A Disney Holiday; or, What We Can Learn From the Mouse

I recently got to do something I had never before (and probably never will again) experienced: Walt Disney World during the holiday season. Having done that, finally, I can safely say that I will never do that again. This isn’t because I had a terrible time. Quite the opposite, in fact. WDW will always have a special place in my heart, and I don’t know if anything could ever change that.

And I will return. There is too much to love about WDW to never walk its grounds again. The next time I do return, however, will be during a much less busy time of year. I have never seen such ridiculous crowds. It was truly remarkable.

There was one plus to being stuck in such seas of humanity: Seeing customer service at its finest levels during the most trying of times, a sight that I would describe as inspiring.

Similarly to how Disneyland is referred to as “the happiest place on Earth,” WDW is dubbed along the same lines as “the most magical place on Earth.” The greatest threat to destroying that magical experience is allowing your patience to be eroded, a common issue among customers.

And I saw it at WDW in spades. We had lunch at a restaurant in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, just outside of the Haunted Mansion, and the line was, literally, out the door. Hunger and long lines are a perfect recipe for customer grumpiness. And when that is combined with the fact that EVERYTHING has a line, that grumpiness will continue unabated.

That’s the thing that customers either fail or refuse to understand: This is the busiest time of the year, for not just theme parks, but for all walks of the service industry, from delivery companies to retail establishments. It’s just that time of the year when the demand for these services explodes, and a little understanding into that fact will go a long way toward improving your experience as a customer. Prepare yourself for the wait, and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if there isn’t one.

But what can the service industry worker do to not only make things more pleasant for the customer but also survivable for themselves? Look to the Disney Cast Members.

First thing, keep a level head. Find some way to remind yourself that you can only control so much of a given situation. When you service tens of thousands of people a day, stress is going to come into play. Yet, they are among the most friendly, accommodating, and helpful people you’d ever hope to find. Finding some place of peace will aid in that.

Here’s the caveat: I know this is going to be the most difficult thing to do, since customers will not make that easy. A customer who feels he has been wronged or merely inconvenienced can be the most vile, inhuman creature on the planet, and having to deal with them in that situation is miserable. So, while not impossible, it will be incredibly difficult.Secondly, be as friendly as you can be. I know many of these customers will not deserve your kindness, but sometimes all you can do is grin and bear it. Now, I’m not telling you to just be a doormat for them. All I’m saying is it’s illegal to slap them. I’d rather fake politeness to a jerk than spend a night in jail.

Thirdly, do what you can for them within the scope of your job (and what you think they deserve, without harm to your job). Again, I’m not saying to bend over backward for a customer who’s just being a jerk because they can. Just remember it’s illegal to hit them. And it’s good to have a job.

Whatever leeway your job affords you is valuable tool at your disposal to be used at your discretion. If someone needs directions, you can give it to them and it might mean the world to them. But if they ask you for something that you are, for whatever reason, unable to provide, don’t feel bad about it, even if they give you grief. That’s one thing my current job has taught me: You aren’t a fireman and it’s not your job to put out fires. If someone has a problem, I apologize and direct them to someone who can do something. Cast Members do the same thing.

My biggest takeaway from my trip was how to deal with the stress of volume. I can’t imagine what it’s like dealing with that many guests on a daily basis. But I know what it’s like dealing with twice the normal number of packages in the same window of time as normal, and you have to find a way to deal with it. You can’t control the volume of customers or items, but you can control how it affects you. Can it overwhelm you at times? Sure. It definitely has overwhelmed me before.

The key is finding a way to push through and keep forward momentum. My method is to bite off small chunks at a time, finish one neighborhood before worrying about another. Package by package, house by house, street my street. Forget about the whole stone, deal with the chips. That avalanche can bury you so easily if you allow it. Take breaks as often as you can and allow yourself to ability to process and refresh, or else you will crumble under the weight.

My other takeaway is blue milk is delicious.

Stay strong this holiday season, comrades!

-The Retail Explorer

Happy Halloween!

Halloween 2019

Hey, they’re no Superman.

Happy Halloween, comrades! I’m bringing back the special holiday comics. Last Halloween, I decided to do a group costume, having the group dress up as the cast of Futurama. I really enjoyed that idea of highlighting a show that was really influential on me, so I wanted to do that again this year with this Scrubs group costume. I’m excited by how this turned out. That drawing of Pete is one of my favorite things I’ve ever drawn. The only problem I have with it is I left out Caroline, who could have stood in for the Janitor, and I’m kicking myself over that oversight. Oh well.

