(These stories were written a few years ago, so there won’t be any talk of face masks and social distancing in them… but we’ll probably get to that at some point)

Shopping . . .  This is definitely something that bugs me.  I hate everything about it.  I hate the way stores are set up and I hate that I have to give up my time to do it.  The experience is always stressful and annoying.  The only time I enjoy shopping is when I am doing it for someone else, and even then I don’t really like it.  I only like that I am buying something that I hope will make someone else happy.

I have friends who will shop both day and night via the TV shopping networks.  I can’t think of anything worse than watching jewelry all day (other than golf) and listening to the phone calls that come in from shoppers.  I was at my friend’s house when she was watching a shopping show.  A woman called in to talk about her last purchase.  She sounded so excited and happy about what she had bought. She was speaking in a tone that is usually reserved for news of a birth in a family.  A caller mispronounced marquis cut, and I was irritated when the host of the show didn’t correct her.  She pronounced it MAHR-kees cut.  How many times can you listen to someone say marquis cut incorrectly before the words don’t make sense any more?  Say it out loud a few times, really fast:  MAHR-kees cut, MAHR-keez cut, [MAHR-kizz cut], MARK is cut!  Call an ambulance!   The hand and neck models are flailing their arms and bodies around  to catch all the light in the studio. This enables them to get the full bling effect of whatever piece they are showing.  Poor Mark was obviously standing too close.   I’m not interested in jewelry, so when I see it, all I can focus on are the poor models rolling and flipping chains on their reddened necks.  Their hands look horribly chapped from all the manicures and hand washing.  Thank you HDTV.  It’s terrible!  I really hope they’re being paid well.  I can’t imagine spending the best years of my life as a hand model and having nothing more to show for it than well-toned wrists.  Mark, on the other hand, will probably make out quite nicely with his lawsuit.

Then you have the internet sites.  They’re not altogether bad, except that now one of the major sites has every scam artist in the book using it. One guy was even using it to lure in his murder victims.  Talk about lazy.  Thanks to the internet, even murderers don’t have to leave their homes.  It’s kind of like ordering take out for the scam artists.  I’m not even sure why they bother with the ruse anymore.  They could just post their ads out in the open like everyone else:  Scam artist looking for bored housewife, elderly couple, and a man without a clue, to mail me their next paychecks.  Please mail to:  (insert address) – India.  In two days’ time I’m sure we would have reports to the Better Business Bureau asking if this is a scam.  In a month’s time we would have people calling in complaining because they had actually sent their paychecks and hadn’t received anything for their money.    

There are some stores where the sales people will go out of their way to help and please the customers.  Bless their underpaid hearts. .  I once knew a woman who was a firm believer, that service people were the lowest of the low, and thought every one of them was an incompetent twit.  

I went out to eat with heronce, and I’ll never do it again.  The complaint she made about her food was so trivial I don’t think I would have even mentioned it.  She caused a terrible scene and made the waitress cry.  I was so embarrassed, and I felt so bad for the girl. I left her a pretty nice tip when my friend wasn’t looking.  The mistake was that of the kitchen, not of the poor girl who had been waiting on us, and who had probably been on her feet since 5:00 AM.  You couldn’t pay me enough to be a waitress, and even if you could offer me an interesting dollar figure, I do not have the filter between my brain and my mouth that a good waitress needs.  I am positive that I would be fired promptly after the first rude guest left wearing his or her food. 

These people don’t stop at insulting the workers in the store.  They are rude to other shoppers in the store as well. I love it when they travel in pairs and walk and talk slowly across the whole isle.  .  It seems like they will always stop in front of the most popular selections, like the hamburger, chicken, or roasts.  You just want to say to them, “Hey, lady, EXCUSE ME!  Could you please move your conversation over to the liver or beef tongue section?  I’m sure you could talk for a good long while in front of those goodies, without interruption.”

If They’re Shopping in a department store, they’ll open packages of socks and then put them back with one sock still out of the package, left lying who knows where.  Why would anyone need to open a package of socks?  There are pictures of them right on the bag.  And then actually take one out?  For what?  Are they trying them on?  Each package covers, like, five shoe sizes.  A stock person comes along and sees the opened package but not notice that one sock is missing, tape it, and put it back on the shelf.  I walk in, see the taped package, figure it’s a return. Since it’s usually the last package on the shelf, I buy it assuming that someone is paying attention to the stock.  Five and a half sets of socks later, my hatred of shopping is, once again, affirmed. 

