Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Grey-haired man: Do you have the new Linda Ronstadt album?
Me: Yes, yes we do. Right this way.
*Shows the man the album*

Grey-haired man: Yowza, that's quite a glamour shot on the cover! Good thing they did that, just show her face like that. Otherwise they'd have to put her in a muu muu! She's no spring chicken ya know!
Me: *murmur something non-commital*
Grey-haired man: Yessiree, but what a looker twenty years ago, eh? I tell you, she was a hot drink o' water on a cool day, like somethin' outta the WW2 pinups! *wolf whistles, cat calls, and various other clicking and popping noises, with a lascivious grin on his face, and undulating eyebrows*
Me: Enjoy the CD, sir.


Monday, November 29, 2004

The day after Thanksgiving: Black Friday. You've probably heard of it, the only day of the year that's so busy in retail that every store makes money. Hence, their finances are "in the black" rather than in the red. Hence the name.

It was fairly crazy this year but nothing we couldn't handle. The only noteworthy incident was when I had to call some people about their special order CDs. Three out of the five phone numbers I called were out of service. Man, that is insane. I took the orders on a Wednesday and by Friday the phone numbers are disconnected. All I can say is, if you don't have enough money to pay your phone bill, don't run around ordering more stuff to buy.

Today I had a few spitters. They're actually fairly common; you may be one yourself. It's the people who lick their thumb or finger to separate two pieces of paper. This one woman was having trouble separating the credit card receipt after signing it so she stuck her thumb in her mouth and slicked it up with about an ounce of saliva. Then she used it to separate the two pieces of paper and, oblivious to the look of horror on my face, tried to hand me the store copy. No offense to anyone who does it but I'm not down with someone handing me their sopping wet receipt to file. It seems even worse to do it to money. I'll be standing there waiting for someone to count off a few bills from their wallet and suddenly the finger darts to the tongue, then back to the cash. Haven't they heard that four out of five bills have traces of cocaine, urine or feces on them? Small amounts to be sure, but I'm still not down with the moist art of the Finger-licking Paper-separation Maneuver.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

I don't know why, but this is the Credit Card From Hell:

Now don't get me wrong, L.L.Bean fans. I'm not saying that every person who throws one of these things at me is a dolt. I'm simply sharing the observation that more annoying customers carry this particular credit card than any other. Clueless, thoughtless, heartless people utterly devoid of musical taste almost invariably pay with this thing. Why? Do their polar fleece items and family-friendly retail dominance appeal to the worst in people? Do villains of every stripe appreciate their trademark colored-handled canvas totebags? Or is it simply a numbers issue -- i.e. it's the most popular credit card and therefore more likely to appear in the hand of your average sourpuss spinster? Good questions all, and I have no definitive answers. All I know is, if an angry-looking person with a Kenny G album hands you one of these to pay for it, RUN. Run like the hounds of hell are nipping at your heels and Satan's got a pitchfork with your name engraved on it. You've been warned.


Friday, November 19, 2004

Longtime readers may recall an early post here from before we had CD security in place. There was this bald twenty-something guy who kept ripping us off for a couple weeks. He had the annoying habit of acting over-friendly; that is to say, he talked and talked, making little jokes at full volume while pocketing discs. It's sort of a good plan but not in the way he thought. In his mind it was probably brilliant because he felt like he was ingratiating himself to the point where I wouldn't suspect him. But the real reason I wasn't keeping an eye on him was because he was so bloody annoying. The more I looked his way and made eye contact (because he was constantly looking up at the counter), the more he'd chat away about how dumb women were, how his "bitch" took all his money, blah blah blah. I knew he was taking stuff right off the bat and it was a relief when we finally set up that little sting operation, nabbed him and his latest girlfriend while they were swiping stuff, then kicked them out for good. Last I heard he skipped out before the shoplifting court date because he was wanted on a more serious charge. Hopefully he's rotting in a Tijuana jail cell by now for molesting a dead horse.

I mention all this because tonight we had our first obvious thief in ages. Sure we've had the odd disc go missing the last few quiet months, but this was the first time all year that I knew they were shitheads from the start. And he looked and acted the same way as the other guy! Before you ask, no it wasn't the same dude. This guy was about a head shorter. Aside from that, same bald twenty-something head, same prediliction for hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants, same annoying tendency to babble loudly.

First his girlfriend came up to the counter with the new best-of CD by The Verve, and asked me if they were the group that did that "Bittersweet Symphony" song. I said yes, pointing out the fact that the third-to-last track on the back of the album says "Bittersweet Symphony." She giggled at her own stupidity and weaved back to her boyfriend. From that moment on I had my antennae up and focused on our little troglodytic Bonnie & Clyde. She proceeded to gather together a small pile of new albums and bring them over to the section furthest from the counter. Then I heard the distinct sound made by ripping a security sticker off the back of a CD. I headed over and "accidentally noticed" the CD in question, which she'd hastily abandoned.

