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Is my best customer grooming me for something or just nice in a weird way?

Tagged as: Big Questions, Teenage<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (11 August 2022) 12 Answers - (Newest, 17 August 2022)
A male United States age 18-21, anonymous writes:

Hi everyone my name is Trevor and hope that is like anonymus enough. I am a 17 year old male (he him his). I will be a high school senior. I am not homophobic and don’t hate anybody but definitely straight in my own preferences. This is about a dude I keep seeing at my job who is like making me feel weird but has not actually done anything way out of line and just not sure how to handle it the best.

I work FT this summer at a very nice professional car wash. I was promoted to one of the detail stations. So if you get your car washed in the main wash and you want something special done you can pay for them to bring it to my tent (I am one of three detail techs) and we can do a carpet detail, an interior detail, or special exterior details. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes per detail depending on what they pay for. I like it because it is extra money for me and I at least get some shade. I also like it because my boss says I am good at it and getting a promotion felt good. Because we are in our own area and do not have a lot of direct customer contact we have permission to work without the shirts everyone else wears which is nice since it is 100 plus most days and even though I have the shade of the overhead tent it is so humid and I am like just sweating all day. Normally other people drive the cars to us and the customer sees us for like 10 to 20 seconds when we hand them their keys, they look over what we did, maybe put a tip in our jar, and take off.

So my question is about a customer who is like in his 30’s who is bringing his three cars to get washed at least twice a week (that is minimum six washes a week) and sometimes more and sometimes twice on the same day. He always pays for at least one detail job and sometime multiple (taking me an hour or more to finish his car). He knows my name and ask for me and even waits if I am already working on a car. He gives great tips (like double or triple what anyone else does and recently he put a $100 bill in my jar and said he did not have change). He goes out of his way to give my boss compliments about me. He also has nice cars that are not gross to clean. Sometimes he brings me bottled water from the vending machines like a gift. All of that is unusual but good.

So here is the weird part. Instead of waiting inside like the other customers in the AC he comes out to my tent and watches me the whole time. He walks around the edge following wherever I go around the car. Sometimes he does that even if I am finishing someone else’s car and don’t even have his yet. Sometimes he just watches and sometimes he talks to me and asks all kinds of stuff about sports I play what I do for fun and girlfriends and stuff like that. I know he has taken pics or vids of me with his phone but said he does not when I asked and that he was just reading texts but I think he lies about that. He compliments me on my looks like my tan or haircut or my body but like in ways that are like sort of different like “how many situps do you have to do to get those abs” or “how much do you have to bench press to get pecs like yours” and crap like that. I have okay muscles but I am not a body builder but he acts like I am. I don’t think he wants advice it is just like a way to say something sort of sexual or about some part of my body.

So it recently took a step up and he asked if I ever go to people’s homes to detail their cars and talked about how much money I could make if I was not working for the car wash and got to keep all of what people paid. I told him no and I would probably get fired for doing that and he was like saying he would never tell and so I just said no thank you. He has made a comment I remind him of some boyfriend he had who was a “cute athlete” like me and how athletes are always “better in bed.”

Some people I tell this to tell me he is “grooming” me or like trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do. Other people say I should just act normal and keeping earning the tips. I used to not think a lot about how girls get harrassed all the time by creeps and even though I don’t feel threatened it does feel creepy. I thought about asking my boss to have others do his details but then he would probably just be creepy with them and I would miss out on the tips.

He has not touched me except to shake my hand or pat my shoulder and give it a squeeze like “good job.” He has not asked for sex or anything like that. Maybe I am misinterpreting and he is just super friendly. The other two detail guys make jokes and call him my “boyfriend” just to get a reaction from me cause they know I feel weird about it. One said if it bothered me to put my shirt on when he is there but he also said if he was me he would just say nothing and keep getting tips. They also think he is taking vids of me when I am not looking. Any thoughts?

