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I Don't Want Your Sexist Attitude At My Checkout Counter!

20 September 2016
Sophie D. Morin
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Stories are written by people who don’t necessarily work or study in fields related to sexology. They convey emotions, perceptions, and subjective perspectives. Opinions voiced in the stories are those of their authors, and in no way represent Les 3 sex* position.

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Translated by Manon Defrasne

I got mad at two customers for the first time in seven years of working in customer service.

Just to set up the situation, I work as a cashier in a big box grocery store. Before that, I had some other jobs in small groceries, coffee shops, and a cheese shop. I’ve had my share of unhappy people who let out deep sighs when you ask them if they need plastic bags for their groceries, who do not answer when you say “hello” with a big smile, and who keep talking on their phone during the transaction.

But after seven years, it doesn’t really get to me anymore. Let me tell you: you get used to being treated as a robot or as a person without feelings. It goes in one ear and out the other. “Have a good day, Ma’am!”… Even if you’re a meanie and didn’t even look at me during the transaction, behind your sunglasses.

Anyways, see what kind of pleasant environment I’ve been evolving in for seven years? (Don’t get me wrong, there are also some sweet and friendly customers). This week, however, I was lucky enough to meet two people with more sand in their underwear than I had ever seen. Y’know, having sand in your swimsuit when you go to the beach is quite annoying … well, these people were quite annoying.

Annoying enough to make me angry and to make me express my anger (which is unusual when you work in customer service).

Now, you may be looking at me, surprised, and say: “Wow, Sophie! What did they do to make you lose your legendary cool?”

Let me explain. The first man, who will be kindly called Hater #1, came with a case of alcohol, from which a bottle was missing. Hater #1 explained that it was the last case of this brand, and that he wanted to have a discount since the product was incomplete. Already knowing what my supervisor was going to tell me, I still decided to call her in order to confirm and to give more credibility to my answer.

Just like I was told by my supervisor, I told Hater #1 that I couldn’t offer him a discount on alcohol since the government won’t let us, under the law. It was like the end of my sentence had set his hair on fire. The next man in line, Hater #2, decided to get involved. Both began to yell at me and say that “it doesn’t make any sense, treating customers like that!” They started calling my supervisor all sorts of names. Dumb, irresponsible, stupid… I could go on.

I was standing behind the counter, my anger growing.

I finally decided to say something, because it didn’t make any sense for them to treat people like that … especially for a bottle of alcohol. I told Hater #2 to mind his own business (first win!). I said that I would not tolerate them denigrating my colleague (second win). I also said that we were paid minimum wage, which was not enough money to endure that kind of attitude—even if there is technically not enough money in this world that could make me approve of that kind of comment (hat trick!).

I was really proud of my retort. However, when I get emotional, I blush. That’s how I am. I don’t know if you’ve already guessed what happened next, but, personally, I was surprised.

Hater #2 had the nerves to tell me: “That colour looks great on you, Ma’am! [insert laugh of Hater #2].” Oh, you [forced inspiration]. I was mad.

Why, in our society, is the anger of a girl not taken seriously? I felt absolutely ridiculed.

Yet, when my male colleagues get angry, people keep quiet.

Then, two guys in line of about my age decided to intervene, saying they also worked in retail and it was normal that I couldn’t give Hater #1 a discount on the case of alcohol. Only then did Hater #2 start to calm down. He was clearly still in disagreement with this policy, but since a man had intervened, he was able to come to accept our policy despite his discontent.

It took two men, who did not work in the shop, speaking out before he was convinced, despite the fact that two women, the cashier and the supervisor, had already explained to him why they couldn’t give any discount.

Why were these two men found more qualified than me and my supervisor?

That night, I left with my head full of rage and disbelief. It made me think of all the situations I experienced sexism while working in customer service.

All the times I was told to smile … by customers, colleagues, and supervisors. Yet, my male colleagues were not treated as I was.

Nobody ever asked guys to wear a brighter smile.

All the times I had to suffer flirty comments, not inappropriate enough for me to say something (because the customer is always right and must remain happy), but enough for me to feel queasy and to get a bitter taste in my mouth.

And the one time a man held me in his arms without my consent and kissed me on the neck without letting me move. I still felt disgusting and filthy an hour after that event.

All in all, even if this experience with Hater #1 and Hater #2 was unpleasant, I felt a sense of pride and dignity.

From now on, I feel like I will be brave enough to express my disagreement or discomfort in a sexist situation at my checkout counter.

I also sincerely think that we should highlight this issue and make customers understand that their sexist attitude will not be tolerated in customer service.

That even if “the customer is always right,” it is wrong to deny one their dignity!

sexism, harassment, job, feminism, employment