Thursday, June 29, 2006


Some of my regular customers are really cool. We joke, give advice, recommend new restaurants, discuss local problems and possible solutions, etc. It's all as time permits, too. If it's really busy, my regulars understand and do their best to stay out of my hair.

Then there are the annoying regulars who are demanding no matter what and threaten to call my boss/corporate EVERY TIME THEY SHOP because it makes them feel special and powerful. Well, you're not special and you're not powerful. You're idiots.

We also have quite a few special needs customers. Some are awesome. They know they need extra help but do what they can to HELP THEMSELVES before requesting assistance. We learn to recognize them and remember what help they need and what they can do themselves.

Other people with special needs are TERRIBLE. They come in barking orders and don't lift a finger. I've had some people fling a list at me and expect me to do their shopping for them, plus know which of the 500 shampoos is the one on their list. Some people throw a fit because we don't have chairs for them to sit in while they wait for a spouse to shop. I barely have room for merchandise! You want a waiting area, too?!

The people who need extra assistance because of their weight REALLY annoy me. You don't get to be 300+ pounds overnight. Don't expect everyone to cater to you because you can't walk or lift stuff. You're a drain on society. Medical costs…..on disability in many cases….take some responsibility and do something about your problem.

For our nice regulars (even the semi-nice ones) we really go above and beyond. One regular was recovering from surgery and his wife doesn't drive at all so I delivered to their home several times (completely off the clock and non-company sanctioned and totally out of my way). We often hold merchandise, sometimes for far longer than we should, because we know that the regular will be in to make the purchase. I've stayed open late or let a regular sneak in a little before we open to shop, especially if I know they won't be a bother.

My store is big enough to have what you need yet small enough to know you. Now if a stranger asked me to bring something to their home or hold a large quantity of an item for a length of time or stay open late, I'd say NO WAY. Absolutely not. But for my regulars (especially the nice ones) I'll attempt any reasonable request.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


2,996......the official count of dead/missing from the 9/11 attacks.

There will be a tribute 9/11/06 with 2,996 bloggers each remembering one of the victims. Sign up here: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11.

I will most likely NOT be participating.

Certainly 9/11 was a national tragedy. I will always remember where I was when I first heard the news. It was an emotional event because it made us realize we were at risk and how much some people/countries hate us. It made us fear for our own family's safety.

However, there have been other national tragedies and other bombings and other disasters. We make a big deal out of this one day while some countries have attacks DAILY (Israel is one example) and other countries have people starving to death (many African countries, North Korea), and natural disasters kill far more than 2,996 people.

Waving the flag is great, but know what it stands for and don't sacrifice freedoms just so you can feel more secure (because you're not really that much more secure). I wholeheartedly agree with the quote sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

I say this after having lived in a country where censorship was alive and well and you'd better have your ID card with you when you went out. The government believed it was protecting its people. What are we, children? I think I can decide what I can view on the internet, read, or watch on TV/video. I don't need a government doing it for me. And if we're not allowed to criticize the government and its actions, then how can things improve?

American officials are heading in a dangerous direction and in some cases disregarding the Bill of Rights to try to make us just a little safer from future terrorist attacks. There will always be a risk of attacks, and I'd much rather there be a slightly greater risk and have freedom than for it to be safer but less free. And where does it stop? Today wiretaps, tomorrow tracking your movements? Controlling what job you have?

As long as the USA is rich, powerful, and arrogant, there will be those who hate us. Yes, us. I am an American. I do feel patriotism and am grateful to those who serve(d) in the military. But I feel that the everyday American blindly accepts what they're told as fact. They wave the flag and say we live in such a great country and then they go and treat each other like dirt.

Most of the 2,996 were not heroes. They were victims. Like victims of a murder or a car crash or a disease. Should they be memorialized by the whole country? You decide. All nationalities welcome: A Tribute to the Victims of 9/11.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

This is how you run a company?

I continue to feel like my company is either having financial problems or is EXTREMELY POORLY RUN at the corporate level.

