Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes Taking Nominations

Do you know an annoying person (coworker, boss, neighbor, relative, whatever) you’d like to see beamed up into a spaceship? I can help. I mean, I can’t actually get the aliens to come pick them up, unfortunately—if I could, I’d be long gone from this rock. Sadly, despite my best efforts, the aliens have refused to talk to me. (The people at the Very Large Array did finally drop that pesky restraining order though, so maybe I’ll try again.) Anyway, I can’t get the aliens to abduct the annoying people in your life, but I can sure write a piece of flash fiction in which they get abducted by aliens.
Here at Stellar Sarcasm, I do a series of science fiction stories about alien abductions called Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes. Here’s the deal: Message me here or on my Facebook page and tell me about a person you’d like to get abducted by aliens. Names will be changed to protect the guilty and me from lawsuits. When I’m not working on my next science fiction book, I will write a piece of flash fiction in which this person gets hauled off to another planet in a comical and satisfying way, and post it here on my blog.

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V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”

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Take Me to Your Leader

“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” 
 Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Take Me to Your Leader

It was just an ordinary day on the White House lawn until the spaceship arrived. Secret Service agent Bob Wilson and his partner, Agent Jerry Hargrove, stood guard on the lawn outside the West Wing, a few feet in front of the Oval Office’s bulletproof windows. Out of the corner of his eye, Bob caught a glimpse of the president of the United States, waving his hands in the air as he talked to some foreign diplomat, but Bob remained focused on scanning the lawn for any sign of threats.

Fortunately, everything was peaceful. Nothing stirred on the immaculately manicured green lawn. Bob’s earpiece, which the Secret Service agents used to communicate with each other, was silent. He was just about to check his watch to see if it was almost time for his lunch break when he noticed a stirring in the grass.

Note: The rest of this story has been archived on my dedicated science fiction short story page here.

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V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”

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Stop Giving Away the Store: How to Handle Bully Customers

In a previous post, I talked about my experience with a bully boss, and the many people who have to deal with workplace bullying every day. Bullies don’t grow up, they just become bosses, and when we put them in positions of authority, we’re telling kids it’s okay to be a bully.

How to Prevent Bullying at Work

So what do we do? How do we stop bullying in schools? How to prevent bullying at work? What if we all led by example and showed kids that bullying isn’t an effective way to get what you want? There are some tips to prevent bullying at work, such as having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, that can help. As I mentioned in my previous post, you can also short-circuit the bully’s fun by acting like you don’t care (even if you do).

But bullying still happens. Unfortunately, the best solution would be not letting bullies be supervisors, even if they’re good for the bottom line. (Especially since studies have found most bullies are bosses or supervisors.) Okay, that probably isn’t going to happen, but it’s a nice pipe dream, isn’t it?

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How to Handle Bully Customers at Work

In the long run though, bullies aren’t good for the bottom line. If you have to keep hiring new people because the bully’s employees keep quitting, is that good for your business? Or are you just spending a fortune on employee acquisition and training? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to fire the guy who bullies every employee in his department and replace him than to keep replacing multiple underlings? Not to mention that employees do better work when they’re treated fairly.

We also have to remember that a person doesn’t have to be in a position of authority to be a bully. Remember what I said in my last post about customers being bullies? We have, unfortunately, gone overboard with this whole idea of “The customer is always right.” I know, I’ve studied marketing, and I get it—it is so much cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. I get that, and I agree to an extent. But we have let this “customer is always right” attitude spiral out of control. We’ve gone from addressing and apologizing for legitimate complaints, to giving away half the store for free just because a customer throws a tantrum.

Don’t take this as advice on how to get free stuff, please, but I’ll tell you an unwritten, unspoken, unofficial secret of retail or any customer-service oriented business (which would be most businesses): Nine times out of ten, you can get free stuff if you complain, yell, scream, or write an angry letter to corporate. Even if you curse out the staff, then write an angry letter to the main office about how you were so badly mistreated, you will likely get an apology letter and a free gift card for your trouble. There are people who get tens of thousands of dollars in free merchandise every year just by writing complaint letters. The “customer relations” department doesn’t care what the facts are. They don’t care if their return policy is thirty days and the store’s employees politely declined to refund a customer for a purchase made ten years ago with no receipt. They’re going to yell at the store manager, then send the customer an apology letter and a gift card. To this day, I am still so pissed about this problem that I made it the subject of the science fiction book I’m currently writing, about a parallel universe where the customer is always…wrong.

