Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just Say No... to Writing Checks

Some things in the retail world are just bad, and it doesn't matter if you experience them from the customer side or as an employee.

Paying by check at a store? It deserves top spot on the Things Bad For Everyone list.

Hey, I understand that folks are afraid of identity theft if they use debit or credit cards. I understand not wanting to carry around a pickpocket-friendly wad of cash. But you know what? You have to pick your poison. Greenbacks or plastic. No middle ground.

Maybe we'll play along if you're a thoughtful soul who's got the whole thing filled out ahead of time, just needing to write in the amount, and you hand it over pronto with a photo ID.

But do you need to: a) launch an expedition into your cavernous purse to find the checkbook, b) ask the cashier to borrow a pen, c) ask the cashier what today's date is, d) ask the cashier how to spell the name of the store, e) ask the cashier how much your total is, f) write the details in your checkbook register before handing the check (and pen) to the cashier, g) dig a little deeper into your Marianas Trench of a handbag to find your driver's license, and h) shoot the cashier a dirty look because she dared to ask for a driver's license in the first place?

The check is not your friend. All affected parties in the vicinity are thinking ugly, hateful things. They're stringing together a lot of four-letter words. They're aiming them at you. Someday you're going to write a check near an irate guy with unknown telekinetic powers and he's going to make a vase fly at your head. It's gonna hurt.

Trust me, I'm a professional.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kid Consumers Rock

I love kids who are just starting to shop with "their own" money. They might be 7 or 8, learning the real-world ways of addition and subtraction as they count out cash and get change back, like the brother and sister who came through my line the other day.

Bro had picked out a small wooden craft kit and some candy, and his total came to $2.99. We worked out that he had a dollar bill, 4 quarters, and additional quarters/dimes/nickels to make up three bucks. I put his money in the till, handed him a penny back, and ceremoniously presented him with the small bag that was now legally his. With a big grin, he walked over to his mom and announced, "She gave me money back!!!"

Sis, a bit older, had one item -- costing exactly one dollar. She was proud that she'd found something she liked and not spent all her money. She also confided that she was ready to hit the next store. (It's a female DNA thing. There's no fighting it.) I handed over her very own, separate, bag. Hey, you can't go green all the time.

Another girl, probably 12 or so, came in recently to power shop. The complete mini-woman: sundress, sandals, hair drawn back in a ponytail, purse slung over her shoulder. Grabbed a shopping basket and was off to the races. Eventually she came through the line with the essentials -- mini writing pads and multi-colored pens, jewelry-making kits, cotton embroidery floss for friendship bracelets. I can't tell you how much she spent, but she'd made good use of the dollar bins and marked-down items.

She fished her wallet (complete with saved receipts) out of the purse and expertly counted out the greenbacks. I gave her the change, another receipt to save, and a coupon for the following week. Big smile from her and, "Yes! A coupon! Will my mom get one too when she checks out, 'cuz then we'll definitely be back!"

Yeah, those freshly-minted shoppers are all right. They've made it past how-can-you-possibly-keep-dragging-me-thru-this-store-and-that's-why-my-legs-don't-work-anymore. And the look-I'm-16-and-you're-a-totally-boring-Old-Woman-who-should-just-like-hurry-up-and-let-me-leave-already-OMG! milestone is still way out on the horizon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dog Customers? Yes! Wired Children? No!

At least once a shift, a mom (or dad or grandma) brings a human-powered GPS into the store. You didn't know human-powered GPS was available? It's easy to build:

1) Take one child, ideally 3-5 years old, who would prefer anything -- probably even a tetanus shot -- to shopping in a craft store.

2) Take said child through every nook and cranny of said craft store for at least 30 minutes -- no, make it an hour.

3) Have independent third party stand anywhere in the store. A store employee is ideally suited.

4) Let third party listen as Precious Offspring (see Step 1) is dragged from Scrapbooking to Beads to Picture Frames to Stitchery to Baskets to Greenery to Ribbon. Throw in a side trip to Cake Decorating to make it challenging.

