Friday, December 20, 2013

The Last Straw

"I'm just going to call it like it is: I am a CUSTOMER, and you are not being helpful. You are just going to tell me to drive 75 miles to see your store or shop online. I want your name and your manager on the line right now!"

Well that didn't go well. How could I have made it gone better? I watched the blinking light on the phone turn red as my manager took the call. The caller wanted a Christmas gift for his mother, specifically he wanted "the Last Supper" and "Did we have any on the shelves?" I had no idea.  Why didn't I just say "Let me transfer you to someone who might know" or ask him to describe it? That is what I usually did.

Like most stores during the Holiday Shopping Season, ours was overworked, undermanned, and overwhelmed with the demands we simply couldn't keep up with. I knew the department head he needed wasn't in that night, I knew the few people on the floor were really busy and he might be on hold for a while—and I thought I might actually be helpful. It's just that I don't have every item in the store memorized. That's right, I am an actual human. That means I have limitations.

So I was trying to run the sales floor, run a cash register, and act as the Customer Service Manager all the while talking to a man on the phone who repeatedly could not verify if he wanted a framed piece of artwork, a poly-resin relief to be hung on the wall, a poster print or a small statuette. He had no part number or description other than his mother liked it. To me the logical thing to suggest was that he come look at our Inspirational product and try to narrow it down from there. Oops. Apparently that makes you sound like lazy employee who enjoys torturing people over the phone. The red light was still on—this can't be good. This was no ordinary complaint. This costumer was PISSED!

I should have explained what products I remembered us having, I should have asked him to describe it better—maybe with specific questions like "Does it hang on the wall? Or is it in a frame? How big would you say it was?"Finally, sometime later the call ended. I felt my blood pressure rising. Sure enough, my manager was walking towards me—and his face was flushed.

"Hey I am sorry about that," I quickly started talking. "I know that is the last thing you needed tonight, but I have no idea what set him off."

"What set him off was you telling him he needed to drive 75 miles to the store before you could even begin to help him."

"I didn't know he lived far away! After that I suggested he look online to try to visualize our product because I didn't know what he wanted!" I told my side of it—and I could tell my manager was listening, but still it was my word versus the stranger. Besides, he had been able to find out exactly what the man on the phone wanted and assured him that we did indeed have it in stock. Customers get upset. It happens. But when someone gets really REALLY pissed off it is usually because an unfortunate situation was handled badly. There was now a question mark next to my name and I knew it. Was I really cut out to be in this position?

I finished the night fuming at myself for being too tired to think "delicately" with that one customer, wondering if I had actually sounded rude over the phone without meaning to, and angry that an irate person could hold that much influence over my job. The store closed, and collectively the workers muscled up our last bit of nearly depleted energy to begin cleaning the store trashed by frenzied shoppers.

"Know what's Unbelievable?" My manager suddenly appeared behind me with an "If-I-wasn't-so-tired-I'd-be-smiling" sort of face. "You know Mr. Your-employee-is-incredibly-rude-and-unhelpful-and-I-live-so-far-way? Well fifteen minutes after I hung up the phone with him he came into the store and bought the Last Supper."

"FIFTEEN MINUTES?! How in the world did he drive 75 miles—"

"Clearly he didn't. If he wasn't honest about that, there is not telling what else he embellished on. You are good. I just thought it was funny he was all worked up about buying a holy picture and felt the need to get angry and lie about it all."

In his defense—he wanted the picture for his mother. He made no claims to being a prayerful sort of person himself. My blood pressure began to drop, and once again it was just another ordinary night at work.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Beginning to look a lot like—Sexism?

"Pardon me sir, how much of this garland should I buy for my front door?"

I looked down from the ladder I was working on, and below me there was a woman holding several strands of pine garland. Granted, there were two other female employees working on the floor right next to her, but hey, I guess the guy on the ladder ten feet in the air was more accessible.

"Well, I am not sure how large your door is, but I am sure two would be plenty."

"I want to make sure I have enough. How long are these?"

"They are six feet each Ma'am."

"Will that be enough?"

My Assistant Manager looked up from her task "Your average door is about 8 feet. Providing you don't have a custom door, two will be plenty."

The customer nodded and gave a quick half smile in her direction.

"So—SIR, should I buy two or three?"


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The lines to the registers were absurdly long. Every other cashier was busy, "beeping" and "chinging" their own harmonies to the Holiday music playing. I finished counting down my cash drawer, and said "Register 5 is open for the next customer in line." I smiled and pointed to a woman, indicating I would help her.

"THAT'S IT! It's MY TURN! This is the WORST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!!!"

I looked at the back of the line and saw customers frantically pulling their shopping carts out of the way for an enraged shopper barreling her way through the lines to my register. It was a "get out of my way or I will crush you" charge.

"Unbelievable!" She continued to rant at me "Do you SEE these lines? Nobody has time to wait like this! Unreal. Simply Unreal. I will never shop here again. NEVER!"

Behind her, the lines of customers all watched in wonder at the tirade. The scene made as much sense as a fish exasperated by the wetness of it's pond. Finally, in a convoluted storm indignation, she marched out of the store. The  woman I had originally motioned over began to load her merchandise onto the counter.

"I am sorry for your wait Ma'am.."

"Um—no, you are fine. It is CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SEASON! Has that woman never shopped before? Seriously? Are YOU ok?"

"Of course! I was safe behind the counter, her charging cart never ran into me."

She smiled, "Well—you have a Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you too Ma'am."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Your Card is Not Real Money, It Just Acts Like It.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, your card was declined."

"What? No that can't be. Here let me try it again."

"Sure thing. Go ahead—I'm sorry it's still declined."

She held out her credit card and identification card. "Here, you do it."

"Ma'am? I'm sorry but I can't do it. If your card is being declined, I can't make it work."

