Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Special - Now With Extra Rage!

Today is Memorial Day, and in traditional American fashion most retail establishments are having sales, because that's how we honor presidents, military personnel, religious holidays, and laborers. (Except those who labor in retail. I'm sure in September there will be a longer post about my hatred of that particular “holiday”) The reason there are sales is because most people have the day off and would like to spend it shopping with everyone else who has the day off. Now let's do the math: discounts + free time = more customers in stores which means those stores need more staff on hand. Which means that, for the average retail worker, today is not a holiday, it is a super-busy, super-crowded, very stressful, un-fun day of work.

Which is why I have taken it upon myself to help my retail cohorts by sharing some basic rules/ guidelines for shopping on this, or any other, holiday weekend. Despite my aforementioned extra rage, I don't believe that people are intending to be mean. (Mostly. I hope.) I feel it's just a lack of thought or a matter of people functioning on small talk autopilot. Keep in mind – those of us working in retail aren't enjoying a long weekend, hanging out with the family/ friends, or picking up a bargain before heading off to the lake, we're working. Hard.

Armed with that knowledge here are some things not to say to retail people today (And what we would like to say in response):

Isn't the weather perfect for the long weekend?”
            (I don't know, I've been inside this building all day, and it's not a long weekend for me)

I'm so glad you're open on the holidays so I can shop on my day off!”
          (Thank you for reminding me that you have an extra day off and I don't.)

So you have any big plans for the holiday?”
         (Work. Then drink a double shot for every asinine sale-related question I've been 
            forced to answer over the last four days.)*

Wow, you guys are really busy this weekend.”
      (*sarcasm* Really?! I hadn't noticed.)

It's usually best just to avoid mentioning that it's a holiday at all. We're very well aware as there are huge sale signs hanging all around us proclaiming the joyous news, and we can't move two steps without running into someone who urgently needs our undivided attention. Instead try adding a little extra nice, and a little extra patience, and you may provide that hint of hope that prevents a sales clerk from losing it and having to spend some serious time in the whimpering spot.

*During sales I keep a tally on my hand of how many times I get asked my top three asinine sales questions, and at the end of each day of the sale I have that many adult beverages. What are these magic questions?– Stay Tuned for this and more as the Adventures Of BookWench continue.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Costanza Wallet

Strangely all these accessory posts seem to tie to fictional characters and their idiosyncrasies. The Costanza Wallet refers to the character George Costanza from Seinfeld. His wallet was so overstuffed that it caused him to sit lopsided, hurt his back, and eventually exploded.

I am constantly annoyed as a cashier when a man comes up with the overstuffed, disorganized wallet, because, just like the overly large purse, it's impossible to find anything in there. And for some reason this guy is always sure he has a coupon/ gift card/ discount card somewhere in the several forests-worth of paper stuffed into an overtaxed piece of leather. He very well might, he might also have the Colonel’s original list of eleven herbs and spices in there, but they're all useless if you can't find them. And for some reason a disproportionately large number of these gentlemen feel this need to over-organize their cash while standing at the register, further holding up the line of people behind them. To me, getting rid of the millions of scraps of paper in no particular order would seem more important than having your money in sequential order. (Unless that makes the voices stop screaming in your head, in which case, carry on.)

Here are the warning signs that your wallet is perhaps a little too full:
a) Your back pocket where it lives is permanently stretched out on every pair of pants you own. Extra negative points if it's ripped any of your pants pockets off.
b) It causes you to sit lopsided.
c) You have to buy new wallets when the stitching on your current one finally loses the good fight.
d) It takes you longer than 30 seconds to find anything.
e) If the ink on any of the pieces of paper has rubbed off or faded off with time.

And some guidelines for cleaning it out:
a) Any business cards without an email address are now out of date. Remove them.
b) Anything that's expired. If it's been expired for more than five years you may have a wallet hoarding issue. Seek help.
c) Condiments. Never okay. (And I have seen this in real life, not just in the Seinfeld episode)
d) Receipts for things you no longer own. If the return period is over, or the item got so old it fell apart, or the bank statement it showed up on was over a five years ago it's probably safe to let the receipt go. And food receipts – are you planning to return that hamburger you ate a Wendy's five years ago, because I think that's impossible on several levels.

I'm not completely heartless, I have many of these things floating around my life, and I keep them all in a lovely little box on my dresser. (Not condiments. That's still never okay.) That way I know that nostalgic business card from an old friend is still there, but I'm not constantly having to dig past it to get to my debit card.

To make me seem not so mean I do have a happy memory involving a Costanza wallet. One of my best friends in the world carries one, and I do tease him about it, but so far he can locate things in it quickly so I let it go. In 2005 we went to Disneyland together and while waiting in line for the Indiana Jones ride he pulled a card out of his wallet to decode the symbols on the walls of the ride. Those cards were given away for the first few months the ride was 1995. Ten years, and several wallets, later he still had that vital piece of information on his person. The mocking came fast and hard* after that, but those of us who were there still bring it up with fondness whenever we go on that ride. So Buddha, this post is for you and your ginormous wallet.

*that's what she said….

BookWench is currently reading Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda - because there's nothing more book-nerdy than reading books about books.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Quotes of the Week – Bronte Edition

The Brontes, as a family, have written some of the most mispronounced, mistaken and misunderstood book titles in BookWorld. Especially for books that were written in English. (As soon as I figure out a good way to phonetically spell things out I can devote an entire month to the butchery of important Greek works.)
Here's a collection of some of the best Bronte mistakes:

Do you have Jane Eee-wire?”

