The typical day for deli worker can be a boring one. Customers request a certain cut of meat or item from the deli case and the worker fills the order. However, there are exceptions, as the deli workers in the following stories can attest to.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
Is The Fresh Salmon “Fresh?”
“I work at a grocery store in an upper-class area of town. Sometimes I’m a clerk, but I also work extensively in the fisheries section of our dear shop. The other day a gentleman approached the counter when I was the worker on hand.
‘Is the salmon fresh?’ he asked. I replied that it was. Perplexity consumed his face. ‘Surely it can’t be, it had to come on a truck, didn’t it?’ ‘Yes, but it was caught this morning!’ ‘But it isn’t salmon season,’ he concerningly snapped back.
At this point, the shell-shock kicked in, and I thought to myself, Like, what does he want?’
I try again. ‘No, it isn’t salmon season, but it was caught this morning from the salmon farm down the road.’
‘OH,’ he puffed, ‘Well, it isn’t fresh, is it then!?’
I lost my temper. ‘Well, sorry, but we don’t have a lake out back where we haul the closest, pinkest actinopterygian that swims at me!’ He turned red and trotted away with the salmon in his hand.
My manager called the next day, laughing as he told me I made his day because apparently, the chap was a real pain up the backside.
You learn how to sense all the different types of neurosis when you’re a college student working part-time at a grocery store.”
You Want To Return Your Sandwich?
“I was working yesterday in our sandwich shop when a kid probably in his early 20s walked in and wanted to get two sandwiches.
Ok, cool. He then took about 10 minutes hovering between choices while a line was slowly forming. I could see the customers were getting agitated, but we only had the one register, and every time I suggested he step aside and let another customer order he replied with, ‘I’m almost done; just one second.’
He eventually settled on a ham sandwich and a beef sandwich, thank God. We made his food before sending him on his way.
Or so we thought…
About 15 minutes later, I was cleaning by the front register when he came up and stood by the counter. We then had the following exchange:
(M = Me, C = Customer)
Me: ‘Yes, did you need help with anything?’
C: ‘Yeah, I started to eat my second sandwich but then realized I was too full. I don’t want it anymore.’
Me: ‘OK? What would you like me to do about it?’
C: ‘Well I’d like a refund on it! (He said this as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.)’
Me: ‘Sir, we don’t offer refunds on any of our items.’
C:’ What are you talking about? Other places offer refunds on things all the time!’
Me: ‘Normally yes. However, given that ours is a food joint, we don’t. If for some reason I were to refund your sandwich, I couldn’t resell it, so it would be a profit loss for the store.’
C: ‘Well this is bull! I want to see your manager!’
Me: ‘You already are. As I said, we don’t issue refunds of any kind. My apologies (not really). Can I help you with anything else?’
C: ‘What am I supposed to do with this sandwich? I’m NOT hungry!’
Me: ‘I don’t know. Save it for later?’
At this reply, the customer became quiet, then grabbed his things and rushed out of our store.”
She Thought These Deli Workers Were Trying To Kill Her
“I work in the deli department of a major Australian supermarket, so I have plenty of stories of crazy customers.
This one happened to a co-worker a few years ago, but I witnessed the whole spectacle.
We sell salmon with the skin on in our seafood section. Now the salmon skin is just that, skin. There are no scales, even though it looks like the scales are still attached.
You can eat the skin. There’s no need to cut it off, and it fries up deliciously crispy.
Enter crazy lady. She asked my co-worker (we’ll call him Alberto) if we had salmon, and he showed her the two options.
The no skin salmon was too expensive, so she bought a portion with skin and was repeatedly reassured that there were no scales on the skin.
She left semi-happy.
The next morning she came storming into the deli where Alberto, a few other coworkers, and I were getting started for the day.
She spotted Alberto and full on threw a packet of salmon at his head! It hit him on the side of his face, and he stood there bewildered while the crazy lady was ranting and raving about scales and dying.
We immediately notified the manager who escorted the crazy lady elsewhere.
We opened the packet and found that she had scraped (not cut) or attempted to scrape all the skin off because she thought the markings were scales and she was afraid of choking.
Our store manager had to ring our salmon supplier to confirm that salmon skin had no scales and that Alberto did not lie to her.
Just another day at the deli.
