Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everybody's favorite PIC

Today I was in charge. Sort of. When I am "in charge" on weekdays, there are still about 6 people (out of a total of 10) to tell me what to do. I don't have to make any big decisions. I just make sure everyone goes to lunch and then round up the moneys at the end of the night. "Okay, you're the PIC today (boss turns to other office workers, winks). EVERYONE! Let the PIC know if you have any questions!" It always feels like my first babysitting job.

Another slow snowy day. Somehow, despite the snow, people always find ways to return the damnedest things: buffets, automatic coffee brewing centers, cotton table linens that mysteriously shrank (as though they weren't cotton or something!), soapy candy. When there was not someone breathing down my neck about slow sales, we managed to have a bit of fun and assist the customers.

All in all, it was a stressful day and I really wanted a cocktail after work. Being desperately poor, I had to get creative and fashion a drink from remnants of ingredients at home. Here is the world premiere of my latest poor-person drink concoction!

Turkey with Gravy

Heat 8-12 oz. of liquid. (Try milk or water! I decided to be fancy and used peppermint tea)

Add chocolate substance to water. Hot cocoa mix, chocolate chips, ground up candy bars or any such thing will do. If using baker's chocolate, I recommend adding sugar. Whisk until melted.

Pour into large mug. Add 1-4oz. whiskey/bourbon/what have you. I had Wild Turkey, a gift from our loud, partying college boy neighbors. Whisk.

*Important* Before adding alcohol to boiling hot chocolate mixture, throw in a couple of ice cubes to prevent the burn off of too much booze. I don't know if this is scientific, but better safe than sorry.

Drink. Repeat if necessary.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mr. Tumnus' neighborhood: this winter is far from over

Imagine it's Wednesday. The economy is spiraling downwards. Imagine you are so bored that you humor every customer that comes in, grateful that they remember your store. That was my day today.

There is this one older woman, E, and she sort of drives us nuts. She likes to talk big and name drop and she has this European accent and she knows she sounds pretentious. But since she is old, she feels like she deserves to be superior. Some days I can't stand it. She knows I must be nice and she will keep me in a corner and just talk. Today, we had a grand time, bitching about how they "just don't make things like they used to" and how freakish Americans are about owning sets of things. E and I became fast friends, even though she was farting up a storm.

At one point I was giving E tips on sticker removal, but she would not give up on her rant. She was practically yelling about how having to remove stickers is "THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING IN THE WORLD!". When people go into gripes like this, I try to talk them down, gently, because they are wrong. There are PLENTY of other things that are shittier. Let's make a list.

And then to finish off a day that was already dead, it snowed 4 inches.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stand up for your fellow clerks

I go to the post office a lot and I get tired of hearing other people in line complain. They show up, stand there for 30 seconds, and then start bitching. They bitch loudly, as though it were the fault of the postal clerk and not the crappy, unprepared lady with a weird package and form problems. Most days I just play Tetris on my phone and ignore them. But I am feeling spicy today. I am feeling like I may have the courage to throw a snarky comment at those crappy customers. I mail a lot of packages and I have never (knock on wood) had one lost. We have a reliable, relatively quick postal system in this country and I am willing to stand in line for that and to stand up for my fellow clerks.

Oh god! What will I do if I get what I want?

I have a secret plan and I need money for it. The realization is setting in that I might need to get temporary part time work for the money to accumulate at an acceptable rate. There is a branch in this plan that involves maybe being able to take on a co-worker's shift, which would help her out in the short term and be easier than finding a different part time job in a town which is over-run with college students applying for those same temporary jobs.

Then I was thinking about it this morning: Can I handle another day at the store every week? I doubt I will even be allowed to work her shift, but will I be secretly glad if they don't let me? The idea of being scolded for the crappy economy, pacing past items I can't afford, and listening to people sample food seems unbearable. But I have already locked myself into my co-worker's plan.

