Category Archives: Retail Rants

Natural Selection at CVS

Yesterday, I went for a very long walk. I’m not going to tell you where I walked to, but when I stopped at the CVS on Canal Street, near Salem State University, I was parched. So I picked out my favorite Arizona Shaq Soda (which isn’t actually my favorite, but they haven’t carried the other flavors in forever) and as I waited in line, I pulled out the exact amount that would be due.

This cashier was obviously not new going on the worn and torn nature of his name tag. But I guess he could have been a student, since the college is across the street. It’s not a stretch to think that most of the employees at this location are students and if they aren’t, they may want to listen to this.

“Do you have your discount card today, sir?”

“Not right now, thank you.”

There’s a line behind me. The guy hadn’t even scanned the product when he said, “Uh, well, I think it’s on clearance. Do you want to try it out?”

Remember this entry? Well, the point is I hate being hassled. When I say no, it means no. When I say no politely, it means I would love to cuss you out, but I’m not mean or rude, so it would be nice if you return the favor by scanning my purchase so I can be on my way.

I’ve also pointed out that if it’s a clearance price, then I wouldn’t need the card for it anyway, because clearance prices have nothing to do with the sale. The store is just trying to get rid of the product and they don’t care who buys it. They could be having a clearance on cough medicine and you could just buy a whole shopping cart full of it and they wouldn’t even check your ID.

This soda was not one of the items on clearance. I would have rejoiced if that were the case, but it wasn’t.

“Oh, but the cashier is only doing his job,” someone will whine.

To which I reply, yes, his job was to ask if I had my card. His job is also to get me out of there as quickly as possible so he can serve the customers behind me. He failed at this, which is why I’m blogging about it now, which should frankly be of no surprise to anyone.

Ask Next Time

You know that these days, someone has to step on my toes pretty heavily for them to be included in my blog. If I were to write about every single person that ever annoyed me, I would rival Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in terms of sheer volume. This blog would very likely be the most extensive and well documented catalog of the people who have really touched my final nerve.

So I bring your attention back to this CVS on Essex Street. This time, it is a different clerk who has grabbed my ire. And I want to remind readers that I have at least two other stores within walking distance that I could go to for my Arizona Soda, or I could just forswear that thing all together since they only ever carry the one flavor now, but the fact is that I keep patronizing this one location because it is the closest to me. That and I’m genuinely fond of the people who have been working there since I moved to Salem.

But there is one kid who started working there recently. I say kid, because ever since I turned 21, everyone who is so much as a day younger than me is a “kid” as far as I’m concerned. Also, I say kid because the implication is that he has time to improve. You can’t improve on a problem if you don’t know one exists, and to my credit, I actually did try to bring this problem to the attention of the manager well before this second offense before I decided to give it the Confessions treatment.

Let’s go back to that first incident, to shed light on this one.

I’m nothing if not a bargain hunter. And it’s actually pretty rare to find anything on clearance at CVS. So when I was looking for shampoo and I happened to find a decent sized bottle of shampoo and conditioner at clearance price, naturally I grabbed it.

It’s important to note that clearance prices have nothing to do with the discount card.

The kid rang it up. The clearance price did not come up and I pointed it out to him.

“That’s only with the card,” he said, in the well rehearsed tone of someone who is still in the training phase of employment.

“No,” I said. “It’s a clearance price. You get that with or without the card.”

“Well, do you want to use your rewards card?”

“There’s a clearance sticker,” I said, pointing to the aisle where I found the shampoo. “I even checked the bar code.”

The kid stared at me blankly. There was no line behind me, but there were still two other employees, including the manager, he could have turned to for help.

“Uh… do you want to use your rewards card?” he asked.

Finally I took the shampoo and asked the manager to come with me. When the manager saw the clearance price and confirmed what I had (owing to my own experience in retail) we walked back to the register and I said, “You know, he could have called you at anytime. It seems kind of ridiculous that I had to do his job for him.”

