Dear Me

One of the tasks in the Great Preparation for my sister’s post-Christmas visit is to procure a guest bed that doesn’t date from before the flood. To the mattress emporium I did go, and a serviceable new bed I did get, but an aspect of the transaction has bothered me ever since.

I picked out the only suitable bed in the store, and sat down to write the exorbitant check, and the floor rep says to me, “I don’t accept checks. That ten or twelve day float creates too much opportunity for fraud, and that’s a risk I can’t take. I have two little kids and a wife who doesn’t work.”

He put it like that, as if maybe even the children are slacking. I did not explain to him that staying home to raise two kids is work, and I did not foghorn that check truncation means a ten or twelve day float is an artifact from the last century… You can take the lawyer out of the courtroom, but.

I paid up with my debit card, and left, and here’s hoping the bed I bought isn’t so horrible that I’m going to wish I’d written a check I could stop… What bothered me most about the whole encounter (besides paying that much for a cheesy bed), is that this man called me “dear,” repeatedly, despite having my complete, legal name staring him in the face.

“You know what I’m sayin’ dear?”

“Thanksgiving will be with family for me, and trust me, hon,  I’m not much of a family man…”

“You have a nice day, dear.”

His use of endearments in the course of a business transaction annoyed the living peedywaddles out of me, and I didn’t ask him to stop, which annoys me even more. Part of me thinks I should have splainy-splained to him that some women find the casual use of endearments from strangers uncomfortable or even offensive.

I don’t like it from anybody, but especially not from men, and this guy was not the Ancient of Days such that the fig leaves of yester-century can be plausibly handed to him.

Yes, I felt sorry for him. I don’t believe too many of us aspire to support a family of four on a mattress floor rep’s salary. I apparently didn’t feel sorry enough for him that I’d  tell him his presumptive use of endearments means I will sleep in the hay mow before I go back to that store. And so what if he doesn’t like hearing about my uppity-female-sensitivities, because I’m also peeved at him.

The argument that, “He didn’t mean anything by it….” is no argument at all, in the sense that his intentions are not more important than my perceptions (neither are they less important). He was on the job, taking money from me for goods, and I regard his behavior as unprofessional and backward. So why didn’t I raise the topic with him?

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesI have lost sleep over this (not a lot, and not in the hay mow… yet). Why not speak up? Not to educate him, not to improve the likelihood that he’ll make more sales going forward, but simply because he was addressing me in a manner I dislike. What seat-of-pants assessment did I make that mitigated in favor of silence?

What would you have done? Because if this happens again, I want to be prepared with a proactive strategy other than second-guessing myself and muttering about it for a week.

This week I’ll be taking names for the e-ARC of Lady Violet Says I Do, which will be released in print and on the web store on Dec. 13, and on the retail sites Jan. 3. Where has this year gone!




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25 comments on “Dear Me

  1. Being a grown-up female person, myself (I’ll be 71 in FEB), I believe I would have politely, but firmly, told him that his language was unacceptable. If he persisted (as some people will, being used to a certain style of false bonhomie), I think I would have turned to face him, looked him straight in the eyes, and asked if there was someone else who could help me. If not, I would have cancelled the sale, due to his attitude — and let him know WHY! And planned to sleep on an air mattress, if necessary, until I could find a different store in which to shop. Sure he’s “just doing his job”, but there are limits that should not be crossed, and he already had…. And was obviously used to that style of speech with females (very demeaning, IMHO).

    So much for buyer’s remorse — let him stew in some seller’s disappointment!

  2. I buy my mattresses on Amazon. The Zinus foam mattresses come all compressed in a box that is unthinkably small, given how big the mattress will be eventually, and are sooooo comfy. Like sleeping on a marshmallow, a really supportive one. Then, I buy the reasonably priced frame/platform Amazon suggests to go with it (also Zinus brand), which also comes in a manageable-sized box, and done. And for much cheaper than the mattress stores. I can set up all but the king size on my lonesome; I have bought quite a few of these over the years. The last time I was in an actual mattress store was probably fifteen years ago, and I’m not sure I’ve ever met a sales rep at a mattress store I haven’t found… disquieting.

    For me, deciding when to say something comes down to whether or not it’s worth adding additional emotional labor to an already emotionally laborious life. Is this going to help me and for how long? Sometimes I think about whether or not it will help anybody else, especially if safety is on the line. I think you made the quick, subconscious calculation that enlightening Mattress Man on net wasn’t going to be doing anybody any favors. It maybe grates though, because it’s a reminder that casual misogyny is alive and well, and in a given situation there sometimes is very little one can do about it. Saying something might only make the idiot more brazen next time and could end up dragging out and making more unpleasant an already unpleasant interaction. I think you made the right call. Better to save your fire to combat that sort of behavior with your books, as you surely do.

