Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Tuesdays are usually my days off. I worked today for someone else. I found it more difficult than usual to care. Instead, I was staving off boredom by eating jellybeans and other Easter candy. DANGER!

Last winter I gained 10 pounds and 5 cavities by laying into the jellybeans. After I have swept, dusted, made list upon list, read cooking books and made naughty copies of recipes to try, fluffed the pillows, checked out vendor websites, cleaned out my folder, pushed all the recliners back, straightened the fabric, watched for shoplifters, and made coffee, there is nothing more satisfying than trying orange and grape jellybeans together to see if I like that synergy of flavors better than the grape on their own.

I am sure the customers love it when I have that big old jellybean chaw betwixt my teeth and my craw.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Movies About Retail (sort of)

I just finished watching Last Holiday. I remember seeing previews and thinking how lame it looked. Well, it was awesome. It was funny, touching, and had a positive message that was only a little sappy. The protagonists worked in a retail store and were not dumbass youngsters or dreamless dumps of human beings. And it has an ending that is happy, yet not completely unrealistic. This clerk gives it two thumbs up!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Funday

Sundays are family and couple days at our store. People are out and about, strolling with their kids or their mate and they might wander in and play with gadgets and sit on some sofas. There I am, creepy clerk, bored, possible hungover and over caffeinated, leering from behind the counter or windowpane.

Depending on my mood, customer watching can make me depressed or thankful: depressed that I can't have a leisurely Sunday with my lover or thankful that I am not dating a jerk and we are fighting about furniture at 11:08 on a Sunday morning.

Sundays are a day that people, especially woman, often have on a nice little outfit. Maybe they have gone to church or they just wanted to get a little dolled up for an afternoon of shopping. They are trying out new accessories and shoes and are stressed because they didn't transfer all their necessities from one handbag to the next.

I observed one dressed up woman, doing her best to be polished and chic, walking a little awkwardly in some heels. She was following her boyfriend, who didn't slow his pace so that she could keep up. I watched them as they went from our store to a coffee shop down the street and from the coffee shop back to their car. He never walked with her, but always 2 paces ahead of her. I saw their mouths moving, so they were talking, and they didn't look angry, like "Eff you! I'm walking back here!" They were just together but not. It made me feel sort of sad.

Customers are people too, I guess.


Yesterday while I was on my break, one of my co-workers stopped some guy from shoplifting a $1200 espresso machine. It was a classic case of larger items being stolen because they don't fit in bags and people just walk out.

Apparently he was acting sketchy and didn't know she was watching him. When he got within 8 feet of the door, my co-worker said something like "cool coffee maker, huh?" and she said he got the "oh shit! fight or flight" look. At that point he took the box over to the counter, caused a fuss because filters didn't come with the appliance, and decided not to "buy" it.

This sort of thing really pisses me off. We are a small store and if he had stolen the coffeemaker, we would have been in so much trouble. Management would have seriously bitched us out, brought back our worthless Loss Prevention woman, and reinstated the "greeter," a humiliating position because it makes our customers feel uncomfortable. "Am I at Walmart?"

We have already cut back on so much in order to save money during this tough economic time. Shoplifters are not just stealing from the store where I work, they are stealing from ME and taking money that is for my payroll.

There are different levels of Loss Prevention, different goals and techniques. I am down at the very bottom, on level with shoplifters. It is primitive, animalistic, and personal. I come to work so that I might have food, water, and shelter. So eff you shoplifters, I will not play stupid clerk so that you can steal luxury kitchen items. I can't afford them either, jerks.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wedding registries

Yesterday I had a customer that was looking for a wedding gift. We do wedding registries at our store, so this sort of shopping is a daily occurrence. In this instance though, the customer had a registry from another store.

She was looking for some dumb appliance that was on the registry, like a coffee griddle rotisserie chicken maker, and was perturbed that we didn't have it. First, I had to gingerly deduce whether or not she was knew that she was not at Crate & Barrel (where the registry was from). And I had to explain that we might have similar items, but not all the exact same items. I gave her some ideas and off she went.

