(If you’re new to “Before I Quit My Day Job” you might want to start with the entry entitled “Monday Morning.” If you’re a returning customer- I mean reader- welcome back and read on!)
When I ask if you would like to donate a dollar to Autism research, there are two and only two responses I want to hear: yes or no. I’m not even asking for a “Yes please,” or a “No, thank you” (I know better than to expect such courtesy at The Shop); a simple “yes” or “no” will suffice.
Nonetheless, I rarely, if ever, receive a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, I get a variety of non-committal mumbles, complaints, and downright abuse. As much as I try to establish eye contact with my customers, I have to focus on the register because the computers date from 20,000 B.C.E. (give or take a few millennia) and they tend to do strange things when faced with anything but the simplest of transactions. This means that if you respond to my question, “Would you like to donate a dollar to Autism research?” by shaking or nodding your head, I’m probably not going to see you, and I’m going to have to ask again.
This also means that if you mumble something like, “Ah’s fine,” I don’t know whether you’re trying to say, “I’m fine” (which translates to a “no”) or “That’s fine,” (which translate to a “yes”).
Trust me: I don’t want to ask you to donate any more than you want to be asked. And yes, I’m aware that just about every shop south of Washington Ave. is asking for Autism donations right now. You have told me every day this week, and so have about three hundred other customers. That doesn’t change the fact that we are required, by Corporate, to ask each and every customer to donate a dollar to Autism research, even if they’re a six year old just buying candy or an elderly woman who can’t hear properly.
Corporate tracks our results. Head Boss gets a print out every day which she highlights and sticks in the break room to congratulate us (if our store is in the lead) or to shame us, as she did last week, if we drop below second place.
We held the lead for three weeks running (I like to think this was due to the fact that I did a Development Apprenticeship at Walnut Street Theatre back when I had A Life and as such, I’m utilizing my fundraising skills) but really it’s just because we’re one of the biggest of The Shops. As such, Head Boss is determined to win, and promised us a Popsicle party if we do, but last week we started slipping.
Why, you might ask, with such a seasoned development diva running the Front End? I blame the customers. And not just the ones who don’t want to give a dollar (even though they’ve just spent $200 on scrapbook supplies) but the ones who tell me exactly why they won’t give a dollar.
- “I’m putting my kid through Catholic School.”
- “They already got me” (When faced with this response, I’m always tempted to ask, “Who’s ‘they’ and what did they get?” Sometimes I even find myself ever looking for a gun wound. I half expect the patient to start writhing around on the floor but thankfully, this has yet to happen).
- “I’m here every day” (so I take it that’s a “no” then?).
- “I’m a teacher” (once again, that doesn’t really answer my question. I suppose you’re trying to tell me that you have already paid your debt to society but I’m not really sure, seeing as you’re using your Teachers Discount Card for bachelorette party supplies and I’m pretty sure those are not intended for your class of second graders).
Sometimes customers think they’re funny and say things like, “How about I give you my son? I think he got autism.” Am I supposed to laugh at that? Methinks no. The all time best, however, by far, was a response I got last week: “How ‘bout autism ‘uh give ‘uh dollah to me?”
I didn’t even know where to begin with that one. Sometimes I try to educate my customers, like when little kids say, “Mom, what’s autism?” I smile, give them a quick one-line response and hand them the colorful flyer we’re supposed to stuff into each customer’s bag. But “How ‘bout autism ‘uh give ‘uh dollah to me?” I was at a loss for words.
On the bright side, at least I didn’t have to stand there playing the guessing game, wondering if the inflection in the customer’s incoherent mumble meant “yes” or “no.” This was simple a “no,” loud and clear.