Saturday, July 31, 2004

Retail Regulars: July 2004 Edition (part three of three)

Finally we have the jewel in the crown of regulars, Rodney. The Rod-Man is a dude who loves heavy metal. Not the kind that our last featured player Nathan loves. No, the Rodster digs authentic 1980s metal, back when it didn't suck. He's a walking encyclopedia of metallic 80s knowledge and he can tell you at what point Helloween ceased being cool, or why Manowar don't get the respect they deserve, or which Armored Saint albums are worth owning.

He walks the streets of our little hamlet dressed all in black, from the leather jacket on down to the boots. Most of his shirts lack sleeves, all the better to display the guns he's honed by pumping iron. On those days when he goes without the jacket, you'll note the thick black leather wristbands happening on either arm. His long hair flows free and proud, and you can occasionally see him pause while walking, crouch a little, and whip it forcefully back into place. Does he look like a walking anachronism? Well sure, but he just doesn't give a damn.

To look at the guy you'd expect a badass who'd hit you as soon as look at you, but the surprising thing is that he's actually a nice guy who always has a smile for those he has deemed cool. After successfully tracking down albums like Jim Dandy's "Ready As Hell," I have proved myself lucky enough to fall into that exalted category. He once told me he was having a lousy day because someone had disturbed him before his preferred 4 p.m. wake-up time. Here's to a true retail regular. Long may he rule the night.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Retail Regulars: July 2004 Edition (part two of three)

Professional wrestler, actor and raconteur "Rowdy" Roddy Piper once remarked, "Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions." He was actually speaking to a guy named Frankie Williams whom he'd just beaten up on television, but I think his comment sums up our next regular rather well.

Nathan's a young guy in his late teens and he likes rock. You'll meet a gentleman in the next post who loves 1980s metal (patience my friends) but this kid is all about the new stuff. Everything from the
nü-metal stylings of bands like Drowning Pool and Staind, to the heavier underground riffs of the musicians on the Nuclear Blast label. He digs it loud, aggressive, and preferably with a porn star or fantasy painting on the cover.

He's a nice enough kid but a little odd. Aside from his hard rock fixation there's the wardrobe which seems comprised of sci-fi movie and WWE Wrestling t-shirts. About 50% of the time he comes in wearing disposable plastic gloves. I've known folks with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but only half the time? Hmm. Further adding to my consternation about the gloves is the fact that he doesn't seem particularly concerned with his appearance. Let's just say he has a subtle grooming style and leave it at that. Here's the sketch:


Thursday, July 22, 2004

It's time once again for another random round of Retail Regulars.

First in this round's holy trinity is our very own country music fanatic, Ed. Yes indeed, the man who stole Elmer Fudd's voice is revealed at last. He's a really sweet guy, a senior citizen who volunteers at a local hospital and laughs easily. I should warn you though: Ed's a talker. You can shut some talkers down by merely nodding or shaking your head. They generally start to fade out after awhile if you don't interact much or ask questions. Ed will just keep on going whether you're responding or not. Hell, I've been in twenty minute "conversations" with the guy where I spent the time checking my e-mail and giving the occasional "mm hmm" and a nod. He's a born orator.

Also, like most folks who stick to a single genre of music, he has very specific opinions about what constitutes good and bad country music, and he will not hesitate to tell you exactly which is which. I learned early on not to go there, especially since my country collection at home is limited to Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and the occasional Waylon Jennings disc. I'm not qualified to debate the finer points of Dolly or Tammy's canon and I know it. And yes, the quote's for real. He's been asking about the new Bellamy Brothers disc since 2003. Every week.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Every time I think the strangest possible person has wandered through the doorway, some new freak appears to shake my world to its foundation. Bear witness: I just had a guy come in, mustachioed proudly in the classic "handlebar" style. Age? Approximately late 30s, nary a grey hair to be seen. Nattily turned down in dockers and a tucked in polo shirt. Bland but not seemingly insane. Then he opened his mouth.

-Don't carry tapes, huh?
-Nope, just CDs.
-Aw, nobody's got 'em anymore.
-I think they stopped making them.
-I guess I'll keep my tape player until it breaks though. Looks likeI might have to go to the CD generation soon though, huh?
-Um...yeah. You might want to think about it.
-Yeah, I just got done with those 8-tracks and got into records, then they put out these tape things! And now there's the CDs, and -- what's after that? What's the new one?
-Uh, I think it's just CDs.
-Oh. Nothing after that, huh? I thought there was something else. Well, so long.
-Buh bye.

