The 12 Days of Retail Christmas: Dancing Dollars

1980's eighties Nordic Track Nordictrack ski machine advertisement excercise equipment
If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked
if we sold this machine, I wouldn't have to be a
writer.  Oh wait, I don't make any money at this either.
When I worked at Sears, my favorite department was Sporting Goods, because it had the fewest "browsers" of any other department when it came to big purchases.  I still remember the guy who came in and asked, "Is this $1800 Nordictrack treadmill your most expensive? Yes? Okay, I'll take two."  Almost $150 in straight commission off a two minute transaction.  I normally took pride in educating my customers as to what features would actually fulfill their needs, but when a guy comes in blabbing into his invisible Bluetooth phone (back in 2002, when it was an odd sight) and is waving his money around like he just don't care, well, why jeopardize easy money?

But there were other factors that made the sporting goods a good gig.  I didn't deal with five dollar transactions, or clothing returns, or cleaning dressing rooms, or stocking tons of merchandise, or signing tons of merchandise with sales tags.  The bad aspects: days with almost no customers.  Retail dies in January, if not only for the fitness enthusiasts buying their exercise equipment, and by February, there were days where I might not complete a single transaction.  And that was tough, considering my pay was based off commission.  

huge ugly old grandma granny panties underwear "barely there"
"Do you make this in a
style that goes all the
way to my neck?"  
So when customers came by and asked, "can I buy my 'old-grandma' underwear at this register?"  I would usually comply, even though I didn't receive any commission off the "softer side of Sears."  I would agree to this for many reasons: boredom, good customer service, potential for a future customer, potential date opportunities (the older ladies just loved me), and the fact that I just like talking to people.   I like people's stories.  Until they get annoying or long winded or weird or bigoted.  And I dealt with a lot of all of those aforementioned strange aspects of people's psyches in the three minutes it would take to sell them some vacuum bags.  

During the holiday season, the smart customers veered from the beaten path and avoided long lines by bringing their presents to my empty register.  I used to joke with them, "Sure, I can ring that up, just know they don't teach us how to fold clothes over here, so you get my bachelor pad method of wadding them up in the bag."  Nobody ever cared.  They were happy to avoid the long lines and get their gift giving over with.  This next unfortunate transaction started this way.  

This guy, however, wasn't buying any gifts.  Just six packages of tighty-whiteys.  All white BVDs.  I don't like buying underwear, but this guy was unabashed, and especially proud of his purchase.  "Man I love these underwear."  "Are you a boxer or brief guy?"  
retro old vintage historic BVD underwear ad advertisement "next to myself I like BVD best"
On especially depressive days, I actually like BVDs more than myself.  

I looked at him for the first time, afraid another odd date opportunity was coming my way, but the guy didn't look homosexual. I know there isn't a "look" but most straight guys pride themselves on their "gaydar."  This guy was young, tall, well manicured and blond (nice gay attributes) but the only look he really held was a-hole.  A college frat boy with designer jeans, a too small Abercombie shirt and that stench of egocentric love for self, that only these man-childs can master.  

"Uh, that'll be $36 dollars...dude.  And um, I'm not really a briefs guy."  I said, hoping my clear disdain for his line of questioning would make him pay the money and run.  

"Yeah, I didn't used to be.  But these ones are great for tearing.  The elastic or whatever tears really easily, and so I have to buy new packages all the time," he said as he laid down a huge stack of money.

I was counting his dollars, all ones, and was around 28, when it started to dawn on me why he would want his underwear to be *ripable*, and then he said it, "those are my dancing dollars."  

I stopped.  "What? Your dancing dollars?"

"Yeah, I do a lot of parties, bachelorette, costume themed things, and these are my tips.  I use the small change ones for new underwear.  I always tear them off at the end of my act, or when I'm in the act with one of the ladies afterwar..."

