When I first started my job at my local retail store, I thought it would just be a temporary source of income. Unfortunately, days turned to months, turned to years. Today, I'm a manager, but still stuck here droning on day to day dealing with less than favorable co-workers, other members of management, and worst of all... customers.
You've all heard the stories and I can tell you they are all very true and equally horrifying. I've had to clean up dirty baby diapers out of shopping carts, answer questions about departments I was not at all familiar with, and dealt with unruly customers of all ages, races, and genders. I can tell you right here and now, I'd rather clean up a hundred dirty diapers by hand than deal with what is known as a "Karen."
My latest experience with a Karen on the clock ended with my arm in the crazy bitch's mouth! Seriously, this 50-year-old soccer mom sunk her teeth right into my arm! Why would a person do this, you ask? Well, I suppose it's best to start way back to the beginning.
I won't reveal the name of my store, as to do so publicly would jeopardize my employment. While that might sound like a good thing, I can assure you my problems would only increase. These people don't mess around, and if they knew that I was to mention them by name I would face serious legal ramifications.
That being said, I first got my job with the retail giant (which I will henceforth refer to as SaveMart) in my local area when I was 19 years old. I had attempted college before that, and ended up, unfortunately, dropping out after my first year, so I found myself desperate for any kind of income as my dreams of being a theater star were dashed. After about a week of waiting and biting my nails, I finally got a call back for an interview.
I was interviewed by an eccentric fellow named George, whom I got the impression was a fun guy to hang out with on the weekends (even though he was a 40-year-old father). The interview went great, and I was hired almost immediately. I was only hired to be a temporary associate as the store itself was expanding, and they needed the help for a simple 7 am-3 pm Monday to Friday schedule.
If I'm being honest, I loved my job those first six months. The work was simple, the pay was decent, and my co-workers (other temps around my age) were pretty cool. It was during this time that I met my best friend Bill, a gaming nerd that I connected with on a spiritual level.
As time went on, the enjoyment I got from my job diminished, and as my temporary employment was near its end, my future became uncertain. I was very well-liked amongst my fellow associates and I had no problems with management, so I was 90% sure I would be hired on full time once the temp work was finished. That confidence, however, was thrown into question the day before the decision of my employment status, when I encountered my first Karen.
As I stated before, I was hired to be a temporary associate tasked with helping to expand the store. This means I didn't really interact with the public directly, and if someone had a question for me, I could simply direct them to the appropriate associate for that particular department. This experience, however, caught me completely off guard.
I was stocking some action figures in the toy department when I suddenly heard the sound of a throat being cleared. Kneeling, I looked up to see a rather large woman in a yellow sundress holding two Barbie dolls. "Can I help you?" I asked, knowing very well that I couldn't help her as this was not my primary department and I knew next to nothing about Barbie dolls, but we were trained to always say that line.
"Can you explain to me why there are so many of these colored dolls with the Barbies?" she said in a slightly irritated (and irritating) tone. I took another look at the dolls and noticed that one was African-American and the other was Hispanic, both Barbie brand mind you but not the classic Caucasian version this woman was used to. I, myself, am a mix of African-American and Mexican blood, so I dreaded having this conversation.
"Is there a problem?" I responded, trying my best to keep cool.
"Yes there is a problem, smart ass," she answered, holding up the dolls higher as if I couldn't see them. "Barbie is a classic American brand that is meant to show the beauty of the average American girl. Where are the blonde hair and white skin? Barbie is not brown, so I want to know why these things are here?"
I could not believe that she just said that. I scoffed and replied with, "Excuse me?" The tone of my voice gained some bass and I could see the shit-eating grin slightly form in the corner of her mouth. Was this lady serious right now?
I took a breath and tried to deescalate the situation. "I'm sorry ma'am, but if we are out of stock of the specific type of doll you are looking for, you'll have to talk to this department's manager." She responded by rolling her eyes.
"No there are plenty of proper Barbies in stock," she said. "The problem is there should be more instead of these non-Barbies." She then threw the dolls on the floor and got right in my face. "Now get me your damn manager, boy."
I could feel my jaw clench, and my hands form into fists. I was dangerously close to knocking this old racist bitch to the floor, but luckily my direct manager, Jim, stepped in. "Hey, Mike, why don't you go take your break," he said, "I'll take care of our valued customer here."
Valued customer? Was he serious? It took me a minute, but I soon realized he was merely trying to deescalate as I had failed to.
As I walked away, I looked back and I could see Karen yelling at Jim, who was miraculously keeping his cool. It wasn't really surprising as he'd been with the company for years, so he surely knew how to deal with people like this. The next day, Jim gave me my final job performance review and brought up the incident from the day before.
