When the customer is “right” and I am “wrong”

It took only 12 days into 2019 before someone asked me if I actually read comics, in the comic book shop I’ve worked at for 8 years and managed for 6.

It took… what is this, 51 days? before someone I’ve never seen before, who’s never been to my shop before, felt it necessary to call in after visiting maybe an hour prior… to tell me that I am entitled and nasty and have an attitude problem. He opened this conversation by asking what he had done to so offend me that I thought it necessary or appropriate to have treated him that way and devolved into name calling and TheCustomerIsAlwaysRightism.

This was while I attempted to apologize for the experience, and relay that I had not intended to come across that way. This was while I extended contact info for the shop’s owner, and stated intent to mediate through him to fix the problem. While I told him that I had other customers in the shop and said that I would talk to him in person but could not fix this over the phone.

But, he persisted. I was blaming his perception of the encounter without admitting I had done anything wrong. He was probably thinking I was just like the shop he’d told me about earlier during his visit, where this other guy had kicked him out for asking questions he didn’t feel like answering or have an answer to. Obviously that man didn’t have any interest in people buying from his shop.

I’m not sure where the entitlement occurred during our conversation earlier that morning… was it when he asked about manga, and then corrected himself to “mainga”, and I reassured him that he was right the first time? Maybe it was when I let him know the books were out of print but gave him some tips on finding used copies. Was the nasty part where I let him know that the male author he kept asking about was actually a woman? He probably felt that me telling him good luck on the book hunt was a snide comment about his ineptitude, but, who doesn’t enjoy a good book hunt? It’s so rewarding when you eventually find the book you’ve been after.

One of my regular customers was in at the same time, and we chatted about the dentist appointment he’d just come from. Random guy I’ve never seen before joined in, joking with my regular about his experience. Was the environment I’d created not casual and inclusive, bringing a sense of community to the space? This man told me I made him feel unwelcome but clearly he had no issues talking to another man in my shop.

I still don’t know what I did that upset this guy so much. Wednesday mornings are busy in a comic shop; it’s the day new comics are released and there’s specific work to be done by each employee so perhaps I was distracted. Maybe I was too focused on the inventory work I was doing and not giving enough attention to this potential customer. I did cite that some of the information I was relaying to him came from Wikipedia; maybe I wasn’t living up to the expectations of the all-reading, all-knowing comic shop employee. But truly, I love working with new readers and helping them find comics that align with their reading style and interests, and giving them advice on how to research what it is that interests them about comics.

Unfortunately I’ll never have an opportunity to work things out or improve upon my mistakes because—as he let me know several times during this phone call while I had two kids at the counter thanking me for the free comics we had set out—he’s never coming back again.