One Thousand Words on Awkward Exchanges

In the midst of Christmas shopping today, I stopped to have lunch at McDonalds. Not the healthiest choice, but I was craving French fries. Shopping can do that to a person.

Our local McDonalds was recently renovated and is super-duper fancy now. It sports a working fireplace and a bar where people sit on silver stools. That seemed to be where all the single people were eating, so I joined them.

As I read my book and enjoyed by fries dipped in lots of ketchup, I witnessed an exchange between a young worker who was sweeping the floor and an elderly customer.

The customer approached the girl sweeping and handed her two dollars. “Merry Christmas,” he said.

The girl looked confused. She tried to hand the money back to him. I couldn’t hear what she said, but she certainly didn’t act like she wanted the tip.

The man insisted. “No. You keep it. You work hard. Just keep it. Buy yourself something.”

I wondered what she’d be able to get for two dollars, but thought it was a nice gesture. Sweeping the floors at McDonalds can’t be the most fulfilling job and it was nice to see that someone appreciated the worker.

But the girl was just as stubborn as the customer. She kept trying to return the money to him. Finally he just walked away and left her holding the bills. She followed him and tried one more time to give it back. It was quite the battle of wills.

I don’t know for sure, but I think he won. I’m pretty certain I saw the girl finally put the money in her pocket, but by that time they were on the other side of the restaurant.

I kept thinking about the encounter after I returned to my Christmas shopping. I’m guessing that McDonalds has a corporate policy that workers aren’t allowed to accept tips. The girl was probably afraid she’d get in trouble of she took the money the customer offered her.

But I’d be willing to bet that making the customer happy is one of the tenets of the restaurant too. And that customer dearly wanted to give the sweeping girl a tip. He wasn’t going to be satisfied until she took it.

I found myself wishing that, after the first attempt to return it, the worker had the wherewithal to accept the money with a smile and a thank you. She then could have just put it in the Ronald McDonald House donation bucket.

It made me sad that she didn’t have the basic skills to handle the situation smoothly and make everyone happy. Is that something that comes with age? Would have been as awkward if someone had tried to tip me back when I was working at Fayva Shoe Store in high school?

Or is that ability something you’re born with? If that girl is sweeping the floors at McDonalds in twenty years and someone offers her a tip, would she handle it the exact same way?

I don’t know, but maybe McDonalds should offer their employees “grace under fire” training.

In other tales of awkward exchanges while shopping…

As I was walking into a store today, I overheard a woman talking to her companion in the parking lot. She was complaining, very loudly, that the car parked in front of her had backed into her car.

“Look at that! They backed right into me. That car backed right into my car.”

I glanced as I walked by, and it did appear that the PT Cruiser was parked extremely close to the front of her Ford Fiesta, but I couldn’t see any damage. And the car was backed into the space, so it looked more like the loud woman had driven into the space in back of the Cruiser.

But it wasn’t any of my business, so I went shopping. (Bystander effect, anyone?)

As I shopped, I heard the woman again. She had come back into the store and was still talking about the car that had backed into her car. She was very indignant.

I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I attempted to leave the store. The woman was standing at the front door and asking everyone who walked out if the PT Cruiser was their car. She stopped me and demanded, “Is that your car? The silver one? The license plate ends in 893.”

She was so intense that I found myself feeling guilty even though it wasn’t my car. I babbled, “No, I’m parked over in front of the grocery store.” Why did I offer so much information? She didn’t have any authority and I didn’t have to tell her where I was parked.

She looked me up and down and I guess she decided I looked honest, because she let me leave.

But what would I have done if she hadn’t believed me and stood in my way? Or what if it had been my car? She didn’t have the right to stop me, or anyone, from leaving the store. Why did she feel entitled to accost people just because someone may have bumped her ugly little car a tiny bit?

Again, self-preservation kicked in and I left before she located the offender. I didn’t want to get in the middle of that mess. But I wonder what happened. Did she find the driver? Did they get into a fight? She looked tough and she was really bent out of shape, or to use my new favorite word her pissocity level was through the roof. I wouldn’t have wanted to fight her.

Or did a store employee finally wise up that she wasn’t good for business and tell the woman that she couldn’t confront people so aggressively inside the store?

If so, I hope the Dollar Store employees get the “grace under fire” training that McDonalds workers don’t, because dealing with that Ford Fiesta woman would have required a lot of tact, and maybe a good right hook.


One thought on “One Thousand Words on Awkward Exchanges

  1. Pingback: One Thousand Words on How McDonald’s Has Ruined Their Shakes | One Thousand Words Project

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