"REALLY? You can't???"

"Do you have any other means of payment?"

"No! I do not." She answered while pulling out a twenty from her purse, and then another, followed by one more.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prima Donna

At ten minutes to close, she made her entrance. Her sparkling dress was so tight I thought it had been painted on for a moment. Every tiny step she took in her six inch stilettos showed her undulating form. Slowly, as though under a spotlight, she made her way to the jewelry department in the back.

Closing announcements were made, and other shoppers hurried through the lines, but our statuesque shopper had not made her appearance.  We closed. Still no sign of her. Finally a coworker appeared with an arm full of jewelry items and the woman in tow. Inch by inch she tottered her way up to the front of the store. "I'm coming!" She said playfully, as though we are just all on pins and needles waiting for her again.

Ten minutes after closing, we finally began to ring up her purchases. "Wait, wait!" She said, suddenly pointing to the monitor. "That rang up $4.99, it is supposed to be half off."

"Actually Ma'am this brand is not on sale this week."

"It isn't? I thought everything in that aisle was!"

"I'm sorry, but the signs actually list the brands that are included."

"Well—in that case, I think I will just need to go back there and rethink this. I might have to go a whole different direction with this."

WHAT?!

"I'm sorry Ma'am, but we are closed now. The registers are closing. You are welcome to come back tomorrow if you want to shop some more. We open at—"

"Excuse me? How RUDE! I know ya'll are closing but you don't have to act like that. I am a CUSTOMER. I want your corporate number. I am SO going to report you."

Twenty minutes after closing, she inch-wormed her Saran-wrapped self out of the doors. I was only surprised that she didn't take the time to inform my manager that we were not being beaten often enough. It would probably have further infuriated her that was I was later promoted to Customer Service Manager.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Price of a Deal

"Young Man, this wedding is on a tight budget, so if something doesn't ring up for the sale price we don't want it."

"Yes Ma'am," I replied, "It does look like everything you purchased was on sale so that is good—except this unity candle holder. It is $9.99."

"Well hold up! I don't want it! I will go get another one that is on sale. You just keep ringing up my stuff I'll be right back."

(Moments later)

"How about this one, is it on sale?"

"Umm—well yes Ma'am it is, for $19.99"

"That's fine! Just fine. I just needed it to be on sale!"

Clearly, this was a different type of budget from the ones I am used to.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is God against the Return Register?

He raced into the store holding a crumpled bag and made strait for the one cashier that was open.

"I'm sorry sir, but returns are only handled at the return register," she said pointing at my line, "He will be happy to help you."

He looked in exasperation at the three people inline ahead of him. "I can't wait in line, I have to be at the church in ten minutes!"

"I'm sorry sir, but I will help you as soon as I can, " I said glancing up from the return I was currently working on, "Or—what is the date on your receipt? Because if now isn't a good time for you, you can—"

"I can't come back here! Goddammit!" In a righteous huff, he left for church.

See, now I would never presume to speak for God, but I am 95% certain that while he might not enjoy waiting in line, he doesn't actually damn them. In that line of thought, I think the people that Jesus spoke the strongest to were the self absorbed, religious people of the day. You might want to rethink your approach sir.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Story of a Big Boy, his Gums, and his Mother.

Once upon a time in a land  far, far away lived a woman and her son. This land was so far away that you would have to travel all the way around the earth to find it ending in your own back yard. Now this son was a very big boy. Even though he was only a teenager, he was about 6' 4" and weighed around a very healthy 300 lbs.

One day Big Boy's mouth began to hurt and his dentist said "You need to have your wisdom teeth removed." So the mother took her son to the dentist and he gave the Big Boy some medicine so that he wouldn't feel a thing. The dentist took out the teeth that were hurting the Big Boy's mouth and sent him home with his mother.

But his mother did not take him home! Instead, she took him shopping. While she happily walked around a store looking at lovely pictures, elegant glass vases, and delicate colored paint, the medicine that the dentist gave Big Boy was starting to fade out—and after that, his gums began to bleed.

With his mouth filling up with blood, his mother felt badly for him and took him with her into the women's restroom to help him clean his mouth. That is when Big Boy got sick. For a long time, no other woman could visit the women's restroom as the poor, sick, hurting Big Boy spat his blood all over the sink, the mirrors, the toilets, the stalls, and the floor. Finally, the mother did leave the store to take Big Boy home so that he could sleep and feel better soon.

I think, boys and girls, that the moral of this tale speaks for itself, but just in case you missed it:

"DO NOT BRING YOUR ILL, DRUGGED CHILDREN TO THE STORE!"

Thank you and have a nice day!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Granny's Fashion Police

She was staring at me directly, you know—with that uninhibited full on gaze that only curious children seem to use. "Funny," I thought to myself, "How is it that a little, blue haired, bun-sporting granny finds you this interesting?"

But was it interest? She wasn't smiling. That spot between my shoulderblades began to crinkle all the way up to the base of my neck. This was uncomfortable. She was silent, and only nodded when I asked her about her day and her shopping.

"That will be $24.99" I finally said, placing her bagged merchandice on the counter.

"Young man, why do you shave your head?"

"...umm...shave my head? Well, frankly I was loosing my hair and I was tired of looking ten years older than I really was, so I shaved it. It's worked out well so far."

"Well you shouldn't. It looks terrible."

For the record ma'am, anyone wearing a pleated, floral print jumper with a massive bun in her hair really shouldn't be throwing "fashion" advice. I suddenly realized I would have enjoyed the encounter much more had I said "Because it makes me so dang SEXY!!!" and given her a wink.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I get your point—but no.

"I'm not answering the phone anymore." My coworker told me in the breakroom, "Not until the craziness from the holidays stops."