  3. I think if I were in Liverpool or Manchester, I might find the language endearing. I saw a thing with Paul McCartney touring his old home town and he called everyone “Luv” and I was enchanted.

    BUT, this salesman’s use of it just seems a little off.

    If he was a salesman and not the owner, then the owner would likely like to be made aware. The owner should have to instruct this “dear” salesman. Plus, if the store has a policy that checks are accepted, they should accept your check. Period. Perhaps the salesman wouldn’t get his commission until the payment cleared and, therefore, only wanted a different payment because of that?

    I think a direct and clear approach to any unwanted language is appropriate. “I realize you may not be aware you are doing this, but it is inappropriate for you to call me “dear” and “hon”. I find it demeaning and I need you to stop.”
    If he continues to do it or gives you any guff, then ask for the owner’s name and contact information.

    OR, just a very simple, “Please stop using the terms ‘dear’ and ‘hon’ when you refer to me. I don’t like it.”
    In my other example I gave a reason why, but you don’t really have to explain why don’t like being called “dear” and “hon”, just indicate your preference and see what he does.

  4. I agree with the advise that KarenM6 gives. The direct approach is the best. And when it is over – let it go. I always ask myself if it is worth raising my blood pressure – it almost never is. Stay positive.

  5. Wow! Some wise people writing today. I really don’t want to take in emotional baggage either. I use Amazon a lot but a bed I really need to personally try them. So for me sticking to “ I statements” would be a strategy. “I beg your pardon?” “My name is …”. And If he doesn’t get the hint “Amazon it is – good day”

  6. Since this style of address is pervasive, I arm myself with a direct look and the response, “My name is Mary.”

    If the twiddlepoop doesn’t get it, then I usually walk away. I try not to make a big scene — despite wanting to do so — but I’m not quite that brave. I have to admit, though, that a younger-than-me pulling out the dear-honey-sweetheart crap is far more offensive and I’m a little more willing to make him squirm.

  7. I hate it when anyone called me by names like dear or sweetie, man or woman. But I definitely hate it more from men, because it smacks of condescension or a pejorative. That said, I normally just let it go, because anyone who uses those words is unlikely to learn from me explaining to them that their words are not welcome to many others around them. Life is too short to try to teach those who are unwilling to learn. I just vote with my feet and my pocketbook.
    The man who would only talk to my spouse when I was buying my car was not the one who made the sale to me! i found someone who would answers my questions when I said them, not when my husband re-stated them. Grrr.
    I’m sorry this is still weighing on your mind Grace. It can be hard to stop perseverating over annoyances like this!

  8. Many years ago, I went car shopping with my husband. When the salesman insisted on speaking about the car to my husband, he politely, but firmly explained that I was the one buying the car and that the salesman needed to talk to me about the features. When the salesman persisted, we left. This was probably 4 or more cars ago (and we keep our cars nearly forever!), and we still talk about it and never went back to that dealership. Not only did the guy lose that sale, his dealership lost the right to all the future sales for me, my husband and our two kids. Unfortunately, I doubt the salesman learned anything from the encounter. So here was a case where we did confront the guy to no effect.

    • When I bought my first car, I was 25. I had cash, or rather, check. Three of the dealerships wouldn’t even let me test drive the car myself. I was driven around a short course by the salesman. One dealership asked to speak to my father. After that I took either my extremely good-looking flirtatious roommate or found a guy to draw the salesman’s fire. When one salesman handed over the keys to my male (and much younger) friend, he gave them to me, thanked the man and added, “She’s the one buying the car.”

  9. I am so sorry that happened to you. I would not have spoken either – just arranged for my purchase and the delivery and got out of there. You can’t change him, and also you don’t want a delay in your bed being delivered, for example. Maybe it would arrive okay and on time, and maybe not – then you’d wonder if he had done it on purpose. He also might take it out on the wife and kids at home.

    He’s just unhappy with his life and broadcasting it.

  10. I’m not wasting my breath if it’s not getting me what I want & worth my time. Think how many people got arrogant or mouthed off to the great figures of history without realizing they’d made fools of themselves in front of Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, etc. If those sainted souls could hold their breath unless it was a teachable moment, I figure I can leave it. It’s not my job to educate the world.

