Thanksgiving Shopping

Okay.  I’ve given this some thought.  Here’s why I think retailers shouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving:

Retail employees get very few things to look forward to in life.  Most of them don’t get paid vacations, some of them may have to work every day of the week just to get hours.  There are generally three days out of the year that retail employees don’t have to work: Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas.  That’s it.  Three days that retail employees know they get to breathe a sigh of relief.

That said, there are many occupations in this world where people don’t even get that.  But people need emergency rooms.  People don’t need a TV set.

On the flip side, there are many people who neither want nor need to celebrate Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas.  I’ve worked on Easter.  If someone asked me to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’d probably say okay too, so long as I could work it around my celebration schedule.  I don’t need the entire day to celebrate.

So here’s the thing.  No one should be forced to work a holiday.  If a retailer wants to be open, they can be.  I honestly have no problem with that.  I don’t think they should be, as it doesn’t seem worth it to me, but if that’s what they want, then so be it.  But the employers need to make do with the employees that actually want to work that day.  Only one employee wants to work?  So be it.  Customers are going to have to wait in line?  That’s unfortunate.  Maybe they should be at home.  They should also be handsomely rewarded–double time, not just time-and-a-half.  This would likely up the number of people interested.  This should be extended to any holiday where people generally get together with their family: 4th of July, New Years Eve/New Years Day (for the evening of the former and the morning of the latter), Memorial Day, Labor Day.

When push comes to shove, people don’t need to shop on those days.  I understand why retailers are open: everyone else is off of work and has seemingly nothing but time.  And if a retailer is suffering, being open on holidays isn’t going to get them out of the red.  Being open on holidays isn’t a solution, it’s simply a matter of greed: on the retailers’ and the consumers’ parts.  It’s not necessary, but, really, it’s not the end of the world.

The WalMart Black Friday Strike

I was going to write an essay on retailers being open on Thanksgiving, but I’m still rather torn on that issue, so until I can fully form my thoughts, I’m going to let it rest.

Instead, I’ll write about the strike that is supposed to take place this Friday at WalMarts across the nation.

Let me start off by saying that I fully support the WalMart employees that intend to strike.  And also state that I feel like a total tool for going in to work that day.  I can come up with a laundry list of excuses, but when push comes to shove, I don’t have the balls to abandon my employer or my pay.  Which, frankly, makes me all that much more proud of the people that do.

Before anyone says anything like, “If they hate it so much, why don’t they work some place else?” I want to ask you if you’ve tried to find a job lately.  And if you have, I want you to try to imagine what it’s like to find a decent job with only retail experience.  Very soon I plan on writing a post about why people work retail jobs, but I’ll start out with a little clue: It’s not because they’re losers or they suck at life.  But getting out is really, really hard.  Imagine going to school to become an accountant, and then years later deciding that what you really want to do is become a vet tech.  Moving from WalMart to any other vocation is so much easier said than done; moving from WalMart to any other retailer isn’t really much of a step up.

Truly, the things people hate about WalMart aren’t really unique to WalMart.  If you work for a national retailer, the chances that you’re being shat on on a daily basis (and told to like it, because “at least you have a job”) are extremely high.  Why does everyone target WalMart over everyone else?  Sheer numbers?  I’m not entirely sure.

Here’s what I know:  Retail employees’ wages on average hover around the poverty line.  The majority of employees don’t know what kind of pay they will receive from week to week, based on how many hours the company provides workers.  Retailers, on the whole, are doing better and better while compensation is getting lower and lower.  The mucky-mucks of retail make more in an hour than most of their employees make in a year.

Here’s a little light reading on the subject before I give my final thoughts:

Why the WalMart Strike Matters

Why WalMart and Big Retailers Should Pay Their Workers More

So what does a WalMart strike mean?  It means that people are still tired of the 1%.  It means that people realize it’s okay to be grateful that you have a job, but still know in your heart of hearts that you and every other human deserves more than that.  It means that there might be a chance to turn things around for this country.  We cannot have a thriving economy if we continually allow ourselves to settle for barely getting by.  It means that fewer people may find themselves on government assistance.  That’s right.  The people that are so very much against helping the poor are pretty much directly contributing to their need for assistance.

