Overheard at the Mercantile; or, Dear Customer Goes Antiquing

Back in the spring of 2018, I had been, essentially, a free agent, job-wise. The previous six months have not been enjoyable on that front, but I have been able to flex my muscles a bit in some areas and test my limits in others. Eventually, something good will come my way.

In the mean time, I had been afforded the opportunity to help my parents out with getting their house in order for a reunion they’re hosting in May. Suffice it to say, I’d done a number of odd jobs and ton of painting. And I had enjoyed it quite a bit. I stained their deck, repainted their entire front porch, and built a garden patio. It had been fun, actually.

One day, my mom decided she wants a large clock to place over her fireplace. Normally, she keeps a wreath of some seasonal variety up there year round, but after having seen a really neat, possibly nonfunctional, large rooster clock at a shop on our way back from Minneapolis, she realized she wanted a change.

So, as we do in our family, we initially thought of antiques. The vast majority of mine and my parents’ furniture are antiques. The running joke in my family is that when my parents pass, we’ll just open an antiques store out of their house.

Anywho, off to the mercantile we went. Originally, this particular mercantile had been a fully-fledged antiques store, but in the decade or two since, it had skewed toward the boutique, which was a shame, really. I’d found such cool stuff there over the years. I still have an amazing Ready Kilowatt lapel pin I bought there when I was a kid.

We were pleased to find that, in the year or two since we had last been in there, the mercantile had seemed to find more of a balance between the boutique and the antique. In fact, I actually enjoyed their selections, even though we failed to find a clock that suited our goals. We did however find a sign and some local art prints to hang on my parents’ wall.

And that’s when a shopper emerged from the proverbial shadows.

I should have seen it coming sooner. The clerk behind the counter began by calling the seller who operated the stall at the mercantile. Of course, I only heard one end of that conversation, but it’s not difficult to figure out how it went. It was in regard to a woman who wanted to purchase four china plates on wall hangers.

This woman told the clerk that the seller had previously given her a discount on items she had previously purchased from him and was hoping that he would extend that offer to her again. Red flag, number one.

So, after that first phone call with the seller, the clerk confirmed that, yes, the seller would extend that discount to her again. Here’s why that’s a red flag: Just because you get the discount once does not mean you should expect to ever receive it again. Yes, it never hurts to ask, but those who do ask for it are usually in a certain category of shopper that makes clerks raise an eyebrow. What makes it more of a solid red flag was the fact that the woman informed the clerk three times, as she was on the phone with the seller, that the seller had previously given her a discount. Danger, Will Robinson!

Anyway, she gets the discount (15%). As she and the clerk are examining the plates to package them up, the clerk notices stickers on the plate hangers, reading, “Not for sale,” or something to that effect. An honest question then arises: Does it in fact apply to the hangers or is does it apply to the plate/hanger set? Or, if it does in fact apply tot he hangers, would the seller make an exception for her? Call number two.

Clerk: “Hey, yeah, it’s so-and-so again. We noticed the ‘not for sale’ tags on the hangers, and she was wondering if you were firm on that or not?”

Woman: “He gave them to me last time.”

(Mind you, the clerk is not talking to this woman and is on the other side of the checkout area from her to make this call.)

Clerk: “Oh, you need them? Ok, so, can’t sell them? Ok, just wanted to make sure.” <returns to woman> “He says he absolutely needs them, so, we can’t sell them.”

Woman: “What? But he gave them to me last time!”

Clerk: “I’m sorry. He says he needs them.”

Woman: “But last time, he let me have them.”

Clerk: <shrugs> “Well, he needs these.”

Woman: “Really?”

Red flag, number two. Shut. The fuck. Up. Lady. Listen to what the clerk is telling you. The answer is no, and she has absolutely no power to change it. Take a fucking hint, you whiny twerp.

I did a search on Amazon for plate hangers and found a ten-pack for $11 available with Prime shipping. For just over a dollar a piece, she could’ve had hangers within a day or two, without having to put herself as a pain in the ass.

Now, perhaps I’m being too hard on her. It’s a genuine possibility that my years in Retail hell have soured and jaded me to all customers. But this just rubbed me the wrong way. It’s the entitled customer mentality, that sellers and stores should bend over backward to the every whim of a customer in hopes that they won’t take their business elsewhere or leave a bad review.