While I am proud and thankful that she chose to "shop local" and support our store, I have a feeling that we may get those items back, making all of her effort and mine a big waste of time. She is not getting the couple the exact items they want and since she is buying them elsewhere, they are not being taken off the registry. There is a very good chance that the couple will get multiples of those items and bring ours back because they not the right ones.

We will see.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Retail Highlights 3.27

Here are some highlights from the past few days, including customer quotes and interactions:

1. "All of our money comes from China. They'll probably start printing it there." (Customer reaction to the fact that many items are produced in China).

2. A customer walked up to me and began complaining because we are having a big sale and she had her birthday coupon. She was pissed because we can't combine discounts and wanted to carry over her coupon. I explained that we could do one discount or the other, but she still wasn't happy. So I asked her to tell me what items she was wondering about and I would figure out the bigger discount. "Oh, I don't want anything yet." was her response.

3. A customer lost her keys. She came up to me and frantically gave me her name and number "for when we found them." In my years in retail, I have noticed that usually when people loose their keys, glasses, or credit card, it is on their person, but just not in the usual spot. I didn't suggest this to her because I wasn't sure how receptive she would be. She found them. They were in her car. That counts as me being right.

4. A couple came in looking to replace their box cheese grater. They melted their last one in the dishwasher. I was showing them some different styles and they expressed concern that they would be hard to clean. They didn't think I was funny when I said "I think if your dishwasher is hot enough to melt plastic, it can melt cheese."

5. Little girl shopping with her mom, looking at the candy, said (with fake British accent) "I do SO love fudge." I can't stop saying this now.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I realized I mention "mommies" alot and wanted to say something about them. I don't want it to seem that I hate all mothers. Mommies come up a lot in my posts because alot of our customers are mommies and, honestly, sometimes they do some really weird things.

There is a certain percentage of mothers, the ones I label "mommies", that have an entitled attitude. They talk to non-mommies like incomplete people and seem to be oblivious that some suffer from maladies worse than unconfirmed food allergies. We are supposed to be grateful that they reproduced and forgive them for everything they might say or do.

I repeat: I do not hate mothers. I am just saying that mothers can be assholes too.

Customers say the darndest things: Part 2

My boyfriend lives far away. When I went to visit him, there was a beautiful Pashmina scarf draped over his chair. He bought it when he was in the Middle East before we met. I love to wear those long thin scarves because they are lovely and warm. He let me have the scarf. It is special to me because I can't be close to him everyday.

I decided to tell people, when they complimented me on the scarf, that my boyfriend bought it for me: the truth stretched a little bit, but easier to explain and sweeter to say.

The other day I was helping a pampered mommie as she told me about her multiple homes and her decorating needs for the guest house at their lakeside estate. She told me my scarf was beautiful and that she had one just like it! I said "oh thank you my boyfriend got it for me in Kabul." To which she replied "Caa? What? Well, I got mine in Napa Valley at a winery."

Well, I win.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

when it's breaked, you got to faked

Today when I got to work, my co-worker that is allergic to sugar was eating a doughnut. She offered me one of the others she had bought and in my greed for morning sugar, I didn't think to ask the usual, "and how are you this morning?" I slammed the doughnut and was grateful. I was running a wee bit late and had a major sweet tooth right from the start.

Later she told me that her boyfriend had broke up with her the night before. Breakups are always weird, and it is usually worse to be the one broken up with and not the one doing the deed. Throughout the day, she got teary-eyed and would say goofy things once in awhile. At one point she told me how she was having a hard time being friendly with customers.

Tell me about it. Heartbreak is the reason I got into this business.

I was trying to be supportive and funny and I told her that it would be sort of awesome if she just started crying. Our customers talk to us like we are emotionless robots, so showing them some gross, raw emotion might be hilarious. That made her laugh a little anyway.

But really, what do you do when you see a clerk having a bad day? It always makes me feel a little uncomfortable and I will often think about them later. I always want to be able to say the right thing, but I realize I am just a customer and I am probably making them feel weird and red blotchy faced.

