Boy did this past weekend spawn my inner grouch shopping blues. Bad experiences all the way around with clerks who didn’t know the first thing about customer service. Let’s start with our visit to Hobby Lobby on Saturday morning. I buy art supplies there because with the 40% off coupon, they tend to have decent prices. In this case, I was looking to buy an inexpensive picture frame for a photo of my daughter’s that was juried into an art show. I certainly don’t shop at Hobby Lobby for its atrociously gaudy selection of home furnishings and giftware – but back to the matter at hand. I gave the clerk a $10 bill and she ripped a $5 bill in half as she took it out of the register. When I asked her for an intact bill, she stubbornly refused and told me that she always rips bills in two when taking them out of the register! Then she called over another clerk to help tape the bill up, as the line grew longer and longer. All of this because she refused to give me an intact bill. What difference did this make to her and wasn’t it my right as a consumer to ask for an intact bill as change?
I was born into a family of very petite people – let’s face it – with a mom who is now under 5 feet (she was 5 feet 2 inches in her prime), and a dad who stands at 5 feet 4 inches tall ( he hasn’t shrunk much), genetics pretty much guaranteed I would be born a shrimp. I have wavered between acceptance and resentment for the “shorthand” that genetics dealt me. The cons of being short are offset by the pros, which oddly are sometimes the same, but in different situations take on a negative or positive connotation. Size may matter (in some instances), but unless your life’s aspiration is to become a professional model or athlete, height really doesn’t matter so much. The unfortunate thing is that height discrimination exists. It is more a state of mind than body when my petite stature has impacted me negatively. In other words, I have suffered from “height envy” in certain situations – from the superficial to the sublime. I have observed many behaviors in tall strangers that I do not detect in petite strangers. For one thing, really tall people seem totally and completely oblivious about other people’s space. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have nearly been obliterated by tall people running right into me as if I don’t exist. Do they think I am insignificant because of the small space I inhabit? I use the term strangers because I personally know a handful of really tall people who are very kind and considerate, but they know me. I don’t know how they act in public among strangers – for instance in the grocery store.
The word “Occupy” has become the darling of the media in recent weeks, as in Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Chicago, etc. An interesting piece on NPR yesterday morning spoke to the etymology of the word. Shortly after hearing a portion of this broadcast, I occupied the Rolling Meadows Post Office. I was the first person waiting in line with two patrons already being helped at the counter. Then seconds later, a disgusting heavy breather sidled up so close behind me that I could feel him touching me. He was grunting heavily, and constantly making sucking and sighing noises. And then he started talking in some Middle Eastern tongue on his cell phone in way too close proximity to me. I kept moving closer to the counter, but I didn’t want to get too far beyond the line which you are supposed to stand behind. Did he think by hovering so close to me that he would get helped quicker. There was nobody behind the heavy breather!
It was just a matter of time before I tackled a subject that has been percolating in my inner being and roaring to escape. Beware – my inner grouch is about to be unfurled and it isn’t going to be pretty. I could write a tome on this subject since rude drivers are encountered every day – this is a behavior that is not just annoying – in its worst form it can prove fatal. And shame on the perpetrators who take others’ lives in their hands due to rudeness and ignorance when they get behind the wheel. Let’s start with the basics – in America, this is what most teens should have learned in Driver’s Ed at age 15 or so. That is if you weren’t goofing off, a stoner, or passing notes to your pals. Guess what folks – that little wand on the right side of the steering wheel was installed by car manufacturers for a reason. Turn signals are underutilized and it is so damn easy to take a second to use them, yet every day I encounter rude drivers who are too lazy to do so. Yesterday it was pouring rain and some jerk in front of me suddenly turned right without signaling. I nearly slammed into his rear end and I would have been ticketed had I done so – wow, that is justice!
Why does it seem to be the case more often than not that I pick ’em wrong? A perfect scenario to illustrate my point occurred at Dominick’s in the South Loop last week. There were only two lanes open on a weekday afternoon at what happens to be one of Dominick’s largest stores – a very nice store, actually. I had to choose between the “15 or Less Express Lane” that had at least nine people in line or another lane that had just two people. You can almost guess what happened next. Well, I chose the lane with just two people … unfortunately, the 70ish clerk was totally inept and it took her 10 minutes to do what anyone else would accomplish in 60 seconds. It didn’t help that the lady right in front of me had 15 coupons and paid by check, both of which totally threw this clerk for a loop. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for hiring workers of all ages, but train them properly – young and old alike – so that my precious time is not wasted. My daughter was not bothered by this as much – she was so engrossed in reading one of her celebrity rags that she barely noticed that we were waiting in line for 15 interminably long minutes. In the meantime, all nine people had been rung up at the Express Lane and were on their merry way. I cannot count how many times I have stepped into a grocery line that looked promising only for the customer in front of me to have an item ring up wrong – price check! Or had a customer in front of me search for pennies in her purse only to come up short and make the clerk take an item off her order. Or had a customer in front of me…
Well, I am striking another Chicago-area thrift store off my list. I cannot forgive the idiotic behavior and ill manners of the ladies working at the Miseracordia Twice Blest Thrift Shop in Palatine. If this was the first time I encountered rudeness at this shop, I would give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they are volunteers supposedly working for a worthy cause – to benefit people with developmental disabilities and their families. But every time I have been here, the ladies working there have been crabby and bordering on nasty. This visit, however, pushed me over the edge.