How to Handle Bully Customers

So then how do we handle bully customers? Again, I get that addressing legitimate complaints is good for business, and I also get that the suits in corporate offices probably have no way of knowing which complaints are legitimate and which aren’t, but unfortunately, we’ve become a nation of people that rewards bullying. What if we just didn’t do that? I’m not saying people in customer service shouldn’t do their best to help their customers, but at some point, we need to stop bending over for the customers who throw the biggest tantrums over their wildly unreasonable requests being turned down.

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I once had a customer who actually called 911 because we refused to give her a cash refund on a computer she’d purchased six months ago and apparently spilled wine on. It was a cheap model, and we’d advised every customer who came in to look at it to buy a better one, but she’d insisted she wanted the $200 desktop advertised in the flyer. No, she didn’t want an extended warranty. We explained the return policy to her when handing her the receipt.

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Six months later, she yelled and screamed at the top of her lungs while her young son watched because we politely explained we could not return it at this time. We offered to call the manufacturer and help her file a claim on their warranty, although they likely would not have covered it due to the wine stains. The manager finally caved and offered her an even exchange for another desktop just to shut her up. (Keep in mind, the vendor would likely have refused to credit us due to the wine stains, so he was essentially offering to eat the $200 just to get rid of, er, handle the bully customer.) That wasn’t good enough, she wanted CASH. The manager knew the suits in corporate might care about “customer service” but would also shit a brick if they saw a $200+ cash return on a six-month-old computer—a huge red flag for employee theft, one of the few things they care about as much as customer service—so he very, very politely told her a cash refund would not be possible.

At that point, she started screaming that we were “cheating” and “ripping her off” at the top of her lungs. All attempts at apologizing and trying to calm her down or finding an alternative solution did no good. Finally she whipped out her cell phone, and announced she was going to call 911 and report us for “stealing from her,” if we didn’t give her an immediate cash refund. The manager told her she would have to do that, because he could not give her that much cash against the store’s return policy. So she proceeded to call the cops on us.

Naturally, the cops did not arrest anyone as she’d hoped. They did come out, took statements from everyone, and suggested she take the matter to small claims court. She reluctantly agreed to an exchange for a different computer, and the manager called the district manager and got permission to mark a better model down to the $200 price and throw in some free software just to get rid of her.

There are other ways to handle bully customers. Acting confident, making it clear the customer needs to behave in a civil manner to get their problem addressed, and ending the conversation if they refuse to be civil are among other good suggestions. (Sadly, some managers forget this when thinking about their district manager receiving a complaint letter. They shouldn’t. If your district manager doesn’t believe employees should be treated like human beings, he or she is part of the problem.)

How to Teach Your Child About Bullies

The best thing you can teach your child about bullies, is how not to be one. Take my screaming, wine-spilling customer, for example. What did that lady teach her young son? She taught him that you can get your way by yelling and threatening. She taught him that being a bully to people who need their lousy minimum wage jobs will get you freebies and better prices in a store. Honestly, I don’t think she even cared about the cash refund—she got so much more than $200 worth of stuff for a computer she purchased for $200, used for six months, and spilled wine on. Bullying for the win.

This lady was not an exception, either. I saw so many people do things like this in front of their kids so many times. I often wondered if the kids would become playground bullies, or if they would manage to do better than the crappy example their parents set.

So how do we stop bullying in schools? How do we stop cyber bullying? Here are some suggestions I have: What if parents set a good example for their kids, by not screaming at a retail worker because the store runs out of an item, can’t give a cash refund eight months later, or enforces a reasonable policy?  What if we didn’t let bullies be bosses and look the other way when they intimidate and humiliate their employees? What if we didn’t elect a president who got rich by bullying and cheating people? What if we just didn’t reward bullying in the adult world? Could we set a better example?

What do you think? What are your ideas to stop bullying?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”

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Bullies Don’t Grow Up, They Just Become Bosses

Last week I read an article about a bullied teen who committed suicide. Sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The story was unusual though, in that the teen’s boss at his fast food job was charged with involuntary manslaughter as the result of his death. According to the Washington Post article linked above, a Dairy Queen manager named Harley Branham tormented her teenage employee, Kenneth Suttner, forcing him to clean the floor tiles by hand and even throwing a cheeseburger at him. He was also bullied by classmates at school, and an inquest found the school negligent in failing to prevent bullying—however, none of his classmates have been charged with a crime. (I’m assuming this has something to do with the classmates being minors, while Suttner’s boss was supposed to be a responsible adult.)