Another one of my favorite things these people do, is they try on six pairs of shoes at once.  You could try to put a positive spin on this by thinking, Hey, at least they put the shoes back in the boxes.  I mean, it’s a little more obvious when they the leave a shoe out of a box vs a sock out of a bag.  Then someone like me, who hates shopping, comes in to buy a pair of shoes.  I’m not totally oblivious.  I look at the shoe size on the box.  I open the box to make sure they are both the same style, and I even try one on.  Because I tend to only try on one I have gone home with two different shoe sizes.  I know it’s my fault!  Just knowing that these people exist makes me a moron for not checking the size on both shoes.  

Do you know the Big Purse Lady?  I’ve met her.  Not only was she the Big Purse Lady, but she was the Coin Purse Lady too..  I met the Big Purse Lady at a major chain store.  I had the good fortune to be standing behind her when it was her turn to be checked out.  I’m sure if the cashier had known what was coming next she would have turned off her “open” light and taken a bathroom break.  The cashier scanned Big Purse Lady’s purchases and said “That will be twenty-two fifty-three, ma’am.” She dug through her purse/body bag/dog carrier and pulled out a wallet the size of my purse.  She didn’t use a checkbook, debit or credit card.  She was a Cash Customer.  She flipped through her money like a pro and pulled out a twenty.  She handed it to the clerk.  She looked back at the screen that displayed her total and flipped through the bills again and found a one dollar bill.  She smiled and said, “I know I have another one in here somewhere!” After what seemed like five minutes she pulled out another dollar bill.  She seemed very happy with her find.  She handed it to the store clerk and smiled in a way that said, “See, I told you I had another one.”  She stood there looking at the clerk waiting for something–her receipt I supposed.  She had apparently forgotten about the fifty three cents she still owed.  The clerk looked at the woman, and then at the line building up behind her.  The clerk said nicely, “That will be another fifty three cents, Ma’am.”  The lady looked flustered and said, “Oh, sorry, I thought you just said twenty two dollars.  You should speak up!”  We had all just seen her examine the total on the screen.  She returned to the huge purse and started digging again. Several people behind me let out long sighs.   I thought she was looking for loose change, but she wasn’t.  She took the purse and dumped it out onto the counter.  It didn’t occur to me at the time to scan the pile for any medications she may have been late in taking.  She looked through the pile and finally found what she was looking for.  She picked up a tiny coin purse the size of a cell phone.  By now several of the people in line were also digging through their pockets looking for the fifty three cents.  I have found that offering someone spare change in line is quicker than the process of removing things from their register total.  She pulled out a quarter, two dimes and a nickel.  She dug some more and found two pennies.  She dug yet some more, but could not come up with the last penny.  A man behind us offered her the penny he had found in his pocket.  She refused the offer with great offense.  She looked completely indignant that someone might think she would need a donation, and said so in as many words.  In a rage, she shoved everything she had dumped onto the counter back into her purse while she ranted something nonsensical at the poor clerk.  She kept the billfold out and searched some more in that.  She pulled out a fifty dollar bill and handed it to the clerk, demanding the other money back.  The clerk was shaking her head in total disbelief during the rest of the exchange.  This clerk had barely said a word during the entire process, but the woman assured her that she would be talking to the manager of the store about her horrible experience.  I had finally had enough.  I looked at the lady and said, “If it takes you as long to find a manager as it did the fifty-three cents, she shouldn’t have anything to worry about!”  After a few choice words directed at me, the lady finally grabbed her things and left.  In the time it had taken for this rude customer to check out, this fantastic clerk had gotten the rest of us checked out also.  There had been at least eight of us in line behind Big Purse Lady.  Each of us told the clerk what a wonderful job she was doing, or something to that effect.  

I am one of those people who will cut service workers an incredible amount of slack.  Mostly because I have worked in the service industry, and I know how a difficult person can set the tone for the rest of your day.  Rude people can identify happy people at a thousand yards.  They are on a mission to seek and destroy your happiness.  If you go to work in a good mood, make sure you wear your poker face. A smile is just a target on your face..  Instead, encourage a co-worker to smile.  He or she will become your decoy and you can carry on with the rest of your wonderful day.  With that being said, I’m not going to pretend that all store workers are created equal.

