Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

(Or: Stupid Customer Tricks, Part I)

Some of the people reading this site are aware that as of January 6, yours truly joined the ranks of the unemployed. Can I honestly say I am surprised by this turn of events? No. The junk shop has been running pretty “tight” lately and the owner did what he had to do: he let someone go. It is the purpose of this post to embark upon on my brave new life, get a little closure and illustrate what “skills” the junk shop has taught me. Are you listening potential employers? Here we go!

A few weeks ago someone I had not seen in a long time entered the store: Martin. He waited patiently as I was dealing with a particularly vexatious individual. Once this woman exited the store he asked me how I was doing. I replied:

Much better now. I wanted to punch that woman in the face.

To wit, my coworker commented:

That’s not very nice.

I replied:

If I didn’t say it, I’d probably do it.

While definitely hyperbole (I am not a violent person) my fit of Freud stands: it is better to blow off steam with one’s mouth instead of letting it find its way to your fists. Martin understood this and suggested I create a list of ruses that junk shop customers use. I have borne witness to a number of tactics people have employed in an attempt to get merchandise for a lower price (or free). Some of them are downright hilarious. Now that I am unencumbered with employment I will attempt to share the “top ten” with commentary and some hope of catharsis.

1. The merchandise is in some way damaged/broken/defective.

This is without argument the most common. When confronted with this ruse I point out “condition”  has been taken into account when I stated the price. Occasionally the exchange would end at that. Usually it didn’t. More often than not the client in question will persist. In these cases I would point out the obvious:

If it is broken, why do you want to buy it?

I have never gotten a satisfactory answer to this question. But occasionally they’d say:

I can get this at the 99 Cent  Store.

And I encouraged them to do just that. Sometimes they followed my advice but more often than not they paid up and shut up.

2. (related to point #1)  The article of clothing in question does not fit properly.

Only women employ this argument. And I have learned the best rebuttal is as follows:

If it doesn’t fit, why do you want to buy it?

This is quite effective, which is a shame because I always wanted to try the following out:

Yes, you do look like you need to lose some weight.

Yeah, I’m an asshole. But I do not blame some anonymous saleswoman for the the fact my waist is 25-26 inches versus 22-23.

3.  Stating that the item in question is a gift for a friend.

I realize this one sounds totally crazy— but it is a lot more common than you think. Staring at the person incredulously usually works. In more persistent cases openly questioning how good the friend in question is if he/she is haggling over a gift at a second hand store works like a charm. No disrespect to the junk shop— it has some really neat stuff— but that is not really the point. Lesson learned: shaming works.

4.  I do not have any money.

I am not pulling your leg. I have heard this corker more times than I care to admit. Usually from the 20-something “hipster” demographic.  Here’s a real life example:

(man brings a solitary photograph up to the counter)

Me: Twenty five cents.
Man: I only have fifteen cents, will you take that?
Me: (puts face in hands, laughing)
Man: You do not like this?
Me: No, I don’t. Twenty five cents.
Result: Man’s friend ponies up a dime and he buys his photo. I heave a sigh of relief and ponder what I am going to purchase from the local liquor store after I get off work.

Another retort from yours truly:

But of course, this is the Free Store! We get stuff in and give it away to people.

Seriously folks, if you do not have money why are you shopping in the first place? I do not think this is an unreasonable question.

5. Steamroller

I cannot think of a better way of categorizing these people. They can best be illustrated by example:

A fifty-something man in a leather jacket with Carl Perkins haircut enters the store, plops down an old hardback book and a solitary dollar bill on the counter. I turn to my coworker and ask:

How much is this book, (excised)?

Two dollars.

My coworker replies.

“Carl” then proceeds to raise a holy stink, pointing out that, among other things the spine of the book is loose.

My reply: Two dollars.

Carl continues to throw a tantrum. I am unfazed. He starts to storm out the door in a fuss.


You can put that book back where you found it like a big boy.

Carl: You can put it back!

That’s when I proceeded to toss said book into the dumpster (and so in doing breaking the spine altogether) in front of “Carl”. Problem solved.

I also realized that despite all my attempts at deprogramming the Bible has, in fact, touched my life. Solomon was really onto something with that whole baby thing. If Carl wanted that book bad enough he would have paid two dollars. Or written it himself.