My only choice really is to let things happen and go from there. It will take great mental strength if I get the other shift, but my end goal is TOTALLY WORTH IT! And if they don't let me work, I will use this temporary part time need to try to get a weird job at some place where I would normally lack the courage to apply.

Here's to having goals, whatever they might be! Cheers!

Monday, February 23, 2009

dressing for work

I love reading people's clothing blogs because I love to see how people wear their clothes and then read about why they put certain things together or what inspired them.

I have to wear an apron at work. I have become so used to it that I feel naked when I don't have it on and often wear aprons at home to put me in a work/project/chore mood. Other than that, I get to wear pretty much whatever I want, as long as it does not put me in danger or show too much skin.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cheerful thoughts

When I am on my way to work, I pass by this cafe. On Sundays, I often see this one particular couple. I know them through work because they are reps for some of the products we sell. They never acknowledge me. I used to give a little smile, nod, or wave, but gave that up when I realized what was going on. I will admit that it annoys me greatly. I don't want to be their flippin friend, but I am a person, and purposely ignoring me is just rude.

It's like I am not important enough to acknowledge. They are chummy with some of the higher-ups, but I am just a clerk in the store, a poor wage-slave that doesn't run in their circles. I suppose it doesn't matter that, in the trickle down, me and all of my colleagues in retail are part of the reason that they can have their cushy, casual Sunday life.

Maybe they just want to have work and personal life separate. That is fine. So do I. But this is not a big town, and it is just weird to ignore someone. We know each others' names! I went to their freaking baby shower for shit's sake (it was through work, but I was still there listened to them ramble on about their kid and oohed and aahed at stupid baby gifts). It would not be difficult to at least just smile at me.

I am going to make a choice to be over this. If they want to be rude, crappy people, I say good luck. I am going to try to be a better person and appreciate all the clerks in my daily life. A kind word can go a long way.

Customers say the darndest things

-Co-worker and I were talking about the Amy Sedaris book "I Like You", specifically the part about looking at your vagina with a mirror. At that precise moment, a customer walked up and asked "Do you have any mirrors?"

-Sexy glam mommie was loudly describing a "boa made of dollar bills." "It was all, you know, paper mâché." I hope she meant origami because I immediately thought of this. Accessories made of shredded money would be beyond stupid.

-Bored children running around the store making up a story about having to find and marry their true prince before they are 16. (HA!) They were using an awesome "fairy tale voice."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Follow up to Girl Reporter Incident

So, Girl Reporter did call back and ask to speak with the manager. Good girl.

My manager told me she was crappy and snippy. My ability to correctly judge people's characters over the phone is improving.

I figure that if I have to work retail, I might as well try to better myself, whether it is my palette, my kitchen utensils, or ability to read other people. There are several mental roads you can follow if you work long term retail: grouchy, mean drunk that people are scared to fire; sweet, chatty lady that fudges up transactions but is just so nice; and weirdly intuitive half-psychic clerk. That's what I'm going for. Aiming real high.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Raise your hand if you are affected by the economy.

The phone rang. I answered it. That is always a mistake. The caller identified herself as a "reporting student" from the university. She said she was writing a paper and wanted a quote from a local business on whether or not we were affected by this down-turn in the economy.

I was not touching that. Although it is probably harmless, any paper that could potentially be published could affect our business and I don't want my name and unofficial statement tied to it. I politely told her that she would get the best answer if she called back tomorrow and asked to speak with the manager. She seemed irritated that I wouldn't just tell her something. I don't care what sort of dead-line she has; call me paranoid, but I am not potentially compromising my job so that some 19-year-old can finish the paper she has put off until the last minute. And doesn't it seem like a reporter would come across reluctant interviewees and she should just learn to deal with it?

I am probably being a bitch and reading more emotion into the conversation than actually was there. Or maybe not. I am no reporting student, writing for grades and milking financial aid; I am just a clerk and there are a hundred people more educated than me waiting to take my job.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Saddest Plastic Bag Story in the World

I was ringing this customer one day. She was an older woman, pleasant, but sort of ordinary. I was in a crappy mood that day, so I was judging everything about everyone. I asked her if she needed a bag. She said she did and actually asked if she could have a big one even though her purchases would easily fit inside a medium size bag.

