Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Today I was getting ready for work and had a little extra time so I switched on the computer to check out the blog updates for the day.

I was late for work, for what I found on one blog took several readings.

A few years back when a family member died, it was tough, but expected because of old age. A little later another family member was killed in an accident, but it was a life well lived so it was somehow acceptable.

Today I read of an acquaintance's death by suicide. Someone young, seemingly happy, with not any more than a normal person's share of troubles. A friend of a friend of a friend, really, but still, I feel like I knew him through his blog.

There's no way to make sense of it. Someone my age. Not that unlike me. Dead. By his own hand. No sense at all. It hit me hard and I didn't even know him that well. What his family and close friends must be feeling is unfathomable.

At work I went about the normal routines while trying to process the information. A customer complaint about being out of stock.....who cares. The cashier needs staff issues....doing paperwork....all on auto-pilot.....why did he do it? A bright future, a loud yet clear voice, unfulfilled dreams.....forever darkened, silenced, and unfulfilled. Why?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A woman approached the register that I was running, ASSISTING A CUSTOMER, to ask for help. It was obvious from the start that she would be nothing but trouble. I informed her, "I'm helping this person right now, but I'll get someone to help you if you'll wait a moment."

Someone was close by so she got the help right away. When the employee returned to the front with the customer, it was obvious that the employee was PISSED OFF and trying to keep from:

a) using inappropriate language with the customer and

b) running at her with a knife and repeatedly stabbing her until she shut up.

Lucky me, it was still busy so I got to ring the lady's sale. She complained about EVERYTHING and then she took forever to write her check. She asked me something and I wasn't really paying attention (since I was nearly asleep from standing there waiting so long) so I just repeated the total. She snottily replied, "I asked for the DATE." Oh. {Scan my computer screen, looking for the date....why should I know it any better than her?} "Who do I make it out to?" {My store.} (Do you need me to spell everything for you, too?)

Then our check approval system wasn't working perfectly. The customer wanted to know, "What's the problem with your system?" I casually explained, "Oh, there was just a communication problem with the bank the first time." The customer accusingly replied, "Oh, it wasn't MY bank's problem. It was YOUR system." (Fine, whatever. Doesn't matter. Just leave.)

She left, ignoring my goodbye.

A few minutes later, she was back....with an exchange.

"Apparently the boy wasn't **intelligent enough** to know that I wanted the same colors. Why would I want this color? I want to exchange this."

"OK.....that's fine....." (what are you waiting for????).

"I don't remember what aisle they were on."

"Shall I get it for you?" I HATE THIS FAKE SUBSERVIENCE!! But with this woman, I was totally "respectful" while being sarcastic and matching her attitude. Nothing I could get in trouble for, but just enough of an edge so she couldn't take advantage of me.

The employee she was referring to is actually quite smart. Later I asked him about it, just curiosity, not because I believed he did anything wrong. He explained that she SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED the color that she originally bought to match something else that she already owned, not to match the other item that she was buying.

There's a 90% chance that she'll return everything she bought. It was that kind of sale. Waste his time, my time, then my time again for a small sale. Intelligent? My employee gave her the color that she asked for. He wasn't intelligent enough to read her mind that she really and truly wanted the other color?! Please!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Back to Work

Did I not say that I was going on vacation? Oops, guess not. So....I went on vacation last week. Had fun. Rested. Got burnt to a crisp and spent all my money. Normal vacation stuff.

My first day back was mostly good. I felt refreshed and was much more patient with customers. I assisted several regulars who I hadn't seen for awhile. I also had several problem employees where it was to the point of my practically beating them to get them to do ANYTHING.

Most of the employees (at least the good ones) were glad to see me back…..let's just say that there were a few "issues" while I was gone. So much so that according to the other managers, I'm not allowed to take any more vacations. Yeah, well, I still have some vacation days left! It's not my fault that those issues happened while I was gone. It just would have made it a little easier having another manager to spread the stress around.

Back to work......I'm sure I'll have some more stories soon!

