People sometimes ask me where I got my customer service skills. Easy. The Bookstop I worked at for a year was near Highland Park.

For those of you out there who have never lived near Dallas, or heard anyone bitch about it as much as I do, Highland Park is a city inside of Dallas. Dallas proper resembles a sort of doughnut on the map with Highland Park and University Park (the Park Cities) as the hole. It's the 'high-class', big money section of town; there are some people who never leave it except to go to the airport.

Anyhoo, the Bookstop I was working at was on Lovers and Inwood between Inwood and the Toll-Road. Our store was big on customer service--that's because the rich are easily offended. There had once been security mirrors in the corners, but they were taken down after numerous complaints of "making a book store look like a trashy 7-11." You couldn't put up a sign that said: "This register is closed, please go to the next register" because there had been complaints that they were rude. I was actually written up for customer service once when I asked a woman to move her thumb off her driver's license so I could get her date of birth (for the check she had just written). It was nuts.

And you weren't allowed to smoke in front of the store; your friends could, and the customers could, but employees had to sneak around the side for nicotine because "a customer might see you outside, and then see you in the store and we've had complaints." Between working retail in snob-land and going to high-school in 'politically correct' down-town Dallas, I was ready for anything.

One time I was sitting outside, smoking away, when I saw a woman in a Lexus park in a handicapped parking spot and run inside. I made a silent prayer that a nice Dallas police officer would come by and fine the nice lady who's too fucking lazy to walk the distance. I finished my smoke and walked inside.

The lady from the Lexus was up front raising a hissy fit. She had called the Bookstop on Mockingbird Lane and asked them to hold a book for her at the front desk. Only problem was she wasn't at the Mockingbird store but the Lovers store and Bookstop didn't do intra-store shipping. She was going to have to drive to Mockingbird and Central to get her book. The drive would have taken fifteen minutes tops--it was just in a less desirable section of town.

She whined and bitched and called us incompetent and surly, but we got it through her head that when you call someone and ask them to hold a title then you go to the place you called, not somewhere else. "It's like calling Simon David and asking if they have fresh capers and then getting angry with the Albertson's staff when they don't have capers at all...." but she didn't want to listen and stormed out.

Now, this ruckus was all going on while we were changing out who was on the front desk. I had taken my smoke break before and it was my turn on the register.

Sure enough, after everyone had cleared away, Lexus-lady came back in waving some piece of paper and demanding to know what we're going to do about it. She finally set it on the counter so I could see what it was, and sure enough, God had been so kind as to give her a ticket for parking in a handicapped parking spot. "If it hadn't have been for you people and your uncooperative staff, this never would have happened. What are you going to do about it?"

"Well, ma'am, I would suggest either paying the fine or trying to dispute it court."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I was under the impression that handicapped parking spaces were for the handicapped. If you'd like to discuss this further, you can discuss it with my manager..."

I was getting paid six bucks an hour. I don't get paid enough to explain things to rich twats like that.

I was almost written up for customer service that night. I'd have several close calls with what was considered good customer service and what wasn't. Add to that, I was the supervisor of the children's department and that's just hell. The rich are very protective of their children, which would explain why they grow up to be such difficult, unpleasant people. Add to that, they're dumb. And I mean that.

One day I was shelving books and I heard this horrible "RRRRrrrrrriiiiiiccccchhhhhpppppp" noise on the other side of one of the shelves. There's mommy in her tennis whites and her Gucci handbag while baby is sitting at her feet opening pop-up books, grabbing a hold of whatever pops up and heaving-ho. I asked the inattentive mommy if she wanted me to go ahead and take the books to the front counter for her.

"Why?" she asked. "You don't expect me to pay for those; they're damaged." (Ah! Such innocence! I'll be so happy to eat these people when the end times come. Yes, the ineffectual affluent....hummmm... they will make good slaves....) I think it was the use of the word "whelp" that got me written up that time.

Another time a soccer-mom came to my section in a bit of a hurry.

"Do you have any scissors?" she demanded.

"No, I'm sorry," I explained. "We don't. Have you asked at the front the desk?"

She huffed away and my manager came back later to ask what had happened. Apparently the scissors-less lady had lodged a complaint.

"I just said we didn't have any scissors. I didn't know that was considered rude."

"Well, you have to be careful with these people; they're very sensitive."

Sensitive my ass!

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