Sunday, May 1, 2011

397. Drugs

Well, today’s blog is not a funny one. It’s a serious one. If you feel like laughing, maybe you should just skip today’s, or go on over to the right of the screen and click on “Some of my faves!” I can’t be funny all the time, and there’s a topic I need to get off my chest: my hatred of drugs.

I work at a high-end kitchen store. We sell whipped cream dispensers. We also sell the tiny individual nitrous oxide cartridges to be used in the whipped cream dispensers. Evidently, one can somehow use this nitrous oxide to get high. The Husband tells me a true cautionary tale of how a guy he went to high school with tried nitrous oxide one time and died instantly. For this reason, there is a legal limit to how many boxes we are allowed to sell (two boxes, and each box contains 10 cartridges).

Usually, someone legitimate will come in to buy the expensive gourmet whipped cream dispenser and one box of the nitrous oxide cartridges. They plan on making hot chocolate for the kids, or maybe some crepes for a special brunch. I personally used to own the same whipped cream dispenser a long time ago, and even in a full year’s time, I never made enough whipped cream to go through all the cartridges.

Yesterday, a young person came in and wanted to buy two boxes. As a mother, it physically pains me to think about one of my sons someday doing drugs and getting hurt (keep in mind, not everyone dies from drugs, one can just become brain-damaged instead!  what an option!).  I recognized this particular “customer” because I remembered selling him two boxes the previous week.  The purchase stood out because that's the only item he bought that day, just the nitrous oxide (no oven mitts, no spatulas, no pancake syrup.)  I know that it's bad to profile or stereotype someone, but I can say with 100% confidence from looking at the way that he was dressed, his nervous mannerisms, the way he acted, etc, that he was not a caterer:  he was buying these to get high.

What I should have done: lied (“Oh, I’m so sorry, we’re out.”)

What I did do: fumbled (“I can only sell you one box.”)

He knew the rules (two boxes) and he fought me on it. (Aside: in researching writing this post, I discovered dozens of pathetic websites devoted to how to get high with the nitrous oxide and where to buy the cartridges and how many one is allowed to buy.) He informed me that he just bought two boxes last week (which exactly proves my point that he was buying too many, so I replied sharply, I know, I'm the one who sold them to you), and then he asked for a manager.

I cornered The Boss on her lunch break in the back office. I explained the situation to her, and asked her to come out and talk to him. She sighed a deep sigh, and told me she could not back me up on this. Apparently, I'm not allowed to make up my own policies at work.

She came out to the sales floor, and approached him. She asked for his driver’s license, and told him he had to be 18 years old to buy the cartridges. He provided it happily (he was 25). I finished the transaction (he paid cash), all the while giving him the judgmental Don’t-Do-Drugs stare-down, and then he left.

The Boss took me aside and reprimanded me. She said, “MOV, I appreciate what you were trying to do, and I know you think you were doing the right thing, but you know that corporate decided we can sell a maximum of two boxes of 10. You have to remember, we do have legitimate customers who use that much whipped cream professionally, for catering or maybe in cooking school. Unfortunately, it’s not your place to profile a customer and refuse to sell to him.” In other words, if I did it again, I could be fired.

Funny. I could be fired for selling them, but he could die.

("My Opinion:  Valid?")

****Follow-up if you are interested:  he came back into our store over this past weekend (May 8).  He walked right up to me (as opposed to any of the other six employees who were working) and asked for the whipped-cream chargers.  I went behind the counter and "looked" in the cupboard where we keep them, then told him we were sold out and I was sorry.  Coward's approach?  Perhaps.  But I got out of selling him more to feed his habit.    


  1. This just makes me so sad. Do you ever watch Intervention? That show breaks my heart. Even though my son is practically an adult and in college (he's 20), I still pray daily that he doesn't give in to the temptations that I'm sure are all around him.

  2. I'd take the firing if it meant I was saving some poor mother's child...

  3. Hi Dawn, thank you for your comment. I have not seen that show, but in college I dated (briefly) a drug addict and then later (briefly) an alcoholic. WOW-- I guess I attracted some real winners, huh? I am lucky I finally met my awesome husband, with no substance abuse issues, hooray. What I am trying to say though, is, I feel like I had daily interventions with those former boyfriends, it is so depressing.

    Anonymous, I know what you mean. I do love my job though, and we do need the money so I would rather not be fired. The other thing one of my co-workers reminded me was that if I had said flat out NO to that kid, there is actually another kitchen store in our same mall (and another in the mall down the street) so he would buy it somewhere. Just such a waste, so sad. Why can he not see that the best addictions are shopping and chocolate? (ok, maybe not the "best", but sure as heck better than drugs!!!!!!!!)

    thanks for writing,

  4. I'm an ex drug addict- 6 years clean. If someone had done what you did- they might have saved me the Jail time, $ and hardships I go through for being a felon.

    I'm sorry you could lose your job for caring.... corporations are all about CYA (cover your @$$)

  5. Amelia,
    Good for you for being 6 years clean! Congrats, that is a great accomplishment to be proud of. :) What do you think I should have done with this "customer" in question? Just flat out said "no," or really kept badgering him on what he was doing with the nitrous oxide? He knew that I knew, but where do you draw the line? I am not his teacher, counselor, parent (!), etc. I wish I knew what the right thing to do was. I feel like I let myself down and him down, although I do still have my job!
    Thank you for writing in.

  6. Oh MOV, such a difficult position to be in. I can imagine it would be hard to look the other way. You could try refusing to ring him up for it, but someone else in the store surely will. Being a mama has made me more aware of so many things, and this would definitely be one of them. I hope he doesn't come back - maybe since there are other stores he will choose to go elsewhere after being confronted by you about it.

    Doesn't solve the problem, and doesn't make it any better, but maybe you don't have to be the one selling it to him. I hope he is ok.

  7. "the right thing"
    the definition is relative.

    If losing your job is worth possibly saving his life (who know's, the box you sell him could have that ONE cartridge that will end his life- in it): then refusing is the right thing.

    It's so hard to not get involved in things like this. At some point you have to wonder is it worth it? He will just go somewhere else- but your conscious is clear that you didn't sell it to him. Then on the other hand, he's an adult- free to make his own choices, and when it comes to serious addictions, no one can help you until you want to be helped.

    I don't think there is a "right" answer here, but if it were me, I would do what I always do when I see an obvious addict suffering... I would tell them "If you ever want help I know a good place you can go that is free" (where I went ot rehab) in your case I would sell it to him & simply state if he ever wants help you can help him find it. Unfortunately in this world of red tape, easily offended customers and corporations that play the big bad game of "covery your a**" - it's hard to do the right thing without screwing yourself over.

  8. Amelia,
    I like that: coming from a place of "I can help you get help when you are ready" instead of my cushy and smug place of judgement and superiority. If he comes in again, I might try the more sympathetic and kind approach that you recommend. I will let you know what happens.
    thank you for writing.


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