Taking it back to the counter, i flashed them a dirty look. They huddled together, hatching what they no doubt thought was a foolproof scheme. This time he ran interference with his chatting while she stayed with the discs.

Him: (holding up the new Eminem CD, "Encore") Where do they think up these crazy titles, huh? They're so weird, right?!"
Me: You think "Encore" is a weird title? Why?
Him: I dunno. Never mind. So, do you have, like, concert dates and show dates and stuff?
Me: No, we don't have that information.

I kept my eyes planted firmly on her, enjoying her uncomfortable look as she played with another security tag, hoping for a chance to tear it off.

Him: Oh. 'Cause, um...I was just, like...wondering when Phish was gonna play another concert around here.
Me: Well, considering they broke up a few months ago, the chances of that happening are somewhere between zero and none.

Even she had to stifle a giggle at her boyfriend's stupidity on that one. Just then my coworker Joan showed up so I could go get some dinner. I filled her in on what was happening and she maneuvered closer to them while I took off for a couple minutes and grabbed my food. By the time I got back they were gone, along with the Verve CD she'd originally asked about. Shocker, eh? But I'm happy to report that they left behind a nice stack of stuff they didn't get to take. And when I saw him downstairs at the food court a few minutes later, loudly joking around with the supremely unimpressed bakery counter clerk, I let him know he could feel free to stay the hell out our shop...in precisely those words.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

It's another busy Sunday here at work as our shopping center (or "mill" as they call it) has been overrun with humanity. It's the annual Taste Of the Region, you see. Dozens of local caterers, restaurateurs, and candymakers have little booths throughout our hallways and tourists can purchase tokens to exchange at any booth for food. It's a good idea that brings tons of people into the place, crazy and sane alike.

Outside of my doorway here today is the crew from the industrial catering service which feeds the local college kids. They started out with several dishes including a nice turkey, but with three hours left in the business day they were down to just one item: their award-winning seafood chowder which won two awards at some Boston food contest. I know all of that because I had to listen to the chef tell it to every passerby that stopped to sample his wares. Listening to his scripted spiel, I can only imagine how he felt having to say it. Luckily he escaped about an hour ago, leaving his giggly collegiate lackeys to pick up the slack. Now I just have to listen to the creepy guy that seems to know one of the striped shirt-wearing Chowder Girls. He keeps popping up every half hour to declare loudly, "Steph, I like your stripes." From this angle he appears to be staring directly at her boobular region, and from her unenthusiastic replies I think that's the case.

A couple of my more annoying regulars popped up as well. Both are tall, weathered looking fifty-something men. John has one bucktooth that keeps popping out to say hi as he rambles on about the latest "tape he dropped and smashed into a million pieces." In every instance, he never means "tape," he really means "CD" but I gave up correcting him after the first five times. He always asks if I know anywhere that sells blank cases so he can replace it and I tell him. Then he asks all over again the next time he comes in. It's cool though, I'm sure in a couple decades I'll be the one asking the kid at the counter for a particular "CD" when I really mean "holographic digital brain-link upload." It's the nature of aging, no?

Doug, though, is something altogther different. A shock of bleached blond hair explodes out of his skull just above a bright red face. If I didn't know better I'd think he was drunk all of the time but he enunciates well and his breath is clear, so maybe he's just a rugged outdoorsman. He's always looking for some semi-obscure progrock/classic rock release and he can get a little nasty if we don't have it. "How can you not have any Jack Bruce in stock? He's only the bassist for Cream, one of the best bands ever." Sorry buddy, I don't have every solo album ever pressed. We're one medium-sized room in a country bookshop fer chrissake.

Man, that reheated seafood chowder is smelling better by the second. I wish I had more than $2.33 in my pocket until Tuesday. Stupid retail.

By the way...how come the word "restaurateur" doesn't have an 'n'?


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Case of the Missing Stuff: Part II

So check it: things continued apace at Bookland. The seasons and the patrons flew by, so much so that I can't recall how much time passed between the incident in my last post and the incident in this one. Let's call it the following year for lack of evidence. I don't feel like digging through my dozens of diaries at home for the exact dates, know what I'm saying? Coolsville.

So one day I arrived for work only to discover a plywood board power-screwed into the doorframe where a pane of glass used to be. I was still standing there looking at it when a detective from the local constabulary exited the store and saw me gawking. We spoke for a minute and I told him what I didn't know while he shared what he did. It seems the night before, some nefarious evildoer had tiptoed up to the door, broken the glass, somehow found the safe in the back, opened it, and made off with a few hundred bucks. Or at least that was what the genius who did it wanted people to believe. The facts pointed to anything but random happenstance however.

First of all, the thief or thieves hadn't even bothered to check the cash register up front. It had no signs of someone attempting to open it whatsoever, so obviously the dude knew there was nothing in it overnight. Not even the customary 100 dollar amount that so many stores use as a base amount in their register drawers. Then there was the empty safe. Well, I call it a safe but it was really a padlocked box. The thief had gone right to the drawer in the desk nearby that had the key, and located it in its little pouch under all sorts of other stuff. The other drawers showed no signs of searching whatsoever. And lastly there was the glass in the front door lying all over the sidewalk outside the shop.

