The Office Depot Incident

This entry was posted by on Friday, 18 May, 2012 at

I had some things on my mind that are not strictly relevant to this post, other than that I was a little more on edge than usual.  I try to imagine how things might have gone differently if I had been my normal calm, collected self, and I honestly have no idea.

Last week, I went to Office Depot. Immediately upon entering, I was greeted by a young man. In addition to the standard “How are you today”/”Fine” exchange, as I am walking passed, he says to the back of my head, “What brings you to Office Depot today?”

My mind often goes blank when I am put on the spot like that, so it is possible that I could not have told him had I wanted to, which I most certainly did not, so I weakly mumbled, “Stuff…” as I kept on walking.

I quickly found the section of the store that contained what I wanted, and as I am looking at the display, a different Office Depot employee comes up behind me to ask, “What brings you to Office Depot today?” At this point, I am staring directly at what brought me to Office Depot that day, so I was trying to come up with the best way to completely ignore this person’s existence, without, you know, being rude about it. Failing that, I decided just to screw with her. “I want an extended warranty.”

I know that a lot of retail stores require their employees to attempt to upsell extended warranties, which is mostly a way for the company to make more money for absolutely nothing in exchange as the majority of people do not understand, or would even know how to invoke the warranty if they should need it. To be fair, I do not actually know if Office Depot has this policy, so I might have been way off base with this. In any case, she did not get what I meant and I had to repeat my desire for an extended warranty.

“On what?”

“On anything. Doesn’t matter.” I was really starting to get into it. “In fact, if I could just get the extended warranty without having to buy anything, that would be great.”

The whole time I am talking, I am also trying to actually make am informed selection from the display in front of me, but of course, I do not multitask well. The poor girl was thoroughly confused by this point; she was neither playing along nor, more importantly, leaving me alone. I do not exactly remember what she said next. I want to say that she simply reset to the beginning of her script, but in any case, with the next words out of her mouth, I snapped.

“You know what, forget it, I’m leaving,” and I stormed out of there with a parting, “Forget you people,” under my breath. It did not occur to me until afterwards, but by “you people”, I obviously meant “Office Depot employees” and NOT “African Americans”, which the young lady in question unfortunately just happened to be.

I do not lose my temper often, and this was actually fairly benign example. The thing is, angry as I was, I do not remotely blame the poor girl. I actually worried that some manager might have witnessed the exchange form afar and that it would reflect poorly on her semi-quarterly performance review. My problem was that both employees asked me an identical question, which meant that they were acting out some corporate policy, no doubt the result of market research saying that customers should be welcomed and engaged. However, when employees approach me in a store, I can not help feeling that it is because they think that I am going to steal something.

I can naively hope that I may have sent some kind of message up the corporate ladder, but I highly doubt it. I do not dress well, nor do I do not shave often, so if anything came of the incident at all, it was probably, “Some crazy, racist, homeless guy came in ranting about an extended warranty and then ran out.” Maybe in this case they really did think that I was there to steal something, in which case, good job getting rid of me. If not, in the week and a half since this occurred, I have yet to come up with a single thing this woman might have said that would have made my office supply buying experience in any way better.

So what did bring me to Office Depot? It sure as Hell was not for the inane chit-chat.

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