When I bent down to grab a bag, I rolled my eyes, but was all fake, gracious smiles when I rose up. Our transaction should have been over. I gave her pathetic, wasteful ass the big flippin bag she wanted. But then she had to tell me how she uses the large bags to line the car seat so that she can more easily swivel her disabled husband out. I glanced out the window and there, in the handicap stop, I saw a silhouette of a larger man, on the passenger side of a crappy old car.

I thought about how durable our plastic bags are and how long it must take them to wear one out. I imagined that the wife was probably on her biennial shopping trip. She comes to the store, gets one pretty little knick-knack and a big plastic bag and the rest of the time they are frugal little mice because their health problems consume them.

Goddamn it I am a jerk.

The (sh)It Bag

I just learned that my store spends $18,000 a year on plastic bags. They are heavy-duty plastic with our logo printed on them and we use 3 different sizes, the largest one capable of bearing 35-40 pounds.

We are a locally owned business, one-of-a-kind, with the original owner still acting as buyer. We employee 20-40 people depending on the time of year. So $18,000 a year is like, a full-time minimum wage worker's yearly salary.

Personally, I hate taking bags at stores. For many years, I have avoided it whenever possible. I am THRILLED that it is becoming fashionable to have your own tote or to not use a bag at all, especially when it is something ridiculous to have in a bag, like a bag.

It has been my routine when ringing up a customer to ask if they "need" a bag, instead of automatically putting items in bags or asking if they "want" a bag. Whether they are aware of it or not, people actually consider whether or not they need a bag.

It seems like one of the simplest things we all can do to help each other out. Not only are we creating less waste when we don't take bags; it may also help that store to stay in business. It is a small thing, but those things add up. Those large plastic bags cost us $.45 apiece. Think about how much a bag costs next time you take one. If we started charging customers for each bag they "needed," you can bet they would be more willing to throw items in their purse or hold them under their arms.

One thing that customers always say that I am so tired of hearing is "I bring my canvas bags with me, but I always forget them in the car!" And everyone is too lazy to go back to their car to get their bags. No way would they pile groceries back in their cart after paying and put them in the bags at the car. I tell customers, in an encouraging way, that it is just a matter of retraining yourself. But people seem very slow to change their methods.

One customer made the most brilliant statement. She was shopping with a friend and the friend tried to pull the "I forgot my bags in the car" routine. Customer said "You know what I do when I forget my bags? I carry everything out in my arms. It is awkward and embarrassing, but I do it to punish myself. After doing that 3 or 4 times, I didn't forget my bags anymore."

Sometimes, it is possible for a customer to be my hero, if just for one day.

Someday I will tell you the saddest plastic bag story in the world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Charge it! Squeezing this Clerk with your credit crunch!

My lax attitude towards customer credit card usage was a slow evolution. In my youth, I was vigilant; comparing names, checking ids, suspicious of demagnatized cards, cards with rips and rubbed out signatures. After years of customer abuse, survival mechanisms, and reality, kicked it, resulting in my current "not my problem" attitude.

I do not check ids. Ever. Not even when the card is unsigned or when it says to check id. Too many times I have been yelled at by a customer because their id was in the car, their other coat, their pants pocket at home on the floor, their kid is holding their purse and the kid is wondering around somewhere else. These are not even people that seem sketchy. They are frantic, disorganized people blaming me for holding up the line when they are ones that put "C.I.D." on the back of their card. I tell people about this and they try to shame me. They tell me about a friend of theirs that had fraudulent charges on her card and how hard! it was to have them reversed. Of course, they never know any details about this friend's experience. So, again, not my problem.