Apparently the phone conversation went something like this:

Man on the Phone: "Hello! I make top quality swords, and I am looking for a vender. I think your store would be perfect."

Coworker: "Swords? As is actual metal swords?"

Man on the Phone: "That's right, so I would like to drop by this afternoon and show you my product."

Coworker: "Actually, we can't sell any outside product, all of our merchandise is sent from our corporate—"

Man on the Phone: "Yes you can! These are top quality swords!"

Coworker: "I can transfer you to a manager if you would like to discuss it."

Man on the Phone: "No! I don't need a manager. I am coming into your store at three o' clock. You are going to look at my swords, you will love them, and you WILL SELL THEM!"

Apparently his infomercial inspired, aggressive arms dealer attitude waned—he never showed up.   

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Endless Cycle: Zoning

I found it hysterically funny. My three year old niece was following directly behind her mother at the living room windows. For every pane of glass my sister cleaned, my niece rubbed her hands all over another—all in the spirit of "helping her momma." In seconds she had completely undone the window cleaning process.

Somehow, I missed that sense of humor when a gentleman followed directly behind me in the store rearranging the items on the shelf because I "didn't do it right." There was a small sense of cosmic justice though; he knocked over a candle jar which shattered on the floor. Apparently it wasn't as easy as he thought, so he left me to do my job. Thank you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Artificial Earth Mother

I could not wait for her to reach the counter. She stood  a whole head taller the rest of the Soccer Moms in line, and I could just see her face serenely whispering to—nobody.  While the rest of the customers were frantically juggling merchandise, children and a hectic morning schedule, she was wide-eyed staring at a large bouquet of artificial flowers in her hands in wonder as though it were an art masterpiece.

She finally did make it to my counter, and then she hesitated. Right in the middle of laying them onto my counter she stopped and appeared unable to do it. She didn't want to let go of her merchandise.

"Did you find everything alright Ma'am?" I asked her, and I reached for her flowers. She still seemed reluctant to part with them, but she did hand them over to me. She made several quick, bird like darts as though she wanted to snatch them back from me, but caught herself in time.

"Yes, yes everything was fine. Please be careful with those. Can you wrap them gently in paper. Gently now. Gently." She began to wiggle her fingers and weave her arms above them as though she couldn't bear the anticipation of holding them again. I finished ringing up her purchase, reminded her twice of the price before she realized she needed to actually pay me.

"These are my babies." She said as I finished wrapping her flowers "My babies! Ooh how beautiful. Yes, just like that thank you. That's nice. Ooh I have my babies."

With that, she picked up her bouquet, whispered something sweet to the bundle of plastic, rubber, silk, and wire in her hands and left the store. This children, is why we don't do drugs.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bill Engvall, where are you when we need you?

"I hope you can help me," the woman on the other end of the phone said, "I was just at your store over in [a nearby city] and it was just awful. I am driving to shop over at your store now. Listen, your "ladybug" brand items are on sale this week, but you don't carry the "ladybug" vinyl. You have a different brand. I want your vinyl at the sale price. You know the head of that department wouldn't give it to me? That is so ridiculous! I went all the way up to their store manager and even he wouldn't give it to me at the sale price."

Ooh boy.

"Ma'am, let me make sure I am on the same page as you. Currently, the "ladybug" brand is having a sale—but we don't carry the "ladybug" brand vinyl, so you want a different brand to be included in the sale."

"That is correct! I am on my way to visit your store to get them now."

"I'm sorry, we can't do that. All the sales are determined by our corporate office—"

"What do you mean you can't?! The SIGN IS HANGING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM!!!"

"The sign specifying the "ladybug" brand sale? Well I can't speak for how the other store is laid out, but in our store it is actually on the panel just to the left—"

"Oh I can promise you IT IS hanging right in front of the vinyl, and I don't like much being called a liar! I am going to need to speak to your manager IMMEDIATELY!"

"Yes, Ma'am, I will transfer you right now. You have a good day now."

And that boys and girls, is just another reason as to why I will never be a Retail Manager.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

But It was Halloween!

Like many stores on Halloween, we were giving out small hard candies to children who came in with their parents. It was only an hour until closing, and a fair amount of fairies, zombies, superheros and goblins had paraded in and out of the store loaded with sugar and excitement.

"Do ya have candy here?"

I turned to see a short, African-American boy standing in front of me. He had on suspenders, thick glasses taped in the middle, a shirt pocket full of pens, and a bow tie. Best costume I had seen of the night!

"Well of course we do!" I smiled at him "Are you Steve Urkle?"

Immediately his parents nearly collapsed to the ground in laughter while he he exclaimed "No! Who is that? I didn't even dress up!"

Shoot me now. SHOOT ME NOW.  After turning four shades of red, I grabbed an associate to help them with their order while I hid behind the counter for the rest of the evening.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hocus Pocus

Her wiry, gray hair defied the law of gravity by sticking straight out from her head in all directions. Several large warts decorated her face, particularly her prominent nose. She didn't respond to my greeting. Instead, she stood silently at my counter staring at me with a lopsided grin. Her purchas? It was a single, black taper candle.

I tried to not think about croaking around a bonfire in the woods. I tried to not think about her stirring a cauldron of batwings, frogs eyes, and newts tongue. I tried to not think about her luring innocent children into her home for a tasty snack—but I didn't succeed. She seemed too much like the part!

Oh well, it isn't as though she could read my mind. Or could she? Because as she walked away from my counter she suddenly burst out into a high-pitched cackle that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!

I informed my coworkers to not expect me to be at my register in the morning; I would most likely wake up as a toad.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Here? Right Here? Next to My Spleen???

I bagged the man's artwork and wished him a good day. They were several dark, heavily shaded charcoal sketches of human anatomy, though far from being precise. Their twisted, odd poses made me think they had been taken from Wednesday Adams' sketchbook.

