Job Hunt; or, Thank the Maker for My Savings Account

You know nothing Jon Snow

It’s been hard to find the time, energy, or words to sum up the past two and a half weeks without going into massive amounts of extraneous detail. If I had one word for it, that word would be “strange”. This has been a new experience for me. I’ve never resigned from a post/been laid off before. I’ve never had to fend for myself when there was no real safety net to catch me. That uncertainty has been slightly unnerving, though not nearly as bad as the previous three months with the other owner’s idiocy and ego looming over the business.

I was so sure how this whole mess was going to play out, but life has an incredible way of making you brutally aware that, like Jon Snow, you really know nothing. My fiance got a tattoo when she went to Hong Kong this summer as a tribute to Anthony Bourdain. It’s in Mandarin (I think?) and loosely translates to “I am sure of nothing.” That is life. Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, it tosses a wrench into your machinery and mutters about how it’s a pity you didn’t see that coming.

By the same token, though, I’ve never felt so free, really. I’ve been working on a massive project at home almost every day since I left my job, and it’s finally at the completion stage, which means I’ll need to get hired soon or find something else to do immediately, because I might die from boredom.

(“But, Explorer, what about the webcomic? Or that novel you started a decade ago?” Shut. Up. Voice. In. My. Head. Nobody asked you anyway!)

Anywho, to get you all caught up, a couple of weeks ago, I arrived for work with a text from my boss saying he would not be returning to the business as long as the other owner was there, since the other owner had called a meeting and voted my boss out as president. Turns out, he was installing his own people, who knew less than nothing about running the business, and hoping to keep the rest of us on to keep the business running. Yeah, I had an enormous laugh about that later, too. After meeting with him and showing the new office staff how to do the bare minimum (taking payments from students so that they could pay my instructors), I submitted my formal resignation. A week later, the business was shuttered. I don’t know what all went down, and I really don’t care. I’ve washed my hands of it, because I had determined that attempting to keep that place running without the two most essential cogs (my two bosses) would be a nightmare, and I didn’t want that fucking headache. The last task I completed for my former bosses was payroll for their final payroll period, and I never walked back into that place after that.

So, I’ve been doing what’s best for me, recharging, applying for other positions, working on my projects, and helping with my folks while my dad recovers from foot surgery. It’s been a good period, all things considered.

Here are my thoughts on this period in my life: 1) OMG I am elated that I will never have to deal with Big Boss or Minivan Moron EVER AGAIN! 2) My boss from the job before this most recent one called me. I did not take the call, and I don’t know if I will be returning it. Yes, it’s a job. It’s money. But that man is an idiot and undervalued me, and I refuse to work for someone like that again. 3) Do you know how confusingly gratifying it is to be told that you are overqualified for a position? 4) Furthermore, do you know how amazingly gratifying it is to have an interview with multiple, strong, stable, growing companies? It’s staggering. I have a #1 company and a fallback, and neither is a step backward for me. 5) Earlier this week, I shot a 99 on the golf course, and I had some good strokes out there, too. I’ve never shot so well in all my life. So, there’s that, too.

I may write more on leaving and moving on from retail later, but for now, I’m going to focus on where I stand currently. To say I feel good is probably the most accurate descriptor that I can find. Because I feel great these days. I’m going to go into the next phase of my life with renewed vigor and determination. I have been given so many tools and experience over the previous nine months. I can do anything for myself, because I make my own destiny. There is nothing forged into the stars for us so much as a path which must be followed, merely destinations you will reach. The path is up to you.

That is what I have learned. I am who I am, and I’m excited for who I will become.

-The Retail Explorer

Top Ten Annoying Things; or, Stop Doing This in My Store Or I’ll Run Screaming Into the Night

Phone Call #1 (Completed)

Usually, like 99.99% of the time, if we answer the phone, it means we’re open. Don’t ask the dumb question.

I was recently inspired by a post I shared on the Facebook page about things that really annoy retail employees, and it’s pretty spot-on. But it got me thinking: What are my biggest Shopper pet peeves? I have never actually listed them out before, so this was really interesting. Let’s start from the bottom, shall we?

10. MONEY HANDLING

In general, currency is interesting but ridiculously disgusting. If you don’t believe so, think about how many people touch a coin in the course of its life. Yeah, all those germs just hang around on there.