We find out about important things at the last minute, have limited quantities of merchandise that's on sale, have shelves that are nearly empty of some items but overflowing with others, we leave messages that don't get returned (certain departments usually return calls, certain ones rarely do, certain ones NEVER do), we get memo's from different departments telling us OPPOSITE things to do, we get essentially the SAME memo from 4+ departments, shelves are empty and finally a month later I find out that we won't be carrying that item anymore, tons of new items come in yet we don't have fixtures (ordered three months ago) to display them, other new items aren't recognized by the computer so we don't even know how much to charge for the items, ETC.

Latest bungle: HR asked for paperwork from an employee who quit SIX MONTHS AGO! Their excuse: "We didn't receive the termination paperwork." Uh huh. Sure. I PERSONALLY sent it to you.....twice......once when the employee resigned and again a month later since you lost the first one. OK, let's make it three times. Like I don't have anything else to do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


There are so many stories that I haven't shared because it would expose my specialty area. Other stories are barely understandable because important details had to be left out. I've decided that sharing occasional stories isn't that risky as long as I don't use search engine-friendly words. To avoid the search engines, the wording might be strange, but you should be able to get the point.

In my line of work I deal with non-human beings frequently. Today one of these non-human beings was injured and needed medical attention. We took him to the appropriate professional (starts with a "v") to be attended to. A few hours laters the professional (I use that term loosely) called to say that he had died "before he had a chance to look at him." The professional LEFT HIM TO DIE WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT HIM.

Gross negligence. A needless death. See if we recommend you to our customers, EVER again! It's your fault that he died. We expressed the urgency of his condition and yet you WAITED to even look at him?! You even charged a fee to dispose of his body!!

It's not worth it trying to get reimbursed for the money we lost because of the death, but we will be negotiating a contract with a new professional IMMEDIATELY.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Shrinking payroll dollars

Amazing what the office expects us to do with a smaller and smaller payroll budget.

One problem is that minimum wage has risen far higher than it should have. What's wrong with a high school student making $5.15 an hour? Or someone with limited skills, or someone we're training.....for a while there I was blowing my payroll on incompetent dolts. Now everyone knows what they're doing, more or less. Pay should be based on skills, not on the cost of living.

So what does corporate expect us to do? Let's see......the most important thing is to provide a level of service that you might expect at Tiffany's or other exclusive stores. Problem is, we're not all that exclusive. We are, yet we're not. We get people from all walks of life. Some spend a few dollars while some spend a thousand dollars. Some people want help while others want to be left alone. We're to provide one-on-one attention to all.

Some customers are lonely and pretend to need help so they can chat a while. The majority of our less-affluent customers have a limited intellect such that it takes two or three times longer to explain things to them than to a normal person. There are more returns from them, many due to using the product wrong or deciding that they spent too much. Shoplifting has gotten completely out of control.

People come in seeking advice and after we've spent considerable time with them they go somewhere like Wal-mart to buy. THEN they come back to us and expect us to trouble-shoot why their item isn't working as advertised. "Because you bought the cheapest model out there" doesn't satisfy them. They come to us for replacement parts and are angry because we can't tell them which part fits their generic item....different companies, different size parts....I'm not familiar with Wal-mart's inferior products. There is a reason that our products cost more--QUALITY. So my employees are also helping people who aren't even buying anything in our store, all out of my small payroll budget.

Then there are all the children using our store as a playground/zoo. The parents shop or talk with friends while the children RUN through the aisles, terrorize the staff, pull items off shelves, break things, SCREAM AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, climb up shelves, and otherwise use staff time. There's the time we spend telling the children to WALK, use their "inside voices," "find your parents, NOW!" and cleaning up the mess they leave behind.

Other things corporate expects us to do are reasonable enough, I guess, but with so few employee hours we're usually rushing around like madmen to try to get everything done. Last week was a rare quiet moment. What with all the ordering, stocking, cleaning, merchandising, pest/rodent control, paperwork.....there's a lot to do but few people to do it. Many days I feel that we can take care of the customers well or we can take care of the physical store well, but we can't do both. So we end up doing a shitty job on both and getting flak from customers and corporate.

Are there any executives reading?? We're humans, not robots! There's a limit to what we can do! Give us the necessary resources and see how much we can accomplish. Let it stand as it is and spend more money recruiting and training new employees when the current employees find higher paying jobs or less stressful ones.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I'm a klutz.