Monday, May 22, 2006


One of my best employees got a disturbing phone call at work. Luckily I was already in the area to take over her for her while she took the call. She NEVER gets personal calls, so I suspected it was something bad from the start.

Sure enough, when she emerged from the office a few minutes later she looked pretty shaken. She apologized for the personal call. (Are you kidding me? Emergencies are fine. It's the employees who have friends calling ten times a day every day to make evening plans who get disciplined.) When she explained what was going on she began crying in the "I'm at work and I don't want my boss or my co-workers to see me upset" kind of way. All I could say was, "I'm sorry. Do you need a few minutes?" "Would that be all right?" Uh, yeah!

Now I hate drama in the workplace and people who can't handle things and "oh, my boyfriend broke up with me for the tenth time this week, the world is ending" and all that kind of nonsense. But this was entirely different.

It was so hard to see this particular employee upset. She's normally cheerful and enthusiastic and even the most annoying customer doesn't phase her. She's optimistic and improves the mood of everyone around her. (Except for in the morning. There IS a thing called being too cheerful in the morning. It's early-thirty. I'm not even awake yet. SHUT UP and STOP SMILING. She has gotten better at that, though, realizing that I need a couple of hours to wake up before having any kind of meaningful conversation.)

She handles customers beautifully, gets along with all of her co-workers, is well-liked, works hard, thoroughly does anything you ask of her in a timely manner without complaint, does things WITHOUT BEING TOLD TO, etc. I've NEVER seen her in even a slightly bad mood or anything. But with this news it was hard for her to hold it together.

But she did……more or less. She tried hard. Some employees will call in with a "I can't come to work today. My third cousin sprained his ankle a month ago. I have to go visit him at his house instead of coming to work." But she was extremely accommodating. She didn't want to leave us short-handed, so we arranged for her to leave early when a replacement could come in. She did her job, but the issue obviously weighed heavily on her mind.

The next day I half expected her to call in, but she showed up. She showed up with swollen eyes from being up most of the night, but she was there. Again, she left early, but it was a true give-and-take that left both sides satisfied.

She was scheduled off the next few days. The next time I saw her I wasn't sure how to handle it. Should I ask her about it? Should I wait? I don't want her to think I forgot or don't care, but I also don't want to get her upset again. After all, if it was good news wouldn't she have shared it right away? Later in the day she shared the bad news, the news we were half expecting. A tear or two escaped, this time without the embarrassment of the first day. She tried to put a positive spin on it…….that's the employee I remember! I again expressed my regrets, genuine regrets. You know…..there's the people that you say "I'm sorry" to because you're expected to, and then there's the people that you really do feel sorry. You feel their pain because you know them so well or perhaps because you've been there yourself.

Funny thing, wait, poor choice of words, weird thing is…..I feel like we got to know each other a lot better through this situation. We saw a side of each other that we haven't seen before. Because of the transitory nature of the retail worker, I don't get to know people until they've been here awhile. Seriously, no personal questions until they've worked at least a month or two. It's just not worth the energy to get to know someone who might be gone tomorrow.

Anyway, the way she handled the situation showed her commitment to the store and a strength that I didn't realize she had. We've been considering her for a management position, but weren't sure about it. I didn't feel that she was ready and favored Duh boy instead (who has improved immensely). After this, I've become a lot more open to her as a manager. It's possible. She needs lots of practice on some of the technical aspects of the job, but on the interpersonal aspects, she's light years ahead of Duh boy.

We had a few touchy days with an ultimately bad outcome, yet a good outcome for the store and for relationships. I can almost see us as friends, but then there's the boss-employee thing. I'm never sure where that boundary lies. Ultimately I feel like I handled the situation as best I could and was I imagining it or was she glad that I was on duty and not one of the other managers when all of this happened?

Perhaps she needs a nickname. I've already got a "Friendly," so for her, I think she should be called "Happy."