Yeah. Nasty.

So, we’re not starting from a great point. Throw in some summer heat and humidity and you might as well be wearing a hazmat suit.

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Beyond that, there’s customers just being mindless asses in regard to paying. From just setting it all down on the counter, as opposed to actually handing it to you, like a normal, considerate person, to flinging it at you, my personal favorite, Shoppers are fucking horrendous when it comes to money handling. As with all things the Shopper does, it’s truly remarkable.

9. DISCOUNTS

Shoppers beg for discounts so often, you’d believe they were destitute. In my industry, it’s understandable, as aviation is incredibly expensive across the board, but it’s still vexing to hear them ask for discounts constantly. No, you don’t get a student discount here. Our own students don’t get a student discount here. You know who does? Military and staff. That’s it. And do you know how much military gets? 10%. Let me spell that out for you, Shopper. That’s sales tax plus a little extra. I know, every little bit counts, but it makes you into a little beggar, and we hate listening to it, especially when we’re bound by this little thing called “Store Policy”.

8. GROUPS

I’ll admit that this is a slightly specific thing, but I always find it weird when a small herd of Shoppers comes into the shop and only one of them buys something. It’s nothing bad; it’s just…weird.

7. BACKORDER/OUT OF STOCK

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C’mon, Pete. You know they don’t read things.

This is something that will always amaze me. It’s one of the simplest concepts in the service industry, and it’s basic economics: Supply and demand. Especially in a small business setting, supply and demand is carefully watched and regularly adjusted. So, when demand suddenly takes an unexpected upswing, supply depletes. It happens from time to time; demand for certain items comes in irregular waves.

The bottom line here is: Things sometimes run out of stock, and then it takes a while to get them back in stock. Sometimes, demand rises and stays steady that it takes a while for stock levels to adjust to them fully.

We had an issue along those lines with a brand of headsets. They introduced a new line of headsets to compete with one of the best selling headsets on the market but at a much lower price. They were an instant success. So much so that every time I went to order more, I had at least a three week backorder from the manufacturer, which never went over well with Shoppers seeking out these hot headsets. There was always a groan and then the begging began, in the hope that I’d know who might have one in stock. Here’s the answer I always give to that one: I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you to go to a competitor, especially when that’s not my job and you’re perfectly capable of seeking it out yourself. Beyond that, I don’t know which stores have what stock on which item. You want it bad enough? Call around. It’s not hard.

That brings me to another thing: Backorder. I know there are some people in the world who don’t know what “backordered” means, so I explain it to them by telling them, “I’m not sure when I’ll get it.” The funny thing is the follow-up question I always get: “Will it be in tomorrow?” Seriously, what part of what I just said made any indication that I would be getting it in tomorrow? Yes, there’s a possibility, but that possibility is so minuscule, it’s not even worth entertaining. If it’s on backorder, it’s probably going to be a while, i.e. weeks. Usually, when an order ships, I receive a confirmation telling me when I can expect delivery. If I don’t have that, it’s not going to be in tomorrow. Otherwise, I’d have said so.

This is getting into one of my bigger pet peeves, though, so I’m going to end this topic here and move on.

6. PRICE

“Wow! This is pretty expensive!” Lemme tell you how much I love hearing this one. I don’t. It’s hot garbage, and I’ll tell you why: This is aviation. Everything is expensive, from training to supplies to maintenance. It’s all expensive. Please, the sooner you learn this and process this, the sooner we can all move on and cease this vexing line of discussion.

Here’s the other kicker: We’re not expensive. In fact, most of our pricing is set at the MSRP. You wanna complain about it? Go to the manufacturer and let your whining fall on their deaf ears. And actually, a few of our distributors force us to sign agreements to sell their products at a price no lower than the price they have set. That’s where we price our items, so don’t complain to me about it.

5. RETURNS

This is not to say that all returns are bad and annoying. I get it; sometimes, a purchase just doesn’t work out. My problem rests with the Shoppers who feel that any return is an acceptable return. It’s not. On the bottom of every receipt is printed our return guidelines, which must be made within thirty days of purchase and must be accompanied by the original receipt, original, undamaged packaging, and if it was a credit card, the original card used to make the purchase. These are basic, simple guidelines. So, why is this so hard?