"Is he gone yet?" My coworker from our framing department asked me over the phone.

"Who?"

"The creepy guy with the charcoal sketches! He was in your line!"

"Oh, he is gone. Why was he creepy? His artwork might have been a little dark but that doesn't mean—"

"NO! He was creepy. He kept talking about how you could see God in a person's body. Not the outside mind you, but if you 'opened up a person' you could see him there in a person's insides."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously! He said even his artwork didn't show it all, you had to ACTUALLY OPEN SOMEONE UP!"

"...should we have called the police?"

"I don't know! Probably? But you guys are walking the girls to our cars tonight after we close. That is not a request."

Monday, October 21, 2013

No, that Sounds Legit—Perfectly Legit.

I answered the store phone with our usual greeting, expecting the typical question of our store hours, when I heard "Yeah, I wuz wondrin', do y'all sell phlebotomy bags?"

I stared at the receiver, as though trying to peer through it to catch a glimpse of the woman on the other end of the line. Her voice was rather reedy and heavy with the Appalachian dialect. She sounded to be roughly a hundred years old and it was rather difficult to understand her.

"No—no Ma'am I am afraid we do not."

"Now I wuz told ya did! Meby I'm not sayin' it right. Lissen here, if you take the blood out of a person, and ya want to hold on to that blood, the bags that you use ta hold the blood in—do ya sell those?"

"No, like I said we do not. Perhaps a medical supply store? I'm not sure really."

"Well that's too bad. Talk to ya later then."

*click*

No—I really hope we don't talk again. I for one, was not about to ask her why she needed phlebotomy bags. More than likely she had to hang up the phone to go stir her cauldron again.Frankly, I did not want to be turned into a frog for asking one too many questions.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Brilliance of Miss Nora.

I can't see Auras, nor do I claim to be an empath, yet Miss Nora's spirit was so tangible you could feel yourself becoming relaxed and cheerful moments after meeting her. It was something about her bright smile, tiny, birdlike frame and chipper, almost nonstop conversation that made you want to be friends with her. Actually, scratch that. It made you feel as though you were already friends with her.

Miss Nora would come to the store a mere twenty to thirty minutes before we closed and stay long afterwards. For weeks and weeks this happened almost every night until one of our managers reluctantly asked to her leave at closing.

"I don't mean to be a bother," she said to me later, "it's just that my husband passed away right around Christmas time. It was always our favorite time of year. He would decorate for weeks, I would bake for weeks—we just loved it! Seeing all of the neat things in your store makes me think of him and how he would like to be planning for Christmas."

I was crushed.

She continued to stop in the store quite often, and always made it a point to find me and to chat briefly. Once she knew I had originally studied music, she never failed invite me to come sing with her in her church choir before wishing me a good evening.

One night after closing my store, I ran into her while I was buying groceries elsewhere.

"Where are you from anyway? Did you move here for school?" She suddenly asked me.

"Well that is a big complicated." I gave her the polite, short story of my haphazard career in life.

"You never know how life is going to play out. I studied music too. Though I did get a teachers license, I didn't really think I would teach that much. Do you know it was much different back then; there weren't many music teachers in public schools. It wasn't until that math teacher started cussing all the time about the special needs children that couldn't pass her class that I was even really noticed a problem with our schools. She wasn't helping these few kids, I thought I should try. We didn't have training back then like you do now..."

For twenty minutes I stood there in the fresh produce section stunned to hear her story. She was looking at me, but her eyes were seeing the faces of many Down Syndrome, Autistic, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome children she spent her life for. She told me of fighting to be allowed to give them cotton to place in their ears because the other teachers refused to believe some were being traumatized by the loud fire drills and band music. She grew misty-eyed talking about about finding a craft project that one student could finally do himself. She spoke of the struggle to broaden one little girls scope of music beyond playing "The Muffin Man" over and over—even though she was the one who, using the colors and shapes, had succeeded to teach her to play at all. When she told me about the little boy who had to be led away from the class room for lunch and would stare longingly back at her asking for more "Music? Piano? Music?" I wanted to hug her for the innocent lives she had poured love, respect and value into.

"Well I am sure we have been talking long enough here, you better get your things and go home and rest after your long day at work. Listen, I like you. If you ever need a surrogate mom, I'm here for you. You should come sing with me in the choir sometime. You have a good evening ok?"

With a wave of her tiny hand she was gone done another isle. I stood there stunned by the unsung hero who had been in and out of my store so many times—and I knew I wanted to honor her efforts the only way I could: Here is a toast to Miss Nora and all those like her in our world. You have made the world a better place with your spirit, and I intend to pass it along to every person I can. Thank you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It.

I smiled as I handed the woman her bag of purchases, not that she noticed. It must have been a very important conversation she was having over the phone because her contribution to it largely consisted of "Girl! No way girl. GIRL! Now I'm telling you... Uh-HUH!" I didn't mind; I was finding it humorous.

"Can you believe how RUDE people are?" The woman next in line asked me. "She never acknowledged you or anything. It's just so rude how people behave to service people these days."

Of course, I would have appreciated her sympathetic comment more, had she not been using her purse to push my obviously placed "closed" sign aside so that she could load my counter with her purchases.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

A PSA: Your Credit Card

Pardon me, could you take out your credit card for a moment? You don't use one, just your debit card? That's okay, take it out. Yes, right now. Alright now that you are looking at it, do you see all those numbers on the front? They look very important don't they? They are not.

Flip the card over. Yeah, to the back—you got it. Now do you see that smooth band running along the top? That is the magnetic strip. It is actually the brains of the whole card. Touch it. Go ahead, you get to feel a card's brain! All the information your card contains is located in that strip.

