A budtender is born
How and why one downtown Sacramento medical-cannabis employee got into the biz
It is human nature to patronize a business where you like and trust the person behind the counter. Whether it is a cute barista, the guy at your local bottleshop who has been there forever or a kindhearted budtender, we all like to go where we are treated special.
I go to a lot of different dispensaries, too many to call any one of them a favorite, because each dispensary is unique in its own way. Some have a great edible selection, while others have consistent strains and product. My local shop has probably the best selection of hashish in the Northern California. In every dispensary worth its salt, there is always that special budtender that knows what you like and will tell you what isn’t worth buying.
Cheech is one of those budtenders.
He works at Grass in downtown Sacramento and also Grass in Natomas, two longtime Sacramento dispensaries. A former retail employee, Cheech had a ghastly accident in which he shattered his arm and dealt with infections and skin grafts.
“I worked at Nordstrom for about four-and-a-half years,” Cheech recalled, laughing. Then, one day while skateboarding downtown, it happened.
“I shattered my elbow. Compound fracture, it pretty much exploded,” he says. Cheech couldn’t get hired back at Nordstrom and needed a new line of work.
While using medical cannabis to relieve his symptoms, the management at Grass recognized Cheech as a born people person and hired him.
Cheech explains his customer-service approach: “I worked in kid’s shoes. Kids are easy. You show them a light-up shoe and they want it. Then, you have to talk the parents into buying it.
“But what I figured out was to give them what they need, not what they wanted.”
And that’s what Cheech aims to accomplish at Grass.
“I don’t need to show everyone everything on the menu,” he explains. “I am completely honest. ‘Here’s the two best buds that we have,’ and, if something is $5 less, I tell them to buy it.”
Like Nordstrom, a collective deals with people of different economic and social backgrounds, who are not always in the best of health or spirits.
“You have to really care about everyone that walks through that door, even if they are being a dick to you. If you think you are having a bad day, you don’t know what these people are going through.”
Working in a dispensary these days is mostly dealing with great customers—a lot like working in a record store before the advent of online sources for music. Everyone wants to work there, but they don’t understand in all the drudge and hard work it takes, such as shipping and receiving, stocking and waiting on people.
In the dispensary business, you have to deal with people who are often ill and, if they don’t like the service, there are dozens of other clubs that they can go visit.
“People come in with a frown, and you make them leave with a smile,” Cheech says of his goal. “You know their names and get to know them on a personal basis. The sad thing is, you might not see them the next week.
“The thing that keeps me coming to work is the patients and the people that I work with.”