The manager agreed. But I’m sure he was patient when he gave the kid the off screen conversation about trying to solve the problem, rather than sticking with the script in your head. Unfortunately, Detective Hindsight, if that conversation ever took place, I did not see evidence of it on my most recent visit.

You may assign some of the blame of this on me. Being a regular, most of the cashiers know my habits and this kid really hasn’t been here all that long, or at least not with enough frequency that he knows that when I buy one item, especially a soda, that I intend to carry it with me and I do not need a bag for it. But is it really so unreasonable?

When I was working as a cashier, no matter what store I was in, if the item was a snack or a drink I always asked if they wanted a bag. This was a learned behavior, because the Rite Aid where I worked was almost as busy as this CVS. And if I didn’t ask people before presuming to bag their items, I wound up with a lot of unused bags piling up either in the trash or on the floor beside me in a very short amount of time.

This CVS is located in the heart of Salem’s tourist district. It doesn’t take a PHD in marketing to guess that people who are stopping in here are usually there to get drinks and snacks on their way to the Haunted Happenings tour, or their scheduled tarot readings, or whatever. And he has been here long enough that whether or not he’s familiar with my shopping habits, he should probably know enough to ask whether I want a bag for the one soda item I have purchased. What’s glaring is that there is a young lady who has also started there not more than a week or so ago, far more recently than this kid. She knows enough to ask people if they would like a bag. So inexperience is not an excuse for someone who has been there for at least a couple of months.

The thing is, I was already reaching for the soda once the transaction was complete. He then proceeded to grab it out of my hands to put in the bag. Acting on the core nature of my instincts which scientists refer to as the reptile mind I grabbed it back, probably more forcefully than necessary from his hand. And I was equally aggressive when I told him to, “Ask next time.”

I know well enough by now that even if I were to apologize within the text of this blog, that someone is going to try to play Backyard Quarterback and tell me what I should have done. You already know which of my fingers you may hope to see in that case. But to the rest of you, I offer this story as a cautionary tale, especially if you are working in retail and regular interaction with customers is a part of your duties.

Use your brain. It’s not against company policy, yet.

Thanks, I needed something to Blog about

There’s a small green grocer in Salem. I’ll refrain from naming it, but since it’s the only one of it’s kind, sheer triangulation will probably lead you to guessing it. Ordinarily, I never have a complaint about this place, but today was special, apparently.

I only wanted one item: Coffee milk.

There was only one employee at the counter and a customer ahead of me who was ordering a sandwich. Fine, I can wait. But mid order, the employee calls “Maggie” to ring out another customer… not me though. Did she think I was waiting to order a sandwich too? Maybe she could have said, “Excuse me, sir, I’m calling someone out to ring and I can see you only have one item. Would you like to go to that register so that you can be out of here quicker?”

This didn’t happen. Instead, I go to the line where Maggie has gone to ring and there’s another customer ahead of me. Okay, that customer only has a few things, so I guess I can be patient.

“Can I grab one more thing?” The customer asked.

“Of course,” Maggie said, ignoring my presence.

So the customer went and grabbed something. And another thing. And some more things. The employee rang up her purchases and she went to grab more items. Her order was spreading out on the counter like Greek fire and finally, I just returned the milk to the cooler and left. I should have left the milk on the shelf of snacks next to me, as it would have served them right to have it go bad in the time that it took for them to acknowledge their mistake. It’s not like they would have known it was me who left it there, since I apparently didn’t exist in that moment.

L.L. Beantown

For the longest time, I thought LL Bean was a mail order company, like The Swiss Colony, because I had only ever seen catalogues. I don’t know if anyone in my family ever ordered from them because I can’t think of a time when there was an overwhelming need for a pair of disco survival boots.

