Patchberry Nectar

“Hi!” The young man flashes an overly bright smile at me. “My name is Manillo, and I was hoping to speak to someone in charge in regards to your shipping service. May I ask to whom I’m speaking?”

Poorly behaved customers are not the only variety of bother to increase in the aftermath of the tea tournament. The service providers attempting to horn in on our uptick in business are endless.

For now. I’m confident this will change.

“Do you represent a shipping service?” I ask Manillo.

“Yes, and can I get your name please?”

I level a look at him, well familiar with this tactic by now. The idea is to leverage knowledge of the name of an actual employee who has vetted him as a sign that his pitch is legitimate.

Dryly, I say, “You can tell Talmeri, the owner of this establishment, that you spoke to the green-haired employee.”

If he ever does speak to Talmeri, she’ll recognize what this means. At this point I’m not exactly unknown, either among shippers or in the city in general.

Not realizing how he has already blundered, Manillo lifts his eyebrows, his expression inviting me to explain my odd behavior.

I do not.

“Did you want to tell me what company you’re with?” I prompt. “Because I’m quite certain you’re not our one of our usual reps.”

“Oh, of course,” he says, expression faltering only barely as he senses something amiss. “I understand you do a fair amount of shipping here. We can help make that easier for you, so I wanted to make sure you knew about our services. I’m with Sayorsen First Rate.”

Another thing I have learned is that it is always wise to consider carefully companies who feel compelled to emphasize their excellence in their name. Compensation is rampant.

“We in fact do not do any shipping here; only receiving,” I inform him. “And as it happens we’ve used Sayorsen First Rate’s services in the past.”

I can practically see him recognizing a losing bid and attempting to salvage the interaction. “Well, our rates have changed, so if you can put me in touch with the owner we can see about setting you up with a lower price—”

“With respect, in your case a lower price helps me not at all.” Not to mention he’s not even prepared to guarantee it, only to look into it.

Manillo freezes; visibly gathers himself. “What does help?”

“As store manager, I also oversee our bookkeeping and shipping information,” I say. “Our records of transactions with your company are not inspiring, to put it mildly. Sayorsen First Rate consistently lost orders and records of them. Every rep we’ve had there has never had the information necessary to be a good business partner. It’s clear this has not changed.”

Manillo rallies. “I don’t know about that. If you’ll just put me in touch with the owner—”

Gently, I say, “My name is Miyara. I’m a tea master who has brought the Te Muraka into Istalam and won the most publicized tea tournament on the continent. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.”

All the blood leaves his face at once. “Spirits, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know—”

“Indeed. And as your company could not furnish their representative in negotiations with even this very basic information about why they’re suddenly eager to work with us again, we will not consider upending our entire operations for a partnership with a company that does not provide its own employees the tools needed to do their jobs effectively.” I pause. “Would you like that in writing?”

“…That would be helpful, actually. Thank you, grace.”

“It would be my pleasure,” I say. “Do try our new patchberry nectar tea while I put that together for you. And may I recommend seeking alternative employment?”

“It is suddenly on the top of my to-do list, grace.”

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