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Things I Wish I Could Say…

July 10, 2012

… or, How Not to Shop for Plants

[Note: we grow our lettuce plants (and kohlrabi, cabbage and so on) in soil cubes in large wooden boxes. To sell, we pack them in old newspapers or boxes, in whatever number the customer needs – no plastic 12-packs at the Teeny Tiny Village Nursery!]

  *

“Good morning, ten butterhead lettuces, please.”

“Sure, here you go!” *reaching for the lettuce plants*

“But they’re so small! Don’t you have bigger ones?”

“If we had bigger ones, don’t you thing we’d put them out for sale, dumbass?”

 *

“Fifteen kohlrabi plants, please.”

“I’m sorry, we’re out of kohlrabi right now.”

“Then what is this?” *pointing to a different shelf*

“That’s cauliflower. And there’s no need to talk to me with this ‘there’s some right here, stupid’ tone. I believe I know my plants a little better than you, and if I say we’re out, we’re out.

 *

“But they’re so small. I don’t want such small ones.”

“Well, I’m sorry I lost my magic wand!”

 *

“I’d like twelve crisphead lettuces.”

“Certainly.” *reaching for the crispheads*

“But the ones down here are much bigger. Can’t I have some of those?”

“That’s Lollo Bionda. As it says right there on the sign. Can’t you read?

 *

“Ah, now the plants are nice and big again. Last time I bought some, they were so small!” They grew just fine, but they were so small…” *whine, whine, whine*

“I fail to see what the problem is. If they grew fine, what the hell are you whining about?”

 *

“Twenty-five butterheads, please, and this time I want bigger ones than last time.”

“Let me just go into the back for a new box, this one is almost empty.”

“Yes, but get big plants! I don’t want any small ones.”

“I’ll see what I can do, sir, I don’t know what size they’re right now.”

“Well, I want big ones.”

”I said I’ll see what I can do! I can’t do a bloody thing about how big they are! They are however big they are and your whining won’t make them bigger!”

*I go into the back to get a new box of lettuce plants*

“Ah, now these are a nice size. The last ones you sold me were so small, two of them died.”

“I’m sorry about that, sir, and I said I can’t do a bloody thing about how big they are, so shut up already!”

 *

“I need sixteen crispheads –”

*I reach for the crispheads*

“- and twelve butterheads, eight kohlrabis, four oakleafs, two cabbages, nine brokkolis –“

“Sorry, ma’am, that was sixteen crispheads, twelve… what?”

“Twelve butterheads, eight kohlrabis, four oakleafs, two cabbages, nine –”

“OK, can you just shut up already? One thing after another! There’s no bloody way I can remember all that!”

 *

“Forty butterheads, please.”

“Sure, let me just grab a box for you!” *I start counting*

“I planted sixty last time, and the sparrows got half of them – I had no idea sparrows would eat lettuce, but there’s not a bit left of those plants, so now I need to buy a net to protect them, and I went to the farm supply store, but the smallest they had was 40 m², I don’t need that much, but–”

”Can you just shut up already? How am I supposed to count and talk with you at the same time?!”

 *

“Ten butterheads, and give me the nicest, biggest plants.”

“Certainly, sir.” *I reach into the box of butterhead plants*

“No, no, no, the ones there at the back are much bigger, why won’t you give me those? And this one, and that one there, I want these!”

“They’re approximately 3 mm bigger, and if I dig around in the box to pick out one plant here and one plant there, I will break the soil cubes on either side of them and thus make them unsellable!”

[I did actually say this to a customer yesterday, phrased a little more politely of course.]

“I have been a regular customer here for ten years, I should get the best plants!”

“Even if you’d been a regular customer here for a hundred years, I wouldn’t ruin ten plants just to sell you ten – and then listen to other customers’ complaints that our plants are too small because I had to throw out half of them thanks to people like you!”

 *

Just a hint: being fussy and rude while buying lettuce plants is a surefire way to make me forget our “buy ten, get one free” policy. Whereas polite, pleasant customers will often get some of the “runts” or plants with broken soil cubes for free. (They usually grow fine, but I don’t want to ask money for them any more. But with rude customers? I’d sooner throw those plants in the thrash than give them away for free!)

 *

A few not lettuce-related ones:

*after chattering at me for about twenty minutes, keeping me from more urgent tasks and buying very little*

“… oh, and by the way, your strawberry plants are very dry.”

“Thanks for letting me know, I’ll water them as soon as I have time. Meaning, as soon as you shut up and get lost so I can get back to what I was doing! Which was – surprise, surprise! – watering!

 *

*I’m running around, watering frantically, and have just stopped to serve a few customers* (on summer afternoons, I’m usually working alone.)

“Your zinnias are very dry.”

“I’m sorry, my invisible twin didn’t show up to work today!”

 *

*I’m on my way into the shop with a customer to ring her up. A second customer approaches*

“Good afternoon, ma’am, I’ll be with you in a moment.”

“I need purple surfinias and –”

“I will be with you in a moment, ma’am, just let me ring up this lady. Jeez, can’t you people listen? Or do I look like two people to you?”

 *

“You smell good.”

“Um, thanks. Please save your compliments for someone closer to your own age. I know you mean to be nice, but you’re about twice as old as me, and that just makes it seem creepy.

*

Haha, can you tell I’m a little frustrated right now? Most of my customers are nice, and for the most part I enjoy serving them, but if I hear one more complaint about too-small lettuce plants, I may just scream. Actually, I have been getting a little snippy with a few of those fussy customers, but luckily, I have awesome bosses who know the customer is not always right, and occasionally a jerk, and I know they’ll be on my side. This conversation was very reassuring for me – I was new, and still a little insecure, and counting out celeriac plants for a customer.

“… eight, nine -”

“- I said give me big ones! That one is too small!”

“I don’t really see a difference, but no problem -” *I exchange the plant.

“And you counted wrong!”

“I’m sure I didn’t. This is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.”

“Don’t get rude with me! I’ve been shopping here for years, but if you continue to behave like this, I will take my business elsewhere!”

*the boss’s wife has silently come up behind us* “Yes, please do!”

 

Sadly, Mrs Rude didn’t take that advice, she is still a regular, and she still lives up to her name.

I love proving her wrong, though. Like this spring. Early in the morning, Mrs Rude comes in, and without so much as a hello, barks at me:

“You cheated me yesterday!”

“Oh, I’m sorry – what happened?”

“You told me pansies were on sale for thirty cents! You charged me too much!”

“You must have misheard that, ma’am, they are thirty-nine cents.”

“No, you said thirty!”

“I’m sure I said thirty-nine, and if you check the coupon book, it says thirty-nine on the coupon, and in fact, it says thirty-nine right here on the poster.

“Hrmpf… grr… umm… hmph… well, that’s right then!”

And with that – without a good-bye, of course – she stalked off. And I enjoyed my little triumph of being able to say exactly what I thought.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 22:03

    Sounds like most of your customers have an issue with size. Compensating for something, mmm-hmm?

    • July 10, 2012 22:13

      Hahaha! Actually, the more obnoxious ones about that issue were men!

  2. July 11, 2012 02:33

    Judging by this post, I think we’d either be really good friends or want to stab each other in real life because I think pretty much exactly on those same lines.

    • July 11, 2012 07:13

      I’m used to people thinking exactly as I do (my best friend and I always say exactly the same things at exactly the same time), so I’m sure we’d get along!

  3. July 13, 2012 01:38

    Oh the joys of retail. Venting is good.

    • July 13, 2012 07:08

      Now I just have to take care not to accidentally actually say these things out loud!

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