Friday, May 19, 2006


I spent a lot of time with an old woman today. She couldn't remember what she usually buys, couldn't lift anything WHATSOEVER, and after each item I had to walk it (and her) to the cashier before she decided that she needed help with more stuff …..blah blah blah……strictly her talking for 10 minutes about nothing related to anything in my store. At that point she needed help with something else in a far part of the store but the cashier needed change and another customer needed help with a truly heavy item.

I asked her to go on back to that section and I'd be there in a minute (knowing it would take her a lot longer to walk there than me). I carried the heavy item to the customer's car, got the change, then took a phone call regarding a supposedly defective item. (The man hadn't read the directions. Amazing what a difference that makes.)

I was on my way to see what else the lady needed when I heard her back in the front complaining to the cashier that no one had come to help her. Augh! Shall I strangle you now, or wait until you need help to your car with your 5 pounds worth of stuff and do it then???

There are some old people that I absolutely love (and not just family members). But others…….they drive me CRAZY! They think they're entitled to my undivided attention for as long as they want it. They have nowhere to go and nothing to do, and think that I don't, either. When you combine a store full of ancients who all think that the world revolves around them with a few time-starved baby boomers who want to get IN and OUT FAST with a limited number of employees and you have a problem!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


We got a surprise visit from the fire marshall. Was this guy ever strange! When I saw him coming I got the attention of another manager across the store, pointed the official out, and mouthed a few key words to get her started fixing something that we routinely do that we shouldn't.

I distracted him while she took care of that, yet he still found a violation. The violation was, THANK GOD, something that people at the store level have absolutely no control of nor responsibility for. He also made a few suggestions for improvements, but nothing that was legally required.

Had it been busy or had I not seen him, then both Boss and I would have been in trouble (from our company, not the fire department).....her as the store manager for permitting the improper behavior and me as the manager on duty for, basically, permitting the improper behavior on my shift.

We'll have to be on our best behavior until they come to re-inspect. Then it's back to normal. After all, how often do they come? Every third year or something? Well maybe a little more often than that, but....who follows the rules all the time, anyway?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Search Terms: Weird

The last of the searches used to find my page.........the Weird, unclassifiable searches.

  • The person who searched for "beautiful bruises" is a little out there.

  • I'm not sure what the Brit who queried "record waste in retail" wanted. Waste? Like employees wasting time goofing off/doing nothing? The waste that results from taking returns that have to be returned to the manufacturer for destruction? When we destroy old employees' records? The change from records to tapes to CDs and all the waste that resulted from that? I don't get it.

  • "insubordination firing retail"—Besides the grammatical combination of that search…..I agree that if they're insubordinate, FIRE THEM.

  • "items that normal people can't afford" ???

  • "Retail theft laws in Indiana"….What makes you think I'm in Indiana? Indiana? Where's that? : )

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Search Terms: Employees

  • A student at Delaware University wanted to know "how to quit a retail job without notice." My advice is, DON'T. It's cowardly and disloyal and totally wrong to quit without notice. Besides, you might want to put it on your job history and no matter what reason you put, it'll make you look bad. I've had job applicants put "disagreement with management" as a reason for quitting without notice. Well, likely you're a trouble-maker yourself, but even if it was a legitimate management issue, the solution is to give notice, work a fairly miserable two weeks, and then you're free. Another put, "moved." Didn't you know you were moving ahead of time?? Or, "death in family." So you just walk out, never to return? Not the kind of employee I want. Give AND work your notice. That's only fair.

  • "employee insubordination" I just about quit over that. Start out tough and loosen up if you can later on. If they're insubordinate, don't wait until it gets out of hand before doing anything. At the first sign, DO SOMETHING. Whether it's an informal chat or a formal disciplinary action, don't let the employee get away with it because it will only get worse.

  • "boss ignores me" I've felt like that before. Stand up for yourself. Make a contribution so when you're not around it's obvious what you do. Make waves when it makes sense.

  • Someone wanted to know "how to be a good employee." Gee, that's a post by itself. In a nutshell, show up consistently and on time, do what's asked of you plus some, have a good attitude, make an effort.