View related questions: money, muscle, my boss, text

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (17 August 2022):

Hello Mr. Trevor --

As a gay male, I can imagine myself in the shoes of your customer. I am sure I would notice you and appreciate your looks. If anything, if I was attracted I would probably retreat back to the waiting place to keep myself from saying something stupid and inappropriate.

I agree that hovering over you, being where you don’t belong, asking you inappropriate questions, and actually touching your body (anywhere) is not normal or acceptable. Inviting a young man under 18 to your house, that is a red alert.

I appreciate what you said in your first post that you do not hate anyone and this was not an anti-gay tirade. This is all about being a decent human being and respecting other people in a place of work – man or woman, gay or straight. Me too applies to everyone. Taking advantage of someone in customer service who is trapped and required to get along with the public is sadistic. This guy is crossing the line.

He must have a lot of time and a lot of money to be able to parade his cars into the car wash and have them detailed every week. Maybe it is about you. Maybe he has a car fetish. I suspect it is about you since he requests you for the detail work. Either way, it is strange and excessive. Parking across the street is also suspicious. I love how you call him creepy guy.

One thing to remember. Be careful what you say to other people especially using his name. If he has money and thinks you have defamed him or whatever without proof then he may lawyer up and sue you or your family. I am not a legal person but just be smart and what you say and to who.

Of all the posts I think Honey and Owl have the best comprehensive advice and I will just say I agree with them. I hope you feel good about how many people are trying to help and protect you. That includes your own family plus everyone who has posted something here. It sounds like you are a hard worker and polite and you will probably go far. Be good and be smart.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (17 August 2022):

Trevor,

Methinks you doth protest too much...

Are you sure you have not contributed to this situation and now it is just backfiring on you and making you uncomfortable? Are you sure you and your own young male ego are not actually enjoying the attention from this man and probably other customers? Otherwise, I think you would have put that shirt on a long time ago. Or maybe you were enjoying it and playing with fire a little bit and it went from fun to scary when you got more interest than you wanted?

Flirting to get tips happens all the time in all kinds of work settings. Ladies do it. Guys do it. I have even seen totally straight guys flirt with gay guys just to get a tip. I am not saying that is wrong. Even dressing attractively or showing off your body can be a deliberate tactic in some customer service settings. Ever been to Hooters? I am just wondering if maybe that is how this started.

After all, here you are going shirtless in public, dripping in sweat, letting him actually touch your shoulder and squeeze your shoulder muscle (for God’s sake), probably flexing to show off while you work, and according to your own sisters your looks are attractive enough for you to be considered “eye candy.” If they said that then you already knew it about yourself. It takes confidence to go without a shirt all day every day so I am guessing you are a little cocky about your own looks. If an attractive well-tanned young lady wearing a bikini and dripping wet was letting men touch her even a little bit to earn big tips, I would tell her she was playing with fire as well.

I don't buy the oh it is so hot outside in the summer weather excuse. Do the people in your "dry-off" team get to work half naked? I think you like putting on a show. I know guys like you who are wrapped up in their own egos. You sound like a cocky young studlet who plays innocent even when you know you are pushing people's buttons. If you really don't want attention, put on a damn shirt.

I am not trying to “blame the victim.” It is not right when men blame attractive female victims. I am not trying to blame you just because you are an attractive young male. Sexual harassment is wrong under all circumstances. No matter how much you may have flirted yourself in the beginning, it does not justify what sounds like stalkerish behavior or any type of sexual innuendo (especially when you are a minor and he is an adult). Your creepy guy is in the wrong and I agree with all the advice you have been given about protecting yourself.

Also, your boss sounds like a greedy jerk not enforcing his own policy just to let this obsessed creep keep leering at you or even video you for whatever sexual purpose. He knows the guy is shady and is not protecting you. No customer’s business should be more important than protecting one of his vulnerable young employees from a possible predator.