A few minutes later another wacko came in demanding to order a few Buffy Sainte- Marie CDs which he doesn't want to buy. He just wants to look at them. I was afraid of what he'd be doing while staring at them, so I didn't ask. He finally agreed that he'd probably buy at least one of the three, so I actually went ahead and did the order for him, what the hell. We can send them back later. I told him it would take a few days and he got upset. I explained that we already had an order coming in today so the next order goes out in a day or two. He wanted me to call up the distributor and tell them to add them to the order that's coming in today. "Look pal," I said gently, "the order's on a truck, probably arriving in a few minutes. It's too late to add anything to it." He thinks for a second. "Well can they send them for tomorrow?"

No sir, we are not paying freight charges to get your three Buffy Sainte-Marie albums overnight. Three days. Don't call us, we'll call you.


Friday, July 16, 2004

I feel the urge to share some other people's experiences today. Over at Film-Tech forums people have been posting horror stories from working at movie theaters, and almost all of these happened to me as well when I was behind the counter at the local cinema. Enjoy...

Philip Wittlief: Twice today out of only like 20 people I've had customers ask which size the middle popcorn is on our display. There's 3 different sized tubs next to each other each progressively bigger and there are 3 popcorn sizes, small, medium, large. How tough can it be to figure it out. This happens way too much for me to understand.

Robert D. LaValley: Funny things I've heard customers say -

When is the 7:00 showing of blah blah blah.....?

can you re-wind the movie so I can see the part I missed?

The vertical hold is gone.

cust says -- Do you take credit cards?
Reply -- sorry we don't even have cash registers.
cust says -- do you take ATM cards then?

The most interesting wasn't a stupid question.. just odd cause it never happened to me before but

"can I have extra butter in a courtesy cup? "

Darryl Spicer: My favorite stupid customer question was on a film that was color with black and white. Someone came out and asked if we could do something about the color it keeps going in and out?

Nicholas Roznovsky : One woman told me that the fact that we were sold out for an evening showing of Toy Story 2 was "un-Christian" and that I would "get what was coming to me."

Paul Turner : When we were running the movie Pecker, a very nice older woman came in and asked, "How long is John Waters' Pecker and can we see it tonight?" She had no clue what she had just asked. Fortunately, the half dozen people in the lobby also figured she hadn't grocked what had just come out of her mouth. I looked at her and said, "The movie is 88 minutes long and it plays again tomorrow at 7:00." She thanked me and left. As soon as she was clear of the door, everyone lost it.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A woman came in today with her daughter, looking for the soundtrack to a musical called “Seussical.” It’s based on the gospel of Dr. Seuss. We didn’t have the disc so the woman placed a special order for us to get it. Then she asked if she could borrow the phone book for a second. She proceeded to look up the giant retail chain store in town, Strawberries, and dial them up to see if they had the CD in stock. In front of me! If the phone book had been newer she was going to get the phone number for our direct bookstore competition, Borders, and ask them the same thing. How freaking stupid are people these days? When did common decency take a backseat to self-centered instant gratification?

Do people shop at multiple stores? Absolutely. You can shop anywhere you want and buy whatever the hell you want. I don’t give a damn about that, but I don’t want to hear about it. Don’t bring up the corporate competition, especially not at a local place like this one. She was lucky her cel phone didn’t end up in her rectum for that little stunt.

It’s not an isolated incident either. Over at my friend’s local video game shop he gets a lot of people trading in their used games. Rare is the day when one of them doesn’t tell him, “Okay thanks for the estimate on those. I’m going to go down the street to Electronics Boutique and see what they’re offering.” Don’t tell him, you witless Neanderthal! Just tell him you need to think about it, go down the street and do your business in a private, dignified manner. Cretins, man. They’re everywhere.


Oh, and I had to share this: A guy from California was here a moment ago buying a CD with a check. He asked how to make it out, and I told him Castle Books, or "just 'Castle''s fine."

"Just 'Castle''s fine?" he asked. "Yeah," I replied.

You can probably see where this is going. When he handed over the check it was made out to: "Castle's Fine"


Monday, July 12, 2004

A few small things today:

One: My boss sent a message to all of the computers at the store via the network:

I won't be in tomorrow. Gotta reorganize my sock drawer, or somethin'.

Not the greatest excuse in the world, is it? Not that he needed one, the guy works himself to the bone.

Two: Had an old fella come in today looking for a film guide with listings of actors and what movies they’ve made. I showed him a few books in that area, but he didn’t want them because they all say “DVD & Video Guide.”

“I want information about movies, not videos!” he cried. I tried to explain that movies are ON video, but it was like explaining to a mushroom that the stars only appear to pass overhead because of the Earth’s rotation. A few minutes later this same gentleman held up a random disc from the shelves and hollered, “Hey, ya got any Andrea Bocelli on one o’ these things?”

“What, you mean a CD?” I asked. His face was blank in the extreme.