Shouting: don’t do it.

Not only do I dislike shouting, but I had the misfortune of being issued a phone number at my first apartment in this fair city that was one digit off from the Bronx County Medicaid office. I have also been assigned a cell phone number which clearly belonged to someone incarcerated at Rikers Island. I cannot honestly say the calls I received from either were particularly pleasant (the callers usually accused me of “covering up” for whomever they were attempting to reach) but I have to say the latter most were by and far the most interesting! I have also been a civil servant. Which brings me to…

6. Stonewalling

I do not consider myself to be “political”. I harbor a very strong interest in community affairs to be certain. Whether one is a Democrat, Republican and so forth? Absolutely not. This is probably in large part due to the fact I cannot honestly tell the difference anymore. But there is one thing that living in Greenpoint has taught me: I am most certainly not a Communist.

There is no nice (READ: “P.C.”) way to explain what I am about to tell you so I am going to grab the Bolshevik by the balls. I am not a political scientist. I am an artist, history minor, Greenpointer, malcontent and failure. And in the previous capacities (working at the junk shop)  I know all too well that while the Soviet Union (and the Warsaw Pact, for that matter) might be gone, standing in line will be its enduring legacy.

I cannot tell you how many times I have quoted a price only to have the person in question (usually an elderly Polish woman) simply stand there. It’s rather creepy— but having been a civil servant (and observed how the local Post Office handles such folks) I know what to do: ignore them. The last time I did this a woman fussed with her wallet for a good two minutes. But she finally relented to pay the outrageous capitalist price of six whole U.S. dollars for the merchandise in question. She wanted to pay five. Naturally she paid with a fifty dollar bill.

And for this Vladmir Ilyich Lenin— and Joey Stalin— I take a virtual shit on your grave.

(to be continued?)

Miss Heather


9 Comments on Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

  1. mbrooklyn on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 11:49 am
  2. The first thing I read today was this post. The second thing I read today was the first paragraph of Moby Dick. They seemed remarkably related. Sending regrets about your employment troubles, but wondering what the sea might be for Ms. Heather. Good luck.

    Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

  3. missheather on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 11:55 am
  4. It’s cool. I am laughing about it now. Some of the experiences I had there (let’s face facts) are pretty damned funny.

  5. d on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 5:20 pm
  6. Wow, I’m particularly flabbergasted at 2 & 3. I would never even think to use those excuses and to know many random people have used them multiple times is rather astounding! It doesn’t fit so you want the price knocked down? What? That doesn’t even make sense! If something doesn’t fit right I just don’t buy it, period. Or if I do buy it, I pay to get it altered professionally.

  7. missheather on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 5:57 pm
  8. @d: it may not make sense but I’m here to tell you people have used both of these excuses. OFTEN.

  9. tugbote on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 6:26 pm
  10. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. And exactly the same reactions/responses I would have given.

  11. missheather on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 7:11 pm
  12. Methinks I’ll work on the second installment tomorrow. The final (and third) segment will be about my favorite customer. I am going to really miss him.

  13. MaineBarnCat on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 7:46 pm
  14. I’m bummed to hear of your loss of employment (I must have missed that on 01/06) as that was my situation 10/2008 through early 08/2010. Stupidly, I walked away from a (relatively) decent job. Oh, well, I’m hoping that something of a positive will be that you’ll have more time for your blog and your photos (especially, the ones your sneakers manage to squeeze into — yes, that was me, and it really is my sort of humor). As a long-time veteran/victim of retail (and I’m back there now, all I could get) I ***LOVED*** this post. I can’t wait for your next installments, though I guess I’ll have to. May good fortune smile upon you in this new year. And, as JD Robb’s character Roarke once put it, “I believe in fate, in destiny, and also in giving fate a good twist of the arm when it’s not going your way.”

  15. missheather on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 7:55 pm
  16. I look at it this way: sometimes when you get too comfortable life will give you a good, hard push. It was time to move in a different direction. I just needed a little nudge. That said, I do not regret working at the junk shop for anything in the world. I learned a lot and (believe it or not) most of the people I dealt with were wonderful. Then of course there are the others… 😉

  17. HeidiW on Thu, 13th Jan 2011 12:10 am
  18. I’m sorry you lost your job. I hope you find something soon. I always wondered what it would be like to work at the junk shop.

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