This story bothered me, not just because it’s sad when a life ends in suicide, and not just because bullying in school is a serious problem that’s led to other teen deaths. It also bothers me because I know what it’s like to have a bully for a boss. I know bullies don’t instantly grow up and become upstanding citizens the second they graduate from high school, they don’t learn their lesson and stop treating other people like shit—they just get a job, and often, they go on to become someone’s boss.

When Bosses Are Bullies: Retail Edition V. R. Craft @vrcraftauthor Bullying
When Bosses Are Bullies: Retail Edition

I spent years working in retail, or as I like to call it, hell. For most of that time it was hell because of the customers. Many of those people were also bullies, but that’s another post. Right now I want to talk about the bully boss I had to deal with. We’ll call him Bob—name has been changed to protect the guilty.

When Bosses Are Bullies

Bob was a bad boss in a number of ways. First of all, he never let anyone around him finish a sentence, ever. So basically you had someone who was supposed to be in charge with no clue what was going on. (Who does that remind me of? But that’s also a post for another day.)

Bob loved to taunt the cashiers, something no one warned me about when I took the job. However, our logistics supervisor told me months later that I was the first cashier who didn’t quit in tears after a few days of Bob’s bullshit. Apparently there had been many complaints to HR, but no one there gave a shit because they could always find someone else willing to work a crappy job for minimum wage.

Where do I start? There was the time he told me I should try to get good at being a cashier because I was too fat to be a stripper. (Did I mention he was so overweight he looked like his blood type was chocolate milkshake? Hello pot, meet kettle.) Then there was the Apron of Shame incident, when he got pissed because I didn’t take the trash out the night before. So he found this ugly-ass apron with our store logo on it—no one even knew why we had it, because we sure didn’t cook anything in that office supply store, but it had been lying around forever. So he told me I had to wear the “apron of shame” all day. I really wanted to strangle him with the fucking thing, but what can I say? I needed the money.

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Apparently wearing the apron wasn’t punishment enough, so Bob walked around yelling “Apron of Shame” every time he passed in the vicinity of the register, even when there were customers around. Some of them gave him strange looks. I was embarrassed at first, but as it went on I realized it made Bob look a lot worse than me. So then I proudly told ever single customer that I was wearing the Apron of Shame because I was a bad cashier. Some of them probably thought I was joking until Bob yelled, “Apron of Shame!” I hoped he’d eventually get embarrassed and shut the fuck up.

Instead, our logistics manager walked in on him yelling “Apron of Shame” from the other side of the store and demanded I take off the apron before someone complained to corporate and she got another call from HR.

I’m thinking that’s probably the point where the other cashiers quit in tears. But me, I’m not much of a crier—there’s nothing wrong with it per se, but it’s a level one manipulation move that we all learn the day we’re born, and by the time you reach adulthood you should have leveled up to more sophisticated methods. I come from a family of liars, thieves, and manipulators, so I leveled up early and haven’t had to rely on opening up the waterworks since. As for quitting, well, my bank account wouldn’t allow me to do that.

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How to Stop a Bully Boss

So, I plotted revenge, and eventually, I got it. Like I said, HR didn’t give a rat’s ass if a bunch of cashiers quit. I don’t care what bullshit any HR department spews about “We’re all one big happy family,” or “We put our people first,” or whatever. The truth is, those departments exist to prevent lawsuits, and the people in them care only about the bottom line.

I knew a guy like Bob wasn’t following all the rules and would eventually do something that constituted a fire-able offense, and sure enough, he did. HR doesn’t care if you treat your employees like shit, but they sure care if you steal from the company! Bob apparently thought no one would rat him out because most of the people he hadn’t run off were too cowed to do anything about it. I remember telling the cashier supervisor—we’ll call her Sheri—about the unauthorized discounts he gave out to his friends. (That may sound innocent but it’s a huge money-suck in retail, and most stores consider it a form of employee theft. Remember, the one thing the suits in corporate care about is that precious bottom line.) Sheri tsk-tsked, shook her head, and said, “He shouldn’t be doing that, but I don’t want to get him in trouble. Just forget it.”

