Once upon a time, in a retail store not so far away, I was working at the customer service desk of a major retailer. I was a manager at the time, but the store was busy so I was helping out at the desk.
The store I was working at had just started cashing payroll checks just a few short weeks ago. A woman walked up to me and handed me a paycheck from Staples and told me she’d like to cash it.
Now, the way the check cashing worked is we had to run the check through the register so that the check reader could read the check number and determine if the check could be cashed. I have no idea what criteria were used to determine whether or not a check could be cashed. All I know is that the register determined whether or not we could.
So I accepted the lady’s check and ran it through the register. It was declined. I tried again thinking that maybe the check wasn’t read correctly. It was denied again.
I informed that lady that I wouldn’t be able to cash her check. This obviously dampened the woman’s mood.
“I’ve had a check cashed here before. Now all of a sudden you can’t cash my checks?” she said caustically.
“I apologize, ma’am, but the register has declined your check and there’s nothing I can do about it.” I explained unhelpfully. There really was nothing I could do. We were forbidden from overriding the register’s decision to decline a check.
“Is it because I’m black?” she asked stupidly.
I was shocked. She could see perfectly well that the register had declined the check because there was a display facing her that said so. I had also never been accused of racism before. I’m not racist and it would never occur to me to deny somebody service based on any physical attributes a person possessed.
“Ma’am, I assure you that the register has no idea what color you are. I apologize again, but if the register denies the check there’s nothing I can do,” I tried again.
“I wanna talk to a manager,” she demanded.
Now, at this particular time, the managers at the store I worked at had a choice between wearing a dress shirt and tie or wearing a polo shirt underneath a company vest. I hate dress shirts and ties, so I always wore a polo shirt and a vest. I can see how that might be somewhat confusing, but the name badge I was wearing clearly stated that I was a manager.
“I am a manger, ma’am,” I told her.
“No, you’re not. You’re wearing a vest. Managers don’t wear vests. Get me a manager,” she angrily declared.
I gave her a look that clearly asked, “Are you fucking serious?” but she didn’t budge. So I left the service desk and found a manager who wasn’t wearing a vest. I told him what was going on and was rewarded with the same, “Are you fucking serious?” look I had given the customer just a minute before.
“I know,” I said, exasperated, “but she refuses to believe I’m a manager. Can you go tell this woman we can’t cash her check?”
Now, this other manager was running a register because, as I said, we were busy. So I had to find someone to take over for him so he could come tell this obstinate woman that we couldn’t cash her check.
After I had found someone to take over for the other manager, we both headed back over to the customer service desk where I stood behind the other manager while I had to listen to her tell him that I was a racist. The manager explained to her that I was in fact NOT racist and offered to try to cash the check again for her. He signed on to the register and ran the check through. It was denied again. He explained to her the same thing I had. The register denied it and there’s nothing we can do for her.
So what happened next? How would this woman explode? Well, she said, “Okay,” and took her check back and left the store.
What the fuck?
That other manager was just as white as I am (I actually think he was whiter) but why was he not accused of racism?
What a bitch.
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