I never saw the crazy fish lady again, and a few days later we were given the official paperwork to read that stated that salmon has no scales.”
“In 2013, I managed a grocery store in an area near Watertown, Mass. At that time, police had officially identified and located the now infamous Boston Marathon Bombing suspects, and l woke up one day to find out Boston and all the surrounding towns were on emergency lockdown. Nobody in, nobody out.
Massachusetts has weird laws about being in a state of emergency. Grocery stores fall in that gray area where you’re not considered ‘non-essential,’ since if somebody found themselves in a life and death situation and needed to get formula for their kid or something, somebody needs to be in the building to offer that service.
Any business that was actively open to the public on April 19, 2013 was forced to close by police and was subject to a minimum $1,000 fine for breaking the emergency ban, but l headed into work so I’d be ready for when the lockdown ended.
All day long, the phone rang incessantly with people wanting to know if the store was open, with the occasional person strolled up to bang on the doors. I received the following call later in the day:
(M = Me, V = Customer on the phone, insert thick Boston accent)
V: ‘Hey, are you open?’
M: ‘No, we are not.’
V: ‘Why not? I need some food. Don’t you want customers?’
M: ‘The Governor ordered a lockdown. Businesses in the area aren’t allowed to open until the lockdown is lifted.’
V: ‘Lockdown? Why? What’s going on?’
M: ‘Something to do with the Marathon Bombing suspect. They think he is in the area somewhere; they’re hoping to flush him out.’
V: ‘Are you kidding me? THAT’S why you can’t sell GROCERIES?’
M: ‘I’m afraid so.’
V: (tone escalating) ‘TERRORISTS! I want to EAT!’
M: ‘Yeah, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but this is very much out of my control.’
V: ‘FORGET THIS. Where do they think he’s hiding? If the police are going to take this long finding him, I’m going to find this guy myself! I WANT A SANDWICH!’
Click. The line goes dead. The store didn’t open that night, and I don’t know if the customer was able to buy his sandwich ingredients elsewhere. I laugh every time I think about him going vigilante and running around Watertown on lockdown, looking through sewer grates, and poking bushes because a ‘terrorist’ wasn’t going to stand between a Bostonian and his sandwich.”
Meltdown Over A Christmas Ham
“It was Christmas Eve, and I was cleaning in the supermarket’s deli. I overheard this conversation between the deli worker and a customer:
(C = Customer, DW = Deli worker)
C: ‘Excuse me, do you have any Christmas hams?’
DW: ‘I’m sorry, we sold out this morning. We’ve been busy.’
C: ‘What? I need that ham!’
DW: ‘They were very popular.’
C: ‘But it is impossible to run out of Christmas hams on Christmas Eve!’
DW: ‘But we did run out.’ (facepalms)
C: ‘Can you get some more in for me?’
DW: ‘There is a supply coming in on Boxing Day.’
C: ‘Boxing day? I need it for tomorrow! Isn’t there some coming tomorrow?’
DW: ‘We’re closed tomor-‘
C: ‘GET ME A HAM RIGHT NOW!’
DW: ‘The store closes in five minutes. There is no ham. If you continue to yell at me, I’ll have security remove you from the store!’
C: ‘YOU CAN’T DO THA-…..’
DW: ‘SECURITY PRIORITY 1 TO DELI’
C: ‘HOW DARE YOU!’
Gee, I didn’t know our hams were that good.”
You Want Me To Do What?
“I work in the deli department at a grocery store and have plenty of stories to share.
It was a little after 5 p.m., and we were slammed as people were getting off work and picking up food for dinner. My coworker was getting some broccoli cheddar salad for a customer. Just as he was about to scoop it into the container, the customer stopped him.
Customer: ‘Wait. Before you scoop that up, can you cut all the broccoli into tiny pieces?’
Customer: ‘Yes. And make it quick, I’m in a hurry.’
So my coworker had to fill the salad container, pick out the broccoli, dice it, and then return it to the salad. The customer then dared to complain about the service being slow. It’s unquestionably the strangest request that I’ve heard so far.”
You Might Want To Be More Specific Next Time
“I used to work at a grocery store deli. One day, a guy came up to the counter while I was looking the other way. He knocked on the counter with the veracity of a rabid Jehovah’s Witness and immediately shouted at top volume: ‘HEY! I NEED SERVICE OVER HERE! HELLOOOO?’