Boss is away for the week on business, my best cashier is on vacation, and I go and hurt myself at work. Fantastic timing.

The injury happened at the end of a LONG day and the last thing I felt like doing was sitting in the ER for who knows how many hours. I also hoped that perhaps it wasn't so bad and would resolve itself overnight. Nope. Got worse. So the next day I went to work in street clothes to file the necessary paperwork and get authorization to go to a walk-in clinic.

The manager on duty helped with the mounds of required paperwork. She was on the phone with the insurance company, I was filling out papers (in STREET CLOTHES, did I mention?) and MULTIPLE customers entered the employees-only area to ask for help. She finished on the phone and returned to the sales floor to assist customers, and people CONTINUED to approach me (IN STREET CLOTHES) to ask me where something was or what accessories they needed, etc. DOES IT LOOK LIKE I'M WORKING?! I actually said something like that to one lady and she asked me to find someone who was working. I CAN BARELY WALK. I AM IN PAIN. LEAVE ME ALONE.

I went for the drug test first since they have limited hours, then to the doctor. Go figure.....we have to make sure I'm not on illegal drugs before I can even get treated for an injury! Then, unfortunately, it was back to work. With Boss gone I have to work more than normal…..not going to work is not an option. Death MIGHT be an excuse, but injury is not. Can you imagine working retail on crutches……not fun.

Surprisingly, customers were a little nicer and less demanding than normal. With my limited mobility I'm relying on the junior managers a LOT. I'm delegating more than normal and trusting my employees to do the job like they know they're supposed to. So far it's working well. As far as I can tell they're not taking advantage, but I'm not giving them much chance to, either. I've asked for frequent progress reports and hobble over for a surprise inspection every now and then.

This is going to be a very long week.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Regular vs. Sale Price

A customer brought in her receipt and an advertisement from our main competitor. Her complaint? The item was supposed to be on sale but we charged her full price. I pointed out that it wasn't OUR ad, but that we do match prices. She was surprised that it wasn't our ad, even though both her receipt from our store and the ad from the competitor had the store names clearly marked. The ad didn't say what the regular price was on that item, it just said how much the discount was. I had my suspicions, but I called anyway.

After going through several menu options I finally reached a live person, asked the price of the item (pretending to be a customer, of course), and was put on hold. I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally I got the price and my suspicions were confirmed….our REGULAR price is cheaper than their SALE price.

I told the customer that and she seemed upset. She asked, "So I'm not going to get any money back?"

No, because even with the discount they charge more than we do.

"Wait. I don't understand."

Their REGULAR price is $39. With the discount, they're selling it for $35. Our REGULAR price is $32.

I could tell from her face that she still wasn't getting it, so I slowed it down and made it simple.

Their price: $35. Our price: $32. Our price is already lower so if I matched their price you would owe me money.

"Oh, I understand now."


We're cheaper on almost everything, even the sale items. I guess the competitor needs to charge more to afford all their advertisements. We don't advertise in the newspaper very often…..we rely mostly on our regular customers returning and spreading the news about our greatness to their friends. Occasionally we'll be out of something and our regulars admit that since they need the item so badly they'll visit the competitor, but that they hate shopping there. That's what we like to hear!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vendor Representatives

I like 90% of our vendor representatives; most visit the store monthly. Others come quarterly or once or twice a year or only when business is down. Their job is to put out coupons or signs drawing attention to their products, make sure we're displaying their items correctly, check expiration dates, report inventory problems, check for price tags, inform us about new products, and answer any questions or concerns we might have.

Today one of my favorite vendors was in. We've been working together, as in an hour once a month, for probably six years or so. While we don't work for the same company or see each other much, she's someone I could imagine myself working with/for. She's extremely conscientious with her work and despite our vast age difference she's not at all condescending or paternalistic like some people I've worked with/for.

I was exceptionally bored today (few customers, no paperwork, no projects, no stocking, everything was clean.....there was NOTHING to do). Since what she was doing wasn't something that I could help with, I hung around while she did her thing. We talked more than normal. It was clear that she was having a bad day, yet she was still professional and friendly. It sounds like she's overworked, although she didn't get into details about whatever's going on with that company. Sharing their issues wouldn't help the situation, so why be all negative about it? This is a lesson that I've mostly learned but am still working on at times.