“One of these things,” he repeated. I got stubborn. I was determined to make him recognize the compact disc format. “So you’d like an Andrea Bocelli CD?” I suggested.

“Yeah you know, Andrea Bocelli tapes. Ya got any?”

I gave up. It wasn’t worth my last shred of sanity.

Three: Apparently today is a holiday. It’s national Screaming Baby Day. Why wasn’t I told?


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Just in case you're keeping score at home -- and I know I am -- yesterday
was not the first time a customer has addressed me with the wrong pronoun. It just hasn't
happened in quite awhile.

Back in my tour of duty at that Bookland place I mentioned before, there was a period
towards the end of my stint when every week I was getting the
treatment at least a few times.

"Give the books to the lady, Tyler."

"Hand her the money, sweetie."

"Ask the girl at the counter where the Goosebumps books are, snugglemuffin."

It started to really wear on me after a few months. But where was it coming from? Once
or twice is coincidence or bad eyesight, but dozens of times? I started getting paranoid and even stopped by the crazy barber downtown to get the shortest haircut I ever had. Did some pushups, read the sports page, all that crap. It was no use.

“Excuse me miss, where do you keep the Dean Koontz?”


And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it ended. People stopped looking at me and seeing a flower print sundress. Little kids started calling me “mister” and “dude.” All was right with my manhood. Until now. I suppose only time will tell if this is an outbreak or just an isolated incident. In the meantime, I’m headed for Supercuts. After all, a man has to hedge his bets.


Monday, July 05, 2004

The family from hell invariably contains more than one child. You never know what they're going to look like because some large families are perfectly well-behaved and some smaller families are a nightmare. Case in point: today a curly-haired, bespectacled woman arrived with her two children in tow. The first kid was a skinny little twerp about 6 years old and he made a beeline for my counter. After a few seconds of gawking at me his mom finally got the hint from my dour expression and grabbed his hand. "What are you looking at?" she asked.

"Her," said the brat. I gnashed my teeth and hissed at him: "That's he."

The mom attempted humor. "You came all the way here to stare at him? Ha ha!" The little bastard kept staring at me and said, "I can't tell if you're a boy or a girl." Beneath the counter, my hands moved as though they were strangling a 6-year-old neck. Finally the lady dragged the kid away and continued moving around the room. Her other kid was in a stroller but appeared to be barely younger than his brother. Seriously, the kid looked about two years too old to be in a stroller. His feet were dragging on the floor as she pushed him around, and he kept screaming at the top of his lungs, writhing around as though he were possessed by demons. After a few minutes of nerve-shattering screams, I began to believe that might be the case.

Then there was the trio of portly preteen girls in bright pastel t-shirts, looking for Kenny Chesney and Eminem's group "D12." I showed both of these trailer park favorites to the young ladies, then a few seconds later they had forgotten where the CDs were and I got to show them again. A minute later they were scratching their heads and I had to show them again. The whole time I was wondering why their voices broke when they talk. Do young girls' voices break? I guess it's just a gender-bending kind of day here.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

I wasn't able to get a damn thing done at work today. Every three seconds it was somebody wanting to sell me their lousy homemade piano CD, someone asking what time it was, a coworker asking me if I think we should carry the latest unofficial White Stripes band bio, or someone asking me if they can sell their shitty old Nancy Drew paperbacks.

Probably once an hour I get people coming up to the CD counter asking to sell used books. Do I LOOK like the bloody used books guy? He's an aging, ex-hippy, alcoholic womanizer. I'm a jaded, useless piece of crap approaching 30. There's a subtle difference there, people. "No sir, you can't sell your books because the used book guy is downstairs drinking coffee for the tenth time today." Or he went to the bathroom an hour ago and hasn't returned. Or he's out shining his Birkenstocks, or smoking a doobie, or whatever the hell it is he does whenever someone's looking for him. Then the person gets all pissed off: "I just carried these four cardboard boxes full of technical manuals for 1950s cardpunch computers all the way up here from my Yugo! I just want to leave them for the used book guy then." I try to explain that standard procedure is to CALL AHEAD and ASK the USED BOOK GUY when he will be here and tell him what books you have to sell. They give me the patented "deer in the headlights" look, obviously not comprehending the words vomiting forth from my head. After explaining it three more times using different word choice and cadence, I give up in the face of their blind stupidity. "Write your name and number on this paper and put them with the books over there in the used book section."

So the used book guy comes back later and gets frustrated because someone dropped four boxes next to his desk, each of them filled to brimming with 1980s romance novels with torn covers. He then gets to call them and tell them he doesn't want their books, they have to come back over and get them, everybody's a white-hot ball of fury and the world continues to spiral towards oblivion. Great.

I'm in a good mood today.


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