  • For the person who "had to fire someone"………….yeah, sucks, doesn't it? Definitely my least favorite part of the job.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Search Terms: Store Policies

More search terms:

  • Wanting to know what the "retail break policy" is? I sense an aversion to work. I guess you'd have to check with the store. Labor laws give some guidelines that are applied to every job, but jobs vary widely in what breaks they give. As long as they don't take advantage of the policy, I'm fairly flexible with my employees' breaks. On slow days they can break a little longer. On busy days, it's totally by the book. I need them on the sales floor.

  • "Can I ask store to reprint receipt?" Ask away. Some stores can, while some can't. Why do you want a reprint? If it's immediately after the purchase it shouldn't be much of a problem. But if it's a week later and you've lost the original receipt and swear that you bought it last Thursday, I WILL NOT search the computer for it. I've tried to be the nice guy in the past and have learned that chances are, it wasn't Thursday. It might have been Wednesday, or Saturday, or two weeks ago Thursday, or a month ago, or at another store, and I have lots to do besides searching for something you can't remember.

  • "What retail stores don't hire children under 18?" You expected to find a list? If you're under 18 and looking for a job, ask when you apply if they'll hire you. Otherwise, why does it matter?

  • "refund retail policy" There are a million different stores with a million different refund policies. ASK what the policy is BEFORE you buy. That helps all of us.

  • "inventory prep" How to prep for inventory? Start early. Get like items together. Pull out all of the hidden merchandise. Make sure all defective items and returns are processed properly. Don't wait until the last minute to do all of this. START EARLY.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Search Terms: Laws

The 200th post and I have nothing momentous to write.

I have been collecting some of the search terms used to find my blog. I've divided them into four groups: Laws, Store Policies, Employees, and just plain Weird. The first installment is today.


  • Someone wanted to know whether they should put a shoplifting history on their job application. Answer: in my store, yes. We ask if you have a criminal history, so if you say "no" and we find out later, we have the right to fire you on the spot for lying on your application. Of course, if you put the shoplifting history on the application, we won't hire you. People don't easily change. Shoplifting is only easier when you're an employee. So definitely, save us both the trouble and put it on the application. Or better yet, don't apply at all. Go work in a restaurant or an office where there's not much to steal.

  • A student in Pennsylvania asked, "will retail theft go on my record." I sure hope it goes on your record…..theft is theft. Retail theft is no different than any other kind of theft, you just didn't use violence. You're still hurting my store, its employees, and every customer who has to pay higher prices to cover the missing merchandise.

  • "Is it illegal for cashiers to ask for id if the card is signed." Hmm….probably not, but who knows? We've got some pretty weird laws. I would think if it's a store policy that's applied consistently, then it's probably perfectly legal. But if the cashier only asks Eskimos for ID, then it is probably illegal. I usually ask for ID if it's a big purchase or the signature on the card is a squiggle that would be easy to copy, or if I get a funny feeling or if it's a guy's name and a woman's using the card.

  • Someone in Indiana wanted to know, "Is it illegal to take merchandise that the cashier didn't ring?" Well, did you pay for it? No, so did the store give it to you? No, so it's practically the same as stealing unless you go back and pay for it, right?

  • "fire marshall fines store or manager" We're both lucky that the fines go to the store. But I suspect that if it was something the manager did that caused the violation/fine, then the manager would be subject to disciplinary action/dismissal. Example: store merchandise in front of the fire exit, and I'm pretty sure that while the store would pay the fine, they would NOT be happy with the manager.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Impulse Buys

Impulse buys are sometimes a good thing—it adds to the bottom line and customers might have needed the item anyway and the merchant is just "reminding" them of that. However, impulse buys are sometimes a VERY BAD THING. Perhaps it's too expensive or you haven't fully considered where you're going to put it or how you're going to maintain it.

You shouldn't just walk into an antique store and think, "WOW! I love that armoire! It's on sale for $2000 so I think I'll buy it." You get it delivered and find that while your ceilings are only 7 feet tall, the armoire is 8 feet tall. Of course you have to return it, but then get angry because the delivery fee is non-refundable and there's a 10% restocking fee. Maybe you should have thought about it and measured the armoire and ceiling first?

