Sweets From Heaven

On the first floor of the mall, surrounded by higher-end fashion and accessory stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Aldo, and Zales Jewelers, there once existed a tiny little unassuming candy shop called Sweets From Heaven. It sold everything from Bottlecaps to gummi bears to chocolate-covered pretzels to M&M's. It was exactly like every Mom & Pop candy store in America, despite being part of a very small franchise, in that it sold candy by the pound and struggled to make a healthy profit distributing empty calories to an increasingly health-conscious consumer base. Exactly like every Mom & Pop candy store except for one very important difference: the people who ran the store were disgruntled assholes.

One day several years ago, while browsing around for some candy, I noticed an analog scale hanging in the back corner of the score. Having just learned about Newtonian physics and spring constants, I was intrigued enough by the scale to, well, play around with it a little bit. After weighing in my bag of candy at almost exactly one pound (I know, I know...) I put my hand in the center of the weighing tray and began to press down, ever so slowly, until the scale read one pound. The point of my mundane little "experiment" was to see whether or not pushing downward with a force of one pound felt the same as holding a pound of weight in my hand. But no sooner had I achieved one pound of force than a voice shouted - shouted - from the front of the room, "Sir! Do not touch that!" Immediately embarrassed, I withdrew my hand in shame. I didn't even know I'd been seen, let alone get yelled at for my admittedly silly curiosity-curing stunt. I turned quickly toward the front desk and saw a small and unhappy-looking older Indian man glaring straight back at me. Then, he proceeded to tell me, in the same loud and stern voice, that "That is not a toy!" It wasn't as if I'd done anything to warrant the mini-lecture. He asked me not to touch it, and I stopped touching it; there was no need to berate me in front of other customers after the fact. I must have been a high school junior at this point, fully grown and sporting a goatee. The last thing I wanted was the attention of several mothers and children in a candy store. Now, was I wrong for playing with the scale? It's tough to say. On the one hand, sure, I wasn't using it as it was meant to be used. But then, on the other hand, consider this. The scale's needle covered a 10-pound range of weights. In other words, it was capable of bearing (and measuring) a load of at least 10 pounds. I had applied a mere one pound of force to it.I was, in fact, doing less harm than anyone buying 2, 5, or even 10 pounds of candy. In fact, the scale's magnitude raised an alarming question on its own: Who buys five to ten pounds of candy? My one pound purchase seemed like a healthy snack by comparison. At any rate, my point is, the irate Indian gentleman was borderline warranted in telling me not to play with the scale. But once I obliged, sheepishly and instantly, what was the point of his semi-sarcastic statement that a tool was not a plaything? Whatever it was, it wasn't a good one. He just kind of felt like being an asshole.

Flash forward some indeterminable amount of time. I'm in the store, wondering whether I should get any of the store's homemade Raisinettes. To aid me with my decision, I try one. I pop it in my mouth, chew, savor, and swallow. I like it. I fill my baggie with half a pound's worth of them. Suddenly, another stern Indian-accented voice scolds me. "There are no free samples here, sir!" Now, this is patently absurd. I've just taken about two hundred homemade Raisinettes with the intent to pay for them, and I'm being guilt-tripped over the one I chose not to pay for. Where's the salesmanship? Where's the common sense? If I don't eat that Raisinette, I don't go on to buy two hundred; it's that simple. Yet here's a disgruntled and annoyed Indian man - a different one, by the way, than the scale protector - upset that he had to spend one Raisinette to make the profit for two hundred of them. Still, I don't even stand up for myself or the basic business principles that have proven themselves time and time again, and suddenly apologetic, I just kind of mutter out a quick, "oh sorry," pay up under the scrutiny of his icy glare, and leave. Why treat paying customers this way? (At least, 99.5%-paying customers.) Should a man be made to feel guilty for making sure that a no-name foodstuff doesn't taste terrible?

Okay. I'll accept responsibility for the previous two episodes; both could have been avoided had I been a model citizen instead of a curious customer. But this next one takes the cake. Late in its run, Sweets From Heaven offered a "spend $50, earn $5 off your next purchase" promotion. It was a textbook promotion that all of us have seen before and will see again, and it was executed in a very familiar cookie-cutter way. A hole-puncher was used for every $5 purchasing increment, with the idea being that after multiple visits and purchases, a customer could earn back $5 toward his or her next purchase. My girlfriend, the biggest fan of candy that I know of, had one of these cards. One day, with the card about half full of punch-outs, we went into Sweets From Heaven for her to buy several bags of Sour Patch Kids. I'll have you know that the person behind the cash register was not an older Indian gentleman. In fact, she was an older white lady. However, while she was racially and sexually different from the previous two storerunners I have mentioned, she, too, was certainly a disgruntled asshole. As my girlfriend was paying for her candy, she pulled out her promotional card. The lady behind the counter made a grand gesture of pulling her hands away from what she was doing and raising them up slightly, shaking her head, and saying "We don't do that anymore." When we inquired as to why not, she merely said, "Too many people were punching holes in the cards themselves." Then, her voice rising and her brow furrowing, she angrily added, "That's stealing!" When we politely swore to her that we were honest God-fearing customers who would never do such a thing, all she could muster up was, "That's what they all say." Really? So now we, like "they all," in her mind, were crooks. Cheapskates looking to scam a struggling candy shop out of five dollars. It hardly even seemed worth my time to deny it. But my girlfriend, thankfully, had a little too much pride to be taken in so indecently. (Also, it was her promotional card that was not being accepted.) After an awkward series of exchanges between the two of them, my girlfriend flattering and bargaining, and the lady accusing and distrusting, it was confirmed that, fine, the lady would honor the promotion - or at least, the process of continuing to punch holes in the card - and give my girlfriend the two or three punches she deserved.

We never got to find out whether my girlfriend's card would have been accepted once it was filled with punch-outs, as just when she got it to such a state, Sweets From Heaven went belly-up and disappeared from the mall altogether. There's another candy store there now, but its name is both too forgettable to recall at this time and too similar to "Sweets From Heaven" to matter anyway. In fact, the store is almost exactly the same as Sweets From Heaven, right down to the placement of different types of candy and the grumpy elderly managers. It seems like the only thing different about the place at all is that it is unaffiliated with the "spend $50, earn $5" deal that my girlfriend did all of her part to partake in. It's a shame, really. Dead in the center of a shopping mall, amid a smorgasbord of relentless American adult consumerism, a Wonka-esque haven for children exists, and it is the most joyless and soul-draining place in the entire building. What happened to these store clerks that made their lives so miserable? Why go into the any business - the candy business, of all businesses - if you can't forgive customers for small misdemeanors or go a day without accusing one of lying and stealing? Something must have happened, somewhere along the way, to these poor souls, and it must have been something terrible. In that respect, I feel sorry for them all. But I cannot say I'm sorry to see Sweets From Heaven gone from my mall; it's tough to miss a candy shop being run by disgruntled assholes.