It’s My First Time Working Late Nights at a Convenience Store, and If I Keep Getting Demon Lords, Kappa and Other Oddballs as Customers, I’m Giving My Two-Weeks’ Notice
The hero’s greeting is a lot more energetic than mine. Well, I guess that’s normal enough for him.
To be honest, I’m balking a little at the sheer number of people. Since I usually work the graveyard shift, I haven’t seen this many customers in one night, never mind all at once.
There’s an endless line of people in suits and uniforms — with the odd construction guy wearing a handkerchief around his head — all marching towards the register with boxed lunches or drinks in hand.
I swear, the line came out of nowhere. But, since it’s Mac’s first day, I’ve got to hold my ground. I can’t let my fear show.
Seriously, the lines actually get THIS bad?! Where are all these people coming from?!
And they just keep coming, without stopping.
“Yo, this one’s been warmed up. Chopsticks’re in the bag, too.”
You’d never guess that Mac only has a few hours of training under his belt, what with how smoothly this is going.
He’s been effortlessly supportive and hasn’t missed a beat. Huh. I guess he really does have stats worth bragging about.
“Hey! Can’t you see there’s a line?”
“Excuse you. I was clearly ahead of you.”
Great. An argument has broken out down the queue, between a housewife in her forties and another woman in her fifties. I anxiously look on as my heart starts to pound.
But, with this many people waiting in line, I can’t exactly leave the register to go and diffuse the situation. What should I do?
The scuffle hasn’t gone unnoticed by the businessman who comes up to the counter, either.
“Tsk. That old hag’s notorious for trying to cut in. Someone ought to put her in her place, otherwise she’ll walk all over everyone. Well, anyways. Can I get a pack of the 22s?”
The older man couldn’t be any less impressed by her behavior, and I wonder if I should go deal with that woman once I ring him up. Then again, that’s not really fair to the people who are still waiting patiently in line, is it?
I mean, it might take awhile to break up that fight. And what happens if I can’t? Then I’d have left people waiting for nothing. My mind is reeling from the pressure. I don’t even notice that I’ve stopped moving, my hand hovering near the racks of tobacco products.
“Got my smokes yet, kid?”
“Um! The 22s, right? Coming right up!”
Oh, hell. They’re only getting louder. What’s the best way to handle this?
The hero slips out from behind the counter and goes to calmly step in between the two women arguing.
“You know, anger isn’t a good look on a lady as elegant as you.”
Mac is all smiles as he takes the woman who tried to cut the line by the hand.
“So, what might you be purchasing here today?”
“Well, aren’t you a smooth talker? You must be new here.”
“That’s right. The name’s Mac. I just started today. Do you come here often, ma’am?”
“Hm? Oh, sure. I do.”
With a sly wink to the younger housewife, Mac keeps up a steady stream of conversation as he subtly leads the older woman to the end of the line. He stays back there with her, distracting her with an energetic dialogue.
Standing behind the register, I breathe a sigh of relief and before long, it’s the housewife who was being harassed’s turn.
“I’m guessing he just started?”
She must mean Mac.
“Mm, I thought so. Would you mind thanking him for me? He might be young, but he’s absolutely charming.”
“Of course. I’ll be sure to pass that along.”
The housewife gives me a gracious smile that I can’t help but return in kind.
Eventually, it’s the other woman’s turn.
She’s in a much better mood, chatting away with Mac like the two of them were old friends.
“Drop by again sometime, okay?”
“I believe I will, young man. And, you made your point. Just because living on my own is getting on my nerves, that doesn’t mean I should take it out on other people. I’ll be more mindful of that in the future.”
The older woman mumbles something like an apology, looking back at Mac multiple times on her way back out through the automatic doors.
Come to think of it, isn’t my sister writing her midterms today? That would explain why there’s a whole bunch of students here, too. They’re probably letting the kids out earlier than usual.
As soon as a cluster of high school students starts to approach the till, Mac pipes up with a...
“Yo, wanna switch? You must be tired of doing nothing but ringing people up.”
That liar. It’s painfully obvious that he’s only feigning concern so he can chat up those girls.
And he has the nerve to try and act all coy about it, too.
...Still, he’s not wrong. Working the till really does wear you down. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to let him take over for a little while.
I glance over at Yukari. She’s managed to hold down her register all on her own. Man, she’s good. ...Huh? The customer she’s serving right now seems kind of...familiar.
This guy’s easily over six feet tall. He’s a beast of a man in a black hoodie, sunglasses and a face mask — and he’s absolutely fawning over Yukari.
“So, back again?”
“Oh, um, yeah. I wanted to see you, Yukari, so, uh...”
Hang on, isn’t that the werewolf?
Yeesh, he stands out like a sore thumb. ...Hold up. Is Yukari the mystery woman he fell head over heels for?!
Whoa, nope. Never mind. This really isn’t the time to be getting distracted.
I’ve got my own set of customers to focus on.
