Note: This post was originally published years ago on tumblr, and it’s best if you read it in the voice of a Victorian explorer.
I used to think that a sign stating that a business was closed was an unnecessary thing. After all there are clear indicators as to whether or not a business is open at a given time, such as the hours of operation posted on the door or whether or not there are lights on inside the business or people walking and working there. I used to think that was fairly self explanatory.
How wrong I was.
I should have heeded Bill Engvall’s warnings about stupid people. They are everywhere and have absolutely zero comprehension of, well, anything really. It wasn’t until I accepted my current position that I truly grasped this concept. A good chunk of this population is stupid, and that population is only growing larger. I fear that the future presented to us in the film Idiocracy is probably the most realistic view of our dystopian future that has ever been produced.
In the span of a few days, I was privileged enough to witness two remarkable examples of the tendencies of a stupid person. The first came inside of my own store.
I had just closed up shop for the day, done my end of day report, counted the drawer, totaled the receipts, and was heading to the safe with the report and the day’s deposit. I had to leave the darkened shop to reach the safe in the store room by way of a sliding glass door on the side of the shop. I flung it behind me but had to turn back to make sure that the door had indeed closed (it hadn’t). But it was now most assuredly closed.
So, I proceeded to the safe inside the store room to secure the deposit, only to emerge from the room no less than a minute later to find the side door wide open and a tall, lanky man inside asking for the person who worked there.
“I work here.”
“Oh! Good! The door was just open (no, YOU opened it). I need a map.”
Words were nowhere to be found. I was so taken aback by the whole situation, I honestly didn’t know what to do. The audacity of his stupidity literally left me in a stupor. So, I sold him what he needed, and added it to a new report since he paid with plastic and didn’t mess up my drawer count. It was the path of least resistance.
As he left, he asked what time I closed. By this time, it was 5:15 pm. I told him that we closed at five.
“Oh. Heh,” he said.
Get out of my store.
Two days later, on a lovely Saturday morning, a young man went to the shop across the hall from mine. During the week they are open before me, but on Saturdays, I opened an hour before they did. It was 8:40 am, twenty minutes before their posted hours of 9-12. The store completely dark. There was no one even inside the store. I watched as he approached the door, examined the situation, observed the posted hours of operation, and then checked his watch. Apparently he still needed more information. He gave the door handle a tug and found it to be locked.
Did you honestly expect a different result?
Now, I have a completely customer-first mentality, because they are the lifeblood of a retail operation. You provide the goods for which they give you cash money (Shout out to Grammar Girl for her podcast on the use of “cash money”). It’s basic economics. However, there are always good customers and bad customers. Stupid people fall into the latter category.
Still, I struggle to comprehend the logic here. What about a darkened store with no one inside says, “oh, yes, we’re most assuredly open and ready to serve your needs,”? Now, if there was a light on or an employee inside, I could understand the confusion.
I went to a drive-thru restaurant one night that had employees inside, lights on, and even the giant sign by the street still glowing brightly. I was unable to see the hours on the door, so I proceeded. No part of that image should give the indication that a business is closed. But they were. I sat at the order box waiting for any voice and found none to even tell me that they were closed. How much effort does it take to tell someone that you’re no longer serving? Zero. I received glares and scowls as I drove past. I have yet to return to that drive-thru. Yet I digress.
So, what is there about a darkened, empty shop makes a person think that the store is open? The only stores I’ve ever been to that were dark and empty like that were ones I’ve opened for business. And that’s when I realized it: since stupid people don’t wear signs, as Engvall wishes they would, our places of business must wear them instead. We must inform everyone one as to whether or not we are in fact in operation at a given time. Subtlety is a lost art and semiotic questions have answers which are completely unknown to some people.
“The store doesn’t have lights on or people in it. What does that mean?”
If you don’t know the answer, it means you’re stupid. But apparently, nowadays, it means, “Yes, we’re open! Come on in!”
-The Retail Explorer