I recall the day being one of those, "Ah, spring is here," moments, where the day seems fresh and new as I opened my store gate in the mall to start a new day. But as I opened my glass doors, the phone rang. I was very punctual about opening the store, so when the phone rang AS I was opening the doors, I knew it had to be an angry customer. If it was my boss or corporate, they would have called me before the store opened. Sure enough, it was a very, very, very angry customer named Patrick Capriglioni. I still remember the name, and while I rarely name drop in my blogs, this horrible man deserves his name dragged into the light of the Internet so it may shrivel like a salted slug. Now, I never actually met the guy, but my assistant manager handled his sale a month earlier, and it was my assistant's fourth sale ever, so he was a n00b when he made it.
Long story short, my assistant, Mark, screwed up. It was a minor mishap: Mr. Capriglioni ordered a daybed for his daughter with a drawer unit (two drawers under the bed), and got a trundle unit (one big drawer on casters) by mistake. Oops. The inventory numbers were right next to one another. Mark was new. Let's fix this.
But no, the man on the other end of the phone had a sense of rage and fury beyond reason. You know a phone call is going to go bad when it doesn't start off "Hello," or "My name is," but a loud "LOOK..." that cuts you off before you finish the spiel about what company and store location he called.
Me: Thank you for calling Cargo F--
PC: LOOK... [then a 3-4 minute opening rant]
The mild Jersey accent at the other end of the phone informed me of my mistake with the tone of voice like I had knocked up his teenage daughter and pissed on his grandmother's grave. Anything I said got him even angrier.
What I said:
That's very bad. I want to help you fix this problem! Let me offer some immediate solutions and an apology, sir.
What he heard:
What are you gonna do abbaddit, you greasy guinea wop, hah? Get one of your Guido retards out of the septic tank you call a home to gome beat me up? You're a real fucking piece of work, you useless ball of slime. And your mother's rigatoni tastes like your ketchup and garbage.
I mean, this guy was enraged. It took him 5 minutes to explain how he felt about me, my store, and the "n-word" drivers that had informed him we tried to pull fast one on him before I managed to find out what the actual mistake was. My calm voice and cheerful, "Oh, we'll fix this right up now, don't you worry," attitude was met by a sputtering stream of insults accusing me of chicanery and charlatanism to rival that of mugging the Pope himself. Mr. Capriglioni had other ideas. His ideas boiled down to this: either we give him the right item in one hour, or come to his house with a cash refund for the entire delivery, which was about $900. He demanded cash. He paid by credit card, but he didn't want that. Cash. Cold, hard cash. I had 59 minutes. Click.
Right after that was a call from a bunch of pissed off drivers. Large, burly men from Chase City, Virginia who did not take kindly to a short angry man who called them "the entire alphabet of racial slurs." In short, they called to warn me this guy was calling, and I got their version of the story, which, surprisingly enough was roughly what Mr. Capriglioni related, only without use of the N-word, suggested fornication, or various scatological references. They also told me that when his wife tried to calm him down, he slapped her so hard across the face, she fell to the floor. In short, "we are not going back, sir." I agreed, they didn't have to put up with that sort of abuse, and I assured them they were not in any fault.
Not a minute later, I got a call from Mr. Capriglioni informing me "you now have 55 minutes!" He resisted offers to try and find a unit in a showroom, he wanted a new one, and now I had 54 minutes to be at his doorstep with "white only" delivery men, again referring to the dark skin tones of the previous drivers in 1920s racial slurs.
I stood for a bit at my counter, trying to think of something I could do.
Mr. Capriglioni called back at 50 minutes, and asked where the hell I was. I told him I was weighing options, and he demanded the number to my boss and the corporate number. I told him they would be unable to help him, and he hung up on me. Then I got a call from another store, where the manager there asked who this Jersey man was, and why he demanded the numbers to our DM, complained that they were "staffed by secretaries," called her a bitch, and asked to speak to a "real boss, not some woman." She hung up on him. I said I would explain later. Then I got a call from one of our male managers. This guy didn't help matters as he was one of those fun flaming queens like Paul Lynde. He just had to know who this guy was, and why he wanted "numbers to the men --real men only-- running the company." I said I would explain later. He laughed, asking if I found any real men, to call him, too.
Then Mr. Capriglioni called me to tell me I had 45 minutes, and if I didn't show up at his house with a wad of cash, he was going to come down to the store, and "pry it from your cold dead fingers, do I make myself clear???" I told him we had no cash on the premises, which was kind of a lie, but it was only $75 in petty cash for office supplies and the like. He demanded I go down to the bank and get some. Click.
Then my boss called, and wanted to know who filled her answering machine with the most angry insane misogynist ranting she had ever heard. I explained what happened, and she said I might want to call the mall cops, it sounded like a threat to her. I didn't have to, because the mall cops showed up. Mr. Capriglioni had called THEM to arrest me.
Let me repeat this, because I did not type this incorrectly: Mr. Capriglioni called the mall cops to have me arrested.
They did not arrest me. I knew the guys, so they wanted to hear who the hell this nutball was. Mall cops love stories they can share with others. I explained the situation, and as I was speaking to them, Mr. Capriglioni called to say I had 40 minutes left.