Too often, it’s either damaged packaging or outside of the return window or without the receipt or without the credit card. Something is always wrong. Item-for-item swaps are different and simple when their prices are the same. Sure, you can swap out a chart for another one. I’m still going to think you’re an idiot because you don’t know where the hell you’re flying, but it’s a harmless and easily corrected mistake.

But if you want your money back and expect me to make an exception for you? Nah, piss off. Store Policy is the law around here, and I’m not going to risk my boss coming in and holding me responsible for something that I did that was against that policy. I may not like my job, but I do like the income it provides. So, read the receipt and don’t expect me to bend the rules for you.

4. CLEANLINESS

This is a big, overarching one. When I say “cleanliness”, I mean everything along those lines: Personal hygiene, misplaced items, leaving trash in the store, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through the shop and found an item placed literally one hook away from its rightful spot. What. The fuck. Even. Is. That?! How do you do that? Honestly, someone tell me how that’s possible. It’s one hook away. It does not take that much brainpower to look at the item, look at the wall, and place it on the correct hook. Nor is it so hard to replace a hook in the wall that you moronically pulled out of the wall because you have the motor skills of a five year-old. (Sorry. That was a big insult to five year-olds, who are not that bad in eye-hand coordination. My apologies.)

Beyond that, how do you not smell your own stench when you just reek? I know I do, and you know what it does? It embarrasses the hell out of me to the point that I just want to get home and shower as soon as possible. Also, don’t wipe your nose and then hand me something. Or leave your fucking latte cup sitting around. Or track mud into the store. Or let your little spawn wreck my shop.

All of these things are just examples of the larger issue of Shoppers being so inconsiderate of other people, so uncouth, that you wonder how they’ve survived this long in the world without incident.

3. BAD JOKES

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Yeah, smile. That’ll help…

“Doesn’t scan? Must be free!”

“I printed them this morning!”

“Working hard or hardly working?”

“You look like you need something to do!”

If you’ve ever thought any of these were funny, or have ever said them to a retail worker, please, never do it again. None of these jokes are original or funny or good. We HATE them so much that we might put our heads through the front window out of pure insanity.

You know what we do enjoy? Actual, pleasant, genuine conversation. Don’t lead with the “I’m sorry you have to work today” or anything like that. Just a “How’s your day been?” and go from there. How easy is that? Just act like you give a crap and acknowledge us as human fucking beings for a hot minute. We’re not automatons installed to serve your every whim and take all your abuse with gentle grace. We’re living beings with feelings. Just act like that’s a thing that matters to you, and go from there.

Just, please, no tired old jokes. They’re worse than dad jokes.

2. READING

The top two slots on this list were neck-and-neck, really, but this one is slightly less annoying than #1.

We are taught from an early age of the importance of reading. If there is a skill you use literally every single day, it’s reading. You read signs on the roadway; you read instructions on food packets; you read articles on your phone; you read everywhere. When you come into my shop, you’re bombarded by reading opportunities. I’ll list them in order of appearance: Hours of operation, Open/Closed, “Please, Use Other Door”, item names, item descriptions, prices, sale racks, total due, receipt, return policy. How much of that do my Shoppers read? I’d say around 20%. I’m not kidding. It’s that low.

I constantly get questions, from Shoppers in the store, about our hours, our return policy, how much this item costs, or where they can find that item. It’s maddening because it’s all so simple. You use your eyes to take in the information and then your brain makes sense of it and moves your muscles accordingly. So, if you have a wall of charts, which are alphabetized, figuring out where St. Louis is should not be difficult. Neither should the price tag. There’s one on literally every single product.

Signage is the biggest issue. I honestly don’t know why I waste my time sometimes. I could have the largest “Closed” sign up in the universe, and I would still have Shoppers yank on the locked door. It’s remarkable.

I once had a Shopper, a particularly aloof one, walk up before I had even gotten there (I actually watched him walk into the main building as I parked) and complain to me about his wait:

“Oh, there you are!” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.” (Suuuuuuure you have.)

“Well, we don’t open until ten, so, I just got here.”

“Oh, well, how was I supposed to know that?”

