So this guy comes in wielding a fan. Not carrying, not holding. He looks like he's ready to use this fan as a weapon. He wants to get a new fan, because apparently the fan he's wielding doesn't work. (I feel safer already.) Do we have any fans?
I have a few fans, but not the kind that redistribute air. I say, no, we have no fans. I resist mentioning that we've had no fans for a month because it appears that he bought this fan when we actually had them, and therefore, he hasn't actually done this to himself. He has no receipt, no box, just the fan. We look it up. We can give him $6.99 for it, since he has no receipt. He claims he paid $12.99. I'm not unsympathetic, but he has no proof of that, so .... $6.99, is all we can offer. Sorry.
But that's not acceptable for him. He wants a fan. Again, not unsympathetic here, but we have no fans. At all. There may not be any fans in our quadrant of the universe. I don't suggest this, but it occurs to me that he should take the $6.99 and see what he can get on Amazon. Which won't help him today, but hey, at least he'll have a fan. Besides, big box arriving in the mail – who doesn't like that?
He sees a fan sitting on top of the counter. What about that fan? he asks. Sorry, we can't trade for that fan. That fan is for store use.
Well, you owe me a fan. Technically, yes, but that fan belongs to someone. We can't just give you someone else's fan. I'm afraid all we can offer you is a refund.
This is where he crosses into jerk territory. I don't care. I want that fan. We can't give that fan to you, my boss explains again. Someone else paid for it. It isn't our fan to give you.
He sees another fan. What about that fan?
I can imagine S.'s expression if we gave this guy her fan. Sorry, but we can't give you that fan either. That belongs to someone. It's bought and paid for.
What about that fan?
Now everyone is losing their patience. Sir, that fan is also owned by an employee, who bought and paid for it with their own money, just like all the other fans you see at the registers. We can't give you that fan. There are no fans available in this store at all. All we can offer you, without a receipt, is $6.99.
He stormed out with his fan. I felt badly for him, and yet ... was he really suggesting that we just take K.'s or S.'s or A.'s fan? I suppose we could reimburse them, but then they'd have no fan, and as I mentioned earlier, there are no fans to be had anywhere nearby. I know he wants a fan very badly, and the store does owe him a fan, but that doesn't justify stealing someone else's fan, though he probably didn't see it that way. After all, we owe him a fan.
If I was a mean person, I might have taken a sheet of paper and folded him a fan (for free!) but I let him go with his weapon fan and sincerely hoped he found a better solution than demanding other people's property. Maybe he didn't truly understand. Or maybe he didn't distinguish between the store and the employees, who work together but are in fact separate things with separate budgets and separate forms of existence.*
Or maybe, he just didn't care.
* I've even heard that employees have families and get to go home and stuff, and that they can take their personal possessions, like purses and shoes and even fans, home with them if they want. Crazy, I know!