Well, the hell with her. I went over her head to our new store manager, who had just given everyone this bullshit speech about how he wanted to fix all the store’s problems and wanted us all to feel free to share our thoughts on how to do that. Not that I trusted him as far as I could throw him, but I figured if he blew me off I could call him on his bullshit. If I got fired, I’d get unemployment and not have to put up with Bob anymore.

As it turned out, the new store manager was dying to get rid of Bob, who he correctly saw as a massive liability. He never stopped thanking me for ratting the guy out, and he even got me a $300 bonus. (The store was big on rewarding people who told on their thieving coworkers. It was actually better for the bottom line to pay people to be stool pigeons than to let their coworkers continue to steal.)

Also, because I’m a writer, I knew that Bob would one day be a character in something, and last year, I wrote a story in which I quite literally turned him into a troll. I didn’t realize how much I still hated the guy until I wrote that story. But then I realized it wasn’t “Bob” I was really mad at. After all, I got even with him. But what about all the other Bobs who still have jobs, who still get to abuse their employees? This isn’t an uncommon story, and sadly, no one cares unless and until it ends in tragedy. I’m mad at all the people who employ Bobs and don’t care if they bully their employees.

What to Do About Bullying in the Workplace

But what are you supposed to do if your boss isn’t stupid enough to get caught doing something the company actually disapproves of? What should you do if you’re stuck dealing with a bully for a boss? How can we stop cyber bullying? How do we stop bullying in schools if we can’t stop it in workplaces as adults?

I have a few suggestions on how to stop a bully boss at work. First, we have to remember that bullies are not happy people, and they are trying to make everyone else as miserable as they are. How do bullies feel when they bully? I’m not a mind reader, but one day when Bob wasn’t around, I went snooping through his desk drawer, and I found a collection of pill bottles. I didn’t recognize the drug names so I Googled them. Every one was either an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication. This guy was on so many happy pills, he should have been singing and dancing and farting rainbows, but he wasn’t. No amount of pharmaceuticals could stop him from being a miserable person who sought to make everyone else as miserable as he was. The thing is, if we let them make us miserable, we’re letting them win (and we’re not really making them any happier, either). The worst thing you can do to a bully is act like he/she doesn’t bother you, because it kills their buzz. Acting like you don’t care is probably the best way to stop a bully boss at work—or at least stop them from bothering you. Unfortunately, then they may move on to another target.

How Society Encourages Bullying

The problem is, we have become a society that rewards bullying in adults—we reward bullies with the corner office or a managerial position at Dairy Queen or a free meal for throwing fries at the restaurant staff. At the very least, we look the other way. We don’t think about punishing bullies until something awful happens. What if we set a good example and stopped rewarding workplace bullies?

In my next post, I’ll talk some more about how we reward bully bosses—and customers—and how we can stop bullying in schools by not doing that. For now, I’ll say that we should punish all the bully bosses in our world, not just the ones who come into the spotlight because of a tragedy. In the meantime, what do you think is an effective way to deal with bullying?

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”

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Annoying Alien Abductions: I Have a Plan

Note: This #scifi alien abduction short story has been archived on my dedicated science fiction short story page here.

 V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”

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Guest Blogger Liza O’Connor Talks AI’s and the Futuristic World of Her New Book, Scavenger’s Mission

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Note: This week I take a break from aliens abducting annoying people and cede the floor to guest blogger Liza O’Connor, who tells us about the world from her latest science fiction novel, Scavenger’s Mission.

How MAC reads your mind.

MAC is a scary AI. It can read your mind, but not directly. It does it by projecting images of what you are thinking about in a room that is wall to wall sensors. When the average person realizes that whatever they think will appear on the wall, they will try NOT to think of the items they don’t want MAC to know, but that just highlights those memories.

Thus, for most people, the ethics assessment is an exhausting and brutal experience. Some have almost died from the assessment. It leaves no stone unturned.

It begins, letting the viewer believe they can control the images on the wall based on what they eat. (Lunch is served at the first of the test). But this sense of control soon ceases and upon discovering they have no control over what MAC sees, every bad thing they’ve ever done tends to show up.

Alisha is either an exceptionally good person or she’s very forgiving of her sins, because she scores higher in ethics than any Ryder has ever done. And she falls asleep at the end of her test. (Most are retching in the bucket located by their chair.)