Good luck. Be smart. Maybe just maybe put on a shirt a little more often. Count your lucky stars by the way for having such a great family ready to look out for you.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (17 August 2022):

It sounds creepy to me. You should not have to quit your job because of this guy. If you are back in school in like September I guess you will not work there. I know car washes that are open all year but they like are not that busy. Maybe that will be the end of it you know. I agree it is cool your dad offered to do that for you. You should let him.

Your friend, Calvin (alias)

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 August 2022):

Hi

Reading your follow up makes me more worried about this. It sounds almost certain that this man is stalking you and is potentially dangerous.

I love the idea of your father visiting you at your work when this creep is there. All it would take is for your father to have a word with you for one minute, but staring at this man all the while. It would send a very clear message that you know what he's doing and now your father knows. This will freak him out more than anything else. And if this person parks in a Wendy's opposite to watch you, then your father parks right next to him.

This will tell him without a word having to be spoken that his advances are unwanted and you have your father looking out for you.

As well as earbuds and keeping physical distance which are also great ideas, but nothing will get the message across so well as your father being there and staring at him, whilst talking to you. Just for a minute. He'll understand what this means. And if you are uncertain about involving your friends, I would say don't. There's no need. Involving the police is a very smart move. Well done.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (15 August 2022):

This is amazing. This is great advice. Thank you SO much.

I love the earplug idea. I would not even be the only one who does that so it would fit in perfect. I cannot believe I did not think of that. That should cut down on the conversations. That is sincerely brilliant!

My boss was sort of a mixed reaction when I told him the vibe I was getting. He agreed it was a weird vibe and even pointed out something I did not know that the customer almost always goes to a Wendy’s across the street and parks facing us. He would have a direct view into the open side of my tent (the tent is really a roof with no walls on metal poles). I had no clue that was happening and appreciated him pointing it out. Not much I can do about it but be aware of him.

As for keeping customers out of our work area, my boss pointed out there is already a sign in the indoor waiting area explaining people should wait for the dry-off team or us to signal a customer by twirling a towel over out head to signal when their car is ready. Most people do that. People respect that in the dry-off area because there are cars coming and going and it is dangerous to be wandering around there. The problem is that is not being enforced in our area and my boss does not seem to want to do that.

He warned me not to “piss off” my creepy dude and told me to be sure I am polite and don’t lose his business. I did not feel super supported by that. He “asked” me to keep doing his details since he always requests me. I feel let down by him on this part. I do admit I still want the tips.

My boss definitely was not happy about the guy inviting me to do private details and told me to turn that down which I already did. I was not sure if that was because he was concerned about me and my safety or losing the business tbh.

My boss was helpful on the shirt thing. He said I should wear a shirt when this guy is around. If I don’t want to wear the normal uniform shirts he gave me permission to wear a solid white or solid red tank top with a more breathable material as long as the red matched the color of the polyester uniform shirts. I do have a plain cotton low armhole tank the right color red, so I will keep one at my workstation and wear it when my creepy customer visits.

I already do the yes sir, no sir thing because of my parents. I think most adults like it tbh and it might even help with tips just being a polite young guy you know. Even when he has pushed his first name I still do the sir thing out of habit but I will keep doing it on purpose. I did not think about how it sends him a signal so that was a good thing to know. I do not know his last name and asking might be weird so I will just stick with sir.

Turning down the water will be tough because that was one of the few things I liked but I see how it is like a gift and weird and it may be paranoid but I just realized he could put something it it.

I went ahead and told my parents like you suggested. My mom totally freaked and wanted me to quit. My dad wanted to show up at my work when he is there. After they calmed down, they agreed it was smart to let them know so they can be alert and told me they were proud of me for confiding in them. Also told my older sisters and they agree the guy is acting creepy and said I am like eye candy for pervs. They were joking but also serious.

I love the step-back move when he tries to squeeze my shoulder again or pat me on the back. I can pull that off and I don’t even have to say anything. Another sincerely brilliant idea. I agree a handshake is all I should be expected to do. My boss agreed I should not be touched.