"Look, Mike," he began, "I know that must have been an extremely uncomfortable situation for you yesterday, and you have my sincerest apologies, but here at SaveMart we have very strict policies concerning our customers." My stress level began to rise quickly. Was I going to lose my job over this?
"That being said," he continued, "You've been an exceptional associate, and to my knowledge, this was the first and only incident regarding a customer from you. So as long as we have an understanding that the customer is always right, on behalf of SaveMart I would like to extend a full-time employment opportunity to you. I gave a big sigh of relief.
"Oh man," I said. "Thanks, Jim, thanks so much!" What should have been a great day, the start of a full-time job that would help me stay financially stable until I moved on to something better, would be the last good feeling I'd have about SaveMart for the next 10 years.
I was hired to be a cart collector. You know those guys you see in the parking lots of all those retail stores that collect all the carts and bring them back inside, yeah that was me, and it is not a fun job. I would say, honestly, it was the worst job I'd experienced thus far.
I was outside in the elements, on the hottest summer days and the coldest winter nights. The parking lot was huge, so I had a lot of ground to cover. I had to make sure all the carts were inside before I was allowed to clock out, and if there were a certain number of carts outside while I was on the clock I would hear an earful.
Despite all of that, the absolute worst part of this job was that I had to interact directly with the public. Needless to say, I've dealt with many Karens over the following ten years. I thought things were changing for the better when last month, I was finally promoted to department manager in electronics, which was a goal that had eluded me the entire time.
As it would turn out, having a managerial role in retail makes you the prime target for the most vicious Karens ever. The most dreaded words for me from day one were "Department Manager Mike, you're needed for customer assistance." This happened day one, and I hoped that I'd get lucky and it was a reasonable 20-year-old with questions about which gaming console he should purchase, but in my gut, I knew better.
When I arrived, I nearly threw up. It was her, the old racist Karen from ten years ago. She was in a very heated argument with one of the electronics associates, Kenny.
Keeping in mind that we are in the middle of a pandemic, here was this massive 50-year-old woman right in Kenny's face. She was wearing no mask of course, because she's a Karen, and spit was flying all over his face. All employees are required to wear masks, but a shocking number of people don't seem to understand how they work. Wearing masks do not protect you from potential infection, they are meant to keep your germs to yourself, so Kenny was freaking out.
To make matters worse, Karen looked like absolute shit compared to the first time I'd seen her. I almost didn't recognize her with her once blonde now gray Karen-cut, blotchy looking skin, and tired-looking eyes. The only reason I knew it was her was because of her stress-inducing voice and demeanor that I had not forgotten even after all of these years.
With years worth of experience in my brain, I had hoped that this time around I'd be able to deescalate this conflict much more successfully than our previous encounter. Swallowing my pride, I said the words, "Hey, Kenny why don't you go take a break and I'll take care of our valued customer." I nearly threw up as I said this.
"Whatever man," he responded... the rude little shit. I'd deal with him later, but for now, I had to slay a monster. As Kenny walked away, I forced a smile and turned my attention to Karen. "How can I help you, Ma'am?"
"Don't you ma'am me boy," she responded. I could feel my eye twitch as she said this. "I see this joke of a store is still hiring stupid little shits like you." Clearly, she remembered me as well.
"What do you need, Ma'am?" I said, getting more irritated.
"I don't need a damn thing from you," she responded. "Just get me your damn manager!" A shit-eating grin formed in my mouth.
"Ma'am," I said, taking a satisfied breath, "I AM the manager." A smug smile formed on my face as the look of shock and bafflement formed on her face.
"Oh you've got to be joking!" she said in a nasty tone. "So not only will they hire any monkey off of the street, but now they're making you management too? No wonder this store has gone to shit!"
That was the last straw. "Ma'am you're going to have to leave," I said, completely discarding my fake helpful manager voice. She merely stood there and crossed her arms.
My patience was now gone. "Get out of my store!" I demanded, completely done with taking her shit. She then took a step toward me and shoved me to the floor. "Why don't you MAKE me, BOY!"
The police were called shortly after, and they arrived to escort her out of the store. Surprisingly, she fought the police. She struggled and thrashed around like a wild animal, but before they were able to slap the cuffs on her, she broke free and tackled me to the floor.
This 50-year-old woman flattened me like a quarterback, knocking the wind right out of my lungs! She then proceeded to scream like a psycho as she slapped and clawed at me like a bear. I covered my face with my arms, at which point she grabbed my left arm and bit right into it!
"Aw, shit!" I screamed as the officers were finally able to restrain her. I was immediately rushed to the hospital. She bit a huge chunk right out of me, and I needed stitches to close up the wound.
Hell of a first day as manager right? Well, things didn't end there. That would not be the last time I'd see her.
Later that night, I was having a beer with Bill and George, and after they left, there was a knock at the door. I thought maybe one of them had left something behind, so I walked to the front door and looked through the peephole, verifying that it was Bill. He looked odd though, he was looking down, and I initially thought he must've been drunk, which was unlike him to get done in by a single beer.
