Customer Encounters #5 – My Flat has Burnt Down

In the times I have served in the takeaway I have only ever come across two people who have asked for food but have no money on them. The first time we turned them down outright and they left. The second time however was a slightly interesting story.

This person who came in was a woman who I had served previously and I remembered her last time being really quite rude. She wore a grey tracksuit with pink trimming, had a voice that croaked from too many cigarettes, a complexion that was red and quite unhealthy, and a miasma of alcohol.

She came in one evening and said that her flat had burnt down and that she had nothing on her except the clothes she was wearing, she’s lost her money, her ID her home and she absolutely nothing on her. All she wanted was a bag of chips because she was hungry.

Your first inclination is to be really reluctant to help people because you don’t know them well enough to know if they’re telling the truth or not. It’s something you get taught from an early age: “never give money to random people because they’re going to spend it on drugs.”

A bag of chips at the time was £1.20 and not a heart breaking amount, but I did have questions over how genuine her claim was that this person’s flat had burnt down (if my house burnt down I would call the fire brigade and buying a takeaway would be the least of my worries).

She looked quite distressed and about to cry (but with a voice that was coated in nicotine it was hard to tell if there were genuine tears). I found it quite unusual for a person whose flat burnt down to just run away from the flat without a fireman/woman comforting her surely?

She said she lived just around the corner yet I did not recall hearing any sirens since the shop opening. Plus there aren’t any flats around the corner, the nearest flat is within clear shot of the shop window and that didn’t seem to be burning down. Added to this she didn’t smell of smoke.

This was all going all going on in my head and she was causing something of a scene and there were people waiting for their food to be served, and just to get her out of the shop we eventually just gave her the chips.

I asked one of the regular customers if he knows if there was a fire nearby. He said: “oh that woman is always causing trouble, she hangs around bus stops asking people for cigarettes and things.”

I then went on to ask a few customers if they heard about a fire nearby. No one did.

Since then said customer hasn’t come back to the shop since but I do wonder what has happened to her.

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