Thursday, April 30, 2009

Suzy Smiles

There is a customer that comes in occasionally with a big backpack. She buys kitchen gadgets and leaves the packaging and talks in a really sweet, high pitched voice. I think she is a little crazy or did way too many mushrooms. No matter what she is talking about, she is all giggles and smiles. Sometimes it can really get on my nerves.

She came in yesterday, her usual perky self, and mentioned how much she liked the music. My near-by merchandising co-worker and I shared a fleeting look of skepticism with mirrored eyebrow rises. The customer left after saying thank you five times.

I gave my co-worker the info on Suzy Smiles. My co-worker said "I wish I could be that happy about everything all the time." That would be a change. What would the world be like if I was always smiling about everything? As I am now, pessimistic but hopeful with equal parts of sarcasm, days can be shitty, even if they are hilarious.

Maybe I should have done more drugs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Highlights from a week of boring

- Buying a new "rustic," "distressed" table is the same as buying $172 cut off shorts. But who has time to destroy their own items anymore?

- An older woman came in looking for a 2 piece meat loaf pan. Apparently we used to carry it and "it is the best thing" for meatloaf because the "fat can drain." Eww. The rest of the day I had the worst mental picture of a big greazy meatloaf with a caked on ketchup topping.

- The satellite muzak that we have to play in the store changes the order of their stations every now and then. So just when we found a station that we could play without completely losing our minds or getting reprimanded, the channel numbers switched. What was Big Band and Swing is now New Age. We found another channel that plays Big Band and Swing in the morning and late afternoon, but the middle of the day is full of Adult Contemporary and these horrible, grating, slow, harmonizing renditions of well-known songs. Yesterday most of the employees had a simultaneous freak-out and changed the music to the Rumba and Salsa channel. And for one afternoon, we lived.

- A woman came in and asked to see our popsicle molds. We don't have any yet, but that didn't stop her from quizzing me on what they might be like when we get them. I described the ones we had last year and she became upset because they are not what she wants. "Don't you just have the regular popsicle shape, but in an adult size?!" My question is this: what makes a popsicle adult sized?

- We sell these birdhouses that are shaped like little camper trailers. They are decorated and painted and people love them. I hate them so much. I want to set the whole stack on fire. I will be helping a customer and thinking "hmm. she's sort of cool," but then they buy a birdhouse camper and I lose respect for them.

- It is inevitable that the store will fill up with people 15 minutes before we close.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Summer Furniture

Wrought iron, tube iron, kapur, aluminum and teak. Umbrellas, bases, and lounging chaises.

It's summer furniture time again! Once again, we will bring furniture outside in the morning and back in at night.

Let the shin bruising begin!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yard Sale

Last week I helped a family that was refurnishing their home. They bought a crap load of furniture and totally made our day. And the weird thing is . . . they were really nice. They didn't make crazy demands or yell at me just because they could. They didn't bitch about our selection and ask me why we didn't have what we don't have. The whole family made thoughtful comments and observations; it felt like we were having a conversation about their needs instead of the usual crap of customers wanting me to shake the product around to make it look alive, only to have them reject it, as I knew they would.

At a job where I am likely to hear eye-roll inducing comments such as "If everyone had a chair like this, there would be no war," it is a constant struggle to say positive. Every transaction feels frivolous. So many self-indulgent customers shopping for shit they don't need because they are bored. Sometimes I feel like part of the problem; our "customer service" enables them to keep up the crappy attitudes and use shopping as stress relief. I quell the thoughts that tell me I am a hypocrite and a fraud.

Defeated and struggling, I decided to escape to the cookbooks. I was thumbing through of the the Barefoot Contessa books that my co-workers are always raving about and read several of the introductions. The party book really got to me. Basically, I can sum it up with "eat simply, eat well, love your friends and family." Of course there were gorgeous pics of set tables and all the accessories that make them lovely, but after glancing through half the book, I really did want to have a party and invite all my favorite people.