Here’s the thing: If the seller is present, it might be a different story. Once the seller tells the clerk “no”, that’s pretty much it. If I were the seller, I’d have sold those hangers to her for $5 a piece. That would shut her up real quick. Shoppers will always beg for more. They’re awful when it comes to discounts and freebies. Ever see people go nuts at a sporting event over a free shirt with twenty sponsors all over it? Yeah, that’s the kind of ridiculousness I’m talking about. (If you live outside the U.S., just google “t-shirt canon”, and you’ll have a good idea.”)

The more I think about, I’m not being too hard on her. It was a power move over a fucking coat hangar, and I’m glad the seller pushed back. Especially in this age of Corona, customers have been pushing more than they ever had before, and it’s all motivated by a selfish drive for power. They lash out even more than usual because they feel that their power, their personal liberties, are slowly being revoked, one at a time. (They’re not, though.) it’s just another example of how selfish and entitled Dear Customer can truly be.

-The Retail Explorer

Muh Freedoms!; or, How to Deal With Anti-Maskers

“Put on a mask or I’ll Lysol you!”

I’d like to paint a picture for you. It’s a store, any brick-and-mortar location of any retail establishment in this country. You approach the glass doors, which slide open with a gentle whoosh. Inside the environment is frantic but hushed. It’s not quite as frantic as it was four months ago, but there is still a nervous energy permeating the air. The aisles are one-way roads, marked with large neon duct tape arrows on the floor to indicate the direction of travel, but many of the customers ignore it as they lament the fact that they must wear face masks and hurry to complete their shopping as quickly as possible.

You grab a cart. The handlebar has a film on them and the distinct smell of disinfectant, the remnants of being clean. You begin down one aisle, then another, picking off items as you cross them from your list. You handle them more carefully than usual and make a note to wash your hands as soon as you get the chance.

Then you turn the next corner. In the middle of the aisle, a woman is yelling at a stocker. His eyes above the edge of his mask are wide with surprise but heavy with the exhaustion of it all. The woman has light skin, fine blonde hair, curled and hair-sprayed. She has no mask.

This scene is everywhere in America. Someone has decided that their own personal freedom is more valuable than the health of their community. The rallying cry has been one of many things in a revolving door of absolute selfish insanity. Often it focuses on the high survivability of the virus, or the belief that it’s all a hoax to accomplish whatever ridiculous end they feel fits properly. Regardless, facts are ignored in favor or personal belief. In every case of this, personal selfishness is the belief that prevails as the basis for these outbursts.

The customer has just been informed that they are required to wear a mask while they are inside the store, as per city ordinance and store policy, or they must leave the premises. And just as a toddler does when told that they cannot have the overly sweet cereal that they want, the customer, a grown adult, throws a temper tantrum in public. Behind them, another customer shoots video.

She tries every trick in the book she can think of in a vain attempt to get her way. Her will and determination are strong; she is a vile and powerful adversary.

We’ve all seen this before, either via video footage or personal experience. They’re very creative in the excuses they employ, so let’s examine some of the more common ones:

1. “I have a medical issue”/ADA Compliance

Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/7pYjM78C9ZL6iwGQ9

Okay, yes, some people do have a legitimate medical issue preventing them from wearing a mask. However, those are very few and far between, and even people with medical conditions are wearing masks, so the point is moot.

When that excuse fails, they’ll naturally gravitate to the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that they must be accommodated, or those preventing them will face fines of up to $75,000. This is completely bunk. Here’s why.

Per the Department of Justice, the agency overseeing enforcement of the ADA: “The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.” The National Law Review goes further to explain what this means: “The ADA generally prohibits eligibility/screening criteria that tend to exclude individuals based on a disability, unless the criteria are necessary for the business to operate safely in providing its goods and services. Those requirements must be based on actual risks and may not be based on speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about people with disabilities. At this time, businesses concerned about the safety of their staff and customers should be justified in relying upon guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and local governments’ orders, to justify policies forbidding customers without face masks from entering their stores.”

In other words, if regulatory agencies and governmental bodies deem masks to be a safeguard essential for public safety, enforcement of a store policy in accordance with those guidelines does not violate the ADA, since a mask requirement is universally deemed necessary for the safe operation of a business.

So, no, you’re not going to get fined $75,000 for telling someone to mask up or take a hike. Be sure to offer other accommodations, such as curbside service, before putting on your best “fuck off” smile.

