There are cases of mistaken identity and then there are stories like this one. And you’ve all heard of the stereotypical “Karen” woman who gets easily annoyed and always wants to speak to the manager? This story has that element in it as well.
What are we waiting for? Let’s get into it!
Here’s the full story. Be sure to read the whole thing because it is a hoot:
“Someone in my friend group keyed me in on this lovely sub after they had a good laugh at some of my stories. Over the years I’ve grown to loathe people who treat retail employees like garbage, and I go out of my way to make a fool of them. So I’ll share one story now!
I worked for years in retail before switching careers. I went from dealing with people who asked for items based entirely on what the people in said item’s commerical were wearing to teaching children. And this is one story that makes me think the children are by far the smarter breed.
For a while I worked as a trainer for a very popular cellphone company. I would regularly visit Cellular carriers and do events for customers and train employees on relevant new features and items. So I was almost always dressed very well. The most dressed down I ever got was a polo, dress pants and dress shoes because I wanted to give a good and professional impression.
However my style of dress came with the greatest Karen-bait known to man: A Silver Nametag.
Beyond the hundreds of times I was mistaken for an employee while at the stores, this story takes place when I went grocery shopping after work one evening. That should be enough background, so on with the actual story!
I had finished up later than usual and was browsing the groceries for the next couple days at a semi-supermarket who’s logo is a bullseye. I had a cart with several frozen items my wife loves, some snacks for my son, some dog food for my dog and various other small things to carry me thru.
I was browsing some spices, debating on if I had enough of a few kinds to make chilli, when I hear a faint noise behind me. I squeeze in a bit closer, trying to be sure I’m not blocking the aisle. No sense in being rude, right?
A second or two go by and my spider-sense begins to tingle. And then, dear reader, I hear the dreaded sound that in the retail wilds is both terrifying and amusing (depending on how far away you’re standing).
“Ex-CUSE me?!” Ah. Yes. The mating call of the wild Karen.
I turn around to see a specimen of at least forty years trying desperately to be mistaken for her own daughter in, what I can only assume, was a pair of yoga pants, furry boots, a shirt that was strategically unbuttoned and a huge pair of sunglasses acting as a solar panel for her ‘Let me speak to your manager’ haircut.
My desperate plea for clemency in the form of her own ability to notice a mistake came immediately as I pushed my cart further away and swept my arm where I was standing, “Sorry. Didn’t know I was blocking you.”
But, alas, this story would not have made it here if that was all she needed. No, Karen did not want to graze the spice rack. She had used her cosmic powers on me without my realizing, you see. Because now I was no longer shopping for dinner. I had been granted employment. And Karen was not pleased at my performance so far, “No. I need you to help me find (some food item I dont want to malign by naming).”
I am a smartass by nature (you can tell) and my wife often jokes that I’m paid well to tell people where they can stick it and make them happy to hear it. But these skills are lost on the Wild Karen. So is the fact that the store uniform is khakis and a red shirt. While I am in a blue and white dress shirt, dress pants, and wearing a company logo jacket that doesn’t remotely look like am employee’s.
I decide to assume she’s perhaps dazzled in bright lights without her solar panel glasses guarding her beedy eyes, so I smile and politely say, “I’m sorry. I don’t work here.”
Her eyes narrow, now looking like the shining black of a shark, and the games have now begun, “You’re wearing a uniform, don’t give me that (EXPLETIVE DELETED)! You can put up that garbage when you’re done doing your job!”
My eyebrow rises and in my head I hear the ringside bell. Ok, Karen. Game on.
So in my best I-really-dont-hope-you’re-run-over-by-a-stray-water-buffalo voice and smile I say, “What was it you needed help finding, ma’am?”
I see the flinch. I said ma’am and she didn’t like it. Dont show weakness now, we’ve only started. But in the same condescending tone she wails, “I need (item). Now show me to it.”
I nod and pushed my buggy along as I head to the rear of the store. She doesn’t look pleased that I’m bringing the buggy, but if she says anything she does so under her breath and I know soon enough she’ll have plenty to complain about. So I savor the moment where the only sound is the slap-slap of her boots ricocheting off the floor and on the heels of her feet inside.
I walk several aisles. After a dozen she starts to huff and puff and I can hear the faintest grumbling about why it was “so hidden away” and “why did she have to walk so far” ect. Not directed at me, but I’m not deaf so I can hear her childish tantrums just fine. Thank God she cant see the evil smile on my face.
Passing the last row of groceries, I hang a left. Passing seasonal, candies, luggage, travel ect. She’s behind me in such a blurry huff of muttering anger, I don’t know if she’s questioning the marital status of my parents, the life choices that brought her here or both. But she’s not happy and it sounds more and more like a car that wont start and less like a person talking to themself.
As we reach the book section I wheel the cart right over and start down an aisle. Now the Karen is really angry, “Where the (deleted) are you going?! I’m looking for (item)! If you’re too stupid to find it, then maybe I should be talking to your manager!”
This is drawing a crowd from the nearby electronics section. My plan is working out better than I’d hoped. I stop in front of the small children’s section and grab a thin copy of what’s basically toddler’s first spelling book. A few letters playing with a small child on the cover, and a title about learning the first few letters of the alphabet.
Walking back to the red-faced Karen, I offer the book. I don’t say anything, I just extend my arm, showing her the cover. Like most people would she takes the offered book, looks at it, looks at me and basically growls, “What the (deleted) is this?! Are you (deleted) stupid?! Where is your manager? You’re absolutely awful!”
Her wailing has attracted at least two employees who seem to recognize the whiny wails of the retail-native Karen. One is on a small radio, calling who I assume is the manager while another is coming our way with that terror in their eyes that only an entitled middle aged woman with an attitude problem can cause.
