mistaken for an employee

Yesterday was a rainy day so I went to the movie theater to see a film I intended to see while in its first run. While waiting in the lobby, an elderly women approached me and asked me, “Do you need special glasses to see IMAX?”. I gestured to the IMAX entrance doors, and, in the most corporate voice I could come up with, said, “No glasses are necessary to view IMAX.” She told who I assume to be her husband what I said and then they went into the IMAX screening. Before I went to my film’s screening, I stopped at the concession stand. I told the concession worker about the encounter and she interrupted me saying, “But you need 3-D glasses for IMAX.” Her co-worker interjected saying, “Not all IMAX movies are in 3-D.” Dumb concession worker. Smart co-worker. I should have been hired. I guess the lady thought I worked there because I was standing alone, looked knowledgeable, and was wearing my work clothes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUsUMrCV1GE I’m imagining something like this…

This happened to me all the time when I worked at a movie theater, and went to other places in the mall, in my black polo and black pants, on break. I was usually mistaken for a Barnes and Noble employee, (understandable, since their uniform is just generic dressiness, and the customers usually couldn’t see the movie logo on my back) or a Target employee (perplexing, since their uniform is red and khaki). Luckily, I was never asked a question I couldn’t answer, so it all worked out well.

Did she then slip you a sawbuck? You know, just for the effort?

I used to have a bright red polo shirt. Once I was wearing that shirt when I was shopping at Target. A lot of people thought that I was an employee, and asked me where to find stuff. A few were even angry when I said I didn’t know; I didn’t work there.

I get people who recognize me on my days off and ask where things are. OK, not bad, if I’m in the store I work at. This is at other friggin’ stores. I tell them that I don’t know, and get things along the lines of, “Well, that’s not good customer service!!!”

My daughters and I used to run one of those Santa photo sets in the mall. Our uniform, like most of the other mall employees, was black pants, white shirt, and a company apron. When we would walk through the mall on our breaks, no matter what store we happened to be in we would be mistaken for employees. I would help people whenever I could, since I was in the mall all the time and knew where a lot of stuff was.

We could have avoided the problem by removing our aprons, but they kept the kiosk people from accosting us.

I had a “mistaken for an employee” moment in New Orleans during the Katrina cleanup. A Lowe’s store was the closest place to our worksites that we could go and use a bathroom, get cold drinks and wash up a bit during the 14-16 hour workdays. We of course wore workboots, safety vests, hard hats and all that stuff while out in the abandoned neighborhoods.

One day my coworker and I were making our daily visit to the Lowes, when a man approached (in the parking lot) and said “Do you work out here”? We both said “yes” (thinking he meant out HERE out here, as in NOLA), since the Lowe’s was about the only place in our assigned area that had many people at that time. I should also mention that the Lowe’s was severely understaffed and pretty much just had cashiers and some managers at this point. I should also mention that New Orleans was pretty much a SEA of safety vests and contractors of various stripe, there were more of us than there were of the actual citizens trying to rebuild and move back in.

“Well!” he huffs all snottily “you need to tell these people to stop parking in the handicapped spots then”!

We said “we don’t work HERE”. And the guy gets even madder “well why did you TELL me you did then”??? Ummmmm (looking around at the vast array of orange vests all around) “we thought you meant on the cleanup like everyone else in here”?

The guy huffs off. Weird…

Once, while reading a book in a bookstore in Sofia, Bulgaria, I had no fewer than THREE people come up to me to ask me where something was.

That should tell you a little about the level of customer service in Eastern Europe.

I buy a lot of CDs, and occasionally I’ll buy lots in one go (not very often because I can’t afford to do that, though if I was rich I’d totally do it all the time). Sometimes I’ll be in a music store with a large pile, walking around and I’ll have people come up to me and ask me where things are and can I help them find this particular CD. Sometimes I just point out where the section is but most of the time, if the question is too specific, I’ll just say I don’t work there and mention that employees have lanyards around their neck to seperate them from the customers.

Funnily enough I once went for a job interview at the store where this happens most, and I thought I aced it but I never heard back so I guess I didn’t do quite as well as I thought. I still know all their genre sections off by heart!

Happens to me all the time. Most recently at the grocery store where I was scanning my groceries… in the self-checkout lane. When I finally realized this crazy lady was asking me a question and told her I didn’t work there, she said “Oh I thought… because you were scanning stuff”. Yeah lady, it’s 2011. We’ve had self-checkout lanes for a while now.

Or about whether it’s normal to see customers reading books in bookstores there.

She could at least have dug out an empty large popcorn bucket from the garbage so you could have the free refill. That’s just common courtesy.

You’re lucky you weren’t outside a brothel.

When I went to Disney World with my family a couple of years ago, I was taken for a Disney employee twice. Not wearing a costume, just white shorts and a striped shirt–which I guess looks close enough to a staff uniform for some people. Or maybe I just have a “Disney” look.

Me, most recent: I was at the Johnson Victrola Museum last week to do some last minute photography for a presentation I’m giving this weekend; I know the museum and the history behind its artefacts probably unhealthily too well at the moment.

Anyway, was shooting the breeze with a brand-new docent who’d been told to count heads (he’s still too new to lead a tour), and ended up fielding questions from visitors who were waiting for the next tour to begin – and answering questions that even the site manager didn’t know the answer to. It made me feel as if I don’t get out much, but the field manager wants me to give a public talk at the Old State House this summer, so I guess there’s an advantage to knowing my onions.

Partner: somewhere along the line, probably from a charity shop, he acquired a bright orange fleecey jacket, which we think may have been a Sainsbury supermarket cast-off. He likes to wear it to Tescos, Sainsbury’s rival supermarket, because on the one hand, people ask him where the tinned beets are, and two, he gets glared at by Tesco’s bods who think he’s spying on the competitors.

I like it because it’s very bright orange and makes him that much easier to find inside the house (he blends in well with the sofa.)

Years ago when I used to buy books in actual book shops I would often be accosted by other shoppers and asked where to find a particular book, or did I know the name of the book about… Fortunately I read a lot and could usually help people out. I never bothered mentioning that I didn’t work there. Sometimes I could point them to a better book than the one they wanted.

For some reason I also apparently look like I am Google Maps incarnate because people make a beeline to me for street directions. I am pretty poor at providing them, because I don’t remember street names, but several people at work have noticed that lost people head straight to me for directions.

Don’t they see your user name?

I used to have a red polo shirt!

I was wearing it the day I testified in front of a Board of Zoning Appeals. My dry lceaner (the only Hispanic-owned dry cleaner in the area) was fighting a challenge to his business from the Korean Dry Cleaners’ Association. The Korean Dry Cleaners Association objected to the use of floor space at my guy’s shop and were trying to force the Board to force him to close.

I was (I think) the only customer who volunteered to do this. And I wish I had worn something different because he brought his whole staff of thirty people to talk about how important their jobs were… all wearing red polo shirts.

I began my testimony by emphasizing that while I was HIspanic, and was wearing a red polo shirt, those facts were entirely coincidental and I was there as a voter and customer. I still don’t think they believed me.

I have had a this happen a few times while in retail stores, usually Target. My standard answer is ‘you’ll find it on aisle 5, on the bottom shelf’.