Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Excuse Me? . . .

I had to run to the bank today, so I stepped out during my lunch break. It’s fabulous outside, perfect Fall weather. Overcast, cool, but not windy and frigid. I walked past the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons on 77th Street and continued on to Broadway dodging taxis, barricades, and construction areas. This part of town is nice to walk around, since there usually aren’t many tourists.

The bank didn’t take much of my time, so I thought I’d stop off at Fairway and grab a salad. I crossed the street, dodged through the pedestrian traffic and abruptly stopped when I caught sight of the swarm of people attempting to get inside. Um, perhaps the day before Thanksgiving wasn’t the best day to hop inside a grocery store to grab something to eat.

I stepped to the curb and looked across the street. Starbucks? Yeah, I guess they’d do.

I eyed the offerings in the deli section of Starbucks and decided to grab the Avocado Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread since I love avocado. (FYI-it wasn’t that great.)

I stepped to the counter and handed over the sandwich to the young girl standing behind the counter. “Anything else?” she asked.

On the spur of the moment I decided to get a drink, “A tall vanilla crème, no foam please.” I smiled.

“No foam. Whip?” She said back.

Whip? Oh, “Yes, whipped cream please.”

She punched a few things in on the screen in front of her, then held up a shiny red bag. “Are you interested in picking up a pound of our Christmas-“

“I don’t drink coffee.” I smiled politely, she looked at me like I had just grown another head. Yes I know I was in place that was built and marketed around coffee, but hello, I just ordered a cup of steamed milk. You’d think that if I liked coffee I would have ordered it.

“Does anyone in your family drink-“

“I’m single.” I was starting to feel like I was on the phone with my credit card company, you know, when they try to sell you all those security bells and whistles on your card for only $872/month.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. My Thanksgiving plans (or lack thereof) were none of her concern. My eyes swiveled between the number displayed on the register and the pointed eyes demanding an answer. $9.XX? Was that the right amount? I mumbled something about double checking the price wondering if she had charged me for a Grande, after a glance at plastic container I remembered the sandwich was $6.25. So yeah, the amount was about right. I handed over my debit card.

She swiped it, then leaned forward and asked pointedly, “So, do you have plans for Thanksgiving?” I just stood there, flabbergasted.

“Excuse me, but can I just have my receipt?” I pointed at my card and the paper she had clutched in her hand.

She shoved them forward. I said, “Thanks,” spun on my heel, and walked away.

I suppose you had to be there, but I was so taken back by her reaction to me not wanting to buy a stupid bag of Starbuck’s Christmas Coffee Grounds, that I was furious for about 15 minutes.

Fern (not her real name) thinks I should have leaned right back toward her and said, “Why yes, I do have plans. I’m working at the soup kitchen, would you like to donate several bags?” (Fern works at the soup kitchen all the time, and so the quip came readily to her mind.)

The Starbuck cashier’s lack of tact coupled with the vibe that I got from her implying that it was not okay to be single is what set me over the edge. That she did it so vindictively and pushily left thinking, “Excuse me?”


FYI: I do have plans for Thanksgiving.


  1. I guess you had to be there since from reading your post, I didn't see the same hostile vibe coming through her words. In my experience, I find that generally, store clerks don't think about what they are saying. They just spout whatever seems to fit with a doggedness that gets on my nerves too.

    I'm glad you have plans. A turkey can just be too overwhelming for one person to eat :)

    Oh, and $9 for a mediocre lunch? Time to find some new spots to hit in a hurry.

  2. Well, I'm thinking that the East-Coaster/big city dwellers will agree with West-Coasters are softies. :)

    I'm not against store cashiers and clerks trying to politely upsell me, but usually they say, can I interest you in blah blah blah, or would you like to get this as a gift yada yada yada.

    This person went for direct personal questions that pried into my personal life. Of course I opened the door. I could have said no thanks, instead of giving personal information. But here in the city you just don't ask total strangers such personal questions.

    (Well, you don't usually. There are some stereotypical personalities that can pull off, but she wasn't one of them.)

    Her questions about my plans were not some casual good-will gesture either, she planning on proving that I knew some coffee drinkers that I could buy for, and when I wouldn't answer went out of her way to take one more dig.

    "Doooo you have plans for Thanksgiving?" She asked. It was not a casual well wishing type of thing... anyway I'm rambling. But my point is for NYC standards, the direction of her questioning left the few New Yorkers that I've told so far gasping with shock.

  3. Okay, I just re-read the verbiage between us, and although I got the words right, I didn't adequately convey the tone in which she spoke.

    It was insinuating, doubting, and accusing. Not the bubbly-high-pitched-nonsense voices that you usually expect from some young air-headed cashier.

    She was out for blood.

  4. how weird.

    I was just in a starbucks ytd (I never go out of principle, but we wanted caffeine and a bathroom and Mark's mom had a coupon, hehe), and we didn't get the same treatment. Then again, we weren't in the city city, just the outskirts.

    on the other hand...who knows what she would've said after she asked? maybe she saw you were annoyed and blurted this out as some kind of gesture.

    anyway, yes, it's sometimes it's a little much, being bombarded all the time. Relentless, really.

    hope you had a good one!

  5. Rudeness seems to be an East Coast specialty. I've lived all across the US and have never met anyone worse than East Coasters. I think that is one of the reasons why we tend not to get conversational with people we don't know (and yes, I consider myself an EC'er now). It's sad really. In most other places in the country, these small conversations are almost expected. However, rude tone is never acceptable anywhere.