It's always a magical day at The Happiest Place in the Mall. Somedays just happen to be more magical than others, really. This doesn't preclude an admission of a bad day, not in the least... in fact, it was a pretty good day. Except for about, oh, 13 minutes or so around 2pm.
The Lovely Steph Leann always cracks up when I tell her my "guest" stories, because usually I do the voices and everything (especially if the guest is a dern feraner, in which I imitate accents--I've never claimed to be politically correct) but she's in Odenville for the weekend, so I'll have to do my voices later for her.
I had just sent The Dainty Steph Halpert on her break for the afternoon, leaving myself behind the register, and our Magical Manager at the other register. We had quite a line building, so I turned on the magic for each and every guest buying things from Pull String Woodys to Percy and Tito plush (2 for $20!).
An older, well dressed, seemingly well to do gentlemen stepped up with a plastic grocery sack in his hand, and usually when they bring a bag to the box office register, I can tell when someone is returning something, so I happily said, "Hi. How are ya?"
"Miserable," said the older man. He was probably in his 50s, maybe early 60s, blazer, stiff collar, slightly balding, perhaps 5'7, maybe a little taller, mustache. "Sorry about that, so how can I make your day a little more magical?"
He then proceeds to pull out a little snowglobe... well, half of one. Its about two inches in diameter, with a pinkish base standing about two inches tall. Upon the base sits a ceramic Tinkerbell, with some other little decor around her. If this were a brand new Tinkerbell mini-snowglobe, she would be encased in a small glass sphere, filled with water and glitter. This particular one had no glass, though... this one had little jagged pieces of glass jutting out in a circle around the top rim of the base.
Mr. Personality then hands me the snowglobe. Fully aware of what is wrong, I grasp the bottom of the base carefully so as not to, you know, slice my fingers open. He then says, after he's already released it and I have it safely in my hands, "Be careful, there is glass on it."
"Well, what can I do for you, sir?" I ask.
"For starters, you can replace it," he sternly says, almost as if he expected that to be the last word, and I would simply say, "YES SIR!" and hand over another one.
"Can you tell me what happened?" I then asked.
Normally, when I ask this question, at least with a snowglobe in question, I get "Yes, we bought this earlier and someone packed it wrong. It broke in the bag, and now all my other purchases are wet" or maybe "This fell off the shelf in the back" or even "It sprung a leak on me when I got home, and I had to smash it to keep glass from going everywhere" (I've heard all three of these at one time or another.)
No. Mr. Personality says, "Well, we bought this thing, got it home, and my granddaughter was holding it. She dropped it, and it smashed all over the floor. Glass went everywhere. Glass and water. So, I'd like you to replace it."
I stared at him for a few seconds. Finally, I spoke, watching my words carefully, making sure I understood what he just told me. "So... you had this at home, and your granddaughter dropped it. It broke. And you'd like us to give you another one."
"Yep. Slipped right out of her hands."
"Sir..." I began, trying not to actually smile. How could I state what the obvious response was, without sounding condescending? "I can't replace this if you broke it at home. It's not a toy. It's a snowglobe."
"What?" Mr. Personality looked at me with an angry glare. "My granddaughter is three years old, and she was playing with it. It shouldn't have broken!"
"Uh... sir, its a snowglobe. It's considered a collectable. Its glass, you drop it, its going to break." Okay, to the Coffee Drinkers reading this, I know how incredibly rude this sounds. Seriously, though, I was trying to be as absolutely genuine as I possibly could be... but still...
He stared at me again, and finally, angrily said, "Give me the number to your home office right now." I smiled and said, "Sure." I got the number and wrote it on a piece of paper. "And here is my name and our store number, in case you need to reference it." I wrote my name down for him, and our store information and handed it off to him.
"I'll be making a call to your home office about this. This is ridiculous." He grabbed his bag, stormed off and left.
Understand this about me. Very, very few things surprise me. I find out that a marriage breaks up, I find out that someone is pregnant, I find out that a business is closing or a once-loved celebrity is actually a celebutard or so-and-so is doing this-and-that... I've been around enough "Holy crap" moments to not be surprised at much of anything anymore, for better or for worse. So this guy being a jerkweed for a snowglobe that was broken outside of our control didn't surprise me in the least. Its the nature of retail.