We all take our turns being vulnerable and uncomfortable.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Please don't come back.

Today a mother and young adult daughter were in the shop and wanted a certain candle. We were out of it. After scrounging around to see if we had more, I discovered we only had a couple of tester candles. I didn't sell her the testers because:
1. I was told by my manager and a fellow employee that they were not for sale.
2. We need the testers for different sized candles in the same scent that we still have in stock.
3. They were extremely dusty.

I seriously considered just being naughty and selling her the testers, even though they are labeled "testers not for sale," but I really didn't want a sketchy, inferior product leaving the store with my name attached to the receipt for all eternity.

I politely told her that I would love to take her name and number and call her when our fresh shipment arrives. Then she used her snooty diva mother princess voice to inform me that "this was the fourth time" she had been in and we had been out every time and that she "would not be back." I splurted out some final statement on how unfortunate our shipment pattern with that company is and turned away. I was not going to give her the satisfaction of seeing me grovel for her patronage.

Because she is wrong. Even if she has actually been in four times, her argument is faulty. When was she in the store? If it was four times in the past 2 weeks, we did not have the candles. She did not look at the candles and she did not know which scent she wanted; all she knew is that she wanted a large one. So we COULD have had the scent she was looking for in a smaller candle, which is not the same as being COMPLETELY out.

Of course, I just hate her attitude. And it is almost laughable to think that by verbally spanking a low ranking clerk you are going to get what you want. By threatening that she will never come back to the store, I am supposed to get scared and pull a secret stash of candles out of my ass, or at least report to the boss that a nameless high-maintenance lady that didn't buy anything wants us to get more candles here more quickly.

Bitch, I followed procedure! Learn to use the internet like the rest of the world and get your damn stink candles online! And I think I am not the only clerk that would like to tell you:

Please don't come back!!

$hit costs money

Yesterday was the first day of our big spring sale! Cross your fingers, open the doors, and hope customers feel like spending some money.

I was perky and had on my positive attitude. The store looked full and fun, a range of merchandise from disposable to investment, and new mark-downs in clearance! Imagine my dismay when one of the first customers I dealt with started bitching about how much the item they wanted cost. It was a cheap piece of import furniture.

Here's the thing: shit costs money. Especially NEW shit. Someone buys new materials and maybe even sets up a factory, pays people to make it, finds buyers and ships containers of their shit to locations all over the world. Then people buy and immediately depreciate the shit.

It pains me to see customers stress about buying anything that they cannot afford. They need a sofa and are looking at new items that are out of their price range. Sometimes they go for a piece that is not really what they want, but is less expensive. I think if you aren't getting the sofa you want anyway, why not get a used one and save some money? That way when it falls apart, you won't be angry that your crappy new sofa collapsed.

Many customers at my work don't seem to understand the idea of used items. They will describe something and occasionally I feel comfortable suggesting they look in a thrift or antique store because (1) that is the ONLY place to find the item they want or (2) it is the best place to look for their item and get a sensible price.

As a poor person, I often buy used. But more important to me that getting a good deal is being an informed consumer for any purchase, new or used. Why does something cost what it does? How long will it last? Will I be able to resell it if I wish? Can I get more later? What is product fact and what is carefully crafted marketing?

Quit bitching and ask some questions.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Annoying List 3.19

1. Our store is in a small town and a lot of people know the owners. Small enough that a lot of people know them, yet large enough that many customers do not, so the ones that do know the owners, even just by name, feel that it is okay to name-drop and request special discounts for no real reason. They will make the most awkward and confusing statements, just so they can somehow work in one or both of the owners' names. Their real friends and associates do not ask for discounts. They pay full price in order to support the business and when they are given a discount, they are thankful, humble, and gracious. Don't name-drop for any reason. It's assy.