With a smile I gesture to the book in her hands and say in my absolute best customer service voice, “Actually ma’am, I thought since you cant tell the (deleted) difference between a customer and an employee, you must not be able to read. So I figure this book can help.”
The poor hamster that was responsible for the complex operation of powering the Karen was working overtime. So when the employee finally makes it to us they’re unaware of what I said, only that I was smiling in a customer service kind of way. Karen was still all mouth agape at what I said when they tried a polite greeting, “Hello. Is there something I can help with tonight?”
Karen. Was. LIVID. She proceeded to throw the book at me (literally and figuratively) and start screaming. I dodged the book as her howls of rage wound up, “How DARE you talk to me that way?! I want this man’s manager right now! He needs to be fired!”
Oh no. She still didn’t get the point. Maybe I should have started with an easier book? Dr Seuss? Maybe something on tape?
She hasn’t slowed down, is cussing like a rabid honey badger high on PcP, and somewhere in that string of expletives were words that vaguely made a caveman type sense. Short phrases mostly. The employee is trying desperately to put out the fire that is Karen, her face is so red I swear smoke is coming from that horrible dye job, and the distant employee on the walkie is obviously begging for a manager or a priest.
I step back, away from any flailing pieces, and just wait politely. Taking a second to text my wife that I was held up, and to expect a good story when I got home. Her response, because she knows me, “What did you do now?”
I love that woman.
When the manager arrives (they must have been fresh out of priests) the woman is pulled to the side and he speaks to her, trying to calm her down. The employee standing near me looks at me and, with a bewildered look, asks “What happened?”
Not wanting to spoil the punchline I just kind of make a face and softly said, “Didn’t the haircut clue you in?”
The employee chirps with laughter he quickly chokes off. I don’t think he expected me to know the dorsal plumage of the Wild Karen. But Karen has heard the sound and went from slowly lowering to a shrill string of complaining, back to seething anger. Once again she all but frothed at the mouth.
After another few minutes the manager gets her to step aside and comes over to talk to me. He begins asking all sorts of questions she obviously decided to embellish. “Why did you call her (deleted I actually didn’t say)?” “Did you throw a book at her?” “Were you following her?” Things like that. Things that could be claimed with only the losest concept of reality.
So, in a pleasant voice I explained how I was shopping and she demanded I show her where an item was and refused to accept I didn’t work here. This caused the manager to frown as he looked at me. He saw how I was dressed and I think some light in his eyes actually died. Probably realizing he had to actually think worse of humanity than just five minutes ago and it took another piece of his soul with it.
I’ve been there.
So I smile and nod as I see him reason out that I was basically kidnapped to find something for this woman and all the tumblers in his mind seemed to fall into place. He must have seen this type of thing often enough to know what happened, or close enough. But I nod and say, “Since she can’t read, and might be color blind, I got her a book on the alphabet instead. I figure if she knew how to read it would fix all her problems. She threw the book at me, cussed like a sailor, and wants you to fire me. Maybe I should have gotten something in crayon.”
The employee, standing nearby, is done for. He begins to laugh. Hysterically. Full belly laughs that send him retreating for a door to their backroom nearby. Even as he fades from sight, I can still hear the echoes of his laughter.
The manager, a seasoned veteran of the retail wars it seems, manages to make his initial chuckle sound like a disapproving grumble at the retreating employee. But the way his face scrunched up, I know full well he found it at least reasonably funny.
Karen is mad that the employee is laughing, having at least the sense to know she’s the b*tt of the joke. Even if she didn’t hear said joke. So score one for her situational awareness. So she starts over to us while the manager’s poor soul begins to wither inside him. She’s in full complain mode. Corporate this. I know (x person) that. It all sounds like the teacher from Peanuts if you’ve been in actual retail before.
Turning with an admirably straight face, the manager holds up a hand and silences her through his weird Karen-Charming powers, “Ma’am-” again her eye twitches, “I’m going to have to ask that you stop harassing other shoppers and keep the volume down.”
A vein in her forehead begins to leap from the skin and do a little dance as she winds herself up for another tirade, “He was the one harassing me!” She almost reaches around him. Jabbing her 2.99 press ons at me like the predatory talons she wishes they were.
The manager, not happy with basically having her almost trying to wrap herself around him to get to me, holds up his hands and in a very firm voice says, “Ma’am, you need to calm down. If you can’t, then I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
The blubbering, incoherent Karenisms that follow don’t translate well to text. And if I had thought I could get away with it, I would have recorded it with my phone. As it was, she protested, swore, threatened and actually raked her arm down a shelf in a tantrum, knocking down almost everything as she screamed at the manager.
And that’s when I knew what was coming. She wasn’t going to be asked to leave. Oh no. At this point she was about to become a captive audience. The manager called for someone in the clothing department and over walked two women who, God bless them, managed to wrangle the woman and begin escorting her to the front.
The employee who’d walked away laughing came over and escorted me back to grocery and told me that she was going to be detained and barred from the store. He was in a good mood, except maybe having to clean up her tantrum. And we joked about the vast level of stupid we’d been graced to see.
A few minutes later I checked out, and was walking to the door when two police walked in, rather annoyed looking. I left with a smile on my face.
Moral of the story, kids? Never inflict yourself on random people and assume they have to put up with your BS. You never know when you’ll meet the crocodile hunter of Karen’s.”
That story is flat out, downright the most hilarious story I’ve read in a LONG time.
Karens of the world… when will you ever learn?!?!
Let us know what you think of this crazy tale in the comments!