When you make a purchase, this strip is the section that needs to be inserted into the machine—not your bumpy numbers. Does that make sense? So the next time you force your card repeatedly through the machine, and you hear a grinding sound and a message like "card reader error" keeps flashing in front of you, please don't assume that somehow the stores machine isn't working properly. I can almost guarantee you that the cashier will ask you to reinsert your card the correct way.

What? They all make them differently? Well that is true, they do. I think there are programmers out there saying "Now how can me mess with the American Consumer's mind today?" as they work on yet another model. Having said that, ALL MODELS READ THE MAGNETIC STRIP! And there you have it. So take a moment, and become familiar with your card. You will do yourself, your future cashiers, and the world at large a huge service. Thank you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Whatever Happened to Baking Cookies?

She barely cleared my countertop. Short, comfortably round, and smiling behind large round glasses, she began to gather the many skeins of ruffled yarn out of her shopping cart. Now this was a sweet grandma. I bet she makes great cookies.

"What do you think about these colors?" She asked me with a warm smile. "I think they will show up quite nicely don't you think?"

I realized every skein was practically glowing in neon tones. Yellow, Blue, Pink, Green, Magenta—it was like someone had condensed the 80's into a pile of yarn. "They are—um, pretty bright! I am sure you will be able to see it well in the dark."

"That's what I thought too. I am making long scarves for the strippers. I sell them to them. See they can't use feather boas because they shed too much, and management doesn't like it. So I can crochet these frilly scarves and it gives the girls something to work with. I think they will look great under the blacklites."

"That's, um, wow. Your total is $45.68 Ma'am."

"Okay. I gotta get these home, then head over to the ladies club at church. We make items for charitable organizations to use."

Like long, neon frilled scarves perhaps?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tranquility! I Need Tranquility!

"Excuse me! I need some help. Where are your incense burners?" I looked up at the wiry woman in front of me. Her thick, brown curls sprung from her head seemingly creating a halo of exclamation points around her head, emphasising the necessity of the matter.

I showed her our selection only to have her jaw drop in amazement. "That's it? That's all you carry? Nooo!" She began to fidget, "I need INCENSE BURNERS! I can't believe this. You need to carry some!"

I looked back at the shelf. Yes, the product was still there hanging directly in front of our eyes.

"I need the kind you just let the oils set in. You know, like a dish."

"Oh! Well, I also have oil fragrance diffusers on these two shelves here."

"No! Well, maybe—no. Nooooooo! I need a manager. I need somebody to start stocking these. I need incense burners! I NEED IT!"

"So, you need to heat the fragrance oils?"

"YES!"

"Like this one here? See? Or perhaps this one?"

"Noooo," She moaned, "That's just not right. You know what I'm talking about? It just...no. This isn't what I need. Why don't you stock them?? I need it!"

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Danger of Flying with Autopilot.

"Did you find everything alright?" I asked across the counter with a smile.

She looked at me oddly, unsure of what to say. What was her problem? I was just asking...wait...

That is when I remembered that today I was actually the shopper, not the cashier. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Not to boast but...

"That is a great bunny you have there!" I said smiling to a little girl who was toting a toy rabbit nearly her own size.

"I know isn't it?!" Her young mother exclaimed as she placed her merchandise on the counter. "I stole it from Wal-mart®. It was just sitting there on a table looking so cute I HAD to swipe it for her!"

And yet, she wondered why I thoroughly inspected her shopping cart before I finished ringing up her purchases.

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Okay, I Needed a Vacation Anyway

"Thank you for calling [my store] how can I help you?" I answered the phone at my cash register, preparing to simply list our store hours as that is the most commonly asked question over the phone.

"Yes sir, I have a question about a product." Her elderly voice was cheerful, and full of the warmth of a freshly baked batch of cookies. "Now I am not sure what it is called, but I saw it while I was on vacation in Florida. We go to Florida every year you see, my husband and I. Well the kids are there you see..."

This was going to take a while. The line at my register was filling up quickly. There was nothing else for it; I tucked the phone on my shoulder and tried to ring up the sales while she told me of her vacation to sunny Florida.

"It is SOOo nice down there, and the people are so friendly. It's just always nice to see the ocean too you know."

Good! She paused for a breath! "Was there a product you were looking for Ma'am?"

"Well now I was just getting to that part. See my Cousin and I were walking around and looking at these shops. They have the cutest shops down in this little town..."

Much, later I finally tuned back in to hear her say "So I'm really not sure what you call it, I just know it works REALLY good with seashells. Do you have any of that?"

"Let me transfer you back to the craft department. I am sure someone back there can help you specifically with that question."

"Why thank you sir! You have a good day!"

My sincerest apologies to whichever coworker of mine took that call.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I'll Just Take That, Thanks!

"I just love your store! Every time I come here I find so many good things."

She was middle aged, with a bubbly personality, and enthusiastically piled her merchandise all over my counter; that is, until she got to the bottom of her shopping cart.

"Oh no! How could this have happened?!"

She gingerly picked up a floral arrangement in a glass bowl that was completely broken. I restrained myself from answering "Well, often when you place something delicate AT THE BOTTOM OF A PILE it tends to break."

Instead, I simply said "I'm sorry about that, here let me take it for you."

"Oh—well, um...what are you going to do with it?" She said, as she reluctantly handed it to me.

"It has sharp edges ma'am, I can't sell that. I have to throw it away."

"Oh well that is just too bad. See now, I could still use those flowers inside it. Tell you what, can I just have it? I mean you can't sell it right?"

I knew what words I was keeping from coming out of my mouth, but I can't tell you EXACTLY what my face was saying; I was too preoccupied with biting my lip.

"So I can just take that home with me?"

"No Ma'am. I'm sorry I can't allow that."

"Oh well that is just too bad. I am sorry you can't too."