Now that I have visited an outlet location in Freeport, Maine I am not sure who their closest competitor is. Would it be Orvis or Dick’s Sporting Goods? Orivis is an outfitting company that specializes in outdoor activities and camping accessories whereas Dick’s Sporting Goods includes such activities among their stock but is not limited to that particular market. On walking through the massive store I still couldn’t tell you, but my overall impression of a place where a $40 dollar shirt is considered to be on sale is that their main demographic is upper middle class families that drive a camper out into some vaguely rural area, leave a mess at their campground and wonder why they are attracting bears.SAM_0526

For the record, this is not a class-envy rant. If someone has done really well for themselves financially, they should be able to spend money on whatever they like. And there are times when you don’t want to cheap out on clothing, like when you want a really nice tuxedo for a prom or a suit for a wedding or some other social occasion. Clothes don’t make the man, but a man can definitely feel more confident by wearing something nice and long lasting. And yet I am the sort of person who needs to feel smart as well as good looking, so when I find a really nice shirt or pair of khakis at a thrift store for way less than the original price in a store like L.L. Bean, I will gleefully brag about it.

This jacket for example: Me, me, meTen dollars at The Goodwill and it would have cost me somewhere in the 100’s at L.L. Bean. That definitely goes in what I like to call “The Win column”, but as I said, to each their own.

What’s funny is that later that day, I got to meet John’s cousins and it was they, not I, who made the observation that you can find the L.L. Bean collection at any thrift store. The very next day, when John and I stopped in the town of Bath, we found several such items in a thrift shop that I will talk about in greater detail in a later post.

Still, L.L. Bean wasn’t entirely boring. SAM_0519SAM_0521

While John tried some items on in the fitting room, I went exploring. There were a few things that caught my eye, including a large river aquarium that contained many species of trout. There was a little observation bubble that allowed kids to get a “fish eye” view of the aquarium and I immediately envied them, but the pictures were enough to satisfy me. (Pictures of the fish, not the kids, just to clear up any confusion)SAM_0522

Before going into the store, we had dinner at a restaurant across the street known as Linda Bean’s. What’s funny is that I hadn’t even noticed the outlet store until I had jokingly told John that Linda Bean must have been the less successful sister of the Bean family. Then we saw the store from the balcony of the restaurant and I immediately resented my lack of attention to the world around me, not that the store would be on a quiz later or anything, but I also didn’t know that the restaurant and outlet store were both named for the same person.

The food was great, except for one criticism: When I say well done on my burger, I mean that the cow should not be able to give milk while I am eating it. Since I have eaten prodigious amounts of undercooked turkey and chicken, I finished the burger without complaint but other stomachs will not be so ironclad and all it takes is for one person to get sick before beans become the only dish you can legally serve.

When we crossed the street to go into L.L. Bean, I got a little mischievous. There was a store greeter who I guessed to be in her late thirties, possibly mid-forties, and I asked her, “Do you guys have any Bear Grylls stocked?” I’m thinking the actual survivalist, and the joke implies that many variations of the man might be packaged and ready to purchase for the savvy outdoorsman.  But the greeter was confused by the question and either didn’t catch the playful tone in my voice, or actually thought that I was referring to a line of grills because she replied,

“Well, we have grills in the camping section.”

Okay. It wasn’t my intention to make fun of her, so I good naturedly withdrew my remark and went about my business. During the aforementioned exploration of the store, I found a pocket fire starter, which was a part of – you guessed it- the Bear Grylls collection. I yanked it off the peg and proceeded to find John, and we both had a good indoor laugh at the store greeter’s confusion.

Now I did conceit that that this was the only item I found in the entire store that had Bear Grylls’ name and photo on the package. So it stood to reason that there wasn’t a terribly huge selection of his things being sold at this particular L.L. Bean. However, if you work in a store that even remotely caters to the camping and survival crowd, not knowing who Bear Grylls is would be like working in a car parts store and not knowing who Henry Ford was.