I urge you to support the WalMart employees that have the guts to stand up for themselves and to stand up for America.  You can do so here.  This isn’t going to change the world overnight, but it will very likely change these people’s lives instantly.  The men and women that strike on Black Friday will probably be put through hell, and I feel that it’s very important to support them.

Attack of the Returns

It’s not often I agree with Mary Hunt.  I read her mostly to learn tips on how to save money and also for the occasional recipe.  But The Return Right entry in her blog really struck a chord with me.

The jist of the entry is that returning things to retailers is getting harder.  Boo-hoo.  Frankly, at my store, returning is still far too easy.  People get upset because we won’t take something back from three years ago.  We have a 90 day return policy, which is, in my opinion, 60 days too many.  If you don’t have a reciept, you don’t get full price back.  Typically it’s only 50%, but it’s based on the most recent sale price.  Thankfully, we don’t have to think anymore; our computer automatically knows what the return price will be.  Nice.  However, our management is easily pushed over, and there are very, very few instances in which you will not be able to return something.

Stupid things we also take back:

1. Cut fabric.  Not just fabric we’ve cut, which either ends up as a remnant that we lose money on, or we waste time trying to find it’s home back out on the floor, but fabric that someone has cut a chunk off of and used.  We will not, however, take back fabric that has had shapes cut out of it.  Yes, people try.

2. Things without packaging.  Who would buy something without a package?  Oh yeah, no one.  Except maybe employees.  Maybe.

3a. (apparently) Cupcake holders that “just didn’t work out for me.  The cupcakes fell over.”  There was still chocolate all over the carrier.  Here’s a hint: Don’t turn anything with wobbly food products on its side.  Let me guess… You can only use sippy cups because regular cups just don’t keep those pesky liquids upright and off the floor when you tip them over… *eyeroll with facepalm*

3b. Fabric with wood stain and splinters in it.  Clearly used at an outdoor wedding, only to be returned after all was said and done.  Nothing says “I Do” like not even being able to commit to a wedding decoration.

4. Books, patterns, and other copy-ables.  Nuff said.

At any rate, I’ve always been a firm believer in owning what you purchase.  I also believe in paying for what you use and buying only what you can afford. If you can’t afford a video camera (or flowers, or fabrics, or candle holders), don’t have such an extravagent wedding or family reunion.  If you can’t afford tape or pens, don’t scrapbook; can’t afford clasps, don’t bead; can’t afford needles, don’t sew.

Wait… now I’m getting into shoplifting territory.

I don’t have much to write about except for work because that’s all I do.  I start my vacation in a couple of days, during which time I will be moving into my new house.  It’s utterly depressing having to pack.  Not because I’m moving, but because I don’t know where to begin.  I started throwing out garbage tonight, only to get depressed over how much of it is not garbage.  I also have a severe lack of boxes.  Luckily, tomorrow is a truck day, so we’ll have plenty of extra boxes laying around.

Do I really have to organize, or can I just throw stuff into boxes and hope for the best?  *grumble*

“Thanks for listening to me…”

Friends, it’s Christmas.  It’s been Christmas in retail since October 1, but we’re in the thick of it, and a couple weeks ago marked the point where Christmas spirit shows itself to be a whole load of crap.  I don’t know anyone that’s been killed or even spit on yet, but we may as well have been.

You see, there’s a wide spread condition in the retail world called Subhumanitis.  It’s inflamation of the subhuman gland.  It’s bad enough we bring it on ourselves (let’s face it, I don’t work in retail because I have a passion for consumerism, and neither do any of my fellow peons, we do it because we don’t feel like there’s anything else), but we really don’t need to be reminded of our condition on a daily basis.

Take the customer who, for whatever reason, decides to yell at a clerk for something entirely out of their control.  It’s a lovely way to remind them they don’t matter.  For starters, they’d love to be able to help (most of them), but they can’t.  The product just doesn’t exist, they aren’t in control of ordering, they don’t have the power to make that decision, etc.  Secondly, the customer is getting angry in their general direction for what, at the end of the day, will end up being entirely insignificant.  But to them, it’s another piece of straw on their back.  It will end up being significant the more it happens.  Ending with “Thanks for listening to me..” doesn’t help them.  They aren’t getting paid enough to be yelled at.  I’m considered “well paid” and *I* don’t get paid enough to get yelled at.  Vent to your friends; or better, complain to someone who can actually do something about it.

