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Monday, January 7, 2013

I know what you are thinking

Yet another New Year’s Resolutions column.

Well, kind of.

I love the Christmas season. I don’t know why. It’s the season of giving, after all, but I give year-round. Time, money, and my knowledge, I give to whomever I deem in need of it.

Without sounding like a wild-eyed fanatic, Jesus is the reason for the season. It is His birth that we celebrate, even those who do not recognize Him as who He is. The “free thinkers” ( a term mired in irony) among us whisper to us that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th, reminding us that the early Christians purloined the pagans’ celebratory day of Winter Solstice in order to bring Christianity into the mainstream. The “free thinkers” chortle in derisive laughter that Jesus was probably born in the summer months, pointing to May or June as the most likely months.

What the “free thinkers” misunderstand is that no Christian doctrine is overturned by celebrating Christ’s birthday in December instead of in its proper month. The infallibility of Scripture is not in question here. I’ve even read that there are actually people who think that putting so much focus on celebrating Christ’s birth demeans his life. Nowhere in the Bible does it command us to celebrate Christ’s birthday.

But I digress.

I was on my way to saying that although I love the Christmas season, sometimes it can be a bit wearing on a person’s soul. As a retailer, I see all sorts of people come into my store. Some are always polite, some have bad days and good days. Some wouldn’t know politeness and good manners if they came up to them wearing a name badge.

Being on this side of the register allows me to see a wide range of behaviors, and compare them to the way most of us would want to act. So think of this as a column about New Year’s resolutions that a person could follow if they want to contribute to a better society.

1) “Whaddya mean, you’re out of it?” We get it, you are frustrated that we don’t have your product in stock. There is absolutely nothing a retailer hates more than a potential sale being refused when it doesn’t have to be. We’re sorry, we don’t like watching you walk out of the store empty-handed, but we just can’t whistle up your product out of thin air. We’ll suggest alternatives, if at all possible. The best among us will call any of our other stores for you to see if they have it in stock.

2) “I cannot believe how much this costs!” I understand, and I sympathize with you. I know that things are a lot more expensive now than they were a year, two years, five years, a decade, etc. ago. You only have so much money, and it doesn’t seem to go as far as it used to go. I, too, can remember when a left-handed loaf of bread was only fifty cents. But in case it has escaped your notice, everything is more expensive now than it used to be. Even if they weren’t, the lady behind the counter wearing the name badge does not set the prices.

3) “I’m going to your competitor!"
Even if the lady with the name badge does set the prices at the store that you frequent, you still have the power to not buy what it is that she is selling. You can walk down the street and check out the prices at her competitors. You just might find that the price that you balked at was the better price. And won’t you look foolish when you walk back in and buy the swivel-top egg timer that you turned your nose up in the first place? We do notice things like this, and we do comment among ourselves about it.

4) “Well, I’ll be with you as soon as I finish this very important call.”
Trust me, we’re not that impressed that you have a Bluetooth cell phone and you are talking to your cousin in Botswana about the upcoming banana harvest. It’s my theory that somebody is tagging douchebags and releasing them back into the wild. Don't be a douchebag. Become acquainted with your phone’s off button.

5) Throwing your credit card across the counter at me.
Yes, I’m serious. This has happened to me more times than I care to count. This is especially frustrating when I am holding my hand out for you to hand your money or credit card to me, and you instead throw it down onto the counter. Do you wonder why you get poor service? Chances are, you’ve pulled this maneuver. Would you like it if we were to throw your change right back at you?

6) Please stop flirting with my female clerks.
I know, you are the greatest guy in the world, and my clerk smiles so winsomely at you. It must be love!

Well, maybe not.

It’s not that they don’t like you, it’s just that they hear your spiel (or something like it) nearly every minute of every day. When you hit on her, you become just another guy when this happens. Do you want to be just another guy, or do you want to be different from everybody else?
(Attractive women flirting with me is just fine, however.)

7) Please know what you are going to buy before you get to the front of the line. There is nothing more frustrating than to ask a customer what they want, and get the answer of “Um” followed by ten seconds of silence. You obviously had an idea of what you wanted before you walked into my store. Why have you forgotten in between then and now? Write it down and make a list if you need to.

8) Have your money ready.
Don’t wait for us to ring everything up before you go searching for your wallet. Do you imagine that you will get your items for free if you are the one millionth customer?

9) Paying with coins.
If I had a penny for every time somebody emptied out a baggie full of coins onto my counter, well, then, I’d have a baggie full of pennies. But I wouldn’t have somebody else count them for me. There are coin counters at your bank, and they will do it for free if you have an account there, or for a small fee if you don’t.

10) Not answering me when I talk to you, and/or shifting your focus while checking out. I know, there’s lots of interesting things on my counter. That’s why they are up there, to draw your attention before you check out. But once I ask you if you have anything else to purchase and you answer in the negative, then please do me the courtesy of looking at me and not something else on the counter. When you are talking to somebody you don’t know, do you look around, paying them no attention. Or do you look at them and pay as much attention to them as you can? Most likely, its the second option that you choose.

It’s not just rude to look away from someone, but it is also unsafe. I could take advantage of your inattention and give you the wrong change back. Or I could tell you an amount that is slightly more than what you are rung up for, or put in the wrong amount on your credit card. And you would never notice it because you are looking at something other than your transaction.

11) Please pay attention to our signs. How many times a day do I have to explain that there is a $3 minimum purchase for credit cards, even though there is a large sign on my register? Way too many times for my taste.

And finally, the big one:

12) Theft. I could write a whole book on this one. To keep it short: DON'T. Most every store has security cameras, and somebody watching them. Yes, even the little mom&pop stores in the littlest towns. Always assume that you are on video. Always. Because chances are, you are on video.

Different managers handle theft situations differently. Here’s how I handle most instances of theft: I wait until I am positive that you are going to try to leave my store without paying for what you have. Then, I confront you and give you a choice. Either you can pay for what you have, or you can return what you have in your possession. Because at this point, the situation is just between you and me. Choose one of the two options, and everything is fine. I’ll keep an eye on you in the future, but I just treat it as a human failing. We all have them, and I believe we should be forgiven of them if it is an isolated incident.

But...

If you instead choose a third option, if you choose to look me in the eye and say, “I don’t know what you are talking about”?

That’s a mistake.

Because you have just insulted my intelligence, and labeled yourself as a liar. And now, instead of the situation just being between you and me, the situation has just become complicated. The situation is now you versus me, Mr. Policeman, Mr. District Attorney, and Mr. Judge. It is now 4 on 1. Do you think you are going to win in that situation?

No, me neither.

Why on Earth would you spend at least a night in jail for a lighter that isn't even over $2 in price? But this has happened before, and I'm sure it will happen again.

I don't like calling the police. I consider them the final option, only utilized after all other options have been exhausted. But I'm not shy about doing it.

Oh, and don't even try to leave my store once the police have been called. Not because I will tackle you. I have a concealed carry permit, and a few other nasty surprises, in contrast to my nice guy demeanor. No, I most likely won't tackle you.

But when the police catch you (and make no mistake, they WILL catch you), you will not only be charged with whatever level of theft you have just committed, but also the fun charge of fleeing. You MIGHT avoid the charge of theft at your trial, but you will ALWAYS get the charge of fleeing.

And those charges and trials are not cheap. Most court costs (just the court costs!) are typically well over $120 a pop, and you WILL be paying them whether you are found guilty or not.

Aren't you glad I kept this part of it short?

Well, that's about it for this outing. I'll have more Smart Answers to Stupid Liberal Statements next time. Unfortunately, stupidity and liberalism (but I repeat myself) never sleep.

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