For future reference, it isn't polite to break someone's things and ask if you can have it since it is broken anyway.

Epilogue:

Oddly enough this customer decided we were going to be "friends" and would always find me and want to talk whenever she shopped.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Keep of the Sidewalks! She is driving today.

It was a slow morning at work; I was the only cashier on duty. A little lady with a skein of yarn slowly shuffled her way to the front. To my surprise however, she completely walked by my station and stood in front of a completely empty booth. Placing her yarn directly in front of the "Closed" sign, she stood there, expectantly staring off into space.

"Um—Ma'am? Are you ready to check out? Because I am open over here."

"Oh!" She turned around and looked at me, then back to the empty register booth, then back at me. "I see, I was just so confused. I didn't know where to go."

That is when I began to pray for everyone driving that day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Indignity

I know I'm a terrible person. I know it. The poor women at my counter continued to talk about her late husband, how wonderful he was, and how important it was for her to honor him by decorating a corner of the house around his urn of ashes. All the while I'm literally biting the inside of my cheeks to keep from laughing in her face.

I know! Now you hate me too. "Why were you laughing at this sweet little old lady?!" You ask in a horrified voice.

Because, not one time in her monologue did she actually say "my husband's urn." Every single time she said "my husband's urinal." That's right. U-R-I-N-A-L. That was a priceless mental picture.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Not a Fan of Fans.

"I need some help here!" The woman suddenly announced while approaching the checkout lane. My lane was completely empty, so I waved to get her attention.

"I can help you Ma'am."

"Yes! A Man! You would know exactly."

Can I just say that while I am confident of my masculinity, I don't fit into many of societies boxes. Statements like this usually make me slightly nervous— unless opening the lid of a jar is somehow involved. She held up two spools of ribbon.

"Are these the right colors for [random animal]?"

"I am sorry, I actually don't follow sports; you are talking to the wrong person. Let me get you—"

That was when she began to hiss like a cat. Hunching her shoulders and bearing her teeth, she "scratched" at my face three times, suddenly straightened up gave me a "you are really strange" look, and walked away. I can only imagine what game day is like at her house!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Customer is Always Right

Of course, out of all the employes the little elderly man could corner and snarl at, he would have to pick the new girl. It was her first day on the sales floor.

"Can I help you?"

"—and I don't understand why! I doubt it." he said facing me, "I am looking for Plaster of Paris."

"Yes sir, I can show you where it is."

"No you cant! You don't have any."

"I'm...sorry? Did a sales member help you from that department? Because we actually carry—"

"Young Man I have seen your stock back there and you don't have ordinary, honest to goodness plaster. You have some crazy new-fangled goop that you mix together and it heats up really hot. You can't touch it. I don't need something like that! Doesn't sound safe."

"Resin? That's a different product actually, our Plaster of..."

"I am telling you, you don't have what I need! And where am I supposed to go to get Plaster of Paris if not here? If y'all don't carry it, WHERE would I find it? It should be here!"

"You can alway try [competitive company.]" I gave him directions to the store and walked him to our door thanking him for his time.

That evening after the store closed, we straiten the product on the shelves in preparation for opening in the morning. I found it humorous to straighten four containers of Plaster of Paris mix that apparently, we don't even carry.

Customer Assist

"Excuse me I have a return."

I looked up from the current customer I was working with to see a woman standing several feet away holding up a bag.

"That's fine Ma'am. Just step in line and I will be with you in a moment." This of course wasn't exactly accurate as we were swamped at work and my line was fairly long. Still, what else do you say to the person who waves to get your attention while clearly not getting in line?

"In line? I have to WAIT in line?"

"Yes Ma'am." I returned my current customer.

The woman went to the back of the line, but I could hear her voice carrying over the rest of the conversation in the store. She hadn't finished her rant to the people around her by the time she reached my counter again. Much to the chagrin of everyone around her, she still steamed on.

"And that's ANOTHER thing about this, I wasn't really asking if I had to wait. He didn't need to just respond like that. I just wasn't sure WHERE I was supposed to go. There are so many lines here! It's just not right."

"Right. There." The exasperated woman in line with her pointed above my head to the oversized sign hanging above my head:


RETURNS/EXCHANGES

Bless you woman...bless you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I'd Settle for 50/50

"I need someone to help me!" The woman looked completely overwhelmed. "I have to make a centerpiece for a dinner and I have no idea where to begin. It's supposed to be a fall theme."

"Okay, that's not a problem, I would be happy to help you out." I smiled. It would actually be nice to do something different for a change than the usual cash-register and shelf-stocking monotony.

For over twenty minutes, I showed her product, sketched a basic table layout, discussed ways to keep the whole theme unified, STRONGLY discouraged her from placing a moldy, bug-eaten, moss-covered log from the woods behind her house directly on the dinning room table near food. We branched into fabric, napkins, and plate chargers. I was going to get her as much product to tastefully pull this party off successfully as I could!

Wait, party? Did I say party? "Oh no, " she informed me as we made our way to the non-scented candles, "this isn't for a party. It is for a competition."

Lady if you win this you owe me—just so we are clear.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What Flavor are You?

"I nearly walked outta' this store without paying for my stuff!" The man said laughingly as he approached my counter. I continued helping my current customer, but I smiled in his direction and said "You don't want me to tackle you in the parking lot!" This was clearly a joke. Anyone who has seen me would question my ability to tackle a five year old, let alone a full grown man.

"My dog would take care of you if you tried!" He responded gruffly. "Are you a Baptist?"

The question surprised me. "Umm... no sir I am not." I turned my attention back to my current customer.

"Well what religion are you? Atheist?" He questioned. Apparently, that was the next logical step from Baptist.

"Why does it matter?" I asked him. The lady at my counter nervously chuckled.