My job does not directly help people. Everyday I must decide whether I will let the petty grievances consume me or whether I will rise above it and make something special out of every moment. Working with good customers builds community; working with bad ones builds patience. There is an art to entertaining. Can we not appreciate a beautiful table, decorated to delight the senses for an evening? And the ritual of celebration, with colors, shapes, and objects, that for better or worse, become engraved in our memories? I am so lucky to live how and where I do. It just happens that possessions play a large part of it.

And so goes the battle between thoughless consumerism and tangible object appreciation . . .

Friday, April 17, 2009

You do not want me to be your decorator

There is a question I dread being asked at work: "What would YOU do?"

The customers that can't or don't make up their minds, are scared of the choices in colors, fabrics, and patterns, want to pick the "right" element that will FINALLY make their home complete will ask me for help. Actually, they will ask anyone that is standing close to them, and sometimes it just happens to be me.

I was not hired as a decorator. I don't even get to merchandise. My job is to take the money and put the product in the bag. People ask me what they should choose and seem to think that having money and good taste were hiring requirements. They don't realize they are talking to a woman who's house contains an orange-striped sofa that has had more sexual partners than the store staff and enough curb-side furniture (not all mine) to fill a basement.

Occasionally I will defer my opinion-giving until they have narrowed down their choices. And then I'll vote for Safe rather than Safer. But I am still just telling them what they want to hear.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Today was a calm Freak Out Wednesday. I was the one freaking out and bringing up the damn returned umbrella story in order to talk about it, get over it, and forget about it.

Lately I have been feeling gross and flabby. I am very lazy and do not "work out," but my roommate and I have been going on long walks uphill in order to elevate our heart rates and work our gluts.

Then I was thinking about all the time I spend at work, pacing, unwatched and alone. There will be whole afternoons passed, nary a customer in sight, with just me and the phone. Even when I am on the main floor, there are 15 minutes spans where I might not help anyone.

I have decided to use this time to do some of the weird, painful Plyometrics exercises that my roommate learned in her jogging class. Reading them off the sheet, they sound so easy, but you quickly find out how much your muscles are neglected and undisciplined.

I can't do all of them; I have narrowed it down to the quieter ones that won't require running:
1. Lunges
2. Butt kickers
3. High knees
4. Calve raises
5. Duck walk (forward and backward)
6. Toe taps
7. Cartoon jumps
8. Quick jumps

So if you spot a weird girl exercising at work, know that she is just trying to move her blood.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

4.11 part 2: Woman Doctor Race

Another thing customers might do is throw their TITLE around. I had this happen today again. A woman came in to pick up some things that she had put on hold 14 days ago and they were not there. I go through the holds weekly and put things away according to dates on the hold tags.

She didn't realize that I was the clerk that she had talked to in the first place, so she told me how she "TOLD the girl" she "WOULD be back" and would be "spending a lot of money." I reminded her gently how I was the one that had helped her.

I felt genuinely bad because she actually DID come back. Usually when people put things on hold, they do not come back. I listened to her complaints and told her how we would fix the situation. But it didn't seem enough for her.

When I was taking her name, she used her title of DOCTOR Blanknblank. Last week she was just Mary Blanknblank. Being a doctor is supposed to get her more respect and service? I'm going to work harder for her if she is an important DOCTOR??

I once had a woman say to me: "I'm a doctor, so I'm very busy." But she still had time to be a menace in the store. We are all humans. And just because you may have a title of doctor does not automatically mean that your time is more precious than mine or that you are better than me. Doctor of 4.11.09, you have been added to my list of shitty, potentially quasi-doctors that treat customer service workers like shit just because we work retail.

When I was unphased by her doctor title, it seemed she tried to make things personal, as though I put the items back because they were hers. Seriously?

All assholes are created equal.

4.11 part 1: Return to returns

Right at the end of the day I had this couple come in wanting to exchange this umbrella that they bought last year on clearance and hadn't opened til this year. They were saying the pole was bent and the fabric was scuffed, but basically we just argued about policy for 15 minutes.

Then I went and finally actually LOOKED at the product. It was not ours. They had bought an umbrella that someone had pulled the dirty underwear trick on: returning used product undetected for credit or new product. And those customers bought the dirty underwear.