“I’m guessing you two cuties are high schoolers?”
Mac casually calls out to the pair of trendy students as they step up to the register.
“Omigosh, no way! That guy’s way too cool to be from around here!”
“He’s a total hunk. Hey, should we, like, try and get a picture with him?”
The girls whisper (loudly) between themselves.
“A picture? Sure, I wouldn’t mind. But, I can’t believe a couple of adorable girls like you would wanna take one with me. It’s kinda embarrassing.”
Dude. Are you seriously playing the shy card?
Mac wraps up the transaction, chatting away with the young ladies long after they’ve paid.
“Hey! You girls know the rules!”
Another high schooler comes stalking in, her long black hair swaying as she stops near the counter, perching her hands on her hips.
Trailing along behind her, wearing the same school uniform, is another girl whose blonde pigtails I remember all too well.
“Wait, Kumoko?! And you too, Amanojaku?! What are you guys doing here?!”
Yep. The stern one in the glasses is none other than my sister, Kumoko.
“While midterms are in session, you’re supposed to be going straight home to study, not slack off! Didn’t they tell you that in homeroom?”
“What did you expect? The student council’s out patrolling for stragglers like you guys. Stop squandering your free time and get out of here before I have to write you up.”
Kumoko adjusts her red-rimmed glasses, chiding the two rule-breakers in her usual form.
“Hey, go easy on them, would you? For my sake. I mean, even you probably drop by convenience stores from time to time, right?”
Mac gives my sister a conspiratorial wink — and she turns on him, too.
“I really don’t see how your feelings have anything to do with it. Besides, you do-... Wait, who’s that beside you? ...Haru?! Is that you?! What are you doing here? Don’t you usually work the late shift?”
Once she spots me, my sister’s face lights up.
“I’m on the clock — I’ll explain when I get home.”
I whisper a few quick words to Kumoko, who nods in mildly disappointed understanding. Together with the amanojaku, she drags her two schoolmates out of the store.
“Hey, what’re you guys goin’ on about? Hurry up and do your damn job.”
Next in line is a guy in his mid-twenties, who practically slams his basket on the counter. Crap. I knew that was too much chatting! And now everyone’s in a bad mood. Panicked, I rush straight into the new transaction.
“Sorry about that, sir. I’ll be right with you.”
I scan through his items with a beep-beep-beep, as the customer impatiently taps his finger on the counter. Yep. He’s pissed.
And his basket’s crammed with stuff. Since barely anyone shows up while I’m working the graveyard shift — and they hardly buy much — I’m so nervous that I’m stumbling over the prices as I read them out loud.
“Your purchase comes to two thousand five hundred sixty yen. Would you like this heated up?”
“Um, sir? Can I warm this up for you?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Who the hell’d eat something like this cold? Dumbass.”
“...Right, of course. I’m sorry.”
I’ve just about hit my breaking point. I’m making dumb mistakes, and I can tell that everyone behind this guy is getting annoyed, too. ...I think I might actually start to cry. C’mon man, keep it together.
“Dude, do convenience store clerks in this realm HAVE to sell things to everyone? Including this jerk-off? ‘Cause I don’t see why we should.”
...Mac, you ignorant idiot!!!
“Huh? What’d you say, kid?”
The irate customer’s tone gets even rougher.
But, that doesn’t deter Mac.
“What’s your deal, man? You don’t know Murry, so why’re you acting like a total dick to someone who’s just trying to do his job?”
“Sir, I am SO sorry about all this!!”
I slap a hand over the hero’s mouth, to shut him up, before bowing deeply in apology.
“Nah, what’s done is done, so I’ll be talking to your manager. Isn’t the customer supposed to be king? I don’t care if his tag says he’s new — where the hell does he get off acting like that? Seriously, why’d you even hire a cocky jerk like him?”
“Pft, there’s no way YOU’RE royalty. You’re just some regular-ass dude.”
Please, Mac, I’m begging you. Shut your mouth before you make things worse.
I keep my head down low, struggling to keep myself from crying. My manager has enough on his plate without having to clean up my messes.
“I told you to go get your manager! NOW!!”
The customer bellows the demand as he crosses his arms, causing our manager to come flying out of the break room.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“What the hell’ve you been teaching the newbie? He’s been running his mouth at me, and barely knows a damn thing about customer service.”
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that, sir. You have my apologies.”
Seeing my manager have to bow so deeply on my behalf has me blinking back tears.
“No, it’s...my fault. I could have done better. I’m terribly sorry about that.”
Watching the two of us apologize makes even the hero reluctantly dip his head down.
“Huh. Can’t say I’m convinced. So, I shouldn’t have to pay for any of my stuff. The people behind me oughta get theirs for free, too.”
My breath catches in my throat at his brazen demand. Mac snaps up, about to say...something, but I don’t let him get another word out.
“I’m afraid...that won’t be possible, sir.”
“Why the hell not? Isn’t that the obvious solution?”