2. The last customer of the day was still in the store after we were closed. She was taking her time, telling us how she was from Canada and making weird returns and repurchases so that her receipts would look better at the border. Then, after pulling all those weird moves, she paid for a large portion of her purchase with loose change. Paying with loose change is sketchy. It is always annoying, but sometimes it is okay if the clerk is not doing anything else and you are not causing any long waits. Closing the store in a timely manner is just as important for our budget as selling gadgets and whatsits. Treating a closed store like your after hours shopping experience is not okay. Although, I might keep the store open for Oprah.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Judge Judgy McJudger

It is a well known fact that small, enticing items are placed by the cash register in hopes of capturing impulse sales. At my work, we have little pocket books of Sudoku puzzles by the register.

Today was mentally excruciating for me. It was slow and my mind was a hundred other places, thinking about everything I want to do with Life. The few customers we had were weird and boring. Like, they weren't even weird enough to be entertaining; they were just roll-your-eyes boring.

At one point a family of adults came in. On the customer scale (which ranges from trailer-living meth head to multi-homeowning celebrity wife), they seemed to lean more towards hard-working white christian/others with redneck tendencies. The mother bought a few things and even though she was very sweet, I just didn't have the patience to provide narration for her big day out, shoppin' at the fancy store and lookin' at all the purdy things.

She was on her way out when you spotted the seductive little pocket Sudoku book. She thumbed through it a bit, and then asked "how do you play this game?" I was never a Sudoku nut. Or not yet, anyway. I couldn't really tell her, but I knew enough that I thought I could explain it so that she could decide whether or not to buy it.

Fail I did. She looked at me with a sweet, perplexed look and I tried to explain it a different way. Me, explaining a number puzzle I don't even play in a newer fresher way than the way I did 70 seconds ago: not pretty. Any understanding she had was completely lost. "That's too much for my little brain," she said and moseyed on out.

I ate a marshmallow, had a slurp of tea, and continued with my plans.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Yesterday at work I had a horrible headache that I did not deserve. Maybe I did not eat enough morning food? I had a snack and still a headache. Maybe I just needed more coffee, to get up to my usual caffeine levels? More coffee just made me achy and jumpy.

The pain was intense. I started desperately asking around for aspirin or advil or anything! Someone offered me a generic vicodin, and even though I am often hesitant about taking euphoria-inducing substances at work, I did it because my temples were throbbing.

That was good while it lasted. I could still feel the pain, but I could separate myself from it. Finally I just gave up and decided I had to take the pain and fully experience it. The Happy Duck and broken Point Of Sale system helped me.

When I got home, my headache was gone. My memories of customers from yesterday have blended into a vision of a hundred-headed monster, waving a spatula and a waffle maker, coffee spewing out of its blowhole and a phone coming out of its butt.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's a full moon part 1

Yesterday was awesome! We were sort of busy and the customers were crazy! My day started with a woman yelling at me because we didn't have her soap refills, facilitating a $300 return of napkins and placemats, and overhearing a conversation about how outrageous the price of birdseed has become.

Whenever there are strange customer incidents, my manager explains it away by saying "well, it's a full moon tonight." Isn't it fun to blame our actions on events beyond our control? Other excuses include: lunchtime, Spring time, menopause, Christmas, weddings, allergies, and Saturdays. And since today is Friday the 13th, I am sure that will be used as an excuse as well.

Yesterday I helped a customer. Let's call her Annie. I wouldn't call her a Problem Customer, but she is a little bit high maintenance. I sort of freaked her out when I called her by name. "How did you know my name?" she asked. "Oh, I just remember names, I guess," was my kind, modest response. One of my favorite former co-workers would remember and call many customers by name. And not in a forced supermarket policy kind of way, but just remembering because they were regulars. It is brilliant because it sort of shakes them up and makes the shopping experience more personal and human. Many times, they will then ask for my name, as though they have just realized for the first time that I am a person too and I know all about the shit they buy for their home.

But Annie didn't ask my name. I think she just thinks I'm a weirdo.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tales from the other side of the counter

Yesterday I went to Riteaid and bought a 60 quart Rubbermaid storage container. I decided to go with the clear one so that I could actually SEE the shoes that would soon be inside. I had to have one NOW because I am trying to organize my room. I have a lot of clothes and little storage and it looks, as LOLcats might say, like my closet "sploded."

