Monday, January 4, 2010

Learning right from left in East Hampton

I'm born and bred in East Hampton, but have been living for about a year in rural Nova Scotia. (Where strangers call you "dear," and always wave other cars into the flow of traffic, and actually smile at you and say "hi" on the sidewalk. Yeah, kind of like people did here 30 years ago....) Anyway, I've gotten totally unaccustomed to the insane, insane, blood-pressure-raising rudeness of home.

This morning, I had an encounter with such gratuitous meanness and rudeness that it almost gave me a heart attack! In the past, I've often been a customer at a local printing store. (Okay. Guess what? The shop's name is Montauk Printing. In East Hampton, on the Reutershan parking lot.) This morning, the sun was shining, there were no crowds in town, and I was  in a great mood. Then I went into Montauk Printing to buy some paper.

I walked in, picked up a pack of paper, put it on the counter, and  -- in order to free my hand to get at my wallet in my purse -- placed a cup of coffee onto the counter top. "GET THAT OFF MY COUNTER" shrieked the owner, leaping towards me. She didn't say this in any kind of joking way. She didn't say this in any kind of explanatory way. She said it in the infuriated, correctional tone a prison guard would use when correcting the behavior of a convicted murderer who had put his hand on the prison fence.

Because I've become totally unaccustomed to inexplicable, mindless rudeness and meanness, I was very meek and mild and apologetic. "I'm sorry," I simpered, and took the coffee cup off the counter as quickly as humanly possible. (The coffee cup wasn't dripping or anything whatsoever. But I guess the owner doesn't want anything that might potentially leave liquid anywhere near a surface that often holds paper products, right? Unlike in other stores, where it's considered polite to place drink cups on a counter, out of harm's way, at Montauk Printing you should automatically know in advance that this is an unspeakable crime.)

The owner then explained that I had picked up the wrong kind of paper. "If you want regular paper, take the one that says 'Meteor,' on the shelf behind you, to the right, with blue and black...." So I said, "Oh, good, thanks," and stepped back to the shelf and put my hand on a blue-and-black packet of paper marked "Meteor."

"No, not that one!" she barked at me, with inexpressible force and annoyance, "the one on the RIGHT"

I shifted my hand to another packet -- also blue-and-black, also marked "Meteor" -- right next to the first one, and asked, "This one?" And she barked, with mind-boggling unnecessary nastiness: "THAT'S YOUR RIGHT, ISN'T IT??????"

Oh. My lawrd. Who talks to another human being like this? Much less a customer? I just gave a wry smile and paid and thanked her.

But WTF? If someone had behaved like this in  Nova Scotia, literally, people would think they were, literally, ill, and would be express concern, and would gather in neighborly groups to see if the crazily, inexplicably rude person
perhaps needed a doctor.

- Left for Nova Scotia


  1. I can't believe you paid for the paper!

  2. I had a very similar experience a couple of years ago at Montauk Printing. I walked in and was treated to a heapin' helping of aggressive, unkind attitude. I felt about as welcomed as if I had walked into their bathroom while they were in the tub. I don't know what their deal is, but they are awful. I'm in business in East Hampton, too, and we treat everyone who walks in with respect and courtesy, whether they are (or appear to be) "local", "city people", old, young, whatever. It's just basic decency and good business practice. I don't know how they stay in business treating people that way.

  3. There's no excuse for the merchant's bad behavior. Let me add that the majority of patrons out there are also mean as snakes....they chip away at the merchant's kind demeanor, if they had any to begin with. I know all too well, since we had a business on Newtown Lane for 3 years (recently), and decided losing any semblance of kindness or humanity wasn't worth we closed the shop! We didn't want to morph into our customers. There are very few (if any) places in the U.S. where fighting for a cheaper price is such blood sport and sooooo much fun for the customer. Everyone wanted a price below our cost!! Also, the general taste level of the customer is non-existant. All summer, you see a blur of sequins, bangles, spangles and alien-beings with vile face lifts....freaks! Too bad, since the area is truly beautiful. The new money doesn't "get it" at all! They have no respect for what came before them.....the tasteful towns and gorgeous architecture.....the arrogance is nauseating!

  4. Oh Yes, I know this place and the staff well. Very rude. Very hi-strung.
    I would have walked out of there but not before telling them where to stuff their paper. And merchants who treat customers like this wonder why people will flock to STAPLES in droves, once they open in Bridgehampton this spring. When Montauk Printing cries about how the "small businesses" are being edged out by the large retail corporations, they only need to look at behavior like this which drives customers away for good. If a clerk at Staples treated a customer like this, they would be SO FREAKIN FIRED. Local businesses: get your attitudes towards customers in check now!

  5. I would have moved my hand to all sorts of paper until the counter jockey had a coronary.

  6. You encourage that kind of behavior when you continue to patron that particular store. I would have picked up my cofee cup, left the package of paper I'd intended to buy on the counter and on my way out of the store I would have given the owner a tip for the day: learn how to talk to your customers with respect, manners and some appreciation. And then bid her a nice day. How F****ing RUDE! Are you kidding me?!

  7. you should have said "i've changed my mind; I'm going to Staples" and walked out.

  8. I too had a similar experience with many others apparently. I was in getting copies of something and there was a girl working just behind the counter and she had slipped up on something and the owner BERATED her in front of EVERYONE in line. I was mortified for this girl. So unprofessional and erratic that owner is!

  9. I was an employee at Montauk Printing for 8 years. The whole time I worked for the two owners I was treated as if I did not exist. I was never included though if not for me the place would have vanished long ago. It does not surprise me one bit that the treatment given by any of them is anything but nice. My wife was 6 months pregnant when on one Friday I was told that this was my last check and I was to be replaced by a color copy machine. These people who call themselves printers are the farthest thing from it as well as being anything else. When they told me I was fired they weren't totally done with me because on the following Monday when I did not show I was called on the phone and told that if I did not complete their work at the time they would call unemployment and tell them that I quit so I would not be able to claim unemployment. I was held hostage by them in that I worked on Monday, a little on Tuesday and then a small part of Wednesday, this held me from receiving my first unemployment check for 2 more weeks. I don't know what kind of a rock that these two came out from under, but I wish someone would drop it back on them. I actually saw the wife make an Irish girl cry for not knowing what to do. She was just summer help. I haven.t been able to relocate from here though I did get another job in Plainview. Its a nice drive, very scenic. Thanks Mike.