"It matters," he immediately replied "because depending on your flavor my dog might really enjoy eating you!"

My customer grabbed her purchases and made a beeline for the door.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Of Religiosity and Work.

 I am not interested in making some deep spiritual proclamations while ringing up your sale of goods. I don't need you to leave me "something to read" as I give you your change. I know you think you are being a good soul, but you see—

The woman in line ahead of you? She just dragged a coworker around the store for thirty minutes showing him all the things that would invite "darkness" into one's home. The black wearing, tattoo-sporting woman yesterday tried to get me to buy homemade spells from her online-shop, to bolster my love life. The man over there with the back brace on? He had a "Faith-healer" pray over him in line and then ordered him to take off his brace and prove to the world he was healed. To top it off, clicking in my pocket right now is red glass jewelry that a customer has given me to "proudly wear the blood of Jesus." While standing behind the counter, I have nowhere to put that tri-folded piece of paper that I already know is informing me to "escape hell and enter heaven," so likely it will simply go into the trash.

If you want to talk faith and worldviews with me, I would enjoy doing so. However how about you actually befriend me first, ask me out to lunch or coffee, and talk shop then? Not when I am juggling five things and trying to make change. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Surprising as it may seem, I am actually a person of faith. Not only is it a real and important part of my life, I love discussing faith, spiritual life, and relational values with my friends, many of whom do not share my own worldview. It is helpful to learn to formulate what I believe, when someone I know and care about holds a completely opposite point of view. I have friends who are Catholic, Neo-pagan, Baptist, "Spiritual," Muslim, Atheist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, and Agnostic. :-)

That's Right! Retail is Boring.

I stared at the pile of scarves that had been dumped over the candy counter. REALLY? I had just folded them on their hangers and replaced them moments ago. Fold, twist, wrap, hang, fold twist wrap, hang—the pattern for displaying the scarves properly was a bit of a nuisance, why couldn't people just look at them where they hung?

"Oh, YOU are the one hanging up the scarves!" An accusing voice from behind me interrupted my work.

I turned to see a woman standing behind me with that odd , forced smile. You know the one; it's the same smile as when a teacher, or a mother catches you doing something wrong and scolds you while smiling. She reached around me and began to undo the scarves.

"I keep trying to look at these, and someone kept hanging them back up! I have to see them fully open to know if I like them or not!"

"Humm..." was all I could think to respond with.

"Well," she smiled at me patronizingly, "You just work retail. I'm sure you need something to do anyway."

I walked away, fighting off images of tying those same scarves deliciously tight around that woman's neck. 

You are Right, I Deserve Better.

"Can you help me? I really need to know if this is a crazy idea or not?" The woman approached my coworker.

"Sure!" She answered, "Let's hear it. I like hearing crazy ideas!"

The woman's face immediately changed. "No. Never mind. If you are not going to take me seriously I don't want to work with you. I will ask another employee. You really don't deserve to work here."

Lady that was one of our most knowledgeable employees. Had you not been slightly psycho, I am sure she would have helped you pull off your crazy idea successfully. Just so we are clear, you don't deserve to shop here. Aaaaand—"Have a Nice Day."

Friday, August 16, 2013

My, What a Loud Voice You Have Grandmother!

"I have a question for you—I need to find out if you have a product or not." the elderly lady stood in front of my counter, smiling and asking questions about our inventory. I answered her questions, and directed her to someone who could help her further. It was a pretty normal exchange.

 Before she walked away she said "Thank you, you are nice. I can't let you have TOO nice of a day though, so I am going to be one of THOSE customers just to keep you on your toes." That's when she began yapping like a Chihuahua at me. That's right, before God and the rest of creation an old woman barked like a dog at me. True Story.

Monday, August 12, 2013

We are all Human

To the two women staring and glaring at the bi-racial couple in the checkout line ahead of them: You were so focused on broadcasting your own icy disapproval, you failed to realize that you were the recipients of ours. I was even giving you my best "glowering sneer" as you paid, but you both were too busy whispering and gawking as the couple left the store to notice. It's a new millennium ladies—time to move on.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Feathers aren't My Style

"Excuse me, I brought this dress in the store with me; It's mine. I just wanted to match some things to it." She said to me, waving a thrift store bag in my direction to prove her point.

"Oh that is just fine Ma'am," I said, returning to my work.

"Well? Aren't you going to help me?" She indignantly responded.

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realize you needed me. How can I help?"

"Hold up this, like you are wearing it so I can see what it looks like." She unfurled a tragic looking black, synthetic T-dress adorned with yellow, green, and red peacock feather print.

"I'm sorry, you—you want me to—"

"Hold it right like this!" She pressed it against my shoulders. She produced long stemmed peacock feathers and began to position them on the left breast. "I just need to glue a few of these on, won't it be lovely?"

"It will be—uh, definitely unique Ma'am."

There I stood, modeling a dress in the middle of the store for the enjoyment of my coworkers, passing customers, and one particularly direct lady.



Monday, August 5, 2013

At a Loss for Words

I rounded the corner of the isle to find him staring intently at the product hanging before him. Hands clasped behind his back and a quizzical look on his face.

Me: "Are you finding everything alright sir?"

Customer: "Eeeh---" He nodded while shrugging in a confused manner, "Poketty poketty poo."

Me:"Ummmmm.....Oh."

I walked away to the far side of the store. True story.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Of Cheetahs and Entitlement

"Okay so my child has to make a Cheetah for a class project. Do you have a kit or something?"

My co-worker looked up from her work. "We don't have a kit exactly, but we do have plenty of items you could use to make one if you wanted. What kind of Cheetah are you making?"

"There is only one kind. Duh!" The child rolled her eyes.

"Hum, have you researched this yet? Because there are several species—" she began to reply.

"No there is only one! It has spots!" the child interrupted.