I gritted my teeth in my best ‘How can I help you?’ smile and walked over.
Before I could get in a word, he shouted, ‘A POUND OF HAM!’ and stormed away.
I called after him, ‘Sir, what kind of ham? How do you want it sliced?’
He screamed over his shoulder, ‘I DON’T CARE, JUST GIVE ME A POUND OF HAM! I’LL BE BACK FOR IT!’
Without another word, he disappeared. I shrugged, grabbed the cheapest, crappiest ham in the case, opened the slicer to the widest setting and buzzed off two half-pound slices of slimy, almost-expired, cheap meat. I left it on the counter and returned to washing the dishes behind the counter.
The man returned a few minutes later, saw the ham, and grabbed it furiously before stomping to the cash register. He paid and left.
The next day, the customer returned to the deli. I was the only one working again, and right away I recognized him. I didn’t even try to disguise my grin as I addressed him. ‘Hello, sir. What can I do for you today?’
He held up the pound of ham from yesterday and, with a surprisingly subdued tone, said, ‘I can’t use this. It’s not sliced.’
‘Sir, it is sliced. I recall you asked for a pound of ham, and so I gave you a pound of ham. Is there anything else I can get for you today?’
He paused, staring right into my eyes, seemingly trying to intimidate me. I didn’t even blink; I stared right back. Finally, he looked down at the floor and mumbled, ‘I’d like a pound of Boar’s Head honey ham, sliced thin, please.’
‘Absolutely sir! Coming right up!’
I sliced the ham, bagged it, tagged it, and wished him a pleasant day. He left with his tail tucked between his legs. I like to think he was polite and courteous to deli workers everywhere after that.”
You Can’t Please Everyone
“I have worked at a supermarket for a long time. I work behind the deli counter.
I was working one hectic Sunday, and of course, no one wanted to wait. We had a lot of regulars, and when I saw this one woman, I knew she would be trouble.
‘I want a half a pound of salami, cut thin,’ she said.
I cut her a slice and showed it to her, and she snapped, ‘That’s too thin. I said THICK.’ Of course, she didn’t say she wanted it thick. She made a mistake and said THIN when she meant THICK, but of course, it was MY fault.
So I made it slightly thicker and showed her the slice.
‘You don’t have to be nasty!’ She got angry with me for showing her the slices, even though this is standard at most supermarket deli departments. ‘Make it two notches thicker!’
I obliged her request and started slicing her a half-pound of salami, set at two notches thicker than what I had it. That would have made each slice about one-quarter of an inch thick, but it was what she requested.
This only made her even madder. ‘What this?!’ I say to her that I made it two notches thicker.
‘I don’t want it this thick. Why didn’t you show me the slices first?’
‘Because you yelled at me when I did it and told me I was nasty, so I assumed you didn’t want me to.’
‘I want someone else to help me,’ she said.
‘There is no one else,’ I said. She stormed off.
She then came back. Apparently, she complained to customer service, and they paged one of my co-workers to LEAVE HER BREAK AND GO BACK AND HELP THIS MUTANT.
She came back several weeks later and ended up as my customer, again.
‘I want someone else helping me. You’re nasty.’
I proceeded to help the next customer in line while she got mad and complained to the store manager. Apparently, she didn’t want me to help her, but she also didn’t want me to help anyone who was in line behind her while she waited for someone else to help her.
One day, I was in my school’s testing center taking my math final. The room was quiet and full of students.
‘Excuse me. Are these books yours?’
‘Oh yes! Sorry.’ As I removed my books from the chair to allow the person to sit down, I looked and who do I see?
It was the nasty, ugly woman from the deli, and we were stuck sitting next to each other for the next two hours taking our finals.”
“You Need To Learn Your Lesson”
“An old woman recently walked into my deli and requested a half-pound of cheese.
As I gave it to her, she gasped as if she saw a rat. She was horrified that I gave her two more slices over the requested amount. I told her that I would be happy to take them off.
As I reached for the bag, she told me, ‘You need to learn your lesson… Cut it again.’
I was biting my lip so hard that there is still a visible scar.
The second time she was still not happy that I was one slice over.
She claimed, ‘I don’t see why I have to pay for your mistakes.’
