lying later on, but is willing to go through the motions.
If you handed me a knife at that moment, I would now be serving time.
(And silly as it may seem to you, I am twenty-five years later actually feeling my blood pressure rise as I relate this story. It’s no joke. I take pleasure in the awareness that Shnodblatt is almost certainly dead now. If I knew the location, I’d pee on his grave. If he was alive and alzheimers-ridden and living in an old age home somewhere, I’d get the location and travel there just to slap him in the face. I’m almost serious.)
Anyway. It is 4:50. It has been a long day. I want to go home. I am being forced to undergo a total wild goose chase searching a vast back room for a piece of merchandise that is not there, that has never been there, and CANNOT be there. I am supposed to meet my family for dinner at 6 and I know that I will not make it. I enter the stockroom — whose denizens are all getting ready to leave — and I go to the computer shelves. Anger and frustration drives me to do what I have never done before, climb the shelves, physically climb the shelves, until I’m twenty feet off the ground and dangling over a concrete floor as I rearrange boxes on the top shelf to find what cannot be found.
And whoa! I miraculously ***find an XL-CRAP***.
It is in a crushed box held together with tape, it is covered with dust and has clearly been there for years. A giant hole in the box reveals the printer, with shattered fuselage, a dead roach in the platen, NO included documentation, no power cord, no packing materials, no nothing. It is not a printer anymore. It is industrial shrapnel.
Its presence only makes sense if you posit that some past customer, as loud and as unreasonable as Mr. Shnodblatt, has at some point in the dim past arrived at Crazy Eddie bearing an item that could not have been purchased there, and demanded a refund at such ear-screeching volume that the service department accepted the clearly damaged and badly treated item and presented the refund just to make him go away. (That happened too: irate people demanding refunds for items we could prove they couldn’t have bought from us, and once or twice the people were so impossible the company gave them refunds just to get rid of them. Retail is THAT much a war zone.)
My mind worked furiously. I went to the manager and told him what I had found and what the only possible explanation for my discovery could be. I told him what I intended to do about it. My manager stuns me by giving his okay.
I return to Mr. Shnodblatt and tell him I have found an XL-CRAP. But —
“A-HA!” He yells “I KNEW IT! YOU PEOPLE —”
“Sir!” I say, speaking over him. “I have had more than enough of your garbage today. If you utter one more insult directed at me and your co-workers you will leave without the item. You will listen to me.”
Crafty, like a pickpocket agreeing to watch your money while you use the restroom, he pipes down.
I explain that we have an XL-CRAP. I explain that it is clearly a return and that it is a damaged box. I explain that if we sell it to him at the demanded price, it will be AS IS, WITHOUT WARRANTY, NO RETURN, NO REFUND, SALE FINAL, and that he will be required to sign an agreement to that effect before he pays.
I write up an order with **all of that*** clearly and gleefully written on the invoice and send him to the register to pay. He has to make his payment and then return to the stockroom to pick up his XL-Crap. He takes the invoice, utters some angry imprecations about how you have to talk yourself blue in the face to get any service around here, and heads off to the register, where he will be the last customer before the store closes.
I go to my co-worker Ray, who is completing some necessary paperwork. “Ray. We have to leave now.”
“In a minute.”
“No. We have to leave NOW. We have to be in our cars and on our way home before Mr. Shnodblatt sees what he’s just bought, or we’ll never get out of here tonight.”
Ray has spent too many hours having his soul sand-blasted by Mr. Shnodblatt. He gets it immediately, and puts his paperwork in a drawer. “I got you. Let’s leave.”
We grab our coats and move quickly toward the exit, knowing that it’s going to be close, because Mr. Shnodblatt is already at the stockroom window, waiting to be handed his XL-CRAP. We punch our time-cards. We turn back at the door and see Mr. Shnodblatt handed his printer in its box. Even from a distance, we can see that he is aghast and dumbfounded.
Just as we exit, we see that it is in his hands for all of one second before the bottom of the box breaks and it plummets to the floor, where it shatters and scatters pieces in every direction.
You know that sound Curly Howard of the Three Stooges made whenever he ran for safety? Whoop-whoop-whoop?
We made it racing for our respective cars.