Then there are the people that use other people's cards, usually a wife and husband situation. For some reason, people think this is okay and don't scold me for accepting cards labeled "Frank", "George", or "Walter", clearly masculine names, from people that are definitely female. I used to try to joke a little: "Oh, hi Frank, how's it going?" but the ladies give me a death glare and say "it's my husband's card." Basically, "do not F with me, clerk."

So, I gave up. And it is fantastic. For those of you that have had stolen cards, I am sorry. But it is not my problem. If you are grown up enough to have a card, you are grown up enough to keep track of it, open your statements, and use it wisely. I am paid minimum wage; that is not enough to be the keeper of everyone's credit safety.

If ever I do start checking ids again, I am going to check absolutely everyone's. I will be a pain-in-the-ass. Nothing arbitrary. Because to me, the clerk, everyone looks like someone that could be using a stolen credit card.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Land of Make Believe

I will start with my thoughts on cell phone etiquette. I don't mind people on cell phones. This is the future and I love that there is a little plastic box I can keep in my pocket to have constant access to people that are important to me. I don't have to wait to tell someone a story; I can text them as it's happening. Even as a retail clerk, there are few times when people on phones bother me; just apologize and take your call. I don't care. I don't even mind when people are on the phone during our entire transaction and we never talk. I don't like to be "shushed" when someone on their phone is holding up a line and I try to move them along. Any other annoyances have yet to reveal themselves to me.

The other day there was a mommie browsing in my department. There is a certain contempt I feel towards mommies, not mothers in general, but the women with entitled, superior attitudes that believe that by giving birth they automatically gain infinite wisdom and deserve endless thanks.

This mommie happened to be on the phone, talking loudly about her children and advising her listener on all child issues. Mommie walked past me several times, and I past her, but she refused to make any eye contact with me. In my experience, this is unusual for someone on their phone. Most people will give you a gesture of some sort as a silent greeting to acknowledge that they see you, unless they are honestly just passing through and not looking at merchandise. This went on for about 20 minutes. I was constantly aware of her location because of her loud conversation. Then shit got awkward.

One of the office workers just happened to be passing by Mommie as she got off her phone and IMMEDIATELY desired service. Office worker called out "who's supposed to be working up here?! This customer has a question!" I came around the corner and tried to cooly defend myself and shame Mommie by saying "she's been on the phone." I think Office Worker got that I was not ignoring the customer and Mommie was already over it and asking me questions so quickly that I couldn't even answer them.

Then I realized Mommie was playing shopper. I don't know if I have always dealt with so many play shoppers or if these tough times have created psychological voids that spending used to fill. There is a need or desire for a product. There is the thrilling and frustrating hunt and the consulting with friends and clerks. Then there is the find, the transaction, and finally, the item is placed in the home. It is satisfying. So when people can't afford anything, their needs and desires become fantastical; if they can never find it, they never have to face the fact that they can't buy it.

Maybe I was cruel to Mommie. I realized early on what she was doing, but I have a hard time turning down my dutiful clerk mode. My job is to try to give people what they want. You can imagine Mommie's frustration when I was delivering on her absurd requests. Her requests changed as we stood there and looked in catalogs. Eventually she was asking for things completely opposite of her first inquiry. Finally, she mercifally cut herself off and decided that she would have to "keep looking."

Play shoppers take note: I don't mind participating in your head games, but don't make trying to get me in trouble or fired part of your routine. Some would say that's bad Karma. I say it's just dick.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Do you have a ______ ?"

Here is a list of some of the items for which I have received requests:

goosefat jar
microwave bacon cooker
Magic Bullet Food Processor
asparagus tongs
fiber optic table displays
stainless steel salad spinners
chili pepper lights
football shaped cookie cutter
salt that is raked from fields in France
decorative paper towels for the powder room
wine glass big enough to hold an entire bottle of wine
banana peeler

Come on people! Seriously?

Sunday, February 1, 2009


i counted a lot of things today.

My preferred method of counting is by three's.

i laughed to myself when customers came to the door. Sorry, chumps, you will have to wait to buy your precious things until tomorrow.

I even got a nap today.