Last week a different vendor mentioned problems he was having with our main competitor. I started to (wanted to) say something along the lines of, "And you're surprised? That's nothing new, they've always been bad at that," etc. But I bit my tongue. Criticizing Competitor would accomplish nothing. Instead I said, "Yeah? (long pause as I thought).....I'd better not comment on that." He laughed, I laughed, I didn't have to say it because we both knew it......Competitor sucks and we're great. Everyone knows that. There's no reason for me to rub it in or bad-mouth Competitor. They take care of that all by themselves. When customers say something about the poor service or high prices or whatever at Competitor, I say little. "I've heard that." "Hmm."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The whole thing of people being afraid of 6/6/6 is STUPID. Not wanting a total or change of $6.66.....STUPID. Not wanting to live at 666 Main Street......STUPID. Not wanting your child to be born on 6/6/6 because you're afraid he'll be "cursed"....STUPID.

People are misinterpreting Revelations. They're taking it literally when it wasn't meant that way. The whole book is an allegory, like Pilgrim's Progress or 1984. They're not to be taken literally. They're full of images and symbols and if John worked for me I think I'd be sending him on a drug test.

Revelations was written in the 1st century when Nero was persecuting practically everybody, but especially Christians. Could they write a book/letter about how terrible Nero was? Not if they wanted to live. Instead they wrote a "book of prophecy" with the devil's son as the main character. Nero's name in their system or their code or whatever came to "666."

For those who think that this date is the beginning of the end or the anti-Christ will be born today or something along those lines: "No one knows about that day or hour.......only the Father.........Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:36-42)

With all of that said, today WAS, indeed, a wacky day with craziness everywhere and I'm glad it's over!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Out of School

With the kids out of school it's quite a bit louder at work these days. Busier during the week and slightly less busy on the weekends. Parents are already complaining that they have to take care of their kids instead of sending them off to school each day.

My high school employees can work almost any time and for as many hours as we want them (fewer child labor law limitations than during the school year), so the schedule is a lot easier to do.

While the vast majority of kids run around like idiots (yes, RUN, in the store, bumping into both merchandise and customers), there are a few whose parents attempt to control them. Today it went one step further and there were several polite kids who asked intelligent questions, were well-spoken, and waited their turn for help. Borderline old enough to be allowed to shop alone (parents in the car) but after seeing their behavior, obviously mature for their age.

One kid, perhaps 6 years old, was not old enough to shop alone. While he was well behaved, he lingered in the area where I was maintaining some displays. He began to share his life story with me, along with his opinion of our products and his plans for world domination. Finally his of-driving-age sister came and took him away, saving me and my ears. I'm a complete stranger.....that's not very safe for a kid that young.

Friday, June 02, 2006


NO ONE could wait their turn today! Four, maybe five times I was finishing up with a customer when another customer rudely interrupted.

  • "Do you work here?"
  • "Excuse me, I need some help."
  • "Where are the widgets?"

I made a special point to ask the first customers if there was anything else they needed or if they had any more questions before turning to the RUDE PERSON to ask how I could help. I love how you can be totally polite while at the same time point out someone's rudeness. Most of the people today got my point. Because of the way I did it, they weren't mad, though.

WAIT YOUR TURN is a lesson not many adults know. They need to return to kindergarten because I don't see how they could have passed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


It's June…..graduation season. A LOT of my employees are graduating from high school. That means they need A LOT of time off from work (and usually all of them on the same day!).

There's the baccalaureate, senior breakfast, day of graduation (hair/makeup, then the graduation, then the after party), then usually the day after graduation because, really, who waits until they're 21 to drink? So we're short staffed all week.

Now that it's the last week of school, teenagers have started coming in looking for summer jobs. Yeah, well, you're a little late! All the places that have summer positions have already filled them. In my store, as a general rule, I don't hire for summer-only positions. There's just too much to learn for an employee to be any good to me over the short 2~3 month break. I'll always let people apply, because it's retail………you never know when a position will open up.

We may have a few positions open later in the summer as the high school graduates move away for college. But right now, we're fully staffed.