Tag Archives: Christmas

Conversations My Customers Should Avoid

5 Jan
gingerbread house

Where the lunch lady lives!

Working in retail has always allowed me to indulge in two of my guiltiest pleasures: eavesdropping and people-watching. Actually, I was trying to find a single word that would describe that, and as always Urban Dictionary came to the rescue with “earhustling”…couldn’t have said it better myself. I am a naturally curious person, and I’m constantly on the lookout for people who are so crazy, messed up, or so unlucky that they make my life look amazing. Let’s take, for example, a regular at my store who I will call Lunch Lady. No, she doesn’t walk around with an endless supply of cold cuts at her disposal along with jewish rye bread and mayo and, no, she isn’t even a lunch lady at a school. But to me, she kind of looks like a lunch lady that would be in the movie Matilda: stocky, hair with a bad dye-job pulled back into a greasy slick, constantly hunched over with a look on her face that is a mix of anger and disillusionment.

Lunch Lady ranks pretty high on the list of the craziest customers I have seen. She usually comes into our store to buy wine, which I have to triple-bag because she rides her bike. On the days when she is actually shopping for other things, she goes to the extreme and buys the most random assortment of items all at one time. A few days ago, for example, she called me and asked me to set aside five gingerbread house kits. She was freaking out about them and told me to keep a close eye on them because other customers might try to take them away. Right she is! Gingerbread houses are always in high demand. I instantly got a mental image of her drunk on the two bottles of cheap wine she always gets and attempting to glue together a gingerbread house, and I laughed quite a bit.

Before Lunch Lady came to buy her various goods, I noticed her pick up her phone and a look of sheer terror appeared on her face as she screamed “Stop calling me!” and hung up. She then proceeded to scream “Why won’t they leave me alone!?!” and started arguing/talking to herself. She ran out of the door and started yelling more. Then, a few minutes later, she came back in and acted as if nothing had happened. Maybe she is planning to build a giant gingerbread house for herself so that she can hide inside it and escape the people that are after her?

But there are customers who, well, make me feel less normal and glamorous. I hate them because it seems as if they are able to look directly into my mind and pick out exactly what is bothering me, and then bring it up. In one week, I had two customers touch on the tenderest of topics for me (and for many others, I’m sure) as of late: love and a career. One customer was an older man, and I’m sure he was trying to be nice, but he looked at me and said “What, no ring?” and I said “Hah! Married? Me? I’m only 21!” and he just looked at me and said “Well I am surprised a girl like you isn’t married yet. But you still have some time.” Another old man came up to me and asked if I was in school, and I told him what university I went to and how I am graduating after this semester, and he asked if I knew what I wanted to do with my marketing degree. I always stay really positive when people ask me this, so I said “No, not really! I am open for just about anything!” and he said, “Well, you should really try to pinpoint it and do something that you love.” Huh.

I do admit that sometimes I take what people say too seriously, but really? Why bring up such annoying topics? Next time someone mentions love or work, I am going to flip. In terms of career, I have no idea what I want to do because all I ever do is work, go to school, or study and any time I have left over is used to relax, and thinking about what I want to do for a career just makes me have mini panic attacks. And with love, well, let’s just say that my male friends have already labeled me a “mindfuck”: I dress like a prep, I sound like a prep, but I also play video games, am a closet nerd, and lack many typical girly stereotypes such as collecting obscene amounts of shoes, gossiping, and constantly being caught in a whirlwind of ridiculous drama. Try finding love and a career in the midst of all that!

Sad to say, but I miss the days when all customers wouldn’t mention such personal topics and would instead inform me  about how they just asked the pharmacist how to get rid of a huge, leaking boil on their back or asking me if there is a difference between “chunk” and “chunk light” tuna.


Less Refunds This Holiday Season

21 Dec

All that is left of the returned holiday gifts is this very sad kitty

While sitting in the waiting room of my ghetto pharmacy, I picked up the only option that I had for good reading material: SmartMoney Magazine. And, while most of the articles featured topics that were laced with the kind of jargon that I repeatedly attempt to avoid while studying for my finance class and had the word “portfolio” scattered across each page at least five times, I managed to find quite a gem of an article in the midst of such terribly boring stuff: “The Point of No Return,” by Kristen Bellstrom.

In her article, Bellstrom discusses how many retail stores this holiday season are going to become more strict when it comes to returns. As she reports, one out of ten purchases is returned and, while 10% of purchases does not sound like much, it ends up totaling to a large amount ($43 million) in returned goods not during the fiscal year, but during the holiday.

I mean, wonder if Santa decided to just buy his reindeer for the Christmas season, saved the receipt, and returned Rudolph and his other reindeer buddies after he had finished delivering all of his gifts?

I must say that America, in general, is way too lenient about returns. My international marketing professor even told my class that in some countries refunds (and even coupons) are pretty much banned. It’s like preschool teachers used to say when someone would hand out treats during a classroom birthday celebration: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Well, whatever happened to that kind of mentality? In America, at least, it has faded just as fast as a laser-printed receipt does when sitting out in direct sunlight.

I remember when I first started working in retail and how shocked I was that people were able to get away with the most ridiculous returns. This one woman came in with a shampoo bottle (and it wasn’t the typical cheap V05 bottle, either) and told me that she wanted to return it. I picked up the bottle and realized it was pretty much empty. When I mentioned this to her, she said “Yeah, it leaked all over and that’s why I’m returning it.” Okay, even if a shampoo bottle did leak, it would take a long time for a large bottle to leak that much. But, as we all know, the customer is always right, and that woman ended up getting a refund anyway.