As I opened the door, I realized something was very wrong. He was standing there, his head still down, but I realized someone was standing behind him. Suddenly, the person standing behind him shoved him right at me
His body was limp as he crashed into mine, and we both went down. I screamed when I realized there was a knife sticking out of his back! I rolled him off of me and looked up to see his killer.
It was her... it was Karen! Not only was she not in jail, but she had somehow tracked me down! What the hell is happening here, I thought. She walked toward me, a blank look on her sickly looking face.
Terrified, I crawled back away from her. She stopped when she got to Bill's lifeless body, stepping on his back as she yanked the knife right out of him. She never broke her line of sight of me as she did this, and as she held the knife once again, she continued to advance toward me.
"What the hell do you want?" I asked, panic making my voice crack.
"I need to see the manager," she answered, her voice raspy and demonic sounding. That same shit-eating grin from all of those years ago formed, and then eventually expanded into an evil looking smile.
I finally managed to get to my feet, but before I was able to run away she swung her knife, slashing me across the back. "Shit!" I screamed in pain as I took off running toward the stairs leading to the second floor. I ran as fast as I could and realized she was chasing me, damn near matching my speed!
I began to panic even more as I heard her bloodthirsty scream of rage as she charged toward me, but I managed to make it up the stairs, to my bedroom and slam the door shut before she got to me. I locked it and backed away. She pounded away on it, creating a loud and terrifying boom with each strike.
I would have called 911 to report the psychopath trying to kill me, but I realized that I had left my phone downstairs. She kept screaming and screaming with every slam. "You have a customer in need of assistance!" she screamed, followed by an insane cackle.
Soon, I began to hear the sounds of cracking. She was going to break through the door! I began to lose my shit and was desperately trying to figure out what to do.
I looked all around the room to find something.... anything to defend myself with. Then I noticed the window. I could climb out but there'd be nowhere to go. I couldn't get down without jumping or dropping down and breaking something.
I decided to open the window and quietly hide under my bed. I dabbed my hand on my back where the knife wound was and wiped some blood on the curtain and ledge to make it look like I climbed out. Eventually, she managed to break through the door and I could see her pink jogging pants and running shoes slowly walk into the room.
I covered my mouth as to not be heard by her and watched as she took steps toward the window. Silently, I slid from under the bed and slowly approached her from behind. It was at that moment that I had a choice to make.
I could get out of there, and risk her catching up to me, or I could end this right now. Feeling anxiety over the situation and a desire of vengeance for Bill, I charge right at her, but she turned around quickly, slamming her massive fist right into my face.
As I fell to the floor once again, she mounted me and slammed the knife right into my left shoulder. I screamed in pain as she ripped it right back out and tried to do it again. Luckily, I grabbed a hold of her arm with both of my own, desperately trying to keep her from driving the knife into me again.
As we wrestled, I managed to manipulate the position of the knife until the blade was facing her and I drove it right into her throat. Just like that, she stopped fighting, and I kicked her off of me. Somehow, she managed to get back to her feet, and with a hateful look in her eyes, she pulled the stuck knife right out of her neck, gripping it once again as blood shot out of the wound.
In a last-ditch effort, I charged her once again, this time shoving her massive frame right out of the window. She stuck the knife in my back as I used all of my strength to get her out of my house. As she tumbled out, I could hear her shriek like a beast one final time.
Her scream was cut short as I heard a loud thud. I poked my head out of the window and saw her large, lifeless body. She laid there face up, a look of horror on her face as her dead eyes stared right at me.
I once again paid a visit to the emergency room, receiving even more stitches. Unfortunately, SaveMart has shit medical insurance, so I was going to take a financial hit for this. On the bright side, I thought, I wouldn't ever have to deal with this psychotic woman ever again.
Unfortunately, she was only a single problem in a much wider issue. You may have noticed an increased number of Karen incidents, much more than ever. Unfortunately, my local SaveMart seems to be a breeding place for them, as more and more of them show up daily, all nearly as insane as the one who tried to kill me (the name of whom I will not disclose as it would link back to my employers, which would not bode well for me).
It's bad enough that I was not allowed to take paid medical leave, even with all of my injuries and mental trauma of seeing Bill's dead body, but now I have to deal with this regularly. Did I die and go to Hell and this is my punishment? Trust me, if I could leave I would, but there are issues, which I won't get into right now, that prevents me from doing so.
That's a story for another day, but right now I have to get back to work. This was my lunch break, but now it's been cut short as I've been called to another customer assistance issue in electronics. This is god damn ridiculous and unacceptable, and I have half a mind to call corporate and demand to speak with the president of the company.
Wish me luck.
Written by NerdxCorexCreep