Merry Christmas?

“What the hell is taking so long?!”

I look up from the register and meet the irate glare of a woman with badly dyed red hair whose third in line.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” she hisses at me.

I quickly avert my eyes and focus on finishing this transaction as quickly as possible.

 

Well so much for Christmas spirit.

“This is bullshit. I’ve been waiting for 20 minutes. I’m never shopping here again.” Red complains

Okay, that would make my life easier. I’m currently on hour ten of my shift.

People always told me “retail is hell” but I never really believed them. That was until I started working at Kmart. Hell is an understatement.

“Can we open another lane please?” I plead desperately into my headset as, with a tight smile, I hand my current customer his bag.

I’m answered with a curt no from my manager Terri. This day just keeps getting better.

I glance around and notice that all of my coworkers seem to be wearing the same pained expression that I’m sure I’m sporting on my own face. Christmas Eve is never a good day to go shopping but it’s an even worse day to work.
One more hour. One more hour of strained smiles and fake cheery “Happy Holidays”.

“All I Want for Christmas” comes on for the fifth time since my shift started.

“KELSEY TO LAYAWAY” comes blaring through my headset.

Shit.

“I have a line but I’ll be right there.”

Red’s head shoots up. Her eyes are blazing.

“You’re really just going to leave us?! We’ve been waiting forever!” she yells at me.

 

I look pleadingly towards the service desk until Jacklyn my coworker begins walking over. My cue to leave.

I rush to the back of the store to find layaway an even bigger disaster. I quickly slip through the door into its holding place. Brittany, my best friend, is frantically running around with a look of sheer panic.

“I can’t find it. I can’t find that lady’s box!” She whispers to me, eyes pleading.

“Just keep looking, I’ll take over the counter,” I tell her as I brace myself to re-enter the fray.

“She’ll be out in just a minute ma’am if you don’t mind waiting over to the right while I take the next customer,” I tell a frazzled looking young woman.

She moves over and an angry looking woman with an ugly tribal tattoo on her neck steps forward. She throws her receipt on the counter and grunts “picking up” before going back to her phone and completely ignoring me.

“I just need an ID please,” I tell her as I start to type in her contract number.

“That’s a joke right.” Here we go.

For some reason this rule sparks anger in about 50% of our customers. As if we’re doing it just to piss them off and not for their benefit so no one can’t steal their stuff.

“It’s just to verify that it’s yours. Wouldn’t want someone to take the items you paid for,” I tell her calmly like I have with hundreds of others before her.

She slams her wallet on the counter and tosses the ID at me.

 

I look at the register preparing to match the name with the one on the card when I see the three most dreaded letters in layaway displayed on the screen:

R-T-S. Returned To Stock.

God damn it. This can’t be happening.

I take a deep breath and prepare myself for the assault.

“I’m sorry, it seems your order has been returned to stock. Hold on one minute while I get your refund,” I’m purposely avoiding eye contact in hopes that the inevitable insults won’t come. No such luck.

“Are. You. Fucking. Kidding.”

This always happens. They don’t make the necessary two-week payments and we’re forced to put things back. Yet every time it’s our fault.

“I paid for this! This is my kid’s fucking Christmas presents.”

I anticipated this response and have already pulled up her payment history.

“It seems you only made the initial payment. You needed to make them every two weeks in order for us to hold it. The contract you signed stated all that,” I tell her calmly as I start to prepare the paperwork I know she’s going to refuse to sign.

“Listen you little bitch I don’t need your attitude. I know how to read you stuck up piece of shit,” she spits at me.

This is going to be a good one.

Brittany has now emerged with the missing box and is staring at me, waiting for me to reply.

“If I could just have you sign this paper I can give you your refund.” I tell her, forcing myself like always to ignore the unwarranted insults.

Brittany has made her way next me and whispers “Should I call Terri?” to which I quickly nod yes.

As she begins dialing I turn my attention back to Neck Tattoo.

“This is fucking bullshit. My kid isn’t going to have Christmas this year. How does that make you fucking feel?” She’s now screaming at me.

Yeah it’s my fault you’re irresponsible.

“Ma’am I’m sorry you’re upset but you didn’t make the payments,” I tell her again as I try to hand her the paperwork, which she slaps away from me just as Terri rounds the corner.

“Do not touch my associate!” she yells as she tears over to the counter. “Kelsey you can go home. I’ll deal with this,” she says glaring at Neck Tattoo.

You don’t have to tell me twice.

I fly into the break room and grab my wallet and flee towards the front of the store. I race past Jacklyn who is still dealing with Red and just as I’m walking out the front doors into the cold air of freedom I hear her yell: “Bye Kelsey see you tomorrow!”

Damn it I have to be back to this hellhole in twenty short hours.

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