Again though, I can’t criticize the store greeter too much. Even if a ten year-old once survived in the woods because of what he learned from watching Man Vs. Wild, it’s not like he’s the patron saint of L.L. Bean. That title falls entirely to this guy:SAM_0517

Basic Customer Service Fail

I’ve been going to this particular CVS for sometime. If they catch wind of this post, that may change, but hopefully they will take this as the constructive criticism that it is from a customer who has frequented their store countless times since moving to Salem, especially as the tourist season has begun to start up and they have plenty of options for where to spend their money as do the locals.

The CVS is located in the heart of Salem and back when I first started frequenting the place, you couldn’t see much of Essex Street  from inside the store because of the wall of tobacco products covering the window. When CVS made the incredibly progressive decision to stop selling tobacco products altogether, they renovated the front area and now you can see the Witch Museum. It’s a much friendlier and less congested looking area now that all of that natural light is pouring in and there’s no direct sunlight making it too hot or uncomfortable for anyone who has to stand there and ring for a long period of time.

Unfortunately, the window seems to have been the culprit in today’s tale of woe as I found not one, but four front end supervisors standing around their registers and watching what appeared to be two police officers questioning a gothed-up individual.

I assume the guy had done something untoward to draw attention to himself, as I remind readers that I live in a town where a Mormon school boy in Sunday clothes stands out like a sore thumb. But what fascinated me was that while I was purchasing a product, the dark haired “front end supervisor” who has stepped on my toes a number of times in the past, interrupted the transaction to gawk and stare through the window at the poor soul.

I’m not deluded enough to believe that my measly three or four dollar purchases actually pays anyone’s salary, the way other overly entitled customers might proclaim. But I think you definitely fail basic customer service 101 when you spend more time focusing on the guy who is NOT making a purchase at your own register.

The Internet Is One Big Glass House

For around five years, I was a member of a site called http://www.customerssuck.com. It was a great place to vent about the perils of working in any aspect of the customer service industry and although there were new members everyday, it’s fair to say that the community was fairly close nit. At the very least, if you are an active part of a community for that length of time, you would expect that the other regular members would have a fair idea as to the direction of your moral compass.

Not so.

One of my last threads there, I promoted my comedy event. In the post I said something along the lines of, “And for those of you who are under 21, if you want me to slip you something then arranger for me to-ah, I mean, under age drinking is illegal. Behave yourselves.”

Now in certain contexts, of course that kind of joking can be a turnoff. Especially if you’re new to a group and those present have no idea how to take you. Let me explain something.

That which results as a result of drinking while underage is certainly no joking matter, as it can lead to other dangerous behaviors such as driving while intoxicated. Kids with the barest concept of right and wrong can do horrendous things while drunk and in no way do I intend to condone such behavior. Nor should it have been taken as a sign that I, to quote the moderator, “condoned illegal behavior”.

Also, why would I joke about something like that, only to actually commit the behavior later on? Wouldn’t that be shooting myself in the foot to joke about a behavior, which could be used to incriminate me should something go wrong at the very event which I was performing?

The context in which I made the statement was humorous and should have been taken as such. In fact, the original reason they took the post down was not the actual joke itself, but because the event was for profit and required 20$ at the door. They only decided to trump up the “condoning of illegal activity” after I argued that other members posted similar events that required money to attend without an issue. This hypocrisy finally led to me telling them that if they were going to take something I said out of context like that, then they should just delete my account entirely.

Why am I bringing it up now, do you ask? Shouldn’t I just move on and not let these people have a second more of my time? Probably, but, one thing I’m sick of is someone using their position to bully me. Sometimes the best way to answer bullying is to stand up to them and name them for what they are and to do so in so public a fashion as to send a message that you will not be pushed around.

It’s hard enough dealing with a new bully. However, someone whom you have formed a relationship over the years is even harder because the betrayal is such a sharp knife in the back that you’re surprised you didn’t see it coming. If you can’t properly address the behaviors of someone you once thought you knew and loved, how can you go into a new situation and not be worried that the same thing will happen again? So for that reason I bring to you the hypocrisy that is Customers Suck.com.