"Okay then—let me show you our clay, glue and paper."

"Actually" the mother interjected "It's due tomorrow. Can you just make it for us?"

"No Ma'am, we don't actually do craft projects, we just sell the supplies."

"But it's due tomorrow!" The mother insisted.

"...I'm...sorry..."

"Well sorry doesn't help me out! I want to speak to your manager. I need someone to make this!"

"Yes Ma'am, let me get one for you if you will just wait right here..." She gingerly stepped around the woman, avoiding any sudden moves that might further provoke the ravaging entitlement from within.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Now that is Just Daisy!

"Sir where are your decorative pillows? I can't seem to find them."

Being a man, I tend to have a one track mind. So I stopped the work I was doing in the floral department and escorted the shopper over to the pillows. As I turned to leave I noticed a gentleman walking my way with a quizzical look on his face.

"Can I help you find anything sir?"

"Um.. No. No I am fine thank you." He said with an odd, slightly perturbed look on his face—THEN HE STEPPED FAR AROUND ME AND CONTINUED WALKING AWAY!

Well that's just peculiar. What was his problem?! That's when it occurred to me that I had been parading around the store under a veritable umbrella of giant pink Gerber Daisies in my hand. (sigh) Fabulous, simply fabulous...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Save the Ta-Tas!

An older lady was wondering around the front of the store with a confused look on her face.

"Can I help you find anything Ma'am?"

"Young man, do y'all do Mammograms here?"

"....um...Ma'am?"

"Mammograms. I wan't to know if y'all do them here for people."

"Do you mean Monogramming?"

"That's what I said!" She looked at me as though I had sprouted a third eye on my temple. "Mammograms!"


Monday, July 22, 2013

A Real Man

He looked to be in his late 60's or early 70's. Once quite tall, he slowly moved hunched over. I realized he stood in my coworker's checkout line, oblivious to the fact her closed sign was up.

"Sir, she is closed, but I can help in over in my line." I only had one customer in front of him, it would only take a second.

"That's a terrible way to do business. Not enough workers. Having to wait in long lines. Terrible!" I heard him grumble as he slowly made his way to my line.

When it was his turn, he placed a large, old fashioned metal fire-truck in front of me.

"That's on sale right?"

"Actually, it isn't this week sir—"

"Doesn't matter!" He interrupted "I get what I want. This store is terrible. I don't see how you stay in business like this. Terrible!"

"I'm sorry for your wait sir. We are short handed tonight."

"NEVER APOLOGIZE!" He barked at me "That is a sign of weakness! It is!"

I am sorry sir. I'm sorry that you are trapped into still being the bully on the playground. I am sorry for the needlessly difficult life you have clearly led. I am sorry that you have lived this long on the earth and still don't understand the first thing about authentic, masculine strength. I am sorry—because I can be, and I think I am more whole because of it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

She may be a Nag but...

Customer on the phone: "Can you hold one of your straw wreaths for me? I don't have time to pick it up tonight but I will be there tomorrow and I'll get it then."

My Manager: "I'm sorry Ma'am, but it is a store policy we cannot hold merchandise overnight. Fortunately we have plenty in stock and when you stop by tomorrow you should be just fine."

Customer: "So you are telling me you can't hold one—just ONE straw wreath for me?"

Manager: "I'm sorry Ma'am but there are plenty—"

Customer: "Oh that's just fine!  Never mind then. I'll tell my 86 year old grandmother she won't be getting her dinner on time then! Thanks a lot." (click)


Me: "So— I'm confused. Was she planning on feeding the wreath to her grandmother?"

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dirty Money

I am profoundly amazed at what some women can store in their bra. It stuns me not only that they do it, but that they feel comfortable digging around for that "other bill" while we all watch. For the record, nobody wants to touch your wadded up, sweaty, rank body smelling bills. Allow me to show you our pocketbook collection here...

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Shining

"Is it TOO much to ask to simply place your dirty cloths into the appropriate baskets? I mean.. it's so simple! Darks, lights, towels—I have them labeled. But NOOoo he just dumps them in the floor!"

The blond chic at my checkout line was loudly venting.

"Good luck with that" I smiled, trying to brighten her mood "We men can be creatures of habit!"

"Oh he'll learn. Men can be taught. My ex learned real quickly to sort his cloths right after I started putting Nair® in his shampoo and Benadryl® in his tea. If he didn't want to be drugged and hairless he would do as I said!"

(silence....)

"Honey, you sound like something outta the Shining." An older woman in line told her.


"I don't care. My house, my rules. Live with me an' you gotta do as I say or earn the consequences."

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Lack of Education


An actual reported conversation that happened in our Fabric's Department.

Customer: "I need one fourth of a yard of this material."

Employee "Yes mam' let's see— one quarter of a yard."

Customer "NO! I said I needed ONE FOURTH of a yard! That's the problem with you kids these days, no proper education!"

Friday, July 5, 2013

Visual Learner

The customer was looking at me expectantly.  I could do this.  I HAD seen the product she was asking for, but where was it? I couldn't leave my register to find it. I closed my eyes and began to envision the store layout in my mind.

"You are going to want to head toward the back right corner." I began directing her, pointing out guide-posts and landmarks to help her find what she was looking for, "and it should be right there towards the bottom—"

I opened my eyes to find her gone. I was standing there talking to empty air, while a growing line of more customers were staring at me as though I had lost my mind, waiting for me to check them out. Wonderful.

Welcome to the exchange.

Having spent many years working in retail, I have seen an aspect of the American public that is profoundly engaging: The Consumer. As a thoroughly entertained observer of human nature I began to collect stories of my experiences.This blog aims to say what every tired cashier wants to say but cannot.  Hopefully you will not only be entertained, but enlightened into the perspective of a retail worker. Enjoy!