Ummm...excuse me, did he just type "outside" the shop? As in, the door was smashed by someone standing inside the store? Yep.

It didn't take a brain trust to figure out that a member of the staff had used their key in the wee hours of the night, headed directly for the box in the back, cleaned it out and smashed the glass on their way out to make it look like a break-in. The question was, which one of us was a thief (and clearly a piss-poor one at that)? Ah, now there's an interesting question. The suspects were the manager (not likely as she made three times that much money every week from running the place) or one of us part-timers. I knew it wasn't me so that left the manager's son Leigh (a straight-laced, likeable kid whom I ruled out immediately), the two cute girls who worked there (who despite their giggly vapidity were still smarter than the crime), or the new kid Evan.

Ah, Evan. I still wasn't sure why she'd hired him that year. He was barely at working age, a skinny, pimply, braces-wearing high schooler with the work ethic of an orange popsicle. He had an easy smile but there was never anything behind it, no spark of wit or humor. It was a mask he seemed to wear for lack of anything better to show the world. He wore a leather jacket but that in itself says nothing about a person. After all, I wear one myself. But taken in the context of his personality - or lack thereof - it seemed entirely incongruous. This kid barely said three words to me during a shift, so what was a wilting flower doing wearing such an audacious statement on his torso? It seemed for all the world to be his way of trying to be something he wasn't. And in case it seems like hindsight, I thought all of that from the first time I met him. There was something harmless yet uncomfortable about him. And his weaselly little buddies didn't help my opinion either.

The cops called us all down to the station to give interview statements. At the end of that they asked if there was anyone on staff I thought would've done something like that and I gave the kid's name. The cop nodded sagely, as if to say that was his opinion too. But as the days skidded by and crashed into weeks, there still wasn't any word about an arrest in the case. The boss was a nice enough woman but I couldn't shake the feeling that she was eyeing me with something like suspicion. 'Where the hell is this coming from?' I wanted to ask, but it just seemed futile to talk about it without laying blame on her new hire. To make matters worse, I was leaving on a vacation soon, so she certainly had to wonder if some of that trip money was perhaps "ill-gotten gains" as they say. Finally she came to me and said that since it was the holiday season, she really couldn't spare me for the trip and if I insisted on going then she would have to hire someone to replace me. It was a transparent maneuver; I'd cleared the trip through her months in advance, so this was her way of firing me without having to give the real reason (because there really wasn't any).

A few weeks after returning from the trip I ran into her son at the supermarket and asked him if they'd ever solved the break-in case. "Yeah, it was Evan," he said. Vindication left a bitter taste in my unemployed mouth. And his mom was extremely friendly (almost apologetic?) when I saw her a couple weeks after that.

Oh, and I saw Evan in town the following year. As he took my order at Burger King he smiled that same enigmatic smile. Then he handed me my change.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Sorry about the lack of activity here lately. Oddly enough, so far this autumn I haven't had that elusive annoying customer to complain about. It's a mystery but they seem to be staying home and bugging their own family for a change. Either that or they all found my blog and have no wish to see their personality quirks mocked before a digital audience. Whichever the case, I'm giving props to the dude or dudette upstairs for my good fortune. Call it what you will, be it Zeus, God, Buddha or Phil, someone is obviously looking out for my sanity. I did think of a story I haven't told yet though, so here it is for your perusal.

The Case of the Missing Stuff

How's that for a generic crime story title? This all takes place in the mid-1990s when I was working in the strip mall at Bookland. As I've mentioned previously, they ran the place with less than a skeleton crew. It's hard to blame them actually, as we barely had two customers an hour during my 5-9 PM closing shifts. With so little traffic in the shop, it wasn't exactly a situation that lent itself to crime. Then one day my boss came up to me took me aside to ask if I knew anything about some missing money. It seems that something like fifty dollars worth of rolled dimes were missing from the change box in the back room. She made a show of asking the other employees but it had been my bad luck to be working when the supposed heist went down, so she had me in her sights.

Now I haven't stolen cash from anybody since first grade, when I took a couple dollars from my dad's wallet to buy Twinkies at the corner store. For years afterward he had my tearful apology note tacked up on the bulletin board at his house, so clearly he viewed it more in a comedic light than as a hanging offense. Thus my righteous indignation meter was pinned in the red over my boss' veiled accusation. I fired a few questions back her way and discovered that not only was the money missing but so was the bank bag in which she had supposedly carried it to the store. Pressed further she admitted she could not recall actually putting the change into the back room and I submit that she either left the change on the bank counter or on the ground somewhere between the bank and her car. The final nail in her theory's coffin was this very simple point: who in the hell would take fifty dollars in coins from a safe when there were stacks of bills sitting right next to it on the shelf? Thank you, Your Honor. Case closed.

But that was not to be the last time she looked my way with a suspicious eye...

(to be continued)


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