About the personal information. He does not know where I live (unless he followed me home and I don’t realize it). He does know where I go to school and that I play basketball. He has even made comments about coming to “check out a game.” So, I think that prediction is right and I will just have to pay attention and let my family know if I see him creeping around.

He already knows I drive a red Jeep Rubicon because of our car talk so I messed that up.

He also knows where my friend group hangs out inside the DQ or in the DQ parking lot near our school. He waved at me a couple times when I was there with friends. He was coming out of a vape shop in the next parking lot. So far as I could tell he just sat there and vaped in has car for a while but maybe he was spying. I assume that was a random thing but maybe he stalked me there.

Should I say something to my friends or is that spreading gossip when I only suspect what he is up to and do not know for sure? The only downside is my friends might say or do something stupid to him or tease me about it and not take is seriously. I am leaning toward not telling them.

My parents suggested and I did speak to the school resource officer who goes to our church and is super friendly and cool to all of us students and is a legit police officer. He took me seriously and said I should ask one of my coworkers to carefully take a picture of creepy dude to share with him so if he hangs out around the school he would recognize him. He thought it was creepy but nothing illegal so far. He talked to me about “situational awareness” which is kind of what you all talked about too.

He also said if my boss would give me the guys full name he will check to see if he is any databases or whatever. I am not sure how my boss will react to that, but I think it makes sense. If I cannot get it from my boss I may get it from one of the cashiers since they all like me pretty good.

So again thank you for the super great suggestions and advice. I was not sure what to expect but posting this turned out to be a good idea. Thank you!

TREVOR

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (14 August 2022):

You are being far too friendly and chatty with this pervert. Stop it. The more friendly and chatty you are the more he will get keen and think he has a chance of sex with you.

Just do the job you are paid to do, no more.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (14 August 2022):

He is clearly gay or bi and hoping you are too. Much of this attention is like a month to a bright light, he wants to get laid and wants you to do it.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (13 August 2022):

Honeypie agony aunt"Any thoughts?"

My first advice is this - TRUST your instincts. You have them for a reason.

Secondly? Put on a shirt when/if he shows up. If that makes you a little warmer for that 20-45 minutes, SO be it. It is also a clear sign that you do not need "praise" on your physique. That is not why you are there.

Be professional. Avoid close quarters with him. A handshake is the absolute MOST he will ever get from you. Physically. You don't need to chit-chat about your workout routine or other things - if possible, can you wear earplugs or headphones while working? Like WiseOwlE mentioned - If you step back a few steps out of reach, this is a polite "nonverbal" request not to touch you. " I agree 100% there.

You do not OWE him to be handsy with you because he CHOOSES to tip you and have his car detailed many times a week.

I would also NOT accept gifts. Even if it's "just" a water bottle. You can buy your own water.

I would mention this to the boss/owner. That you feel like the dude is filming you. Because that is CREEPY. Doesn't matter that it's a man, it would be creepy if it was a woman too! Because it's CREEPY. Please don't overshare anything personal with him.

Lastly, If someone made this comment to me :

" He has made a comment I remind him of some boyfriend he had who was a “cute athlete” like me and how athletes are always “better in bed.”

I would just say, Sir, that is kind of inappropriate and quite frankly none of my business."

You are a minor.

He makes you uncomfortable. So decide this, DO you want to keep making the tips OR would you rather not have to deal with someone older creeping on you?

You will be starting school pretty soon so this will stop or drastically "deescalate".

This will not be the last time you come across someone creepy.

My last bit of advice is this, Once you go back to school BE aware if he starts to pop up in places where you live, go to school, etc. Talk to your parents as well. I think if anyone was creeping on MY daughters (I have 3) I would want to know. And the moment that person overstepped boundaries, the Police would get involved.

Stay safe.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (13 August 2022):

Typo correction:

" [Always] put "Mr." before his last-name."

