Holiday Season Shopping Tips!

Posted: December 4, 2009 in Braak, Christmas, crotchety ranting
Tags: , , ,

I am reprinting this from–two years ago, I think?  It was on my Myspace blog, if you can believe that.

Anyway, I don’t work in the bookstore anymore, but these rules are still very important guidelines for preventing your dumb ass from getting stabbed with sharpened novelty reindeer horns this holiday season.  Please, have mercy on your retail clerks.  This time of year is murder on them.

Many people are trying to get some last-minute Christmas shopping done.  Many of you are trying to get it done in my bookstore.  To help facilitate that, and to ensure a quick and largely-pleasant bookstore experience now and during the return-happy season after Christmas, I’ve included a couple thoughts on a couple of common events that occur during Christmas-shopping time.
1.  Exact change:  we don’t give a shit about exact change.  If you have too many pennies, that’s your problem, not mine.  Unless you have your exact change IN YOUR HAND, RIGHT NOW, I promise you I can count your regular change out faster than you can rummage around your gigantic handbag.  All of my change is kept in neat little cups, out of which I never have to count more than nine coins.  Do you honestly think that you can find someting in your random snap-purse full of money faster than I can count to nine?  (hint:  no.  you can’t)

2.  While we’re at it, if you’ve been waiting in line for ten minutes (not because we’re slow, per se, but because there’s a million people in the store) why don’t you have your credit card out already?  Are you too busy looking at our cash-register impulse buys?  I will save you the trouble:  no, you don’t want them, they are stupid things that we try to sell to idiots.  Are you an idiot?  Then take the time to get your damn card out.  Also, it’s okay to actually hand it to me, intsead of just pulling it out of your purse and making me reach across the counter to get it.  I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but it will shave valuable seconds off your register time.

3.  Why are you trying to have a conversation with me?  Don’t fucking talk to me.  I am concentrating on making sure I don’t charge you three times for your crappy gifts.  I am trying to ring your purchase up as fast as possible.  And honestly, it is 100% impossible for you to be cheerful enough to make my day anything other than utter crap.  You know what would make me REALLY happy?  Getting your fat ass through the line as quickly as possible.  Just shut up and give me your shit.

4.  Sometimes, I’m going to have questions I have to ask you.  I have to ask these questions; they will fire me if I don’t ask them.  There’s no need to be on your cellphone; I know that your friend is very upset about that guy she made out with at the office party, but NONE OF US NEEDS TO HEAR ABOUT IT.  Just tell me if you have a stupid discount card.  And don’t lie.  If you say “I do, but I forgot it,” there’s a whole shitload of things I’m supposed to do to make sure you get your rewards.  It’s time consuming.  If you don’t have one and you don’t want one, just say “I don’t have one, and I don’t want one.”

5.  When I give you your receipt, that indicates that the transaction is complete.  It is over.  You have given me a form of tender, and I have called up your bank and made sure your card wasn’t declined.  We’re DONE.  If you have a coupon, or a rewards card, or you want a gift receipt or some shit like that, it is TOO LATE.  You need to tell me about these things BEFORE YOU GET YOUR RECEIPT.  Ideally, tell me about them when I ask, which is why you need to not be on the fucking phone all the time.

6. If you want to get that hot new title/CD/Christmas-themed item that was just mentioned on NPR/the New York Times/The Wall Street Journal/TV, then you can go to Hell.  It’s the week before Christmas.  We’re out of that shit.  Everyone’s out of that shit.  Everyone, everywhere is out.  If you want a copy of Bette Midler’s Cool Yule (and God fucking help you if you do) what you need to do is this:  go back in time and buy it three weeks ago when we still had it.  That’s what everyone else did, which is why you can’t get it now.

7.  If you’re trying to find a book that your grandmother read about in the newspaper, you are looking for the WRONG TITLE.  Odds are that she confused the headline of the review with the name of the book.  Odds are equally good that she’s a fucking loon and just made something up.  If your crazy senile grandmother wants you to buy her a book she read about in the paper, look at the article yourself and get the real title.  Or, at least, don’t insist to me that you’re certain it’s called, “Thunderous ‘Sea’ Makes a Splash.”

8.  No one wants to hear your snide comments.  And we can hear them, even if you just mutter them to your friends, or whisper them under your breath.  We can SEE them behind your eyes.  You want to know something funny about Christmas?  The crap you’re looking for isn’t here.  There are long lines.  No matter how devastatingly sarcastic or snide your remarks are, THEY CANNOT MAKE THE LINE SHORTER.  I swear; you could be the most pithy bitter old bitch on the Main Line, it doesn’t matter.  There will still be eight hundred people in line, bitching about how we’re out of James Taylor CDs.  Suck it up.