So, sassy lady clerk checked me out and when she handed me the receipt, I saw that the tote rang up for $2.70 more than the price advertised on the shelf. I have this happen all the time at my work: something has gone up in price and signage has not been updated. I don't make a big deal about it. I confirm the sticker price and then refund the customer. But Riteaid is a clusterfudge of disgruntled employees, shoplifters, and people buying candy with foodstamps and cigarettes with loose change. When no one met me in the storage solutions aisle as sassy clerk promised they would, I left. I was in a hurry and chose to give up the $2.70.

Today was a different story. I went back to get another container for more of my apparel and accessories. I chose the young male clerk with the delightfully pukey green shirt and loud tie. When the tote rang up at $18.99 and I said they were $16 something on the shelf, he gave me a death look and asked if I really wanted him to go check. And of course I did. His silent condemnation shamed me. I wanted to say something, to tell my story and explain why I need to save every penny I can, but I knew it wouldn't make any difference. I was being THAT customer. The best thing to do was to be silent except for "sorry," "debit," and "thank you."

Everyone gets their chance to be the asshole. We can still try to make it as painless as possible.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cute customer tricks part 2

One of the soap companies we deal with is doing this little promo right now. They have these little cellophane bags that perfectly fit a large bar of soap or a box of lotion or a tiny tube of lotion and a tiny bar of soap. The bag is designed to fit a bar of soap 2.75"x4"x1.5".

So today this customer brought up an armload of toiletries, separated it into 3 groups and told me she wanted each group in a little gift bag. She immediately walked away to look at other things. The problem was that her gift groupings would not FIT in the little bag. She had picked full sized products. The full size lotion barely fit into a bag on its own. The bag pleats were strained and the bottle stuck out of the top. They looked like weird condoms for toiletries.

When she came back, I explained the problem and held up the bagged bar of soap to show her how the bags were designed to fit a bar of soap, but not much more. She looked at me like I was a flipping idiot. Like somehow, I should be able to magically enlarge the bags with my mind so that she is not burdened, like I was an asshole for not fulfilling her requests.

I bet she is one of those people that hogs the overhead compartment on planes with her stupidly placed carry-on and her bulky jacket. No spatial sense what-so-ever. Ugh.

Clerks 2 Jerks

I wish someone would hurry up and translate and publish this book so I can read it. Trying to read the blog in a language I don't know is pitiful. All the humor and poignancy is lost. I was reading a couple of snippets and I had a thought. It amazes me how people EVERYWHERE are jerks to clerks. Almost everyone (except the occasional delusional freak) that has worked a service job will have similar horror stories of abuse, disrespect, and ingratitude. Why is it that we feel this is okay? And why does it still go on? When I am working it seems like maybe those people have never been in my position and that is why they act the way they do. I think I am wrong. While there are people that haven't worked a job like mine, there ALOT that have had similar or worse jobs. Do people forget? Do they feel that because their clerk days are behind them, it is their time to be the needy jerk?

Hmm. Ponder.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Today was the day of cheese slicers.

Today I had a wicked, blazing, red wine hangover. It seemed that if I could just shake my headache, I might live, or if I ate enough cookies, I might be human again. I was extra perky today, to compensate for the death I was feeling on the inside.

It's always a downer when you are being perky, even a fake genuine perky, and customers try to knock it out of you. Here is a quick way: I answer the phone at 11:47 a.m. and say "Good afternoon!" and the customer says "It's still morning." Like I had time to notice. You might be surprised at the number of people that feel the need to correct me when I make an innocent and unimportant flub like that.

Another peeve: I am at work alot, full time, and have been working there for years now. So I know our inventory. I am always amazed at customers that inform me of products they purchased at my store and I know they did not. It is pointless to argue with them because it turns into "yes you did, no we didn't" and that could go on until they get pissed and try to get someone fired. It would be like me walking into their homes and telling them about the 4 foot bong that they have in their closet. "Uh, no we don't." "Yes. You do." Sometimes, depending on the customer, I can gently ask if maybe they purchased or saw the item at a different store. I can carefully help them jog their memory and so far I have always been right.