Joking about serving alcohol to under age peoples should certainly be addressed. If it makes you uncomfortable, I apologize. But again it’s not my intention to imply that actually would serve alcohol to minors as my criminal record is pretty clean. I also remind you that at one point I actually saved the bottom line of a company I worked for by successfully passing a sting operation, which would have forced the store to lose their license for enough of a length of time that it would have crippled them.

However, one thing I have never joked about is rape. Most would agree with me, especially in this day and age, that joking about rape is insensitive to the victims and desensitizes the nature of the crime. Which is why I link you to a number of posts on Customers Suck that would appear to condone such behavior.

Irving Patrick Freleigh

Oh and apparently murdering children is funny too. This one takes the cake. I’ll leave you to search the website on your own and decide if you believe this kind of “humor” is something you want to perpetuate.

My Problem In a Nutshell

During the first 90 days of any workplace experience, I’m likely to ask my bosses over and over again how I am doing. This is because employers have a tenancy to blindside you with complaints out of nowhere as opposed to communicating these issues up front before they get out of hand. My personal theory is that it’s easier in the minds of some people to build a case than to try to create an effective working relationship, but I could be wrong. After all, sometimes I let behaviors that annoy me slide for a long time until someone complains to me about a behavior they find wrong, so that I have something to throw back at them. So maybe they’re just waiting for me to make the first move?

In the work place and in living situations this can be the most devastating thing to me. Because rather than being comfortable in my environment, I’m forced to walk on eggshells while other people have free rain to walk all over me. The best example of this is the other day at work.

In the workplace, there’s always something to do. My philosophy stems from years of experience, but it also comes from watching and learning from others. There was a store manager at a Burger King where I was ordering lunch a few years ago. My cashier was a new guy and while I was waiting for my order, he asked the manager, “So what’s this place like on a slow day?”

The manager’s reply was, “There are no slow days when I’m here.”

Obviously you don’t become a store manager by being lazy, or taking advantage of idle periods by texting your boyfriend. This flies in the face of a lot of coworkers I have met over the years. For example one of the cart jockeys from Generimart began his very first day with this question, “When all the carts are inside, do we get to just hang out?”

Naturally that guy didn’t last long enough to manage anything but his own steady incompetence. Although in typical Generimart fashion, it took them almost a whole year to get around to letting him go. I’m noticing a similar trend with Saber Save, whereby the management seems content in their ignorance as long as no one is actively calling out lazy employees. Personally, I know of one guy who had the same orientation day I did who was actually fired before he could do too much damage, but it seems that he is merely the example of lightening striking once, which informs this story.

There’s a cart jockey who is probably in his late forties, if I’m a betting man and his name will be Arthur because he sort of reminds me of Arthur Weasley for no other reason than I’m too tired to notice anything else about him. On this particular Wednesday, the assistant manager asked me to get some of the tape off the doors and windows in the entrances. This involved a lot of GooGon and a few skin sells as I spent the better part of an hour making things look pretty. But I got an extra hour out of the day, so it will make the check look pretty too.

As I’m actually doing work, Arthur stands beside me. Just stands there. Just like Generimart, there a lot things a cart jockey can be doing if the carts are all caught up. But Arthur just had ooodles of time to simply stand there, stare of into space, and chat with me. He wasn’t whistling while he worked so to speak; Talking to while away the hours of hard labor, no, he was actually standing there on the clock, while I busted my ass.

After a few non-committal responses to whatever the hell he was asking me he had the audacity to ask me, “Do you mind me talking to you?”

Give me credit. I was very diplomatic as I said, “I wouldn’t mind if you had a spray bottle in your hand and you were do the same thing I was doing.”

I mumbled something about how I don’t like to chat while I’m on the clock. Simple as that, although I’m sure before long a boss or someone will whine about how I should be more sociable, even though I was definitely in the right for not wanting to waste time with something non-business related.