I have been thinking a lot lately about all the department and discount stores I frequented over the years … going back to my earliest memories as a young child through the 1990s. I have always had a knack for sniffing out bargains and some of my fondest memories fall into that category, while others are more dramatic. Of course, being a native Chicagoan, I too bemoaned the demise of the iconic classic department store Marshall Field’s and will begin there. Everybody has their own memories of Field’s (I am not talking Frango Mints), but among those that stand out for me: My dad getting really annoyed with me because I was afraid to go down the escalator at the Old Orchard Field’s – he had already descended to the bottom and had to come back up and fetch me, age 7 or 8. My mom taking us to see Santa Claus at State Street (despite being Jewish) including lunch at the Walnut Room – and that awesome Christmas tree, age 8 or 9. My mom taking me shopping at State Street after my eyes were dilated by an old stodgy ophthalmologist – everything was a big gorgeous blur of color, age 10. Witnessing an old lady with blood pouring down her stockings – her leg had somehow gotten caught in the moving escalator. This happened at the Old Orchard Field’s and again I was shopping with my dad, age 11 (good thing I had not seen that at age 7 or 8 – would have caused a permanent escalator phobia). That glorious bargain basement and all the wonderful things bought at a steep discount. Fast forward to 1981 – registering for wedding presents at Old Orchard 14 years before the demise of my marriage. Exchanging baby gifts at Old Orchard with my newborn baby and nursing her in the ladies’ room, July 1987. My now 2-year old stepping out…
I just returned from a brief 2-day stay in San Francisco. I was there for a job interview, and as usual, during my free time, decided to explore areas I had not frequented during my last two trips in 2010 and 2006. I discovered an amazing grocery store – like no other – at least in the Midwest. On my way to The Mission, I stumbled upon Rainbow Grocery. I started to salivate the moment I walked into this cool grocery store – I think my mouth was actually hanging open in disbelief at the sheer quantity and quality of the drinks, teas, bulk foods, produce, cheese, etc. Good thing Jeff was not with me – he could have easily spent $100! Given that I have been unemployed now for more than 3 months, I have gotten cheap and try to cut corners wherever and whenever I can. I was tempted to buy everything, but spent less than $4.00 on a very small sampling of bulk dried mulberries, date nuggets, and two natural chocolate mint patties by SunRidge Farms.
I have thought about blogging on this topic for a long time, but didn’t have an appropriate venue until now. I just don’t get it, but it must be true because I have come across this phenomena way too many times, as have those closest to me – namely Jeff, my daughter, my sisters, and a few good friends. In simple terms, women seem to be slobs, at least when it comes to public restrooms. I cannot tell you how many times I have been shopping and needed to use the ladies’ room. I have encountered really gross stuff, whereas Jeff has used the men’s room at the same store, mall, etc. and told me it was clean. And I know he doesn’t have a different definition of clean because he never misses the toilet and always puts the seat down at home – I love you, dear! And when my daughter has to pee really badly and cannot wait, she will use the men’s john if it is a single one. And at those establishments, she has reported that the men’s john was spotless whereas the ladies’ room, which I waited to use, was disgusting. What gives girls?
When I was in high school and was forced to study statistics, it was a subject I viewed more with dread than relish – oddly, the latter is how I view statistics now. I think the big difference is that back then they were simply numbers with no meaning. Once I entered the world of medical and health-related public relations, statistics became a powerful tool to tell a message within the context of a greater story. But it goes beyond that – I really dig the probability that well-researched and juxtaposed statistics present – for instance, what is the chance of getting struck by lightning versus getting struck by stroke versus hitting a hole in one. Well, I just heard a compelling hospital radio ad today stating that every 45 seconds, somebody in the U.S. has a stroke. Of course given that I have already done in-depth research on stroke for PR initiatives and know that an estimated 795,000 Americans suffer stroke every year … I am left pondering how the hospital’s PR firm arrived at this statistic. When I got home, I did the arithmetic and I am guessing they used something like this formula – the number of seconds in a day is 86,400 multiplied by the number of days (365) in a year is 31,536,000, divided by 795,000 = 39.6. The seconds are a constant, but they obviously used a slightly different overall number of stroke victims.