The day finally came to a merciful end. I went home, ate a spicy meal, and now I will go to bed. Tomorrow is our first day with outdoor furniture. Time to put my muscles on.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Domestic bliss

Everyday customers complain about the number of items that are made in China. They come in, find the item they want, and when they see it is made in China, ask "Do you have one that's not made in CHINA?!?"

Hilarity ensues when I say "we can order it!" and pull out a catalog to show then the U.S. or European made version of the object. Prices are 3-6 times as much as the Chinese made items. Many people cannot wrap their minds around this.

Despite life-time guarantees, superior materials and construction, and prospective pride of ownership, many customers go with the China made model just because it is cheaper.

I do not mean to imply that I am annoyed with people that don't "buy American;" I do get annoyed with people that bitch and preach and then don't spring some cash for America. Oh, sure talk your talk and squish up your face when you say "made in China," but when you then refuse to actually BUY the U.S. products, you are a hypocrite.

So if you're not going to Buy American, shut up. If you want to save some money, I don't care.
Please, just buy something from me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Wednesday again. I wish I had a story about customer shenanigans today, but I do not. Everyone was very nice, respectful, and communicative. And although it's depressingly slow, I keep smiling and being grossly positive. Because I don't have much else.

The worst thing about working slow retail is that you must learn to control your mind. The boredom can be maddening and when you do speak, it is crazed and inappropriate. I have gotten quite good at conquering the minutes. Today was rough even for me. I couldn't stop thinking about everything I wanted to be doing at home, rather than earning my living at some retail pit of despair. I make lists.

1. selling my clothes and books
2. freaking out about what i want to keep just in case this is Great Depression Part 2 and these are the last clothes i'll have for a decade or so
3. making food
4. eating candy
5. trying on dresses for my June trip
6. vacuuming my room
7. making things for the Friday art show
8. clipping the cats' nails
9. handwashing my delicate sweaters

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

F***. You make it too easy, Happy Duck.

At my store, we sell this toy, the Happy Duck. I try not to have any strong feelings about it because obviously you are supposed to be annoyed with it. But the demon constantly tempts me to hate.

Someone turned it on today and let it go for a long time. I didn't time it, but I did start to wonder how long one could listen before the brain explodes. I was praying that it would accidentally roll out the open door, into the street and be crushed.

We sell this for $19.95. Please, if you are thinking of buying this, give me the $20 instead. I need to get my swimsuit area waxed.

i iz not a stoopid pursen, i hav dreemz 2

Yesterday there was a family standing in front of the door. When people would come inside, the baby would wave at them. One entering customer looked down at the baby and said "Oh, the new greeter!"

The parents felt they had to share a story with the stranger. Apparently the baby was waving at another store and someone said that she had a future in retail. "And we were like, 'Oh GREAT!'" said the parents.

I was standing right there. I always love it when people degrade my job in front of me. My co-workers and I discussed this and after joking about how they'll change their minds when the baby grows up to be a junkie amputee hooker, we were over it.

But, throughout the afternoon, I kept thinking about it. I didn't intend to have a long-term retail career, and I don't think most people do. I've had plans and ideas throughout the years, but sometimes things just don't work out how we think they should.

So I don't have a career and my wages are low and perks small, but I have always been employed. No matter where I've lived, I had a job and no one else has supported me. Retail work has made me a smarter shopper and a thoughtful consumer. I have learned humility and respect and to take advantage of opportunities when they show themselves.

I will not let one comment from a young new mother bother me. Who would want their child to be a greeter at some place like Walmart or work endlessly at a store until they are so old they can't function? But I will fight the stigma attached to retail work; we are not here because we are stupid or otherwise unemployable. We work to supplement the life activities and jobs that do not pay a living wage.

So, new mother, know that altough I don't have a glamorous job saving lives and helping people or raking in cash, I am happy. Ultimately, isn't that what you want for your child?