*It's being too familiar to refer to customers by their first-names; when they're much older than you. Continue to be formal and respectful to him; and you'll notice he will become more like a customer, than a lecherous older-guy...who is questionably gay! There is nothing wrong if he prefers your work, it's because he worships his cars, and he likes consistency when it comes to caring for them. All that other stuff you mentioned is inappropriate; and he is taking advantage of the situation. You should ask that he not always watch, because it makes you a little self-conscious, and you want to be able always do a perfect job for every customer.

You are not his "personal detailer." You have a boss, and you work for that carwash and detailer business. He was testing you to see if you'd go for the bait. Continue to refuse no matter how much he sweetens the pot; or you could get fired. Wear a tank top tee, rather than bare skin on the job.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (13 August 2022):

I believe your instincts about this are correct. He's showing far more interest in "you" than necessary. Ask your boss if it's okay to ask the customer to wait in the waiting area; while the cars are being detailed. Your boss could also put up a sign keeping customers out of the work area.

Never accept invitations for private work or going to stranger's homes. He is not "grooming" you, that goes much deeper than just compliments or flirtations. He IS flirting, but you can tell him that compliments make you self-conscious and uneasy; and you can't concentrate on your work. You can say that nicely. Avoid eye-contact, but look a customer in the eyes only when taking or handing him his keys. Don't engage in too much conversation; tell him your boss doesn't like it when workers are too chatty. He'll start to get the message that you're on to him. You must be courteous to all customers; but you do not have to accept passes or flirtations from neither men nor women. He feels he has you cornered, he knows you're young, and he knows you must be polite to customers.

He's being slick. He is establishing "valued-customer" status by being a frequent and generous patron; this is manipulative. It's to make your boss angry, if he feels dissatisfied with service; or if he comes less frequently.

Keep your distance, and don't allow anything but a handshake. No more hands-on touching, considering a new virus is going around; you need as little physical-contact with strangers as possible; and only when necessary.

"Sir, I really appreciate the tips and try to do the same for all my customers." Keep it business-like, and don't get chummy. Always respond to him by "yes sir", or "no sir." Add "sir" to everything you say to him. That keeps your interactions businesslike and professional.

You're there to do your job. You do it well, and your boss is very much aware of that. If the patron is beginning to get too friendly; at some point, you may have to ask the boss to assign him to someone else from time to time. It is unlikely he will continue with the big tips; because all the guys know what he's up-to by now.

If you step back a few steps out of reach, this is a polite "nonverbal" request not to touch you. Always refer to him as "sir" and never by his name. All put Mr. before his last-name. That reminds customers that you are there to do your job, and nothing else. Just let your boss know you feel a little uneasy, but you'll continue to do the best work for all the customers. Don't chat about it too much with the other workers; they may not be polite to the patron, and cause a problem.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (13 August 2022):

testing

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 August 2022):

Wow! Even if it's not grooming (which it definitely sounds like it is) it's still highly inappropriate. I remember working in IT support and feeling really uncomfortable just from having a customer hover over me while I'm fixing their phone. I can't imagine what it's like to have someone twice my age constantly follow me a few steps behind while I'm shirtless washing their car. Unprofessional and borderline harassment. And taking pics or video of you shirtless without your knowledge or consent is definitely sexual harassment.

Worst of all is asking you to come to his house to wash his cars, obviously trying to remove you from your superiors and the people you know, so he can more easily coerce you.

The fact that your coworkers make light of this and just tell you to deal with it and accept the harrassment is also awful but, unfortunately, also very common when it comes to sexual harassment, especially against men. Unless you desperately need the tips to stay afloat financially, I'd say risk losing the tips and tell this man, in no uncertain terms, that this makes you uncomfortable and is NOT OK, and either he shapes up or stops buying your services. And if you're scared or too uncomfortable to tell him, tell your boss about it, and if he's a good boss, he'll take you seriously and help you out.

I would say, prioritize your own mental wellbeing over financial gain, but I don't know what your financial situation is like, so I can't say "Definitely get rid of this cash flow". This is your decision to make, but just know that what he is doing is absolutely not OK, and you are under no obligation to suffer through it.

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