I feel like a dip shit because USUALLY I ALWAYS look at the returned product before I even listen to what the customer is saying. The product was way worse than they were describing. If they had been more insistent, I probably would have clued in on looking at it sooner. At the same time, I want to put customers through the process of explaining their returns. We hash it over and most of the time, people that are fakers give up.

I just feel petty and fragile and stupid. I think I am going to send the customers a hand-written note telling them not to judge me. The whole thing ended well enough, but I just can't shake this jack-ass feeling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's like we threw a party, but nobody came

Another slow Wednesday today, which is just as bad as a real Freakout Wednesday.

On Monday, someone burned some coffee and food onto one of the burners in the staff room, so the whole basement smells like an ashtray. I was secretly enjoying it because it reminded me of my grandma's house. She was a clean freak and an indoor smoker. My grandma died 10 years ago, but the scent association lives on.

One of our vendors makes this little sectional sofa with a "versatile" ottoman and chaise pad. The problem is that when you are not using the chaise pad, the ottoman is topped with this ugly beige cloth that does not match and can not be hidden. One of our employees suggested they cover it with the matching polyester velvet and today they sent us a picture of the new ottoman. It was the crappiest, lamest picture ever. Taken from above and photocopied, faxed, and emailed within an inch of its life, it looked like a slab of butter. I feigned excitement.

I am readdicted to candy. Eating out of boredom. Dangerous!

Monday, April 6, 2009

There is no crèma in coffee-snob Hell

Yesterday was my 6th day of work in a row, which is not so much really, but I am not used to it there. I was so fragile that started to shake and went pale when I dealt with a scheming bitch that was insisting on a sketchy exchange of a stovetop espresso maker. She ruined my day, and although I hate to let that happen, sometimes it just does. All I can say is that there is a special cauldron in hell waiting for her where she can spend the rest of eternity with her kind drinking bad, bitter coffee and eating nothing but jell-o salads.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Attention shoppers: I am not going to steal your credit card.

Yesterday I was ringing up a woman and as we finished the transaction, she started to panic that I hadn't given her credit card back. "Do you still have my card?!" she asked, her voice accusatory and suspicious. "No. I gave it back to you. I saw you put it in your wallet." And she had.

I have had this conversation countless times customers during my years in retail. The intensity of the accusations vary, depending on the store ambience and façade of classiness. When I worked at a chain thrift store, there were customers that would hold up the line and tell me to my face that I had taken their card. "I'm not going anywhere until I get my card back!" It was there that I learned to make a big production of returning the card. "AND THERE IS YOUR CARD BACK. DON'T FORGET TO PUT IT IN YOUR WALLET. Have a nice day."

There was also a phone call the other day from a woman that had lost her card and at some point had been shopping in our store. I understand calling around and seeing if we had it; that makes good sense. But this woman told me that "there were only 2 places" her card could be: our store or the grocery store. How do you explain to an irrational person that their are ACTUALLY a lot of places their card could be and that is why it is called a lost card? Her card was not in our safe (procedure!), and when I told her that, she was almost hostile, as though I was holding her card and using it to buy shit online while on the phone with her.

The point is that not all clerks and service workers are criminals. There are so many chances for me to rip people off, but I don't because I am not that sort of person, and, to my knowledge, neither are my co-workers. It all comes back to the customer: pay attention when you are buying shit and check your damn statements! And before you accuse someone of taking your card, check your pockets. ALL of them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Freak Out Wednesday: We are April's Fools

Even before it began, I couldn't wait for this day to be over.

3. I had an elderly couple return a teapot because it dribbled from the spout. They brought in pages from a website that showed how to make teapots that don't dribble. I'll get right on that first thing tomorrow and fax those to China.

4. Today I said "hello" to a woman that was in the store. "I'm getting a gift wrapped," was her response. Oh, okay, great, I say hi because it's my job, not because I want to buy you a drink or be best friends or sell you more things. When her gift wrap was brought up, she interrupted me when I asked if she needed a bag to tell me that she needed a bag because "it's going on a plane." Uh, I thought wrapped gifts are planes were a no-no, bad idea, waste of everyone's time. Well, more money for us.

5. Staring out the window into the street, I saw a nerdy white kid with dreads, slap scratching his dead like a dog. Eww.