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Scavenger’s Mission

By Liza O’Connor

Blurb

Meet Alisha: A young woman who refuses to live the life her parents want.

In a single month, Alisha Kane has gone from a wealthy debutante to street girl to scavenger. While testing her new flying skills in the Cully Canyon, Alisha incurs a near-death crash landing. She’s “rescued” by a colonel of the SkyRyders and her life changes forever.

Meet Logan: A SkyRyder colonel in charge of a sleepy fort with little to do other than arrest the occasional scavenger.

For the first time in his life, Logan’s attracted to a young woman, only she’s probably a scavenger and he’ll have to arrest her. But first he offers her a shower and food while he checks on his crew. His videographer has captured her extraordinary flight through the Cully and her flying is astounding!

He forgoes arresting her and puts his career at risk by asking MAC to assess her skills and integrity as a potential SkyRyder. If he can get Alisha into the SkyRyders, it will be his greatest contribution to the Corps.

Meet MAC: The Artificial Intelligence that runs the SkyRyders Corps.

Upon seeing her arrival, MAC upgrades Alisha’s test. Her flying skills are not just excellent; they exceed what was previously thought possible. MAC classifies her as its top asset and soon she proves her value.

But…the SkyRyders remain a male dominated Corps where Alisha’s sense of right and wrong often clashes with her superiors. How long can a rebellious young woman survive in a regimented Corps?

Excerpt

When Alisha completed the regs test, she ate her lunch in a windowless room with no furniture other than a chair, a small table and a trash can. She had barely taken a bite when images appeared on the walls. Some were terrible, some sensual, and others were funny.

Over time, Alisha sensed a pattern. The really horrible images followed every time she ate a portion of the meat. The sensual items appeared when she ate the vegetables, and the Jell-O brought up funny pictures. Alisha avoided the meat and enjoyed the remainder of her meal.

When she finished her lunch, an image of Colonel Logan appeared on the wall, which surprised her, because she’d just been thinking about him. He looked so stern, and then suddenly he smiled at her. She couldn’t help but smile back. Images of him carrying her out of the wind farm, tending her knee in the tub, examining her for injuries, and then the two of them sleeping appeared on the wall. How did they get those pictures? she wondered.

Suddenly the images were replaced with DC’s. Her smile disappeared. She watched as he slammed her against the corner of the bed, as he grabbed her breast and twisted her nipple. The image changed to the ridge. He flew above her and stalled her out on the rocks. The image repeated with a similar result on the second run. The third was different only because she had gained more altitude, but that just made her fall more spectacular and deadly. She re-lived the pain when the tree gave way and her knee smashed into the rock ledge. Her knee throbbed now.

The images changed to the fourth run, her crash into the wind farm and her failure to notice her blood trail until it was almost too late. Seeing the laser bead on her shoulder, she weaved through the wind turbines, trying to confuse the laser’s tracking sensor.

Alisha felt the same emotions as she watched herself—the same fear, the same fatigue, and the same hopelessness.

LINK

The SkyRyder’s Series, Book 1

Scavenger’s Mission

AMAZON

About the Author

Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.

OTHER BOOKS BY LIZA O’CONNOR

SCIENCE FICTION

The Multiverse Series

Sci-Fi Soap Opera with humor, romance, and science

The Gods of Probabilities

Surviving Outbound

Surviving Terranue

Surviving Sojourn

Artificial Intelligence Series

Sci-Fi/Romance

Public Secrets

Birth of Adam

The SkyRyders Series

Sci-Fi Romance

Scavenger’s Mission

Scavenger Falters-coming 2017

Scavenger Vanishes-coming 2017

 

The Monument Makers

Note: Today is our next installment of Aliens Abducting Annoying Assholes Anonymous, in which readers send me stories about annoying people they know, and I write a short story of flash fiction in which the annoying person gets abducted by aliens. Next up is an anonymously submitted tale about some construction workers who can’t be fired…by a human.

Instructions for submitting your own annoying asshole for consideration are at the end of this post.

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The Monument Makers

This science fiction short story has been moved to my dedicated page here.

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All you have to do is share this post (here on my blog or on social media when I share it) and I will write you a piece of flash fiction about aliens abducting the annoying asshole of your choice. You do not have to publicly explain who you want as an abductee in a story or why they’re an asshole and need to be abducted by aliens. You can PM me or use the contact form here:

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”

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