Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Unsupervised Children will be given an Espresso and a Free Puppy"

I made a stop at the "Fresh Fields" Shopping Center" on Friday. Business was slow, I've never been there when it was anything but slow, yet there are plenty of nice stores.

I spent a few minutes at Indigo Books, one of the few independent booksellers around Charleston and the only customers were two small children and their inattentive mother. As the two, old enough to know better siblings ran through the store treating it like their own personal playground two things came to mind.

First, a humorous sign at another nearby store "Doing the Charleston" at the Bohicket Marina:

"Unsupervised Children will be given an Espresso and a Free Puppy"

Second this piece by Moira Manion which describes just how many of my friends who work in retail feel this time of year.

Excuse me. I'm a clerk at this bookstore. Are those your children?

Hunter and Sophia? Very nice names.

Did you happen to notice that they're screaming, pulling items off the shelves, and running around like lab monkeys on crack?

Back in the day, mortified parents would take children like that and remove them from the store. My co-workers and I notice your lack of mortification. Your only attempt to rein them in is to stand around, sipping your latte which is dripping on our carpet by the way and mumble the mantra, "Hunter. Sophia. Hunter. Sophia." Not particularly effective, is it?

We're curious: Are you allowing their misbehavior because you acted like that at their age, or because you simply don't care?

Now, see, Hunter just tore the cover of that new picture book. Once upon a time, stores had a "You Broke It, You Bought It" policy. These days, retailers will tolerate even the most demonic fits in order to keep you, the customer, happy. But we can't utter a squeak of protest. All we can do is say, "Thanks for coming, have a nice day" as you leave the scene of carnage.

I'm sorry; I sound angry to you? Maybe it's because we employees are caught in the middle. The manager yells at us for the mess your kids made, then he yells at us because we've taken time from our other duties to clean up the mess your kids made. If the store looks bad, it reflects on us. We're hauled into the manager's office and given a warning. The manager never warns the customers. Because the customers have money, and the manager wants it. So he won't look bad.

If employees step out of line, as I'm doing now, and hold you the customers accountable, then you the customer can go to the manager and say, "Fire that lady!" Then, the manager hires another desperate slob who thought his MBA degree would never lead him to picking up after screaming toddlers.

Well, on behalf of retail employees across the country, let me tell you what I'd really like to say:

If you ever come into this store again, and allow your spawn to crush Cheerios into the rug and pierce our ears with screams of "I WANNIT!," I will take your neck and snap it like a dry twig.

Thanks for coming.

Have a nice day.

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