9.  It is in our best interests to bring you the product that we have as soon as possible.  If you look up something on the computer, but you can’t find it in the shelf, guess what?  It isn’t there, dipshit.  I don’t care what the computer said; the computer is a fucking liar.  Do you think I have a secret stockpile of “Filmadelphia ” that I only give out to people that bother me?  For future reference, no matter what some words on a TV screen tell you, they are superceded by REALITY.  If the book isn’t there, it’s not god damn there.

10.  Finally, if you want advice on a gift for your father, and when I ask you “What does he like?”  you tell me, “He’s not really much of a reader,” then you are in the wrong fucking store.

  1. Moff says:

    It’s always so weird to me that more people aren’t beating down your door to hire you.

  2. braak says:

    I will admit that I’m not tempermentally-suited for retail. However, as my fellow bookstore workers can attest: I NEVER flipped out at anyone in public. In fact, the more irritating a customer was, the more charmingly I smiled at them.

    It drove them NUTS.

  3. Moff says:

    Yeah, I have another friend like that. I’m envious of that quality. Because actually, while I had a long and storied career in customer service, I was on the verge of flipping the fuck out on people about 40 percent of the time.

  4. braak says:

    I guess that running a piece like this has ruined whatever chances I have left of getting hired back at the Borders, so I also might as well admit this: the hungrier I used to get while on shift, the more elaborate the fantasies I entertained of killing and eating the customers.

    It made dealing with their nonsense exponentially easier.

  5. SB7 says:

    “I will admit that I’m not tempermentally-suited for retail. However, as my fellow bookstore workers can attest: I NEVER flipped out at anyone in public. In fact, the more irritating a customer was, the more charmingly I smiled at them.

    It drove them NUTS.”

    Great strategy. That’s exactly what I used to do in my brief time in the retail trenches.

  6. Kelley says:

    OH GOD NUMBER 5. Someone once actually made me return the ENTIRE TRANSACTION just so that they could have a fucking gift receipt, THEN yelled at me the whole time because “[I] should just assume that everyone needs a gift receipt!” Yeah, because paper is a magical substance that comes out of thin air! Have you ever driven past a paper factory (and not the cute store, a REAL place where they make paper)? Because I do once a month. It is hideous. I will never waste paper again after driving through Johnsonburg.

    Smiling the whole time is absolutely the best way to deal with jerks, because then they look like five-person douche canoes. LOVE IT.

  7. Jeff Holland says:

    On a similar note, from personal experience, I can say I’ve never used the word “Sir” in the manner in which it was intended.

    It was always used to alert the customer that I was about to tell him something blindingly obvious to everyone around him.

    “Sir, your chevette can’t support four hundred pounds of Ready-Mix concrete.”

    “Sir, I’m fairly certain you didn’t buy this mower here. You bought it at Sears. Because it’s got a label that reads ‘Sears,’ was what got me thinking this. Sir.”

    “Sir, I’m not sure having eight feet of lumber hanging out the back of your Forerunner is such a great idea. Yes, even if I staple a red flag to the end.”

  8. Hsiang says:

    Wow, scary. I am so very thankful for my newish job at a science fiction bookstore. One of the coolest things is having a customer who says, “I’ve never read any science fiction, what do you recommend?”, and then have them walk out with $80 worth of books and a dazed smile. Conversations at the counter quickly involve everybody in the store and inevitably include the topic of George R.R. Martin Who Should Really Finish The Damn Series Already. It’s like commenting on io9 except almost everybody is wearing pants.

    Then again, this is my first retail job in twenty years. I doubt the holiday season will be as horrid as it would be in a big chain store but it’s bound to get hectic. I’ll keep the stoic smiling thing in mind. That said I have to go and open the store now.

    Also, no one will be working for Borders after April.

  9. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Why am I not surprised that you were “Angry Bookstore Guy”? Most of your customers were probably nervous trying to think up quick explanations for their “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul” or Nicholas Sparks book. How do you fabricate a proper conversational segue, that leads to disowning “The Twilight Companion” in your hand, all in under 20 seconds?

    They knew you were judging them. And everyone knows the “Employee Recommendations” wall really should read: “Whatever it is you cultural cretins are not reading.”

  10. Carl says:

    @Holland: well, I hope your happy. I was reading of your dismissive use of the formal address ‘sir’ in the sound loft of a local theater just now, and laughed loud enough at the mower to be heard on stage. You owe each of these old people their money back.

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