The store was dead. We were winding down and trying to close up for the evening. I was in the middle of writing the fresh pack production list for tomorrow when one of our team members waved me down. She told me a man had a question for me. So, I walked over to see what was going on.
I was met by a man partially wearing a bandana over his nose and mouth. It wasn’t not actually covering his face. It was too small, like a poor man’s belly dancer veil that only goes down to the top of his chin. In addition to his strange, tiny mask, his eyes were bloodshot and full of agitation. I got the feeling I know how this is going to go. But I asked him how I can help.
He told me that he would like to order one vegan buffalo chicken wrap. At that moment, we only had the regular buffalo chicken wrap. We weren’t making the vegan version. And we are not a restaurant that takes custom orders for whatever food someone would like. He knew all of this information before he asked. I gave a quick but polite response trying to explain why we didn’t have the vegan version of the wrap and I received a blank stair in return.
I tried to clarify our department’s capabilities once more because I didn’t want him to feel like I was being vague. We have several venues with limited capacity for items like pizza, sandwiches and hamburgers. We will accommodate polite people within reason but almost all of our food is packaged for mass production. Single item orders aren’t one of our capabilities.
He just kept staring with his tiny bandana mask and annoyed, empty, alcoholic gaze, so I just stopped talking and waited for his reply. His body language oozed aggression. Finally, after a moment or two, he said, “So, what you are saying? You don’t have them and the order is impossible?”
“Yes, I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
His eyes doubled in size showing his immense displeasure with the fact I would not cave to his demand while also letting me know that’s what I should have told him from the get go. He stormed off without saying a word. I felt for the next unlucky fool to run across the hangry man’s path.
The vibe I got from him was unnerving, like he might be someone prone to take their aggression out on an adopted shih tzu waiting at home. He seemed like a man unhinged, running wild in darkness, looking for vegan buffalo wraps in strange places. If we could have made it for him, would the dog have been spared? Would his rage and insecurity be quelled? Probably not. Because it wasn’t really about the sandwich. It was about power. He wanted our team to sacrifice for him. His disregard and fury seemed fitting after a long day in an even longer week. But it made him seem tiny and sad. So, why not pile it on? Steel is hardened by flame.
We cleaned up the department and got out of there just fine. I’m heading back into the belly of the beast in a few hours. Will we make custom sandwiches five minutes before we close tonight? No, we won’t. But that’s less about power and more about a principle when our life on the grocery line and assholes are making absurd demands during the waning hours of work.