Why I Never

A Cracker Barrel Story

Content Warning; This entry contains vulgar language, death threats, and customer service nightmares.

Hi, I would like to return this rocking chair. It doesn’t…

Um, why?

Sorry, because it doesn’t fit in our space.

Well. I’ll have to get a manager.


Five minutes pass.

What do you need here? The manager asks me.

This man wants to return a rocking chair. sneers the cashier.


Hi, sorry, It doesn’t fit in our space.

Oh. Well, I’ll have to get the keys. From a manager.

The “manager” takes my receipt, and mumbles something, then

I’ll be right back.

I watch her slowly walk over to a group of other Cracker Barrel employees, stop and talk, showing my receipt and vaguely pointing towards me. I can barely hear the others Oh my… and Why in the world?

She continues this for three minutes, then slowly makes her way out of sight. She is gone for another eight minutes.

At this point I have been in the store for sixteen minutes and some change. There was no line and I made sure to come on a slower weekday to avoid a crowded restaurant.

She reappears. At this point I can feel the impatience bubbling to the surface. I’m keeping it together the best I can, as this is a small shop and I’m already physically imposing on it.

She doesn’t come straight to me, she makes a five minute pit stop to talk to another customer that is cashing out. They discuss his morning, and she scolds him for not wearing his sling, which he has a long excuse for. This ends with a lingering hug and a goodbye.

Come on, where is this chair. she says as she stomps past me.

I say it’s right through here, and I lead her to my van.

I pull the chair from the back, it still has all the tags on it.

She inspects it and says

Why are you returning this?

I don’t like it, it’s ugly. my irritation bursting at the corners of my mouth.

Well. Bring it up to the porch and I’ll chain it while you go inside to get a refund handing me my receipt.

I carry it across the parking lot onto the porch, and set it down. Thanks, and I slip inside.

Once inside, I hand my receipt to the original cashier, who takes it, glances at it, and then looks blankly at me, and says

What do you want? I can feel the redness of frustration flushing itself through my cheeks.

The other employee told me to bring it in here for a refund.

Do you have your card?

Swipe it she says as I pull it from my wallet.

It’s not taking it, swipe it again she continues.

I swipe the card again.

Nope, it’s not taking it. It’s refusing this debit card.

It’s not a debit card, I say. It’s a credit card.

Oh. Well. You have to type in the number then.

How? I say, bewildered as I look at the card reader that has no way to input anything, much less numbers.

Ugh. She grabs the machine, and pushes a button that brings up a touchscreen number field.

I start to input my number I get to the penultimate set of 4 digits, and she pushes the button on the cash register that runs the card.

It’s not taking it, says the number is bad.

I wasn’t done inputting the number, why did you run it? My brow is beginning to lower into its anger stance.

I thought you were done. Type your number again. she rolls her eyes.

At this point her tone has changed from irritated to rude, she’s frustrated with me, even though she’s made all the mistakes up until this point.

Please don’t run the card until I finish typing and give you an all clear, OK?

She just smiles smugly.

She does it again. Time is no longer something I am aware of, the ringing in my ears is deafening, and I’m losing focus.

After what seems like infinity more attempts, we finally get the card to run. And now she wants my name, phone number, email, and home addresses to finalize the refund. As always, I write N/A into all fields.

You have to put real info in sir. she snipes.

I would just like to get my refund and go, could we please expedite this.

Can I have a manager up here please! she chirps into her headset, the P in please makes a harsh PUH sound over the speakers which causes a sharp burst of static and feedback. Other customers begin to take interest in the whole ordeal.

A third woman appears as if by magic, and with a wave of her hand and friendly nod she initials the receipt, thus waiving the need for me to give my personal information. And then she disappears into the crowd as I wait for my final receipt to print.

Please sign this The cashier says sliding me a pen.

I look down and I see a signature spot above the line I agree to pay this total. Fuck me. I question this, as I’m asking for a refund not buying something.

You have to sign it.

I cross out the I agree bit, and write in “for a refund” and sign my name.

She hands me my receipt, I grab it and flee, I feel the sweat of conflict driven anxiety pooling, vision blurring. I feel light headed.

Have a nice day sir she sing-songs with more vinegar than honey.

As I reach the first set of doors, I hear her follow up, quieter than the first, but load enough to hear.

...And drop dead!

Now, I would have left, continued my day if that had been a Fuck you or Asshole, but “Drop Dead?” I could not let that go. That was a real curse, not just a curse word.

I spun on my heels, What did you just say? Drop Dead? Customers staring now.

She broke eye contact, like a child caught.

I didn’t say anything.

You said drop dead as I walking out, you thought I was out of ear shot. Please get a manager, right now. I’m final boss Karen in this moment.

I was so angry, I didn’t even know what I was going to say to the manager, I just didn’t want this woman to get way with such terrible sentiment, especially when the whole ordeal was her doing.

I didn’t say that! she demanded.

Manager, please. A calm was washing over me, my breath was steady, I had the high ground.

Can I get a manager to cash station one please!? more a question than a request.

The same woman from before, the magical one.

What can I do for you?

This woman told me to drop dead as I was leaving.

I’d describe her face as an equal mixture of shock, disgust, and disappointment. The way your mom looks at you when, inevitably, you’ve said something mean directed at her while in your teens.

I didn’t say that! Ask her! she pointed to another cashier, who just turned away, I assume not wanting to have any part of this. Smart move.

Can I walk you out sir, I am very sorry about this. the manager tried to guide me out.

She begged my forgiveness, and asked me to come back and let her buy me a meal. A pittance, but a good first step.

I appreciate that, but I’m not coming back. Being mad is one thing, but wishing death on someone for no reason is an entirely different thing.

She did her job and got me out of there. Great manager. Just a damn shame she has such a hateful person working for her.

And that, friends, is why I never go to Cracker Barrel.