Sadly this is not a story about the much beloved kids show from the eighties, Bananaman. This is a different type of banana man.
For nearly five years, I worked in a small supermarket in a petrol station. I have mixed feelings about the place. There I met many of my closest friends & my other half. However I also met many, many strange & difficult people.
I wasn’t the most enthusiastic of retail assistants; it had to be said. I got the job purely through nepotism. My mum worked there. She is a very hard worker & when the manager found out I was looking for a Saturday job; he jumped at the chance to take me on. However, the apple fell very far from the tree on this occasion.
I worked there through my A Levels, through university & at one stage, while holding down two other jobs. I turned up (usually late); I worked to the best of my abilities & I clocked out again. It was supposed to be a part-time job but mostly I worked full-time hours.
One evening a gentleman came in, he must have been mid to late fifties & from what I can remember he was very tall. It’s not hard to be taller than me. I’m five foot three & a half inches. You can tell I’m petite because that extra half inch is important. Well this man was tall, he must have been 6’4″ or 6’5″ at least. He towered over me.
He came up to the till & bashed a bag of bananas down on the counter.
‘I bought these this afternoon & they’ve gone off. They’re inedible. I want my money back.’
I looked out the window, we were in the middle of a heatwave. A ridiculous heatwave, the hottest for 20 years or so I had read. I didn’t need to read that, though. Being a redhead, the sun is my mortal enemy. My skin has occasionally been burned through clothes on a semi-cloudy day. On top of my complexion’s natural aversion to the sun, I get heat rash. This particular summer, I had a rash all over my hands & up my arms. It was insufferable as was my mood.
Of course the bananas are going off, I thought. The heat is inescapable, all the fruit is going off.
‘No problem,’ I sighed. ‘Do you have a receipt?’
I’m not the kind of person who likes confrontation so when customers asked for a refund, they got it with minimal fuss from me.
‘No, but I bought these here this afternoon. They were £1.27. I want a refund.’
‘OK, if you don’t have a receipt, I’ll have to weigh them to issue your refund.’
‘No need. They were £1.27.’ Only he didn’t say it in a civilised tone. He said it with a pause after every word.
One. Pound. Twenty. Seven.
I would have issued the refund, begrudgingly, if it wasn’t for his next words.
‘The price is on them.’
He showed me the bag & the price was indeed on them with a bar-code & everything. One problem. We didn’t have a machine to weigh fruit that printed bar-codes, we only had a basic set of scales.
I smiled. Kill them with kindness was always my motto in retail.
‘I‘m afraid you must have bought these in another shop, we don’t have the facilities to print labels like this.’ I tried to hand them back, but he’d folded his arms.
‘I bought these here this afternoon & I want my money back now!’ He got rather loud, the way people do when they want to get their way in a shop.
‘I am very sorry. Perhaps I am wrong.’ I was polite as I could be. Calling over a colleague in my perkiest voice to help. ‘Hey, has someone installed a new set of weighing scales while I was on my break?’
He leaned over the till at me, pointing into my face.
‘I want my refund. Now. I bought these here this afternoon.’
‘I‘m afraid without a receipt, I don’t have to issue you a refund. I could offer you an exchange but I don’t believe the goods were purchased on these premises.’ I pushed the bananas across the counter.
He pushed them back, swearing & leaning across the counter.
I took him to the fruit & veg section, showing him the weighing machine. Asking him to point out where the labels would come out.
He was beetroot with rage.
He demanded to see my supervisor. I obliged.
‘No problem, sir.’ I rang the shop bell & the supervisor appeared.
‘Mum,’ I let that word hang in the air for a moment. ‘This gentleman would like to see my supervisor.’
It is not often I admit to looking like a mini version of my Mum, but I do. There is more than a passing resemblance. We have the same eyes, the same cheekbones, the same freckles dot our faces & the same shade of auburn atop our heads.
So this man was faced with two redheads, aka an unstoppable force.
I explained the situation.
She agreed with me. I slid the bag of brown bananas across the counter to him.
He stormed out shouting ‘you haven’t heard the last of this’ & I didn’t.
The next day I found out he called my manager & the owner of the store. Still didn’t get a refund though & my manager hung up on him mid-rant.
I don’t know if this story has a moral.
Maybe it’s be kind to retail assistants or shouting achieves nothing or even be careful where you buy your fruit.
More likely it is don’t piss off a redhead during a heatwave.