So, during these last few (and frenzied) days of holiday shopping, I would like to propose a challenge to serial refunders around the country: buy only what you need, make thoughtful and rational decisions when buying gifts for others, and if you do receive a crappy present, learn to appreciate it for what it is, or donate it to someone less fortunate instead of trying it out, damaging it, and then trying to get a few bucks back. It will make you feel happier, more appreciative, and will turn you into a better person. And no one would ever think of refunding a thoughtful, happy person.

Love is Blind, and So is Retail

4 Oct

Has it been a long month or what? Despite my best efforts, I have been so busy going to school, studying and reading for all my classes, going to group project meetings, and working that I haven’t been able to do much at all. After having a conversation with my boss, my hours have dropped significantly, which means that I have more free time to write on here, get more sleep, and possibly not go insane.

So, my manager hired a new guy at work whom I was finally able to meet yesterday. He seems to have a good sense of humor and likes to joke around, so I think he will fit in with our team of complete crazies perfectly! While he was ringing up my stuff, (I saved around $10 thanks to coupons and employee discounts. Working in retail has made me an awesome shopper!) he complained and told me that he was sick of working already. I said, “Well you only work until ten, so it shouldn’t be that bad.” And he rolled his eyes and replied, “Yeah but if you’ve been working five…consensual….err…days in  a row, it’s different.” And I said, “Consecutive?” and I heard the two customers behind me in line cracking up. Being a smart-ass has always earned me brownie points! Welcome to the jungle, new kid!

In retail land, it is already Halloween and Thanksgiving. Right after Halloween is done, it will be Christmas. In retail, special holiday items (such as candy, decorations, toys) are sent to stores at least a month or two in advance, and these shipments are immediately put out on the sales floor. Why, you may ask? Because even if Halloween candy is put out a month and a half before the actual event, people will buy it. Working in retail and experiencing so many holidays early can sometimes make me feel like I’m in a constant time warp.

The thing I hate most about experiencing holidays in retail is having to decorate the store. Since I have recently moved to a new store and am amongst a very large group of veteran employees, I think that this may be the first year where I am not asked to decorate the store and, let me tell you, it feels great! Apparently I give off an artsy (as well as hippie…I don’t know where people come up with these things) vibe, and at my old store I’d always have one of my managers come up to me and say “You seem artistic…you are going to decorate the store!” I would then explain to them that I struggle to even cut a straight line with scissors. They always seemed to think I was just having fun putting myself down until they saw the actual results of my “decorating”: uneven streamers, gift-wrapped boxes that a blind amputee could probably do a better job on, and various mishaps which involved me standing on the counter to hang something up and almost falling off or hitting someone else. Due to several bad incidents with box cutters, I am officially banned from even using them anymore. Yes, I am that clumsy. With that being said, if you ever walk into a store that looks as if it was decorated by a toddler, it was probably done by me.

Speaking of clumsiness, I had to do something that I have never done in my entire life before yesterday: I had to assist our loyal blind customer around the store. And let me tell you, the experience was most unpleasant.

You see, I am not really a touchy-feely sort of person. If I don’t know someone well and they even pat me on the back, I feel uncomfortable. Occasionally I have had certain senile elderly lady customers go all lezzy on me by touching/holding my hand while I am trying to help them or patting my cheeks and telling me how I am lucky to have such “young skin”. On the outside I try to just laugh it off, but on the inside I’m simultaneously screaming, crying, and running in circles.

When our loyal blind customer–we’ll call him Eddy–comes in, one of us usually stops, walks out from behind the register, and he holds on to the person’s arm and shops around the store with them. Eddy actually lives right next to our store, so he usually walks (with his cane) all alone. Yes, sometimes he falls outside. It’s okay, though, because he’s usually drunk twenty-four seven (I don’t blame him), so he doesn’t feel much.

Yesterday, Eddy came in and I was working with a shift supervisor and Mr. Consensual (the new guy). My shift turned to me and said that I would have to help him shop. I started shaking my head and mouthing “NOOO!” at her, but since she needed to supervise the new kid, I had no choice. Since I am not comfortable with strangers touching me, I had always managed to avoid helping Eddy shop in the past, but for once in my life I was left with no other choice.

I walked out from behind the register and tried to pretend like I had helped a blind man shop a million times before. “Eddy!” I said as I tapped his shoulder, “How ya doin’?” He told me he was doing fine and dandy, and he told me to take him to the “adult section”, which, of course, is the booze aisle. So he held onto my arm and I started walking in my usual fast pace until I realize that, duh, blind people kind of need to take it slow. So I slowed it down and, about ten minutes later, we finally made it to the alcohol aisle. He had me pick up a large jug of that nasty vodka that comes in the plastic containers, and we set off to the front of the store to have him get rung out.

I was actually pretty proud of myself for handling the whole “assisting a blind man” ordeal. Well look at me! I thought, I’m being like the most awesome employee ever because I am helping a handicapped person to shop. Where’s the local news photographers? This is totally a Kodak moment! So there I was with a grin on my face, ignoring the tight grip of Eddy’s hand on my arm, and as we were traipsing to the front of the store, I must have turned at an odd angle, because I heard a crashing noise. Guess what? I had walked Eddy right into a watch display because I wasn’t paying attention.

The watch display, luckily, did not come crashing down, but it did violently swing from side to side. Eddy, being the jolly drunkard that he is, laughed it off and said, “Oh haha! I must have taken a wrong turn!” I looked up to see my shift and Mr. Consensual hysterically laughing at me. Feeling completely mortified, I was tempted to ask Eddy if he could let me have a shot of his cheap vodka.

And that is why, my friends, clumsy people should not be allowed to do anything out of the ordinary when it comes to retail. Whether it is wrapping boxes or assisting blind men, there are just some things some things that I will never, ever, be able to do.

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