Also, dumping unwanted product in the middle of the floor isn’t job security.  We don’t get paid to clean up, as it turns out.  We’re customer service.  Every time we have to pick up dumped shit (sometimes, sadly, literally) is another customer we can’t help.  Customers who don’t get helped don’t spend money.  No money means no jobs.  We also don’t get paid to babysit.  Babysitters, apparently, get paid more.  We’re not therapists, we’re not experts, and we don’t know what other stores carry.  I’m sorry, I just don’t know how to tie a toga and I don’t know where you can get neoprene.  That’s what the internet is for.

Don’t get me wrong… I have some great customers.  Sadly, though, they are few and far between.  And this is the time of year when all the fangs and claws and venom come out.  It starts with halloween and just keeps rolling on through the new year.  Thank god I get a vacation soon.  Jan 1 can’t come soon enough!

Damn you, Joseph!

The Hippy and I were discussing some bullshit going on with the house we might be buying.  We’ve been feeling slighted by our realtor, which the Hippy attributes to us not having a lot of money to spend on a house.  Which is why if this house doesn’t pan out, he’s out.  Because we don’t have a lot of money to spend on a house, it’s pretty damn important he’s on top of his game so we don’t get the shaft.  I don’t expect a lot, but he’s been making some mistakes that could be costly to us.

In his annoyance with the realtor, The Hippy related the story of Joseph to me.  Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph, not Dreamcoat Donny Osmand Joseph.  I’ve not read much of the New Testament, but the gist of the story was that Joseph helped customers in the order they came to him, not based on how much money they had.  And that’s how he expects to be treated by any realtor we might have.

So as he’s telling me this story, I start feeling bad about How Far? I still think it’s unreasonable for someone in this day and age to take two hours of a sales clerk’s time.  I contend that Joseph’s time was far less populated, and Joseph wasn’t working for a big box store.  But I do feel bad that I was annoyed with how much she spent.  I am a product of working for who I work for.  Each scheduled hour of work needs to bring in (last I heard) $70 to be viable.  So, if I’m spending two hours with her, and she only spends $50, I haven’t done my job.

I have a lot of annoyances on how they work the scheduled hours, but I will probably never go into them here unless I get really pissed off.  Suffice it to say, the big wigs expect us to make $2000/day more from last year, but they’re giving us 600 less hours a week in which to do it.  So, yeah… I don’t have two hours to give one customer.  At least the freight “should” be getting lighter over the course of the next few weeks.  Christmas is so close I can taste it, and I’m certain I will make it through this season alive.  And probably still with a job (because I promised the Hippy I wouldn’t lose my job so we could still afford a house).

How far?

Recent events at work have prompted me to question how far a sales clerk must go to avoid giving poor customer service?  Is a customer entitled to hours of a clerk’s time?  Should the clerk (who is probably not making much more than minimum wage) be forced to become a customer’s personal shopper?  How about their interior decorator?

Should the customer be entitled to know when the clerk is working again in case she (*ahem* or he… this is purely hypothetical, after all… sure…) has any more questions or needs any more help?  If so, is it okay for the clerk to… fudge… a little on the hours she (or he….) is working just so she can be guaranteed some alone time?

At any point is it acceptable to say, “I’m sorry, but my schedule just doesn’t allow me to devote so much time to one customer”?  Should the clerk just suck it up and help the customer the best she can?  Other customers and obligations be damned?  Even if this customer is maybe spending $50 after taking up hours of my her time?

Would this customer’s behavior be more acceptable if it weren’t the Christmas season?  What if it weren’t during the time of year when the store takes in twice as much freight as “normal” and is having to work twice as hard to even pretend to find room for it?  Would it be more acceptable if the one clerk that has been singled out is the only one who is truly responsible for making sure the stock gets out on the floor?  Even when there are dozens of other clerks to choose from?

I guess I don’t really have the answers, or I wouldn’t even be asking the questions.  I know what I want the answers to be, but I have a feeling the “right” answers are opposite that.  Maybe the clerk needs to set up a sort of blind date system where she, regretably, receives a very important call partway into the interaction.

Retail employees should be given tips.  At least in situations like these.  Mandatory 20% gratuity.  If I’m she’s going to get in trouble because the work isn’t getting done, she might as well get and extra $10 out of it.  A thank you should be enough, but frankly, it isn’t.  And being told God put me into her life isn’t enough either.