Saturday, April 30, 2011

weekly highlights

-Sometimes customers come in looking for a very specific item that they are going to use in a different application other than cooking or baking. I drag this info from them with the question "what are you using it for?" When they tell me and I have a good suggestion of another place they might look for the tool they are describing, they often like to dismiss it as though I am incapable of having good ideas. And I say "thank you!"

-Yesterday I greeted a woman, but she must not have realized I worked at the store. She walked up to the counter and, peering around behind it, said "Ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling!". (impersonating a bell to get a clerk's attention). Then she asked me a weird, crazy question that is not important and has no real answer.

-A customer returned flatware because she had problems with the stickers. I empathized with her sticker problem and then attempted to offer solutions. After working all day with the damn stickers, I know a trick or two. Before I could finish that sentence, she cut me off and told me this laborious process that she tried and that she is right and she hates stickers.

First world problems!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

the secret life of ants

I don't know what it was about yesterday, but many customers seemed to not hear me when I greeted them with my friendly and non-pressuring "Hello!". Perhaps it was my pitch or volume or all the mesmerizing merchandise around them.

When I think that someone hasn't heard me, I usually wait a few more seconds for them to adjust to their surroundings and then try again. Sometimes it seems like they might be purposely ignoring because they don't want to be "sold" anything, and in those cases, I usually leave them alone until they are near desperate for help. I'm busy too you know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

so we meet again. not that you'd remember because you are too important. oh and you suck.

On Friday, I was walking past one of the counters when I intercepted a problematic transaction between one of my young co-workers and a customer. I came in closer to observe, all the while looking busy. After listening for about 5 seconds, a wave of adrenaline came over me. Like a crime victim, I immediately remembered the customer from one of her other transactions 2 years ago.

Here she was again, this time trying to return an item that we have NEVER CARRIED at our store. She was so horrible and insistent that she bought it from us that the owner/buyer went through her records just to double check, even though there was no such item in inventory, no employee remembered the item, and she had no receipt.

My co-worker was amazing. So cheerful and helpful, offering solutions for repair after we said, in the nicest way, that we would not take back the item. The customer, dead set on being right, asked when the store came under new ownership. With extreme pleasure, I told her that it was the same owner, just as it has been for the past 4 decades. In other words, bitch you're wrong and we all know what you're up to.

This time, we found out her name. I made a note in the system that she was a problem returner and should only be handled by management. I googled her. I allowed myself some revenge fantasies (a subscription to International Male; army recruitment applications, plastic surgery brochures). Of course, I would never DO anything because I am not only a good person, but I am professional.

Basically, I was just glad that someone else experienced her horribleness so that I don't feel like I was exaggerating or fabricating. Next time she comes in, with what I'm sure will be a complicated, questionable return, we will be ready.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

i have but one back, and i don't want to break it for you.

It's probably my own fault. I work/have worked demeaning retail jobs for my whole life. Why would I do that? I'm probably stupid. Since I'm probably stupid, I probably compensate by having super human strength, despite the fact that I appear to be an average size.

So of course customers would not hesitate to ask me to carry insanely heavy things to their cars for them. And if not me, then one of my co-workers: equally (if not more) fragile ladies, hired for their ability to merchandise, count back change, and give advice on napkin choice, NOT lifting hide-a-beds.

Oh, we have a system for helping those people that are too stingy to pay our delivery fee, which is less than $50, by the way. But customers don't listen and just SHOW UP and then we have no choice but to find a way to throw a console table into their truck. I cringe when one of my co-workers that should not be lifting heavy things does just once in order to help a customer.

Sure. It's just a credenza. A solid wood table. Six feet long. With a shelf and two unremovable drawers. When was the last time you picked a fucking tree up off the ground and gently placed it in the back of a Volvo?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You don't know what I don't know

I had some Canadian customers use a Canadian two dollar coin to pay for some candy. She started to hand me the coin, then paused and said "You probably don't know what this is, do you?"

Are you fucking kidding me. I work in a retail store close to Canada. Of course I know about the damn Canadian Toonie.

There is a presumption with many customers that because they control a situation by making decisions about shopping, they are also omniscient. Few seem to realize that, in fact, I might know about the world. I also know alot about them (name, address, phone number, credit card number, purchase and return history, birthday, names of spouse and offspring, home color schemes, favorite food, food allergies, pet's name and breed, car make and model, location of vacation homes) while they often don't know anything about me other than my physical description, and maybe not even that.

Creepy but true.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

squeeze and thank-yous

Yesterday my co-worker told me how she finished ringing up a customer and then handed them the receipt and said, "there you go! You're all set!" and the woman stood staring at her. My co-worker was a little weirded out and tried some other cheerful phrases to indicate that the transaction was over and the woman could step away from the counter. But she kept standing there, staring.

"Was she drunk?" I asked my co-worker.

Then the customer said "I'm waiting for my thank-you" at which point my co-worker said "oh yes, thank you."

This particular co-worker is one of the sweetest, most pleasant and gracious co-workers ever. She exudes cheerfulness and genuine care. So to have some grump force a thank you that she didn't purposefully with hold is pretty insulting. Sure, a thank you was in order, but by being a jerk about it, the meaning was lost.

Take your fucking thank you, collect them like bazooka joe bubblegum wrappers, send in for the prize, and be disappointed when you realize it was all an illusion of hope and delayed pleasure.

Friday, April 15, 2011

stingy with the hatchback

I have said before how weird it is that so many customers don't think their furniture purchases will fit in their huge cars/vehicles/SUVS. The weirdness turns to annoyance when

1) they won't measure items. Somehow they think eyeballing it will do, even as they express doubt that it will fit.