You'd better believe the employee (or any other unfortunate fellow shopper) can pinpoint your location to within a foot.

Dogs, on the other hand, are model shoppers. Big dogs follow obediently as Mom (or Dad) does her (or his) thing. They might even sneak in a nap. Little guys -- those dog-as-an-accessory breeds -- ride sedately in their quilted beds. Not a peep. Usually don't even know they're around until they cruise through the check-out line.

One time somebody came in with a live baby duck. Can you believe I was off that day? Biggest regret of my professional career.

Chewing Gum Crisis Resolved

While I was cashiering today, a woman set down her items to purchase. It was some craft paint, maybe some stickers, and several packs of gum.

I specifically remember the gum, because she asked a) if "polar ice" was a mint flavor and b) if I "know anything" about the watermelon flavor. [My answer to a) was "yes!" and b) was "it smells good." My thought on b) was: "I doubt there's even a molecule of actual watermelon in it."]

I rang up the items, loaded them into a bag, and off she went. About half an hour later, I picked up a phone call. It was none other than Customer With(out?) Gum (hereafter known as CWG).

CWG: "I was in your store awhile ago, and I bought some gum. Are you the one who waited on me?"

Me: "Yes, that was me."

CWG: "Well I just got home, and there's NO GUM in my bag. What happened to it?!?"

Me: "I really don't know. It hasn't been busy here tonight, and I remember putting it in your bag. There's nothing laying on the counter here."

CWG: "There is NO GUM here. You put it in a different bag by mistake and gave it to someone else. I have a receipt for it."

Me: "I really don't I did. I rang the gum up last and put it in the bag on top of your other things."
CWG: "There's NO GUM. I'm going on vacation and need it to bring with me! I have the receipt!"

Me: "I'm so sorry you can't find the gum. Maybe it fell out in your car?"

CWG: "IT IS NOT in my car. What am I supposed to do? I have a receipt!"

Me: "I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened. I do remember it being in the bag."

We looped through the conversation several more times, with the main concern being that the gum was needed for vacation. I was thinking, as she was talking: "Why is gum needed for this vacation? Are you flying somewhere? Will you not be able to get gum anywhere else? Don't they sell gum at the airport? I've gotten gum at the airport. Is the TSA involved in this?"

We finally resolved that a) she would return to the store tomorrow with her receipt, b) it would be during a time that I was working, c) I would give her replacement gum at no additional charge, and d) I'd be sure and let my co-workers know that she was indeed entitled to this gum -- just in case I was unavailable to serve.

After hanging up, I realized a nearby cashier was staring at me. She gave me the you-haven't-really-been-discussing-gum-all-this-time Look, and I gave her the oh-you-better-believe-I-have-been Shrug in response.

Exhausted from our Plato-worthy go-round, I walked over to Wood Crafts to put away some returns and ponder the universe. A minute or two later, I was paged to the service desk for a phone call. And yes, Virginia, it was CWG.

"I was just talking to my son. He was in the shower when I called you before. While we were driving home from shopping, I guess our bags tipped over. He picked everything up and put the gum in (wait for it) another bag. I won't be in tomorrow. I do need the gum for vacation." (Of course! Where she's going, gum is used as currency.)

Another half hour I'll never get back.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The First Post (play fanfare here)

Yup, it's my blog. The most special and rewarding blog in the world. (And it likes you better than those other heartless blogs.)

But why am I really here? 1) I live a completely average middle-class life, but there seems to be at least one humorous or memorable or bizarre moment in every day. 2) I love to write.

So, the idea of (ahem) enriching the Internet with my random comments suits me down to the ground. And who knows... maybe someone else out there will get a smile or useful idea from them.

They say to write what you know. What I know is makin' crafts and trying to sell them via the Internet. I know about working with a great crew of people at a busy retail outlet and waiting on customers. I know about facing a rapidly-approaching 50th birthday and thinking, "How in the wide world of sports did this get here so fast?" I know what inspires me, and what breaks my heart. Most importantly, I know what makes me smile. Fortunately, the list is long.

Ready to go along for the ride? Okay then, buckle up.