  11. I struggle with sort of thing all the time. I am a natural-born teacher and I always feel that these things are a “teachable moment.” But I am also getting more cynical about people and know that “you can’t fix stupid (or insensitive or whatever)” so I don’t always say something. However, I would probably have either asked for the owner/manager or cancelled the order, especially since he was asking me for a favor (not to use my credit card) but disrespecting me at the same time. He’s in retail and accusing me of fraud without knowing me is a big problem. I don’t give business to people who don’t act professionally.
    I think it’s because of our age that we were conditioned to be “nice” above all else (I’m about 10 years older than you as I recall). This was really brought home to me at a nice restaurant on Thanksgiving Day many years ago with my Mom and then-husband (we were out of town visiting a sick relative). I ordered the turkey dinner but found it to be rolled turkey breast instead of actual roasted turkey and I couldn’t eat it. When the waitress initially asked how things were, I started to say something but both my mother and my husband stopped me. But I didn’t eat it and when the waitress cleared the table and saw the food sitting there, she asked why and told me I should have said something. Amazingly, this was over 40 years ago and I still remember it! I have taken to speaking up for myself since then. I guess that means I don’t have any real advice. As other commenters say, however, you do have to figure out whether it’s worth it to you.

  12. I always think of what I should have done afterwards when I’m stewing about it. Rarely does anything occur to me at the time. However, I do find it a little confusing in the moment, and am told that my “resting bitch face” and radiant hostility is frightening.

  13. Hello, Grace.

    My first thought was that this must be an old(er) man, but then you said he wasn’t. Then I decided that I would have returned the favor, and called him by some ridiculous endearment, so as to make a point. But on third thought, I think you deserve kudos for letting an uncomfortable situation just pass by without escalating it. Then again, he probably would benefit by learning that his endearments are unwanted and outdated. Now, I’m waffling on my own opinion.

    I am definitely anxiously awaiting this book! No waffling about that.

  14. You could have said there were 3 reasons you would not complete the transaction and purchase from him. One, “I only have my checkbook with me.” Two, paying him with a check would save his company the fees that they have to pay a credit card company for a credit transaction so he should be giving you a discount (equal to the fees charged by the bank) for using a check. And leave. Third, you say? Oh, leaving because you don’t do business with close relatives or love interests due to conflicts of interest, and his uses of endearments show his confusion about your relationship.

    And no, I couldn’t have done this, but isn’t it fun to think about his draw drop as you marched out?

    • I’m somewhat curious why I’m replying here because I would feel powerless to say anything to this guy one way or the other. Yes, like Marianne above I usually become brilliant an hour or two after the event, than at the time. So I have no advice. I have to agree that it wouldn’t have been worth the effort to say anything, but sparking a confrontation that would likely backfire on you. As for it being an educational moment, I seriously doubt a guy like that would take the lesson but would just give him more in his life to vent about some bitchy woman making his life a bigger trial. It might have had the most benefit by writing an email to corporate, or the the store owner after having composing it in the most diplomatic and complimentary terms…you did buy a mattress after all. Honey getting more etc., than vinegar.

      None of this has that satisfaction of ripping the guy a new one over it, but knowing that you acted the more honorable over it. Believe me, I have had this exact experience before and at the time I was just taken aback and couldn’t say a thing. We lived in TX for 20 years and I worked for a Doctor’s office. Central TX isn’t deep South but we had a customer who addressed me in a way I assume she addressed anyone in my position (I didn’t wear scrubs) and when I mentioned it to a coworker she confirmed it was just a normal way to address an older lady. It really didn’t seem very respectful but not really disrespectful either. I can’t even remember what she said. Sweetie? Dearie? I’ve forgotten. Whichever it was, it made me feel ‘less than.’ I had gotten used to being addressed as Miss Michelle by our little patients and their parents as well, and I thought that was charming. No doubt ‘The Woman’ believed she was being charming as well.

      I hope that mattress works out beautifully!

  15. I wonder if: one, you were quite fixed on purchasing a mattress that very day, so that two, you were taken off-guard by his behavior and thus rendered speechless. You weren’t expecting or prepared for any of it!

    You may think your experience as an attorney should have given you the ability to manage the situation. But there is a big difference between your “work persona” and your regular, every-day self. That guy was unprofessional and brought the interaction to a personal level.While your lawyer-self could have dealt with him satisfactorily, your unsuspecting introverted-self could not.

  16. Ugh, I’m sorry you had that happen and also have it sticking around in your brain now. Usually I make a face I think, eyebrows up and clear disapproval then walk away if that is an option if it happens again. I don’t want a debate, I don’t want to get pulled into a conflict, and I don’t want to be further patronized. Sometimes I think I am too stunned to do anything though, then I will suffer this regret. Of course this only holds for customer service, when you get this from a uniform it is a different story, the eyebrows should definitely stay down.