You shouldn't go to a computer store and buy a computer because you like the shape of the monitor. When you get it home you use it for a while and then your son comes home from university and you find that he can't play his games on it because the sound card sucks. You want to return it but it's been a few weeks and perhaps you've got a virus on it, who knows? No, there are no exceptions just for you. Some things cannot be returned.
We have a lot of impulse buys at my store. People think the return policy doesn't apply to them. Some impulse buys are good. But when it's a big or potentially life-changing purchase, THINK BEFORE BUYING.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why are you harassing me?

Lots of times I recognize customers—sometimes it's a good feeling, but often it's a bad feeling. (Regulars who don't make waves aren't as memorable.) Saturday I recognized a customer, and while I didn't remember the specifics, it was definitely a bad feeling.

The woman attempted to return {something that isn't a normal product that if you knew what it was it would make a lot more sense} that didn't comply with our policies. When she explained the problem, I remembered the specifics of why I knew her…….she's done this before, and I said no (before). She threw a fit. I made a ONE TIME EXCEPTION, making it very clear that this was a ONE TIME THING. Well, Saturday she did the same thing again. I said no. She threw a fit. I said no and explained what she'd have to do to comply with our policies, which wouldn't be very difficult if it was legitimate. She threw a fit. I said no. She threw a fit. I said no.

"Why are you harassing me?!" she SCREAMED AT ME (after the second time of saying no, I believe).

I said nothing. Nothing I was thinking was anywhere near what wouldn't get me disciplined/fired.

She counted to ten, OUT LOUD, and then asked, again, "Why are you harassing me?"

Yeah. I'm harassing you. Sure. Who's the one yelling?! I calmly replied, "This is what you can do to comply with our policies. Otherwise, I can't do anything for you."

Now perhaps it was a mistake to make the one time exception, but Boss frequently does this and expects us to do so, at our discretion. Thing is, it's a ONE TIME thing. Not a whenever-you-feel-like-it thing. This customer is taking advantage of the store.

With a threatening tone, she demanded, "What's your corporate number?!"

I gladly gave it to her……….but not the 1-800 one. The other one. Where she'd have to pay for the call.

She huffed and puffed a little more, surprised that her demand for our corporate number didn't get her what she wanted. Finally she left.

Ten minutes later, she was back to yell some more. She accused, "That's not the right number! It's only a recording! You gave me the wrong number!"

"It's Saturday. The office is closed. You can leave a message or call them on Monday."

Not satisfied with that, she made more demands, "When will the other manager be in?"

"Monday." I said nothing more. I still seethed, still thought terrible things, still bit my tongue so hard it was practically bleeding.

She left again.

When Boss came in today I mentioned the situation to her, but apparently she didn't listen because when I stepped out to do some store errands the woman came in. And made demands. And Boss gave her what she wanted…… a ONE TIME THING.

When I heard about it, I was livid. "Boss! How could you?! Weren't you listening?! She's done this before. She comes in and causes a childish scene and gets what she wants REPEATEDLY; she's taking advantage of the store in a big way. We're LOSING MONEY because she's our customer."

"Oh, you didn't tell me all that."

YES!!!! I did!!!! You weren't listening!!!!!!!!

Boss says the woman won't be allowed to do that again. We'll see. We have some of the classiest customers (in all economic groups); we also have THE trashiest, "get something for nothing" customers (rich and poor). Boss is entirely too lenient with customers, not wanting to cause waves. If it came down to it, I could see Boss giving in. As I said, we'll see.

With Boss's approval, I won't give in to the woman's demands. If I'm not here, my two cashiers from the "throwing a fit" day know what she looks like. Boss recognizes her. The other manager knows about her and agrees completely with me that she's taking advantage of the store and should be stopped. She knows the woman's physical description, repeated problem, and story (that changes frequently). But, now the woman's gotten her way three times by throwing fits. Next time I can only imagine that the fit will be worse. I can foresee a "step out or I'll call the police" moment coming.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Leave Now!