2. Personal Freedoms/FTBA

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/28/us/fake-face-mask-exemption-card-coronavirus.amp.html

This one is the most selfish and idiotic of the bunch. So many of our “personal freedoms” are forfeited on a daily basis in the name of public safety. Driving regulations, such as seatbelt requirements, or smoking ordinances are common examples.

As a means to get around this, aside from yelling and throwing a temper tantrum, as in the above scenario I created, they have begun attempting to hide behind the Freedom to Breathe Agency, or FTBA. If this sounds ridiculous and made up, it absolutely is. The FTBA is neither a government agency, nor an agency at all. It has no power and no jurisdiction. Many of the selfish morons hiding behind its name carry around a card explaining that you shouldn’t violate their personal liberties. The card tries very hard to look legitimate, going so far as to even include the logo of the Department of Justice, which is an unauthorized use of the seal. The DOJ had to respond by saying that this is fraud. Feel free to laugh at anyone who tries to pass this off as legitimate and escort them to the exit.

3. CO2 Poisoning/Oxygen Flow Prevention/Ineffective Against the Virus

Source: https://www.uvmhealth.org/coronavirus/staying-healthy/mask-myths

I’m just going to attack all three of these at once, because they all run counter to each other, and either they are all true or none of them are. Allow me to explain.

First, doctors and healthcare professionals wear N95 masks, the highest quality of PPE, for hours and hours a day and have suffered no ill effects from “carbon dioxide poisoning” or a lack of oxygen.

Second, let’s talk about the sizes of the particles we’re dealing with here: oxygen, carbon dioxide, and COVID-19 particles. (All of this information is taken directly from an article published by Loma Linda University.) So, the premise is that masks prevent the flow of oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. Also, a popular claim is that masks are ineffective against preventing COVID from passing through. To sum up, the claim is that COVID particles are smaller than Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide. This is a false claim.

Per the article, oxygen molecules measure in at 0.120 nanometers, carbon dioxide molecules at .232 nanometers, and COVID-19 particles at 120 nanometers. For scale, an oxygen molecule is 1/1000th the size of a COVID particle. Already, the claim is bullshit. Now, factor in the size of the the weave of an N95 mask at anywhere between 100 and 300 nanometers. Oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules will flow just fine through there. COVID particles, on the other hand, might not. It just depends on the mask, not all of which are created equal.

The bottom line with this one is anti-maskers need to figure out which one of these false claims they want you to debunk at a given moment. The truth is science backs up the ability to potentially prevent COVID spread while allowing free flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide. So, still, shut up and wear a mask.

BONUS ROUND: “You have to accept cash! It’s legal tender!”

Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/gFT2KfQFNu4QxJ3B6

Yes, it is legal tender, but no, there is no regulation forcing a business or person to accept cash as a method of payment. Per the Federal Reserve’s own website and Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, cash is only set up as legal tender for the purposes of settling debts but is not required for doing so. So, any time a customer says it’s the law for you to accept cash, politely inform them that it’s not.*

*Check your state and city laws and statutes to double-check this before going all-in on it.

Now, this information, alone, will not guarantee victory or success. That depends on a few other factors.

1. Information. Arm yourself with the facts above. Knowing the truth is half of the battle already. Facts are not opinions. They are indisputable. Even though anti-maskers will continue to dispute them.

2. Confidence. Believe in yourself and in the facts you carry. You hold far more power than they do. The worst they can do is get huffy, demand a manager, and then go cry on the internet, which brings me to my next point.

3. Backup. If you are able, request support, the higher up the chain of command, the better. But bring in whomever you can. There is safety and solidarity in numbers.

4. Stand firm. Anti-maskers pose a threat to everyone. We still don’t know enough about what this virus can and can’t do. We do know that PPE can help prevent the spread of the virus, but anti-maskers are too selfish to comply. There are a number of factors behind this, which I won’t get into here, but they ultimately believe that it is worthless and amounts to government control. Stand your ground against them, and you will prevail.

I wanted to create this guide to help essential service industry workers fight back against these bullies who are attempting to take advantage of them during an awful and challenging time. Hopefully, you will find something valuable here. Good luck out there, comrades. Stay safe.

-The Retail Explorer

Open or Closed: The Great Conundrum

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