  17. I just had a discussion about this type of situation with an old friend in London. This man sounds obnoxious and unpleasant. I doubt a few well chosen words would have made an improvement in his personality but it might have turned the situation from bad to worse. Sometimes it is best to not confront a stranger.
    Hope the visit with your sister is great! I’m 75 now and finding I’m losing my old friends and family.

  18. Oh, that was a good story! Thanks for the laughs. Rest easy, Grace – There’s no need to lie awake thinking about that “not much of a family man.” Nothing you could have told the dear man would have educated him. You can be sure that other woman have tried to explain to him why it’s not okay to refer to strangers in that manner. He probably just thinks that those uppity broads were wrong headed. He’s betting that a nice lady, such as you, is sensible and feels flattered when he dears you to death.
    If you’re going to let anything keep you up at night, it should be the possibility that he insisted on credit because he plans to clone your credit card. Kidding!

    • Just read through the other comments. I totally agree with Ona, Make Kay, Pam & Beth. If he’s old enough to be working, he’s old enough to have already learned this lesson. It wasn’t worth your time. You got the bed you needed and got the heck out of Dodge. No need to give the poor twit another thought.
      Being a southern lady, I would have just said “bless your heart” and moved on.

  19. Grace, I am in full agreement feeling uncomfortable of anyone who isn’t a close friend or close family member addressing me as baby, honey, sweetheart, etc.
    I’m from the South where that is used frequently, but I still don’t like it from people who make the endearments sound degrading.
    About 30 years ago I joined my husband and his male friends during our lunch break at a small restaurant. As I was deciding what to have from the menu, the waitress took the mens orders. When she got to my husband she kept addressing him as baby. I don’t know what came over me (possession?), but I told her in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t her baby or anyone else’s baby because he was my baby. She apologized profusely, took my order and quickly left the table. All the men looked at me with big smiles and probably still tease my husband of 37 years.

  20. Definitely an issue that I am familiar with. Sales people are a sore subject with me and have been for years. They are taught to be artificially friendly to customers for the purpose of commerce. I have never met them before and they either want to call me by my first name or the teeth grinding “dear”, “honey” or something else I don’t want to be associated with. I don’t actually mind being called “madam” or “Mrs.” That is a level of politeness that I don’t associate with advancing age. Better to be viewed as “old” than be someone’s “dear” when I clearly am not. I have taken sales people to task for mispronunciation of my surname and I don’t apologize for it. I have argued with them about their assumption that I have the knowledge of a toddler, when I don’t go into any place without having an informed idea of what I would like or need. I told my son when he was talking about getting his own car that he should always keep in mind that the sales person is not in charge of the encounter, he is, because he is the one paying for the item. I would have asked that salesman, after deliberately calling him “dear” what the store policy about checks as payment is. And if writing a check was allowed, then that is what he would have received, along with a statement about how I was there to purchase a bed not hear about the financial woes he has. I detest having my emotions manipulated by anyone let alone a stranger who is supposed to be professionally polite and pleasant. I told my husband and son once that I was thrust into the role of negotiating with sales people at the age of sixteen totally against my wishes. That first encounter shaped all future encounters. My mother threw me into the deep end because she either didn’t want to or didn’t know how to interact with sales people. My father had done all that and he wasn’t available due to a change in work schedule. What still baffles me is why I wasn’t told beforehand that I was to be the negotiator and not just there to offer a second pair of eyes regarding the purchase. I refused to accompany my mother going forward and my husband witnessed a protracted disagreeable encounter at the home improvement store between me and the sales person. Afterwards my husband told me that the salesman kept looking to him with appeal in his eyes. My husband said the guy had dug a hole and he wasn’t going to help him out of it just because they both had a Y chromosome. I got what I wanted after saying I would go elsewhere. Then the tone totally changed. My husband informed me that he noticed several months later that the salesman was gone. My response was if he argued with others the way he had with me, I wasn’t surprised. I respect knowledge of the items being sold, but not attempting to mansplain.

    • I shared this with my husband. His response was that if it was bothering you for the length of time you mentioned, then your gut had been trying to tell you that the encounter didn’t go the way you were comfortable with. He said he would have called the guy out on the refusal to take the check. And both of us would have left the store without making the purchase. My husband helped me to realize that investing emotional time and energy might not have changed the salesman, but would have allowed me to have peace of mind. That is what happened with the guy at the home improvement store. I had no regrets. My son has actually shared that story with others. His point is that his mother is not someone to mess with. It was then worth the emotional time and energy to make such an impact on my son 20 years later.