In the past year, I have seen an old man at the entrance of San Francisco Costco who checks for membership cards. His hair is all white and his stance is slightly tilted from years of working. As members walk in, he barks, “Your membership card? Let me see it! Do you have it? Your membership card, please!”
Members pull out their card, obeying their orders. Then they walk in, stuffing their cards back into their bags, to be forgotten until it’s requested to be seen at the register.
On my first encounter with the old man, it was amusing to be yelled at by a drill sergeant. Chris called him a “crotchety old man”, noting that “crotchety” is often only used for old white men. For me, I started feeling embittered on return visits. His behavior was so unlike the usual door greeters (or door enforcers). Now let me start that I love Costco. It is a big-box retailer, but I actually find the limited choices and quality to be appealing. It’s rare that I can get high-quality cheese at bulk prices. Not to mention discount gas.
We whispered to fellow staff members, “Who is the old guy at the door? The one who yells?”
“Him? Oh he’s always like that. He’s always angry.”
Chris isn’t bothered, but my stomach tightens each time we approach the door. It’s like walking through a door with knives. I know how to go around it, but it’s always unpleasant each time to be pricked. I start to wonder what if I went inside without showing the card. Like heading to the pharmacy as I should be allowed to do in the state of California.
Instead, later, as I am dealing with something at the membership desk, I notice the woman helping me has the title “front end supervisor” on her nametag. Chris urges me to mention something and points at the sign that says customer service is our priority. “I am uncomfortable,” I say, rehearsing out loud as the supervisor heads to the other side to grab paperwork. “With the way he yells at the door.”
Indeed, I stumble over my words, panicking that I am not making sense and that my concerns was going to be dismissed. I nearly dismiss myself to say that it doesn’t matter even if it did matter. But then she understands and tells us that they have tried with him, but he doesn’t seem to listen. And the supervisor was concerned as Chris added, “She doesn’t feel comfortable when yelled at.”