I'm looking for the book Bronte by Jane Eyre.”

I need Pride and Prejudice by Emily Bronte.” (The Bronte/ Austen switch happens more often than I really feel comfortable with.)

Where can I find Weather Heights? Weathering Heights? Waitering Heights? Watering Heights? Weather is High?” (I totally understand that Wuthering* is not a commonly used word. What always bothers me is this is how people pronounce it while reading it off a syllabus. Weathering is the most common.)

The best:
I need Worthington Heights by Bronson.” This customer did not get a book because she refused to believe that Wuthering Heights by Bronte could possibly be the book she needed, and we did not have anything called Worthington Heights.

I'm sure there will be a later post about my numerous problems with the Brontes. Until then know that I will hear at least one mistaken Bronte title a week while I toil in BookWorld.

* Wuthering a word used in England and Scotland to describe the noise the wind makes on the moors. This bit of trivia lodged in my 8-year-old brain due to repeated readings of The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgeson Burnett...and the numerous times I listened to the amazing Broadway musical. If I had a dollar for every time I have used that information I would have a good start on my pony army.

BookWench is Currently Reading: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Not all who wander are lost...

...but I can point out the people who will be on their next vacation.

If you, or anyone you know, is planning a trip to a country where the dominant language spoken is not English take this simple test to determine if that's a smart idea: Go to your local bookstore. Find the travel section without help from a salesclerk. Can't do it - don't go to a foreign country. In fact, rethink leaving the house at all, unless you have a GPS system implanted directly into your brain.

I have helped countless people find the travel section in various bookstores, and I worry for their safety as they attempt to travel the world. In all the stores I've worked at the travel section is very clearly labeled, in English, with a very large sign. In fact, in one store I worked at it took up an ENTIRE FLOOR. (It was a store in a very large city, in a fairly tourist-y area.) If you can't read that sign, or find that floor, or even narrow down which country Paris is in, may I suggest hiring a tour guide to stay with you at all times, or getting some sort of locator implanted in your skin. Perhaps even starting out with an easier vacation, like the local mall. I get concerned that a few of the extreme cases I've helped are still wandering around Italy looking for Barcelona. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I imagine unsupervised trips with these people end up being an extreme version of Jay Leno's Jaywalking segment, or a sad footnote on the Darwin Awards website because they didn't see/ couldn't read the sign that says you cannot walk across the giant traffic circle to get to the Arc de Triomphe.

Last weekend I helped a gentlemen find the travel section while he was standing under the large sign reading “TRAVEL” and leaning on a shelf labeled “European Travel Guides”. I hope all of his loved ones had a chance to say their goodbyes before he left.

And, so you don't think I'm just picking on hapless shoppers I am currently working with someone who thinks Tennessee is near New Mexico, and that Spain is located somewhere near the former Soviet Union. I don't think she should be allowed to leave her house either.

BookWench is currently reading Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Allison Reynolds thinks your purse is too big...

For those of you who haven't seen The Breakfast Club and are confused by the title I shall explain. (And shame on you- that movie is awesome) Ally Sheedy plays Allison Reynolds, a character that carries a ginormous purse holding everything she would need to run away from home. The other characters comment on its unnecessary largeness. So – if that character thinks your purse is too big, it's really time to rethink your accessories.

This problem is becoming more and more widespread and dangerous. Some women are seriously carrying bags that I could use to pack for a week-long trip. What are people hiding in there? And why? I'm a girl and I don't even know what goes on in those things. (And if the answer is “a dog” it makes me even more irate.)

My major problem with these behemoths as a retail clerk is that it takes people far, far too long to find anything in them. If you know it takes you ten minutes to find your wallet underneath the loose receipts, bags of cookies, an entire Mac counter's worth of cosmetics, full sized bottles of lotion, drinks, and puppies then you need to do that before you even get in line to pay. And gods forfend that your debit card got loose and you then have to dump all of that purse detritus on a counter to dig it out. I will not wait for you, I will move to another register and ring up the customer who has easier access to their method of payment. And I absolutely will not help you play the unending game of purse Tetris required to get all of that stuff back in the bag.

My other, and much more personal, problem with these bags occurs with some regularity as I work and when I shop. The problem is this – most women carrying these bags have no idea how large they are, and don't care at all if they hit you with them. I have been repeatedly smacked in the face, side, back of the head, butt, all over really, by idiot women with overly large purses. And those things hurt, as I think some of these women are carrying tire irons, curling irons, clothing irons, seriously, WHAT is in these things?! And I have never had anyone apologize for it, even when they become aware that they have hit me. One day I'm going to really loose it and hit them back with my tiny, compact, but solid purse. If you choose to carry a purse that's three times as wide as you are then you need to be aware of how large your kill radius has become. I've seen women hit small children with them and not even notice, or care that they caused a child to cry so that they would never be more than an arms reach away from their Costco sized bottle of aspirin. (Which they should be freely sharing with those they injure.)

So – if anyone can a) justify the purse that won't fit in most overhead compartments, b) tell me what's inside these things, or c) come up with a subtle, but appropriate retaliation for the next person who hits me with one – leave it in the comments.

Stay tuned for the next in this three part accessories series – The Costanza Wallet.....

BookWench is currently reading An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin. I cannot recommend his works highly enough, especially Shopgirl.