As we approached the front doors of the shop, I pointed out the “hours of operation” sign and informed him that our hours are clearly posted right there and I would be with him in a few minutes to open the shop. When I went to unlock the front doors a few minutes later, he was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure it was embarrassment, but you know what? I really didn’t give a shit at that point. I still stick to the mantra of “I shouldn’t have to hold your hand like you’re a kindergartner.”

1. LISTENING

There is nothing that pisses me off more in the universe than having to repeat myself to a Shopper. I know I’m going to have to, but dammit if it doesn’t just piss me right off when it happens. It’s exacerbated by the fact that it’s usually a response to a question posed to me. How the hell can you ask me a question and then not pay attention to the answer? What the hell is wrong with some people?

I have some customers who make me repeat things THREE TIMES or more. And I know as soon as they walk through the door I’m going to have to do that. And the worst part is it’s usually in concert with #2 on my list, which means they’ve come into my store, turned their brain off, and just decided to let me do everything for them. Not. Fun.

I shouldn’t have to tell you twice the basic specs of a headset if you ask me about them. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice about your total. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice about anything really, especially if you’ve asked me about it.

So, there you have it, my top ten list of infuriating Shopper tendencies. Now, I’m going to go have a burger and a beer and a shower.

-The Retail Explorer

Receipts; or, Don’t Be a Nimrod, Nimrod

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Sign my copy, not your copy.

I’ve noticed a curious trend recently revolving around the credit card machine, and honestly, I don’t know why it keeps happening. Okay, that’s a lie; I know exactly why it keeps happening. (Customers are idiots and are constantly rushing for some reason.)

It’s just weird when it does happen, and I know the explanation for that as well; somehow, deep down inside me, there’s some hope that I’m dealing with an intelligent, observant person. Yeah, I don’t know why that little sliver of hope continues to exist either, and yet, there it is, twinkling like the dim, distant start that it is.

So, here’s how it goes: I write up their purchases, total them, and take payment. When it’s a card, you plug it into the machine, insert the card, and wait for it to spit out the receipt. Pretty basic stuff. Now comes the weirdness. You have the customer sign the receipt, then staple their copy (the second receipt printed) to the itemized receipt, and hand it to them to keep.

That’s how it should go. Today, this was how it went: I handed them the copy to sign, the customer signed it, pocketed the receipt, and turned to leave. I stopped them, explaining to them that they currently had my copy of the receipt crumpled up in their pocket. As the sudden realization of their mistake collided with their embarrassment, the fumbled with, well, everything.

“Oh. Sorry.”

Here’s the simple thing about it all: Turn. On. Your. Brains. Or, rather, stop turning them off when you enter a store. You know why I tend to not want to ask an employee for help finding something? I like doing it myself. Then, after I’ve searched as well as I could and come up empty, I’ll ask for guidance. There’s a tiny bit of self satisfaction when I’m able to successfully navigate a store on my own. For many Shoppers, however, that’s simply not the case.

Many are perfectly content coasting as far as their brute senses can take them, which is, often, not very far at all. By allowing their brains a break while they shop, they become babbling idiots. Harsh? Yes. Incorrect? No. I’ve seen far too many intelligent people stare at a wall of alphabetized charts forget how to figure out if the letter “N” comes before or after “M”, or some similar such nonsense. I give no slack for such a lackadaisical approach to living.

This receipt issue is along the same lines. The receipts are marked clearly as either “MERCHANT COPY” or “CUSTOMER COPY”. Aside from that, when was the last time a store, or any business for that matter, asked you to sign the copy of the receipt that you take with you? (And don’t offer forth any receipt made with carbon paper. The receipt that you sign in that case is still the one that stays with the business. Yours is always one of the copies.)

There’s often an anxiety issue, and I get that. Often, Shoppers want to get in and get out of a store as quickly as they can. I totally get that. But there is a decided difference between haste and carelessness. One does tend to breed the other, but this borders on stupidity. Regardless, there’s no defense for this. This is a process so ingrained into our consumerist society that such lapses, while comical, is absolutely ridiculous.

I’m at the point of rambling, so I’ll end with this: Be better when you shop. Challenge yourself, just a little bit. You’re better than that.

-The Retail Explorer