Thursday, July 23, 2009


I don't know what to think. A fellow cashier came through my line the other day, and bought a hitch with a ball bearing. I accidently only rang up the hitch, since the other part was attached and I thought they came as a set. She tells me nearly a week later that I forgot to ring up the other part, which cost nearly $40.

She also "warned" me that if either of us speaks up, it is regarded as theft, and we are subject to disciplinary action, possible firing, and legal measures. She said that theft is a misdemeanor that can mean up to ninety days in jail and $3,000 in fines, plus a mark on our permanent records.) I, however, think this is an elaborate ruse to get out of paying the extra $40, and a way to make sure I stay quiet. She is pretty strapped for money.

Also, she stands to lose her job for using her discount card on this item. She told me later (while warning me about legal repercussions) that she actually bought this for a friend. Her tone and secrecy makes me think that her friend reimbursed her. This is just one of the ways you can get fired at Walmart.

Given that it was an honest mistake on my part, and perhaps a not so honest mistake on hers, do you think I should speak up? I doubt that nearly anything she said is true, and don't want to rob my employers of the $40. However, if she is subject to disciplinary action for this, but keeps her job, that would make work miserable for me. Oh, the lovely conundrums.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frustrating Customers and Fake Phone Numbers

Today I had my first truly terrible customers. I was in the tobacco bullpen (the only register where you can buy tobacco in the store), and a woman comes up with milk she would like to ad match. When she finds out it's the wrong brand, she gets really angry. Though a little unusual, it was no big deal. However, she decides to pay for her second set of items with a check. Our system randomly prompts for more information to protect against fraud, and she absolutely refused to give it to me. She claimed that she didn't have her driver's license on her, and that she didn't know the number. I called a manager over to see if we could bypass the system, and only then does she produce her license. Then the computer prompts for a telephone number. She says she doesn't own a telephone. I call the manager over again. She gives him two fake numbers (saying: "They're telephone numbers, I just don't know for who"), and then finally gives us a (semi-)legitimate number.

To top matters off, the customer deliberately signs with an X instead of her name. She tells her husband to take the cart and leave when I surreptiously call the manager over a third time. The husband refuses his wife's order, and walks out. Since we return our customers' checks, our primary guarantee for payment is their electronic signature, so it needs to be right. Finally, after five more minutes have passed, she is clear to go.

All this over a $34 bill.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I took an Amtrak train to Washington to see my sister. After a very long day of work, I hopped into my beat up truck to drive three hours to the nearest station. Then it was only a day and a night more on the train to arrive, at long last, only an hour and a half from her house.

Despite the long trip, it was all worth it. The train passed by Glacier National Park, which was incredible! I saw several cute, small towns where I'd love to live, and met a woman who taught English in Slovakia for three years after she turned 62. It was an awesome trip.

The only downside was being seated next to a creepy old man. I tried to change my seat early on in the trip, but I could only offer a gut feeling for proof, so my case wasn't exactly strong. Given that a huge group of people was about to board, I had to retake my seat.

Luckily, a look of death kept him in line the first night (and a very watchful eye---I maybe slept three hours total, and usually when others around me were awake). I spent as much time as I could away from that car, usually reading in the lounge car while watching the great scenery. They had live music and a National Park volunteer to tell us about the sights.

The second night, my seatmate moved across the aisle. All was well and good until he started touching himself. I quickly moved all of my stuff as far away in the car as I could, and pushed the call button. When no one came, I went into the dining room to find an Amtrak employee. They got the conductor, and I explained the situation and asked for a seat in a different car. He moved me (unfortunately we had to pass the guy again to get to the other car), but all was good, as the conductor got a full view of his behavior as we passed.

Despite this one unfortunate incident, the trip was great. The conductor responded quickly to my concerns, and willingly moved me. The food was excellent, the other passengers very interesting and nice, and the scenery spectacular. I would take Amtrak again in the future, but I would speak up immediately about unsuitable seating arrangements, whether I had concrete evidence or not. I enjoyed my trip.

Do you have any good, bad, or just plain strange travel stories?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Teaching English in South Korea

I have a telephone interview to teach English in South Korea this week. This is moving fast. I'm a little nervous, to be totally truthful. It doesn't help that the mere mention of South Korea throws several of my relatives into a tailspin. I've had several ultimatums issued over the last few weeks, warning me not to go under any circumstances. Even my therapist thinks I'm crazy.

I don't know why I'm drawn to troubled places. Rather than seeking a nice, calm internship in the local public school, I tutored children on a Native American reservation, where a fourth grader stabbed a security guard and we had numerous lockdowns. I guess I just figure that wherever I go, trouble seems to follow, so I might as well go somewhere challenging, somewhere I can actually make a difference. I can't even ride the Amtrak without being sexually harassed by my seatmate; it seems inevitable that my life won't be calm and serene. Why not just embrace that fact?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Today was a very slow day at Walmart. However, I still managed to get hit on by a twenty-four year old guy from Guatemala, who persistently requested by number, and finally was content with just giving me his. However, he did say that he would be sure to see my at Walmart if I didn't call him. I don't know how to take that comment.

I also had to turn down an attempted third party sale of fireworks (a twenty-one year old tried to buy fireworks for her seventeen year old friend when she was denied). They took it well, which is always a relief.

One man attempted to buy a few bags of items with a check, when he had five bounced checks totaling $631. It was his only form of payment, so I had to have a manager abort the sale.

By and large, the customers at Walmart are very sweet and understanding. They don't usually get angry when a sale is denied, or the cash register acts up. When they find out it is only my fourth day on the register, they are even more gracious.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Walmart on the Third of July

Today was my second day as a cashier at Walmart, and we had all of the crazy pre-Fourth of July crowds. I began the day with a huge papercut on my thumb from a cardboard box. Since I didn't have any paper towels or bandaids, I just wrapped my hand in a plastic bag and kept ringing up items. My customer wasn't as blase about it, though. She found the first Walmart associate walking by and demanded that she fix my finger.

I then had a denied check (due to insufficient funds), which is always fun to explain to the customer. Luckily, we can suspend a sale and leave the items in Customer Service until the customer can return with a different form of payment.

I also got to learn how to process WIC vouchers and Electronic Benefits Transfer cards. The WIC program is very strict! You make the tiniest mistake on the form (forgetting the date, or your initials) and they won't pay.

There was one attempt at shoplifting (a guy tried to walk out with a cap on his head that he didn't pay for), and a fifty year old man declared his undying love for me. Since I had never met the guy before, this was a little interesting.

A very vocal nondenominational Christian began a vivid religious conversation at the twenty items or less checkout. He began by asking me if I could answer a question of his. Thinking he was just going to ask where the charcoal bruquettes are, I told him to ask away. However, the next words out of his mouth were: "If Jesus were to come back today, would you be ready? Are your sins forgiven? Are you living a new life through the Holy Spirit? Have you experienced a baptism by total immersion?" I told him that I was a Christian, but he was undeterred. Since associates aren't supposed to bring up religion with their customers, I was flummoxed.

Do you have any good work stories?