"I think this will fit in the back of my car. Can you carry it out for me?" [I find people to carry it out. They gird themselves for the lift. The customer returns.] "You know what, I don't know if it's going to fit!" And then we don't even get to try.

2) they don't even begin to trust me when I suggest that it probably will fit in their car, regardless of my relatively good spatial skills (which, to be fair, they probably don't know I have) and the fact that I am at the store all day, measuring shit and helping people with the exact same scenario.

I don't know about other clerks, but I'm not even going to suggest shoving something in your car unless I'm pretty damn sure it will fit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

food vessels I might avoid

I had a customer call for chafing dishes. She was positive that she had seen some at our store, but she was mistaken. We do not have chafing dishes. After I got off the phone, I started thinking about how chafing dish is sort of an unfortunate term. Who wants to eat out of something called a chafing dish. I imagine scabby potato dishes or meat chunks dried up in a corner with evaporated sauce holding them in like river mud. I think "warming plate" sounds better.

Friday, April 8, 2011

shop local vs. the internet

Today I had a customer tell me about how she found a certain big ticket item online for half the price of what we sell it. She was not looking for a price match, but rather, an explanation as to why some website could sell it for that price and we could not.

I told her all the scenarios that I could think of that could possibly cause that: how our price includes shipping and freight, how the online retailer might have more bulk buying power, that it could be a clearance price. I really stressed that before she buy the item, she find out the shipping cost, especially when she said that there definitely was not free shipping. I encouraged her to find out how much assembly the piece would require and the level of difficulty.

As sweet as she was about the whole thing, and as much as I appreciate her honest questions, I was also slightly perturbed. When you shop in a store, you get to talk to a human and probably to their face. I know this can be a bad experience, depending on a lot of factors, but I think a lot of sales staff is actually going to do their job: answer questions, give opinions when needed, assist the customer with making the right choice. If you are shopping in a store where this happens, you should keep shopping there (when necessary of course) and count your blessings for a helpful clerk.

(I know this post sounds boastful, but, damn!)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

someone Gurgled all over the floor

Have you seen these?

Gurgle pots? They are pitchers shaped like fish with carefully designed cavities so that the liquid inside "gurgles."

We keep one with water in it on the sales floor. No matter what sort of sign or picture we have near it, hardly a day goes by that someone does not spill the water onto the floor.

I came across a rather large spill today. As no one was around, I have no way of knowing who did it or how long this big pool of water was there, waiting dangerously for someone to slip in it. And why didn't the spiller tell someone what happened. We don't give shit; we just want to clean it up.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


There are some customers that you learn early because they are notorious. Thieves, chiselers, princesses, name-droppers: whatever their game, they do it with gusto and without remorse. "I am such a great customer! I've spent so much money here!" They might tell you that to get what they want and to intimidate. I hate that it works on people. Co-workers might mention that a certain customer owns half the town and has more money than God and everything we have we owe to them because of their wild spending habits.

Since they are an unavoidable force in the retail world and it is pretty impossible to punish them, I have decided that the only real way to win is to give my very best service to the customers that deserve it. Oh, I will still smile and inquire and wrap with care for the baddies, but I will be doing it as quick as possible to get them out the door and onto pestering others. When possible, I am going to tell my good customers how much I appreciate them. Because I really do.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

you say kyoo-pon, i say koo-pon

Our store has a coupon in a book of coupons to encourage "shopping local." It's a pretty great coupon because you can redeem it on items that are not covered by our regular coupon. A strange thing that's been happening is that customers have returned items that they purchased using the coupons and they want the coupons back! Here is why it is weird: 1. I don't remember this happening before in all the years I have worked. 2. Who asks for a coupon back?

In the grown up world I live in, coupons come with limits: the amount you must spend or get to save, the quantity of product, how often, and how long. Sometimes these rules are flexible but often not. Don't worry; there will be another coupon. And sorry, but, if you choose poorly and return you item, we can't and won't reissue a coupon that was not issued by us in the first place so that you can try your poor taste again. It is the "yeh!" and "bummer!" cycle of every transaction, but reversed. ("Yeh, I'm buying this awesome thing that I totally need and want and I'm saving a little money with this coupon!" "Bummer, I really don't like it because I didn't actually think before making the purchase." "Yeh! I get to return it and get my money back!" "Bummer, I used my coupon in order to save at the time of purchase and now I am going back on it.") OH WELL.

For some reason this year, customers think the coupon is bus pass to savings and as long as you keep getting a transfer, you never have to pay that extra bit.

Tacky as hell and irresponsible to boot.


-I've said this before, but it is another one of those human mysteries that will disgust and baffle me until the end of my life: people will lay their garbage anywhere. Coffee cups, wrappers, old food: regardless of the store they are visiting or how close a trash bin is located, when they are done with whatever is in their hands, they just set it down. Or throw it into a trash receptacle shaped object; basket on the floor that is tall and cylindrical (and full of pristine, nicely folded merchandise)? Toss that shit in!

-My latest piece of merchandise that I judge people by? The faucet soap dish. I'm sorry. I just don't get it. And when I hear someone going on and on about how cute it is, I am bewildered.

-It's sort of spring time, I GUESS, but the winter scarf and flip-flop combo doesn't look very much fun. You know those are the people who drive.

-I was helping this man who was, um, not white select a food processor. Then we went to the cash register so he could make his purchase. There were some details that made the transaction a little longer than most, but the annoying thing was that these middle class white old broads kept interrupting! Like, while I was TALKING to the man, they start asking me questions. I told them I would be happy to help as soon as I was finished helping my first customer. Then when he was paying, they stood there watching with annoyance. Bitches! You're not that great and I bet your meatloaf sucks.