The Most Peculiar Customer
My shop, Xwee Boutique, is located in Neopia Central, among the many others in the Neopian Plaza. It's a clothing store, a popular one at that, and I sell a variety of clothing to eager buyers. I have a supplier, who is kind enough to donate dresses to me, all to be sold to the public.
As a shopkeeper, I have encountered strange or peculiar customers all over Neopia. For example, one Kiko approached me and asked if I sell any shoes. When I inquired as to whom the shoes are for, he said that it's for himself, and that he needed them because the long trek to Kiko Lake is hard and grueling. As a shopkeeper, I didn't point out his lack of legs and gave him a pair. He did pay for them.
Two days later, he bought a pair of gloves for his JubJub friend.
The next one involved a sunday dress, and this time, the customer is a female Elderly Ogrin.
"How much for the dress?" she asked, leaning over a floral print that I am very proud of.
I know the elderly lady. She frequents my shop, always in search of a basket of yarn and some knitting needles. Sometimes she buys earmuffs and bonnets, so it's not a surprise that she will buy one of my dresses. I told her that it costs over ten thousand neopoints, a far cry from how much it really costs, and she clucked her tongue at me.
"Isn't that a tad bit expensive, young Xweetok?" she asked, shaking her head in disapproval. She pointed her cane at another one, which was red and floral at the same time. "How about that one?"
I answered, "Ten thousand neopoints, ma'am," in the smallest of voices, brushing my paw through my fiery mane in nervousness. This earned me another cluck of disapproval, then she left the shop.
It became routine. The elderly Ogrin will come into my shop, her purse in hand, and she will buy a basket of yarn and some knitting needles. Then she will point at each sunday dress on display, and ask how much they cost. If she found all of them too expensive, she will leave the shop and come back the next day, only to do the same thing all over again.
Sometimes she will pause to chat with me and comments on how successful I have been ever since I opened my boutique. I will nod at her, secretly dropping hints for her to buy at least one of my dresses, even going so far as to tell her that I hand-crafted some of them myself. She will smile knowingly at me after that, and asks again how much each of my dresses cost.
"The yellow one costs five thousand. The striped one is six thousand and a half. They're beautiful, aren't they?"
She'll nod in agreement. "Yes they are, but they're a tad too expensive. I'll come back tomorrow to look at more of your dresses."
"You come everyday, look at my dresses, and never buy any single one of them. How come?" I ask, my voice an octave higher than usual.
I was becoming impatient now. I've waited every day for her to buy one -- just one -- but she never did. My patience was growing thin with each second. The elderly Ogrin smiled at me and only patted my head affectionately. "I'll answer your question after you sell your 650th dress, dearest," she said. "It's only a matter of time."
Ever since that encounter, she never entered my shop. In the first few months, she would stay outside and peer through the glass, smiling and waving at me. Then a few more came and she stopped going altogether. One of her grandson, Ronald, came in her stead. He's a tall orange Kougra, and he goes to my shop to buy his grandmother's knitting materials. He never talks to me; he only slaps the payment on the counter and huffs when I try to make small talk with him.
Then that day came, when the supplier stopped providing me with dresses, and Ronald stopped buying baskets of yarn altogether. My business started to go down, especially when more boutiques started opening up and offering more fashionable yet cheaper threads that rivaled mine.
That was also the day when she returned, her purse in one hand and her cane in the other.
"Good morning!" I exclaim. She wobbles over towards the counter, and I aided her towards it. Like before, she asks for a basket of yarn and some knitting needles.
"Right away, ma'am!" I say, running towards the aisle where threads and needles and yarn sat. I grab a basket and give it to her.
"Thank you, sweetest," she says.
And like before, she points at my lone dress on display, a simple white frock that I had handmade myself. It's ugly, a little uneven around the sleeves, and it's the first one I ever made since my supplier backed down. "Is that your last one?" she asks. I nod at her and tell her that it's my last. I tell her about dresses not being made for me anymore, and my rivals, and ask why she came now when my business is at an all-time low. She listens to me eagerly, absorbing every word that came out of my mouth. When I finish, she asks, "How much for the dress?"
Like routine, I answer, "Five hundred."
"Did you make it yourself?"
She reached for her purse, produced five hundred neopoints, and says, in a clear, loud voice, "I'll buy it."
I looked at her in confusion. Shouldn't she be repulsed by it? Isn't the dress ugly and deformed? There were a lot questions swimming in my mind, but failed to be put into words. I took her payment instead, and wrapped the dress up in a white bag. "Are you sure that you want it?" I asked. "There are a lot of boutiques that sell more beautiful dresses."
"I paid for it, didn't I?"
"Remember my promise, young one? That I will tell you why I didn't buy all those other, more beautiful dresses after you sold your 650th dress?" She sighed and I sat down on one of my stools, seats that I placed for my nonexistent customers. She sat down right next to me. "The reason why is because this dress is made from your own efforts. For countless of months you relied on your supplier and failed to make a single dress. And then you lie and tell your customers that it is you who make them. Why is that?"
"I was too caught up. I was having too much fun," I answered sincerely. "I thought that you'll keep supplying me forever, but..." I sighed. "I'm sorry for taking you for granted. After my business went down, I realized how much a fool I am for not using my own efforts. I learned now." I chewed on my lip, willing myself not to cry. "I'm sorry for using your efforts for my personal gain, Grandma."
She brushed her paw against my cheek. "Oh, honey. If only your parents could hear you now. They'd be so proud of you." She smiled. Then she gave her basket of yarn to me. "Here you go, sweetie. I'll tell you what. Let your old grandma teach you how to knit."
I smiled in return. "Thank you, Grandma. I really appreciate it."
In my fifteen years as a shopkeeper, I have encountered hundreds of peculiar customers.
But nobody is more peculiar than Grandma.
"Honey, as much as I love you, your dress looks pretty terrible!"