I had to call the police today, right at the end of my shift. There was a very aggressive panhandler approaching cars and demanding money. This particular guy was in an electronic wheelchair going back and forth between several stores and restaurants. I could just see someone hitting him.......on our property.......what a mess that would be. I went out and told him he needed to leave. He responded that he was "waiting for someone." Yeah. Right.

A few minutes later a customer came in and complained about him wheeling up to the car and knocking on the door to ask for money. We tried the nice way. Now let's try another way.

I called the non-emergency number for the police department and explained the worries about the man's safety and my customers' annoyance, safety issues, etc. The dispatcher agreed to send someone out.

Then it was time for me to leave, so like many times, I don't know how the story ended..........did he leave before the police arrived, did the police "requesting" him to leave work a little better than my request, or did they have to be more forceful?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Un Dia Sin Immigrantes

This is a belated response to the May 1 "A Day Without Immigrants" event. For those not in the USA, the day was an attempt to influence legislator's decisions regarding impending immigration law changes. It was basically a boycott in which immigrants were absent from school and work and refused to buy anything.

***I want to make sure that I'm understood. I don't have a problem with immigrants or minorities. What I do have a problem with is people who break the law to enter or stay in the country.***

The May 1 event didn't affect my store....AT ALL. Everyone came to work, we made a normal amount of money for the day, and life continued as normal. After work I accidentally ended up in the middle of a rally that drew quite a few people, but it was peaceful, with almost a party-like atmosphere.

I do not support amnesty for those here illegally. They broke the law, and should not be given the easy route to citizenship when it took many years for others to become citizens while following the law. Do we need illegals? Well, cleaning hotel rooms, picking fruit, gardening, doing heavy construction work.....not on most people's favorites list. But, perhaps paired with welfare reform, those now milking the unemployment or disability systems could take over some of the undesirable jobs.

Historically, Americans haven't handled immigration well. I was recently reading about immigration in the 1890s-1920s; many of the same issues debated in that time period are being debated now.

I know one person here illegally (most people are fairly quiet about their status). He makes more money than I do, yet doesn't pay a single cent in income taxes. However, he can't get health insurance because of his legal status. If he's sick, he uses the local emergency room or walk-in clinic. For everyday things, he pays out-of-pocket. But if he were to be seriously injured, he wouldn't be able to pay. Yet the hospital would still have to treat him, then end up charging more to everyone else, leading to an increase in insurance premiums.

Schools are already full beyond full, struggling to provide even an adequate level of education; social services are stretched thin; in many ways we're having trouble taking care of the people already here. There are legal ways to come to the USA. Certainly it's a long and complicated process, but it is possible in some cases. It's not our fault that Mexico's economy is in bad shape. They shouldn't make their poor our responsibility.

A related issue is what language the immigrants should speak. A long time ago English was chosen as our language. Ballots should NOT be printed in any other language, since English proficiency is necessary to become a citizen and only citizens can vote. With the possible exception of visa applications, government forms should NOT be printed in any other language. Hospitals and schools should NOT have to provide a translator. It's called English. If you live in the USA, LEARN IT.

(I speak, to some degree, two other languages, so I'm not the stereotypical American who can only speak English. But it's impractical to provide translations/translators in every language and if you only provide translations in some languages, then that's not becomes problematic.)

That's only a tiny bit of what's going on. The issues are complicated and will continue to be discussed both in and out of legislative chambers.

Any thoughts?

Monday, May 01, 2006


Does anyone else have those rich women customers who've never worked a day in their lives who come in with their doting husbands? The women take forever to pick out what they want, TOTALLY indecisive. The men don't help out AT ALL. It's all, "Whatever you want, honey," or "It doesn't matter to me." No attempts to hurry her along or make her DECIDE SOMETHING this DECADE.

Of course they came in when it was busy and people were out sick. They were nice enough, which made it even more difficult to hurry them along. I tried, "Well, I'll let you talk about it for a while." She responds, "Oh no, we've almost decided. What were the differences between {Items A, B, C, D, E, F, and G} again?" And again. And again.