Home » Short stories » Short story: “The Customer is Always Right.”

Short story: “The Customer is Always Right.”

A short thing I wrote on my 750words, to conclude my first full month of writing on the site (sadly, the site may be going away in another month).

A story that pays tribute to all those working or have ever worked in customer service. I tip my hat to you.

She watched the endless stream of customers that craved their daily doses of caffeine, entering and leaving the coffee shop.

They blurred into a never ending stream of near identical faces and coats and hats and lipstick and cologne and perfume, sometimes overpowering the smell of the coffee.

More people ordered their decaf these days, which made her wonder why they even bothered. Why purchase a cup of overpriced, bitter, hot coffee when the point of it had been stripped away? Officially, for the customers benefit she might praise the quality of the beans and the superb flavor of their own special roast, but she always drank her coffee flavored beyond recognition and with plenty of milk. At home she almost always drank tea, except in the mornings when she really did need a shot of caffeine to get her started or on occasion when she could stay up late and needed the extra boost. Sweetened and with milk, of course.

Yet here she was, working a coffee shop on one of the busier streets in the city.

It was ironic in a way.

Though it did give her time to study her customers, those identical faces, those sometimes identical orders. Tall decaf soy mocca latte extra shot of expresso grande caramel skim frappuccino small extra whipped cream no whipped cream. And to go.

Always to go.

It was important to look like you had somewhere to be, someplace important, so important that you didn’t have time to sit down on a chair and drink your damn coffee. She secretly wondered how many really did have somewhere to be. How many aimlessly wandered through the city streets trying to maintain that image of being someone on the go, someone with it, someone important with many things on his or her plate? It was a sad thought.

Though she might silently judge them all, she always had a smile plastered on her face, cheerful greeting pre-programmed into her brain before the customer had even begun to speak. She could normally cope with most anything the customer threw at her, even if they were rude or obnoxious. There had been a bunch of frat boys once who came in when she was working late. They were obviously more than a little drunk and had a jolly old time seeing what she would allow them to order. She let them mix the strawberries and cream frappuccino with the caramel latte. Combine the double shots of expresso with the green tea. It wasn’t her problem if it tasted like crap. One of them, the most intoxicated of the bunch, tried to get a refund, but she refused. They had ordered those outrageous combinations, so she could not give them the money back for them.

The jerk had to salvage his masculinity (“you got burned dude”) by dumping his drink on her counter before the rowdy bunch finally left.

She took it all inside herself. She would take it out on the games when she got home. And her friends wondered why she was such an ace at fighting games.

No one could ever beat her at anything that involved beating up another player in PWP combat. Though that did make her a welcome addition to any raiding party.

She did have some limits though.

Like the horrid woman standing in front of her right now.

She was that age when they think they are old enough to warrant automatic respect and deference to everyone they encounter, that anyone should be pleased to have the honor of serving them. Her upper lip was covered in fine dark hairs and it quivered slightly as she spoke to her.

“Surely you can make certain that they take care of my order first”, the old bat said. “I have quite an important appointment and I cannot be late for it.”

“Well, ma’am, everyone had places to be, you’ll have to get in line and wait like everyone else. This is a first come, first serve place.”

“Surely, you must be able to make an exception!”

The old woman’s eyes seemed to bug out slightly and her cloying perfume was irritating her nose. She could feel the sneeze building slowly.

“This is an outrage!”

The old woman turned around to address the line that stretched out behind her, looking for sympathy from a morning crowd that seemed more engrossed in their smartphones than on the old woman waving her arms in front of them. Though there were some annoyed grunts about how long the line was taking today.

“Ma’am, if you will just move over and wait for your order over there”, she said, trying to be reasonable. From the corner of her eye she caught the glances of the people working behind her, filling the orders one at a time.

The woman had noticed that one order had just been finished, the tall decaf soy caramel latte abomination ordered by a finely dressed business woman, who now found it snatched away before she could take it.

“This is not my order!” the old woman howled and waved the coffee she’d just stolen from the other woman, who was now throwing up her own tantrum.

“That’s because it is not your order, ma’am! You will have to wait for yours.”

“I expressly asked for you to fill my order first and now I will be late for my very important appointment!”

She secretly wondered if that important appointment was a manicure for her dog or something useless like that. The sneeze was still there, itching at her nose something fierce.

“I will demand to speak to your manager!” The old woman’s voice was reaching eardrum piercing levels.

Like a saving angel, Tom stepped out next to her.

“Ma’am, if you’ll just do as she says…Your order will be ready shortly.”

“Well, I no longer want it, I want a refund!”

She barely managed to suppress a groan, quite a feat since she still had her best customer smile on, though that was rather strained by now.

“Just do what she wants, she’s been holding up the line for too long”, Tom said and backed away, throwing up his hands in the air.

She began to go through the process of cancelling the order and get the woman her three dollars and change back, when she heard Sophia sigh from behind her.

“And I just finished that order…”

Something quite irregular, something quite naughty, normally reserved for her late night gaming popped into her head. She was about to hand the money over to the old woman when she also reached for the cup of coffee (skim milk, decaf, no sugar).

“Well, ma’am, here’s your money back”, she said with the widest smile she’d ever had on her face. “And here’d your coffee.”

Then she tipped the cup over the woman’s obviously fake fur coat. And then to top it all off, she sneezed.

The woman howled, the crowd gasped and Tom was forced to have her relieved at the register.

Even though she received a stern talking to afterwards, even though she had to pay for the cleaning of the fake fur coat (she knew it), it was worth it.

It made it easier to deal with all the other shallow vapid customers she had to deal with on a regular basis.

Because the customer is always right. Except when they’re not.


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