Corporate from Fort Worth called. It was the Vice President, a nice man named George. George loved me, because due to a mis-communication earlier that year, he mistakenly thought I was a recovering alcoholic, and felt protective of me. We were a small company, so getting a direct call from the VP wasn't that big of a deal. A good ol' boy Texan, he wanted to know why the head of his customer service was crying at her desk, who Mr. Capriglioni was, and what was the story behind such an angry man? I explained. He said "I refuse to talk to the guy! He made one of our best employees a crying wreck! Anything me and Fred [the president] would say to him would be nonconstructive. Tell him we won't negotiate with him until he finds some goddamn manners."
One thing about the former Cargo Furniture (and Accents): the management was supportive and trusted their managers that they were doing the best they could. George and Fred had already had a weird incident with me when we had a sales conference in Virginia Beach, and at "Waffles and Things," a crazy homeless beach bum (who claimed to know me) came up to me and insisted more people died under the Christian cross than the NAZI cross. Being used to weird people in fandom, I was unfazed, and told him this was inappropriate dinner conversation and that it was upsetting people at the table. I think this rattled the guy on some unprotected level, and so he left without much rebuttal, leaving George and Fred to think I was impressively diplomatic under pressure. And a bravely recovering alcoholic, apparently.
So "Oh good. Grig is on this, he's our best man for crazy angry people. He'll fix it," was probably George's first thought with all this Capriglioni nonsense. He and Fred took the sobbing girl out to lunch later that day and let her go home early. Later that girl became head of corporate sales, and then president before Cargo Furniture got bought out by Pier One.
Mr. Capriglioni called back to inform me I had 35 minutes. The mall cop suggested I call Fairfax County police, because this guy sounded batshit crazy. I didn't have to because guess what Mr. Capriglioni did?
HE CALLED THE COPS!
I shit you not. Why? He called Fairfax County's finest to have me arrested for "holding his money hostage." The amused officer on the other end of the phone wanted to know what the hell this was about. I told her. She agreed with my boss, however, that the death threat should be taken seriously, so sent an officer to assist the mall cop.
At 30 minutes, Mr. Capriglioni was livid. He'd make Lewis Black seem like a stoned sorority girl after a great bout of sex. He was so angry, he wasn't making sense; I could barely make out any actual words. His shouting was so loud, the mic on his phone was buzzing like a blown speaker. He said I better have TWICE the amount of cash when I showed up, and why haven't I left the fucking store yet? I have heard late night AM radio talk show rants that sounded more coherent.
At 25 minutes, when Mr. Capriglioni called, the officer asked me to hand him the phone. I don't know what Mr. Capriglioni said, but all I heard was the officer saying in a calm manner, "I understand sir, but you need to calm down. It will be okay, sir. No sir, I am an officer of the law. No sir, we do not refer to ourselves that way. I believe you called us on this matter, sir." That sort of thing. He asked me for the guy's delivery address. I gave it to him. The officer called someone else when Mr. Capriglioni hung up on him, excused himself, and left.
Mr. Capriglioni called one last time, stating I had 20 minutes, and cops weren't going to save me. He was going to make sure I would rot in jail for the rest of my life, and I was a dead man.
I never heard from the guy again. And I never met him. When my assistant Mark came in later that day, and I told him the story, he FREAKED out. "He's with the mob, I know it! Oh God, oh GOD! he's going to put a hit on us!" He then described the customer as a short man in a very expensive suit who spoke down to his wife despite her being a full head taller. Mark was so scared, he started to hyperventilate. I thought this was because he was afraid I would yell at him, but when he calmed down, he wondered if he should start his car that night. I was later told by a friend of his that Mark thought *everyone* Italian was with the mob.
A few months later, Mark quit to pursue a safer job, jumping out of planes to fight forest fires. I shit you not. I'd like to say this was related, but he was already training to be a firefighter when I hired him, so this was actually fairly logical. In the weirdest of coincidences, Mark ended up working with me in the NOC at AOL some 5 years later. We couldn't believe it, either. He gave up on firefighting at some point, and joined the tech industry. I gave up retail and did the same. We had a good laugh, wondering what ever happened to Patrick Capriglioni.
So what ended up happening to Mr. Capriglioni? Well, I wish I could tell you some fairy tale story fable ending about justice. A funny and ironic footnote would also make this story more satisfying. Maybe where the police showed up in a SWAT van, shooting him up under a spotlight as he fired his tommy gun at the crowds, screaming, "YOU'LL NEVER GET ME ALIVE, COPPERS!!!" No, I have no idea what the police did when they got there. I know that a few days later, Vice President George called me and told me that they tried to get him a store demo model, and when that didn't work, they made him a new trundle unit and shipped it to him, gave him $200 off his purchase, and had some of our white drivers deliver the unit. Not exactly a just end, but I didn't have to worry about it anymore.
Of course, I was still pretty mad. The name Patrick Capriglioni ended up in a (so far) unpublished Punk Walrus sequel, being eaten alive by a pack of wild dogs. He was a member of a mob sent to kill Punk Walrus, so in a way, Mr. Capriglioni ended up in the mob after all.