Right as she left, I went into the back and threw empty trash cans.”
“Eventually, She Stopped Cursing Me Out Long Enough To Bark Her Order”
“This happened about two weeks into my job working at a grocery store deli.
It was a weekday evening, so the place was dead, and a co-worker and I were standing at the counter chatting with each other. This woman walked up to the counter and stood there glaring at me.
I was in a pretty good mood, so I made eye contact with her and smiled thinking she was going to tell me what she wanted. When she didn’t say anything, I asked if there was anything I could do for her.
She then let loose with the longest, nastiest string of curses that I had heard in a long time. She then started yelling at me for being a lazy jerk for purposely making her wait (10 seconds), and that the store needed to stop hiring stupid, inconsiderate kids.
My co-worker and I just stood there dumbfounded while she continued to berate us. Eventually, she stopped cursing me out long enough to bark her order at me and then thankfully left.
It ruined the rest of my night.”
The Windex Kid
“So about three years ago, I had just started working at a butcher shop in my local mall. As the newbie, I was sent out front to clean our glass display and deal with all the customers who couldn’t tell we were obviously closing (we closed at 6 p.m., other shops at 7 p.m.). Only equipped with a piece of cloth and a bottle of Windex, I began my duties.
About halfway through the job, I heard someone screaming:
‘YOU’VE USED TO MUCH WINDEX YOU EFFING IDIOT!’
Taken back by surprise, I looked up to see the local mall junkie approaching full-speed with the mall security tailing behind. As he got close, he took a swing at me, which I dodged, thus throwing him off balance and sending him flying into a trashcan. As he got up, he turned to look at me and give his last final words of wisdom:
‘Stay in school.’
Before finally being tackled by security.
And that’s how I got the nickname ‘Windex Kid.'”
You Know A Slice Is Not A Pound, Right?
“One of my friends works in a deli at an upscale grocery store. When you order, they’ll give you a slice for free while you wait. This often causes more confusion than it should.
Customer: ‘I’ll have one pound of ham.’
Friend: ‘Got it.’
Cuts the ham, holds out a free slice.
F: ‘Want to try some?’
C: (empty stare) ‘That’s not even close to one pound.’
People are morons.”
How Does Your Salad Bar Work?
“I work at a somewhat large grocery store, and we have a big ‘pick-and-mix-yourself-salad bar.’ I have been so fantastically lucky (not) to get to tend/open/close this salad bar from time to time.
This weekend, I had just closed the salad bar and was finishing up. All of the containers had lids on them, all the spoons/tongs were gone, and the lights in the salad bar were off. All the little screens on every container were turned off. It was obviously closed, with nothing on it except cleaning supplies and single-use plastic gloves on a shelf on top.
Enter clueless man.
CL: ‘Hi! Can I just ask you, how does your salad bar work?’
Me: ‘Hi! I’m sorry, but it’s clo…(interrupted)’
CL: ‘Do I just put these on and start grabbing?’
He was holding two of our single-use gloves and made a grabbing movement in the air.
Me: ‘Uhm…no, we have tongs and stuff. But unfortunately, I have already closed it for the day. Sorry!’
I like to imagine him going through all 30 containers just grabbing stuff with his hands.”
Of Course Cheese Goes Bad When Left Out Of The Fridge
“I live in a small town. When I first moved there, the only job I could find that paid well was at one of the four local grocery stores.
One day, I was in the deli, and as I was finishing the deliveries, I heard a loud ‘EXCUSE ME, MISS!’
I spent the next 20 minutes explaining to a customer that her precious Regato wouldn’t be spoiled if she kept it in the fridge for one week.
Two weeks later, she came in again, looking angry and screaming. After I got called out from the register to the deli, she turned, screamed and spat on my face! She was waving the rotten cheese and saying that she left her cheese outside the fridge, and it spoiled!
It took her another 20 minutes to understand that if you leave this kind of cheese (a local one, expensive and sensitive) outside the fridge long enough, it won’t just go rotten; there’ll be a whole new world developing upon it.
Another memorable moment of my life was a soccer mum asking me why I gave her ‘phallus-shaped sausages’ in front of the precious child.
They are handmade, meaty sausages, ma’am! They’re meant to be shaped like this; all sausages are for Christ’s sake!
Oh, the joy of working at the grocery store.”