There is a certain chain store in my area that will hire absolutely anyone.  They’re not picky.  I’m pretty sure if you walk in and you do not drool on yourself during the interview, you’ll probably have the job. I have seen a few competent people working at this store, but it isn’t long before they quit.  The stress of working with people who don’t know how to work quickly wears them down.  They are not hiring special needs people so save the comments.  If they were my attitude would be very different and I would revere the store.  

The store isn’t large enough for the stock that is being dropped off, so it gets stored on carts in the aisles.  These carts are constantly blocking the products on the shelves, and again it’s usually the products everyone likes the most. .  You know when a truck is arriving because they are all in a hurry to stock the bare shelves and clear the carts for the new stock.

I’m not sure what the learning curve is on one of their cash registers, but I am sure that I’m being generous by giving a new person at least a month to figure it out.  I try to throw in some words of encouragement to new people.  I’ll say, “That’s ok, I’m in no hurry.  Take your time and get it right.”  They look at the register monitor like it’s written in Hebrew or some other language they’ve never seen.  As if on cue, they have to call the manager.   The manager is in possession of the magic key. It plugs into the cash register and unlocks all the necessary tools the sales clerk would need to actually do his or her job.  This key dangles from the manager’s wrist on a plastic coiled bracelet.  Common sense tells me the key must be protected by a magic spell that would prevent hardened criminals from taking it and robbing the register.  Why else would they dare to display it so prominently?  But that just begs the question, why don’t they place the spell on the cash register to protect it from dishonest employees, and give everyone a key?  I’m not sure, but I think the bracelet may be a sign of status among store clerk tribes, handed down from the Almighty Main Office on High.

What really gets me, is how unorganized these people are at this particular store.  They are all cross trained between the sales floor and the cash register.  It’s a small town, so you know which ones have worked there for a while and should be able to at least answer simple questions.  At some point, someone in the store should know where the paper towels are without having to ask the manager.  If I can’t find something, I ask another customer.  The odds of getting a correct answer are much better. 

Two years ago this particular store in our town remodeled its cash register area to include two more registers.  The store was a complete mess for at least a month.  If you didn’t shop there often, it would have been hard to see where the extra mess was.  Everyone was so excited because the checkout time was excruciatingly long.  The excitement was very short lived.  I have yet to see them use more than one checkout at a time since the remodel.  I can’t imagine what the circumstances would have to be for them to open up the other two checkout lines.  How far back into the Ramen noodle isle must I stand for the next register to be opened?

The most annoying thing in the store has to be the squeaky toy. They expect you to use it to get the attention of their understaffed workforce.  I remember the first time I saw it.  It was a little pink pig sitting on the checkout counter next to a sign that said, “Squeeze me if you’re ready to check out.” I think they implemented that system especially for the days they cleared off the carts.  I looked at it and laughed.  I should squeeze a squeaky toy to get the attention of an adult person like I would a small dog?  Squeak, squeak. Here girls, Whistle, whistle, now scan the dryer sheets. Good Girl, as you hand her a treat and pat her on the head.  How terrible for the staff.  Now, because I am so annoyed with this store, I just make matters worse.  I like to go there with my nineteen month old daughter.  I wait until I know the clerk is at the back of the store.  I pull my cart up to the register and let my daughter squeeze the toy until the store clerk comes to the front.  My daughter loves that thing.  It’s the highlight of her shopping trip. The poor store clerk just smiles and is happy to see us leave.  I don’t make my daughter put the squeaky toy down until we are completely checked out.  It’s amazing how fast the checkout process goes now. 

I would also like to mention another major chain store that annoys me with its number of cash registers vs. number of employees at the cash registers.  I won’t name names but I will say that they could roll back the number of cash registers if they’re not actually going to staff them.  It would eliminate all hope of getting out of the store in a timely fashion, and lower shoppers’ expectations at the same time.  We would all be on the same page for once.  I’m shopping, I’m annoyed, and now I’m waiting.  See how the theme all runs together?  That’s different than walking in and seeing all the registers and thinking, I’m shopping, I’m annoyed, but at least I’ll get checked out quickly.  Nope, I’m still waiting and still annoyed.  It would take out a layer of the disappointment.  It would keep the experience real; with a what you see is what you get atmosphere.   

  Note: since I wrote this chapter, this particular store has gone to mostly automated registers.  Wow, didn’t see that coming. (sarcasm)

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