Customer Service

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While the day I came off of the production line is hazy to me now, I have vivid memories of my time as a young cart. My wheels were well oiled, I and I knew the aisles like no other cart in the store. I could sometimes hear what my customer needed and could persuade them to turn down the right aisle with a quick turn of my wheels. The joy they would express when they just happened to find their favorite brand of cereal made my days worthwhile.

I grew to love the small family of carts that arrived with me when this store opened. The name “Bucky’s” emblazoned in plastic across our handles in a light tan with dark green accents. We lined up each morning in the entrance waiting for Bucky, the owner of the store, to unlock the creaky wooden double doors with his large skeleton key. By the end of the day, we would be scattered here and there throughout the store, the parking lot, and sometimes back behind the dumpsters. No matter where we ended up though, we all made it back to the entrance by the end of the night, regaling each other with fabricated stories of our adventures as we eagerly awaited the next morning to do it all over again.

I suppose that’s where the urban legend of The Cart Destroyer came from. It’s silly looking back on it now, especially the name, but tales of the gargantuan rusty monster traversed generations. With a mouth of sharp teeth splitting his basket in half, he was ready to eat those unsuspecting carts blown to the edge of the parking lot or turned over by angry teenagers without a second thought.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve felt that kind of passion. No longer must I wait patiently for Bucky to arrive each morning. Rather, the automatic sliding doors unlock on a timer with a loud beep that tends to jolt me awake from what little sleep I get. I rarely hear my customers think their grocery lists aloud anymore thanks to their cell phones, and my wheels have a mind of their own and will sometimes spin without my say so. My customers find that annoying at times and I am occasionally abandoned after only a few steps into the store.

Bucky’s has gone through several remodels since its inception, expanding the store and it’s entrance. Therefore the amount of carts it can hold has tripled in the time it’s opened. Though the hours are longer now than they once were, I’m thankful that my family has grown. Even on nights where I, myself, am stranded outdoors, I never feel alone thanks to the larger corals we now have. Sometimes we don’t make it in at all, but that’s where being an older cart comes in handy. That’s when I get to pass on my favorite urban legend in the dark of the night. These times with my family members, new and old, are what get me through those hard days.

They say if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s been true for the last 35 years, but today is just one of those days where each second feels like an hour. Earlier, as I was making my way down the center aisle of the store, the family pushing me was chatting loudly about something and continually checking their phone for the next item on their list. In passing, I heard them mumble something about cashews and knew the aisle they needed was the one we were about to pass. Hoping to cheer myself up with my favorite trick, I gently started turning my wheels so they wouldn’t notice. However, just as I did, the wonky one in front spun wildly and landed my front end into a display of Halloween sandwich cookies. The man pushing me cursed loudly and smacked my handle in frustration. It stung a bit, but it’s a feeling I’ve started to get used to. Lily, another original cart, passed by as the family worked to pick up my mess. She winked at me and smiled, lifting my spirits enough to pause my pity party, take a deep breath, and calm myself down. While this might seem obsolete in the long-run, this has been happening more frequently as the years go on and it’s starting to wear on me.

The rest of the day passes as most do. I’m repeatedly brought out to a car, unloaded, crashed impatiently into my fellow carts and bought back inside by yet another customer. The monotony gets me down sometimes, but I’m thankful to be here rather than used in a stunt or stolen from store property. Some of my elder cart friends have told me terrible tales of carts stolen by homeless customers and filled to their breaking points with trash. I’m thankful to be right where I am. Well, I was thankful until about an hour ago.

But I should probably start back at the beginning for that sentiment to make sense. Today was an extremely busy Sunday at Bucky’s. This morning, there were even people waiting to get in as the doors unlocked. They pushed past each other and scrambled to get their hands on a cart. The older carts weren’t chosen until the last few customers in the crowd realized the new double-tier carts were all gone. The ones that chose my friend Joe rolled their eyes and audibly sighed before wiping off his handle with several sanitary wipes and pushing him into the store.

As the day went on I was only chosen three times from the other older carts haphazardly rolled into the entrance. It was all but empty by the end of the night, so when my chance came at last, I was enthralled. That excitement only lasted a moment though, this customer seemed different. He looked less than pleased to be here at all, let alone get stuck with me for a cart. His shaggy grey hair and long tattered coat reminded me of all the single bachelors filling me with cheap crackers, wine, and canned cheese I don’t mind these customers usually, but this guy’s grip on my handle was tighter than most and he pushed with a force I’d never experienced. We flew through the aisles collecting what he needed in a hurry. He rarely took into account where other customers were and even bumped me into a few of my family members. I did my best to apologize before he whisked me away down the next aisle.

After about half an hour, I was filled with bagels, deli meats, toilet paper, and all kinds of basic items. The man then stopped at the edge of an aisle, staring at the registers. For a few minutes, he slammed his fist into my basket, rocked me back and forth against his dirty shoe, and rested his sweaty forehead on my handle He even fidgeted with the plastic seat cover. I’d been mistreated in the past, but this was something else entirely. This man was angry, furious even, and he was taking it out on me. After a few more minutes of this torture, the unthinkable happened. The man gripped my handle with new strength and sweaty hands. He backed out of the line and started walking towards the door.

I tried to stop him, to turn my wheels or even knock into something nearby, but he just kept walking. The cold night air hit me hard as he escaped the store with his basket of unpaid merchandize, skimping poor Bucky out of hundreds of dollars. The alarm bells sounded as he passed through the entrance. The man sprinted with me through the parking lot and down the alley behind the store. Security guards soon took chase, but the man kept running. Rolling me down a hill into some woods behind the store, the man took cover behind a dumpster.

“Shit, we lost him” I heard one of the guards say to the other. In the parking lot, the cold night air carried the voices of my family members in the outdoor corals.

“Oh my gosh, did you see that guy take off with thatcart?” said one.

“Yeah that was awful, I hope they’re okay.” replied another.

“It looks like they were ditched in the woods over there” a third voice said “someone should go help.” My heart leapt at the kindness of this family member and happy tears came to my eyes at the thought of being rescued.

“Have fun” mused the first voice “that’s Cart Destroyer territory.” A chill ran down my basket and I was devastated. The legend I had used to grow closer to them was the only thing keeping me from my fate. Without seeing him in my peripherals, the man returned, sweating more but now with a smile plastered across his ragged face, he pushed me further down the hill and into the dark woods.

Last Week’s Story: Did You Say Something?

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