so, obviously, a universe of this ^^^
but, in terms of actual tactics, i’ve found that when this kind of thing happens in a store, responding quite loudly with “oh, i don’t work here” (no matter what the opening salvo was) is weirdly effective in making them doubletake and then sidle off.
it came out of this: a million years ago i was having dinner in a rather rowdy bar/restaurant with the guy i was sort of seeing at the time. and there was a group of six or eight guys at a table behind us who were being outrageously obnoxious to their two waitresses, in that special bared-teeth friendly way that makes it clear the only thing keeping these guys’ dicks in their pants is nonsense like The Law.
anyhow, myself and my date are rolling our eyes and smiling sympathetically at the waitresses as they pass back and forth being as professional and pleasant as possible under live fire. i get up to go to the bathroom, which is past the table of apes behind us. they’re busy harassing a waitress and don’t even see me go by, but when i come out again, they’re between waitresses. i’m wearing jeans - which is what the wait staff of the restaurant wear too. as i walk past their table to mine, a guy on an outside seat PATS MY ASS and says, ‘we’re ready for dessert, darling’.
and yeah. it’s possible that i’d have reacted the same way if i was alone, but the fact was, i had the kind of freedom of action that comes with knowing you’ve got a six foot two, hundred and eighty pound royal marine lieutenant as backup, and he’s watching from twelve feet away.
so i planted one hand on the table and the other on the back of this guy’s chair and said loudly something that started ‘i don’t work here. i don’t have to put up with your shit, because it’s not my job. i will, however, make sure that the manager knows his staff are being heroically patient and polite while you’re being a bunch of ignorant fucks, and i’ll complain bitterly about being a paying customer who can’t go to the bathroom without being groped as she passes this table. don’t order dessert, you’re about to be asked to leave.’
there’s a special silence that falls when an entire restaurant is listening to one person talk. it’s awesome.
anyhoo. the point of that was, the second i said ‘i don’t work here’, their entire demeanor changed. they had a distinct sense of the power gap, and i tipped it over. the same statement, made loudly and forcefully in any faintly applicable setting, sort of reminds the man that you, as a customer, are at least nominally in a privileged position. it reminds him that paid staff have an obligation to be receptive, you don’t. it also, i think, implies that you don’t understand what response he’s looking for. women know that the galling thing about these ambushes is that we’re trained not to shut them down as rudely and directly as we need to. the ‘i don’t work here’ isn’t rude, it’s a statement of fact, and perfectly polite if the other person is under a misapprehension (it happens me all the time in clothes shops – i worked clothing retail for years, and people see me rifling one handed through jeans tags and say ‘oh, do you have this in stock in a twelve?’ all the freaking time. and i say ‘oh, i don’t work here’ and that’s not remotely rude or brusque or anything). so, it sort of puts the guy on the wrong foot because now it seems like you think he’s mistaken you in your hat and coat for a sales person. and he can either say ‘oh, sorry’ and sidle off in confusion, or he can say ‘i know’, and then you (acting as if you can’t even compute what his ‘i know’ implies) get to point to the nearest sales person and say ‘but he does. go and ask him’.
next week in Defend the Food Service Staff at All Costs, They Serve the Food: the time i walked out of a dinner date at a FANTASTIC restaurant BEFORE DESSERT because my date thought being condescending to the waitress would impress me, aka, The Toughest Choice I Ever Made in Support of Another Woman.