I am concerned about the lower class these days. The gap between poor and rich continues to grow. In my experience, it is becoming more convenient to be rich and the longer lines are saved for those that already struggle.
Want something delivered in the next two hours? If you shell out a hundred dollars a year, you can have that service. If you are working two jobs and struggling to get by, then you should go out and get it yourself. Have the finances to own a fancy phone with spiffy applications? Then feel free to pre-order your coffee and it will be waiting for you. Just the standard flip phone? Well then wait in line. (Certain apps suggest you can, “skip the line”, but they never dwell on those who are being skipped. Working in the ritzy business development area? Pay five dollars each way and you can ride in the special lanes. Otherwise, feel free to sit in traffic with the rest of the bums.
Some say that the most looked-down on groups are poor people. Not race, not sexual status; income is the new factor as to how we treat people. From what I see, I do not have much trouble believing that.
There is at least one person in my circle who appears determined to treat homeless folks differently. “Sometimes I wonder how many of them are just too lazy to work”, they say.
For example, in my coffee shop we try to keep milk to a reasonable amount. If you come into our store and ask for a free cup of hot water, then yes, we will probably approach you at the milk station and ask you not to load up on supplemental goodies. But if you want a little dab of milk in your cup and that is it? No big deal. The line I see in the company paperwork states that less than four inches is acceptable. Over that, folks should be charged.
There is a man with a cane who has been coming in daily for the past few months. He buys a cup of coffee and then asks us to put the cream in a little cup so he can make his drink at his leisure. We do not give him gallons of milk. I am rather sure it works out to less than the four inches. He pays for his coffee, full price, and treats us respectfully.
Friday was the first time the barista had been at the register when this customer came in. He asked for a cup of coffee with some milk on the side. The barista quoted a price. I tried to mitigate, suggesting from across the room that we normally gave him so little milk that we did not charge extra. The barista discarded that information. They decided to charge for an extra cup of milk.
What I overheard:
“That’s not what I usually pay.”
“Well it’s $3.12.”
“Who’s your supervisor?”
“I’m the supervisor.”
“Well who’s your manager?”
“I’m going to ask you to leave now.”
“You have to have a manger. I want their name.”
“You need to leave now.”
“You don’t like me because I have a cane. I walk a little unsteady so you’re treating me different.”
“You need to leave.”
On the one hand, I feel that the customer was a little overly vocal. He became loud. But would any reasonable person act any differently? Yes, it was a matter of less than a dollar. Though if I were the customer, I would be more upset at the fact that I was treated differently.
A bit more background information may help. Yes, the barista is a supervisor. However, they were performing the duties of a regular worker at the time. There was another person, the acting supervisor, who was working in the back. In addition, the store manager was in the backroom as well.
The customer’s response to see a supervisor? Perfectly reasonable. The request for the manager’s name? Also reasonable. If someone wants to talk to your boss, then you let that happen. If you are in the wrong, then you might have a “sit down chat” later. If you are in the right, then the customer gets to talk to the boss and they handle it. That is why they get the big bucks.
I do not think that the cashier treated the person differently because they have darker skin. I do not think that the cashier really cared that the customer was using a cane or had some elderly features. I have the impression that the cashier wanted to exact as much money as they could from a homeless person.
While all this was going on, I struggled not to interfere. I have no supervisory role whatsoever. I have about ten years of experience and over a decade of age over the cashier. Yet I have no disciplinary power over them. I had the strong impression that any attempt I made was only going to make things worse. They had already vetoed the offer I made about not charging. It was not my floor; not my shift to rule over. However I was strongly on the customer’s side.
Seeing that the scene was not resolving itself, my other coworker went to the back and grabbed the actual supervisor to go help the cashier and the customer. That was soon followed by the manager. The situation never really ended to my satisfaction. Twice I walked around our food court area, trying to find the customer and check in with him. Officially, there was not much I could do. I could tell my manager that I was upset, but that person is brand new to the store. I do not trust them yet.
What frustrated me, besides the apparent injustice playing out me before me, was how powerless I felt. I obviously could not talk the cashier back to the logical side. Once all the bosses had gone from the back room to the floor, I went to the now-vacant back and tried some prayer. All morning I had gotten the nudge to root for peace. And now that some biased attacks were happening, I tried praying for more peace. But I never got the resolution I wanted. Things didn’t, “work out.”
To make things even more fun, I had invited the cashier to come see a movie with me the day before. We were going to the theater right after work. I did not say many friendly things to say to them at the theater, but I tried to love them despite my irritation at their behavior only hours ago.
The next day, I was happy when the customer came back. He asked for the milk to be put in the cup. “Let’s see if we can avoid any trouble”, he said. I asked him his name. I told him that he had always treated me well. I voiced my hope that he would still feel welcome in the store. And no, I did not charge him for his coffee that day. The company can eat that one for the way he was talked to. It was the least I could do.
I was taught to love everybody; especially those that have life much harder than I do. You want to pick on someone who sleeps outside in the winter weather? Who does not have pockets full of bills but manages to have enough to pay his way through the coffee line? You do not have to be best buddies with the world, but society is judged by how we treat the “least” of ours. And what I saw could have used some improvement.