“...Good sir, do you mean to say that you have an issue with OUR servant?”
Clutching a bottle of tomato juice, the vampire storms up to the counter, her long red dress swishing angrily with each step. Her eyes widen with disbelief as she trembles with rage.
“I’m sayin’ that after such lousy service, free shit is the least I deserve. Got a problem with that?”
“Demanding to have your entire purchase compensated? That’s outrageous. Are you some kind of shameless beggar? To be fair, while the...clerk...was not as courteous as he ought to have been, he WAS standing up to your poor treatment of his fellow coworker. I should think that’s simple human decency.”
Dressed in a white T-shirt and long pink skirt is Sister Claire, who pops out of the queue to deliver her verdict.
“...No way. Claire?! Yo, it’s been ages! I thought you’d never drop by!”
“Indeed it has, you three-timing hussy. I assure you that I had no desire to see your face again. My presence here today is purely coincidental. It would be a waste of a decent establishment, otherwise.”
“Aw, c’mon, don’t be like that! I said I was sorry, didn’t I? No one’s THAT heartless!”
The store fills with chatter, as everyone’s focus is drawn to the ticked off (male) customer.
Some people have even pulled out their cell phones to record the scene.
“...What is WITH this place? I swear, I’m never comin’ back here again.”
Called out on his own poor behavior, the jerk grabs his bag of stuff and books it out of the store.
“Manager, I really am sorry about...everything.”
“Don’t worry, Haru. You did the best you could. Go on, you two. Take the rest of the day off. I’ll take over from here.”
My manager gives me a reassuring pat on the back, his voice soft and soothing.
“Maaaaan, I wish one of those giant worms from the Infernal Caverns would just like, pop up and swallow me whole.”
We retreat to the break room, Mac muttering to himself as he flops down onto the couch, burying his face into the pillows.
I’m still too stunned to speak, standing in place as I process everything that just happened.
“...Murry, don’t feel so down, man. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Mac hauls himself off the cushions, throwing an arm around my shoulders before he continues.
“Yeeeah, I don’t think this gig’s for me. ...Seriously, bruh, I was so freaking nervous the whole time. I thought I was gonna bawl my eyes out. But, watching a buddy of mine get chewed out like that for no good reason... I couldn’t let that slide. So, I just blurted out whatever was on my mind. Sorry, man. I’m just not cut out for customer service. I mean, I can’t think straight when I get ticked off.
“Sure, I get it.”
He snapped at that customer just for me, huh?
You know, maybe Mac’s not such a bad guy after all.
“Sorry about all that. Thanks, Mac.”
“S’alright, fam. ...Oh, dude! You should give up on this place and be a Viewtuber with me!”
Following my manager’s suggestion, I took off earlier than scheduled.
I start walking home alone — until I hear the tap-tap-tap of quickly approaching footsteps. I look back to see Ayame standing right behind me.
“Oh, Haru! ...Hm? Isn’t that your work satchel? Were you on a different shift today?”
Ayame’s wearing her usual mask, but today’s outfit is a chic suit. Her long hair is tied back in a tight bun, giving her an entirely different kind of vibe.
“...Ayame? What are you doing here?”
“I do have a regular office job, you know. On my time off, though, I like to watch over you from the bushes by the convenience store.”
She says this with such a disarming smile, that I feel like I could cry from relief at having survived the stress of the day.
“Haru, are you feeling unwell? You seem a little run down. Did something bad happen? You can talk to me about anything. I’ll listen.”
The evening is calm, the city slowly winding down.
Ayame’s quiet concern is what finally breaks me, and the tears start to fall.
“...*sniff*... Sorry, I... *hic*... I can’t... I can’t help it...”
“H-Haru, are you alright?! What’s wrong?”
“...I’m... I’m okay. Thanks for asking, Ayame. It’s just... Work today was too much to handle. But, getting to see you is already making me feel better.”
“...Well, you can tell me about it later, if you’d like. I’ll always take your side. Especially since you constantly give it your all, no matter what kind of customer walks through those doors. I’m certain that everyone you’ve served knows that, too — which is why their paths keep taking them back to your store. I should know, I’m one of those lucky ones.”
The sun sets as we walk home, bathing the path in soft orange light.
Working in the service industry means striving to give customers the best possible experience. That goes without saying.
According to our manual, that means rolling with the punches.
You’ve got to think on your feet, picking the responses that best suit the situation.
Which is easier said than done, since it’s basically an interaction between two complete strangers. And there’s this kind of power imbalance between cashiers and customers, too.
It’s a thankless job, but knowing that there are people looking out for me... Well, even having just one person say that they appreciate the work I do gives me the strength to keep going.
...In the end, Mac quit after that one day.
And I got to return to my usual graveyard shift.
I bundle myself up in my comforter, feeling only slightly guilty for having that weight lifted from my shoulders.
“...I’ll never make my manager apologize to a customer again.”
Or so I mumble, as I drift off to sleep.