That being said, I do get rattled from time to time. And after Mr. Personality stormed off, I was a little rattled. I wasn't upset, I wasn't hurt, I didn't take it personally, but my brain was a little haywire for a minute or two at the idiocy of someone buying something perfectly constructed, taking it home, breaking it, purposeful or not, then coming back to get their money back. Seriously, who does that?
Here's where things are a little blurry... mostly because my brain was a little rattled. I don't know if it was the very next guest, or a few guests later, but a young lady walked up, put two Power Ranger blasters and a couple of other things on the counter. I smiled and said, "Hi ma'am, did you find everything you need today?"
"If you call me ma'am again, I'll have to come across that counter at you," she smiled. Brain rattled, I didn't take this is a "friendly jab", I took this as a "another guest who just ain't happy." I fumbled my response, I think I tried to make some joke about calling her "Young girl" instead of "ma'am", but it came out all wrong.
When she handed me the credit/debit card to pay, I asked for ID like I always do when presented with a plastic form of payment. She gave me a weird look, then her face fell a little, then she handed me her driver's license.
"Shay Conway" was the name on the card. And my stomach dropped.
You know how we all have that little guy or girl in our brains, pushing the buttons--they are the ones that push the buttons to clear your head, or to make you understand something suddenly, or to tell you "Hey, my arm is bleeding and it hurts", or even when they are feeling frisky, they'll push ALL the buttons at one time when you are almost asleep so suddenly your entire body does that violent jerk thing in bed and suddenly you're awake again? You know, that guy?
Well, the little guy in my brain somehow set the reset button and everything became crystal clear. It was Shay Conway. Formerly Shaw Oliver.
A few weeks ago, I found this chick online from my high school days on Facebook, named DeAnn Weston. I met her on my senior cruise in the Bahamas, and after the cruise, DeAnn and I remained friends, and I befriended some of her friends, including Shay Oliver. Me and Shay, we went out a few times, it was a fun couple of dates (one of which to see "Indecent Proposal", which is better than "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!" which we saw later), we kept up with each other for a while after that, but then, I went to one school, she went to another, we lost touch.
So, imagine my surprise when, through DeAnn, I find Shay Oliver, though now she's Conway--or maybe she found me, I dunno--on Facebook. We post on each other's wall a few times, and finally, we end up having a Facebook chat where we caught up... we discussed life then and now, rehashed a few old memories, she gushed about her husband and kids, I gushed about The Lovely Steph Leann, and she said next time she was in Birmingham, she'd come into The Happiest Place in the Mall and say hello. I told her it was imperative that she did, even if it was just to get a snapshot for my "Me And..." photo album online.
And now, here she was, standing in front of me, and I didn't even know who she was. I told her, "If we weren't so busy, I'd have to come around and talk to you!" She signed her credit card slip, hands shaking--she then said, "I've got really low blood sugar right now, so I've got to get something to eat pretty quickly." She handed me back the pen, grabbed her bag and turned away. "Go to the food court! Get some food!" I said after her. "See you soon!" She waved her hand, a casual "eh" kind of wave and said, "Yeah, see you later."
I felt like a complete tool. How could I not recognize her? Well, for starters, I haven't seen her since the summer of 1993, and I had just had an undesirable interaction with the principal of a local charm school, so that didn't help... but, no excused.
So... right here, in front of the ones of tens of people that read this blog, I say to you, Shay Conway... I'm sorry. I should have recognized you. I had quite an experience moments before you got up to pay, but that's not an excuse. I always harken back to Baby's father, Dr. Houseman, when he approached Johnny and Baby after the big "Had the Time of My Life" dance... "When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong." I hope you forgive me, and come back to see me at The Happiest Place in the Mall! (by the way, did you know that Baby is going to be 50 next March? Whaaaa???? FIFTY!!)
Wanna know how it all ended? Well, glad you asked...