Anyways, have a safe and fun Halloween!

-The Retail Explorer

McMansions; or, Big, Ugly Boxes on the Hillside

I’m a delivery boy!

First and foremost, I apologize for the lack of new content here. Adjusting to the new job has been tiring. I’ve also been getting back into editing and other old pursuits, so my time management has been, to say the very least, shit.

Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s chat, shall we?

You heard correctly; I’ve been in a new job for the past six weeks, and I’ve been really enjoying it. I’m currently in logistics (kind of). To put it more accurately, I’m like Philip J. Fry with a college degree and no space ship, which is infinitely lamer than the other way around. Regardless, I get to drive a lot, and I soak up considerable amounts of vitamin E while getting lots of fresh air and exercise.

I’m sure I heard some of you just say, “ew,” and that’s fine. It’s not for everyone. Nor is sitting around in an office staring at a computer or teaching in a classroom or building houses. We all have our niches we tolerate enjoy enough to do it for forty or more hours a week for decades. Different strokes for different folks.

Bottom line is this: I actually, mostly, enjoy it. My vehicle is state-of-the-art and a true joy to drive. The routes are fairly decent (except for the country routes, but that’s another can of worms in itself worthy of its own post). The people are friendly. And the architecture is…interesting.

Our company runs nearly two dozen routes each day, but each driver has been confined to a more general area of operation to help facilitate efficiency through locational familiarity. (Are those actual industry terms? I haven’t a clue, but they sound good, don’t they?)

My area is one that has been traditionally a country town. For most of my thirty-four years here, it has been exactly that. However, as is the case with many rural towns in proximity to larger metropolitan areas (I can think of at least five in my area alone), developers have noticed the desire for cheap, available land within decent proximity of the big city where people work, and they have taken full advantage.

Not a day passes when I think of two terms: “Little Boxes” and “McMansions”. Some of you may already know where I’m going with this. I’m talking about not merely subdivisions, but of subdivisions of cheaply made homes and even “mansions”. I say “mansions” with parentheses because they are an insult to proper mansions.

Agrestic is such a great, awful name for a subdivision. It’s perfect.

Developers refer to these as “custom homes”, though I can’t imagine the customization options are all that varied as they all look EXACTLY THE BLOODY SAME. That’s where “Little Boxes” comes in. Some of you may refer to the Showtime series Weeds, a dramedy that follows the antics of a suburban widow living and selling drugs in one of these such custom home communities. (If you haven’t seen it, the first three seasons are fantastic, while the rest are lesser, though still enjoyable. I’d suggest giving it a watch.) The theme song, “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds, talks about this very thing:

“Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same,

There’s a pink one and a green one

And a blue one and a yellow one

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.”

And it’s so true! You pull into one of these subdivisions, whose entrance is always marked with a pair of stoneworks straddling the street and the name of the subdivision, which is always something pleasant yet boring, carved into it, and you instantly know you’re entering somewhere devoid of soul or interest.

What defines them most is the continuity, and that’s not a compliment. Each house resembles the one next to it, which is, of course, by design. It’s precisely the point. I don’t know what the hell that point is or what it accomplishes, but that’s the way it is. Each of them has many of the same architectural features and building styles as its neighbor to the extent of tedium. Yes, we get it, you like brick arches with poorly fitted concrete keystones. Move on with it.

The majority of these subdivisions are average sized custom homes (basically anything under 3,000 square feet and at most a two-car garage), but there are many that are much larger homes, which Kate Wagner has wonderfully dubbed “McMansions.” They’re essentially custom homes on a much larger scale, attempting (poorly) to emulate older, properly designed and constructed mansions, but with terrible architecture and cheap materials. I cannot do justice to what an abomination to the landscape these homes are, so please, check out her website: https://mcmansionhell.com/. It is nothing short of glorious. I suggest beginning with the “McMansion 101” section for a proper education on why these fail so spectacularly.

But that’s what I do every day: I drive around, delivering to all of these custom homes, as I marvel at the extreme architectural monotony and wonder why the hell anyone would ever consider such a thing desirable.

Oh well. Not my circus or monkeys. It’s their world. I just deliver in it. Anyway, until next time, comrades. Be good to one another.

-The Retail Explorer