I instantly dropped the money down on the sales desk.  I looked at the guy with my "what the hell" face, hoping I could burn his soul with my repugnant eyes.  

dirty gross disgusting messy US American dollar bill George Washington 1 buck One dollar"Don't worry, I sanitized them." 

I typed in the exact dollar amount into my register without counting out the rest, grabbed a discarded receipt as a germ insulation glove and placed his money in the till, all the while holding my face of utter contempt.    

I gave him his receipt and said, "don't ever bring your dirty money to my register ever again."  

"Dude, it's cool..."

"No, no it's not.  Please leave," and I threw his 6 BVD packages into a bag tossed it on the table, and grabbed the hand sanitizer under the register and dumped exaggerated ounces of the cleanser onto my hands to show how disgusted I was at this guy.  
It was one of my worst moments of customer service.  I've patiently sat and listened to old men luridly tell tales of wooing women in their prime, or mildly swear at me for Sears' ineptitude, or be told offensive jokes, or idiotically uniformed political banter, and was still been able to say, "thank you for shopping at Sears."  But this was personal.  For the most part, I don't care what anyone does in the privacy of their own home, but that doesn't mean I have to be a fan of those actions.  This guy, thinking we could be buddy-buddy because he gets drunk women to throw money at his junk, pushed me over my retail false face limit.  I don't want to know about your exploits, and I sure as hell don't want your sick groin area dollars in my hands, and I let him know that.  

As he was leaving, I heard him say, "Whatever dude, I can get these anywhere, see if Sears ever gets my money again."  

"Sears doesn't need your unclean money, pal,"  I yelled out just loud enough to make his exit more humiliating.  

button: I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one!"  State of Texas business not people I often wonder if those privately owned businesses that refuse service to jerks and rude people are better off than those that say, "the customer is always right."  The customer is usually wrong.  But I guess when the goal is to obtain as much money as possible regardless of where it came from, then you have to accept that some of your customers are going to be shady gross people.  And most of these businesses get their money from unclean places, so expecting some kind of morality or ethics from a company is silly.  

However, I'm a human.  And I will always attempt to treat people humanely; that doesn't, however, mean I have to let somebody walk all over me, or treat me like a machine.  Cause even if we give these corporations the same rights as humans, they will always be a soulless money making machines.  And sometimes you have to rage against the machine...or the male stripper customer in this instance, and say, "I don't need your stinking money."

*some contention over the potential spelling of my made up word.  See comments below.   


  1. I was always amazed at how dirty money is. You see it all working at the bank. The only time that I actually had the same reaction was when I found a bill with blood on it in my till. Ugh! Didn't even want to think about where or how. Much more common and almost equally as aggrivating was when the bills were soaked in patchouli.

    1. "Get your patchouli stink outta my store!" --sorry, that's one of my all time favorite lines from the movie High Fidelity.

      I never got bloody money, but I did have an old guy on blood thinners scratch his head and he dripped blood all over my counter and then left a trail all the way out the mall. I finally caught up to him and had to tell him he was bleeding. "Oh thank you, young man."

  2. I didn't know if I was going to be able to finish the story after the word "ripable"--I was laughing too hard. But, I managed. Keep writing, Chris!

    1. I was angry at spell check for telling me "ripable" wasn't a word. Well, you know what Websters Dictionary, it's time to add it to your list of new to be ripped. Ex. The phone book is not easily ripable unless you are apart of the Powerteam.

    2. Technically, it might be "rippable," otherwise it's a long "a" sound.

      You're welcome,

      Your annoying copy editor reader ;)

  3. I'm not quite sure which is more disturbing: BVD earnings or the fact that you picked up women buying "old grandma" underwear. Either way, I feel compelled to go back home from the office and take another shower.

    1. I was metaphorically speaking, Michael. The older folk liked my customer service (probably because I reminded them of their sons before they started popping the pills). I only went on one date with a customer, and she apparently didn't know it was a date. Although I could've gone out with a couple older ladies, I pretended I didn't know they were hitting on me.