Mr. Personality came back in about fifteen minutes later, this time, bringing his wife, Mrs. Congeniality. Instead of coming to my line, they head to our Magical Manager, behind the other register. Mr. Personality pulls out the same snowglobe, hands it to her in the same manner, and says, "I've changed my mind, I want this exchanged."
"Did it break here in our store?"
"No, it broke at home. My granddaughter was holding it, and it slipped out of her fingers and it broke," said Mr. Personality.
"And it landed on carpet!" said Mrs. Congeniality, "and it still broke!"
"Uh... I can't replace something that you broke at your house..." said our Magical Manager.
"Why not! It broke! You have these things set out like toys!" said Mr. Personality.
"I'm sorry sir, but its a snowglobe. That would be like my cat jumping on a table, breaking something and me trying to take it back. I can't just give you a replacement on something that broke in your house," said Magical Manager.
"I don't believe this!" said Mrs. Congeniality. "There aren't any signs set up around them or anything!"
"Ma'am, its a snowglobe. Its glass." said our Magical Manager.
(for reference, The Dainty Steph Halpert and I checked the mini snowglobe fixture a little while later, after I relayed the story, and everyone of them had a little tag on it with a long paragraph of instruction and warning, instructions that began with the words "This is not a toy...")
Keep in mind that I'm currently ringing up more guests, having a very fun and friendly conversation with someone who is headed to The Happiest Place on Earth in a week or so, trying to talk over the ever increasing volume of Mr. Personality and Mrs. Congeniality.
"It's fifteen dollars! We spend hundreds of dollars in this store all time, and you're going to lose my money over fifteen dollars?" said Mrs. Congeniality.
"I'm sorry, but I cannot give you a refund or an exchange on a product you purchased here, took home and broke. If it was broken here, or the item was broken when you got it home, that would be one thing, but your granddaughter dropped it and it broke. Its glass, its going to break!" said our Magical Manager. Inside, my inner sista is yelling "Yeah! You tell her! You go girl!"
"I heard they were so cheap that Disney is going to replace them with plastic anyway! That's how cheaply made they are!" said Mrs. Congeniality.
Our Magical Manager just kind of stared at her, and I even looked over, with a "What?" expression.
"Yeah, you've had so many people bring them back and complain about them, they are going to make them with plastic instead of glass. You don't even know what's in your products, do you?"
(again, for reference, I discovered the source of this little nugget of info... we had another guy on the stage, greeting people, and when I was telling him the story, and how Mrs. Congeniality had said something about Disney replacing the product, he said, "What?! No! They came in, and told me about it, and I just said that we had had several of them broken by other guests, so they were doing a stronger glass, so it would be hard like plastic... you know, like the Buzz Lightyear mini snowglobe--it has much harder glass! I never said they were going to replace it! What the crap!?")
With one last closing statement, sounding something like, "Well, Magical Manager (she used our managers name, fyi) I'm going to tell everyone I know how you run your business and to never come in this store again! I'm never spending another cent in here!", Mrs. Congeniality and Mr. Personality took back their sad, broken little snowglobe and exited quickly.
Both the next guests who stepped up to my register and stepped up to our Magical Manager's register told each of us something along the lines of "Well, that was just rude, I would never do that." We both were commended on how we handled it.
Furthermore, I typed this blog tonight as a both a slice o'life story (and if Mrs. Congeniality or Mr. Personality happen to be your pawpaw or uncle or what have you, and you hear a completely different story about how terrible we were, then just take to heart what I said. This is what happened) and an apology to Shay Conway. When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong... at least to Shaycon. To Mr. & Mrs., you two are poopyheads, and I do believe The Happiest Place in the Mall will survive without your "hundreds of dollars" that you seem to have spent while I am not there, even though I'm there at least 40+ hours per week. And I'm not wrong.
PS... Shaycon posted a note on Facebook tonight, after I had almost finished writing this, and told her story of coming to Birmingham with low blood sugar, and what a terrible day it had been... she even wrote:
I remember standing in line for the register and thinking it isn't normal for a person to be trembling like this. So I get to the register and have a brief conversation with an old friend, even though he didn't recognize me at first! Sorry if I was rude!
Well, there you have it. Maybe I wasn't wrong. My apology stands.