Thursday, September 1, 2011

Special Offer at Practical Frugality

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vultures

When CompUSA closed most of its stores in 2007, our store was one of them. And since we were all losing our jobs, we figured we might as well make the most of it.

The closing sale worked in increments. Every week or two weeks, the discount percentage would rise by either five or ten percent. That meant that items would eventually wind up being 90% off on closing day.

So a few of us went around and gathered up some products we were interested and put them aside in one of the back rooms. CompUSA didn't want us doing that, but what were they going to do? Fire us? Oh, wait.

Anyway, on the store's last day, I grabbed my small basket of items and brought it to the register just as the store was opening for one last time. I didn't have much; I think there was a computer game, an SD card, some air cans, and some cheap little odds and ends.

But as I put it on the counter, the first customer through the door comes right over to us and reaches right into my basket, shifting things around as his eyes darted around in search of a good deal.

"Excuse me?" I asked, glaring at him. "Can I help you?"

He drops the computer game and waves it away. "No," he grunts. This guy was actually a regular shopper to the store; and an frequent complainer. I wanted to tell him off because it was our last day and there wasn't any reason to hold back, but I figured it was best not to start confrontation.

But to this day, I still cannot comprehend why people turn into such vultures when there is a sale going on. I realize you want to save money. We all do! But don't go stepping all over other people to get there. Have some common courtesy.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 5/21/11: Please stop stealing the demo units that have "FOR DISPLAY ONLY" written across them. They aren't real, you won't be able to sell them for any money, you're ruining our displays in the process, and you can STILL get arrested for it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bold Move, Mr. Customer. Very Bold.

Some customers had elaborate plots planned in order to steal merchandise. Sometimes they'll sneak a product to a dark corner of the store and leave it there for an accomplice to pick up later. Other times they'll bring their friends in to distract the floor employees while they just take what they want from the unguarded shelves. Some will bring backpacks and suitcases. Many bring box cutters and find clever places to discard the empty boxes. There's almost always a plan of some kind, and usually it involves the thief leaving the store with his or her loot long before the company has any idea that something was stolen.

Then there was this guy.

At CompUSA, we kept the majority of our computers on the overhead top stock. It was the easiest way to keep them out of the way and neatly organized. The boxes were lined up above the shelves right to the left of the entrance door and in plain view of the customer service desk.

So one day, we had a customer come in to purchase a computer. The sales person climbed the big ladder to top stock and pulled down the PC. But when the associate walked off to retrieve the monitor, the customer made his move.

Outside, a buddy of his was waiting in a running car. The buddy jumped out of the vehicle and ran up to the building, triggering the sliding entrance doors. Inside, no more than twenty feet away, the customer picked up the computer and ran out with it through the open doors.

Right in front of the customer service desk.

The two of them jumped into the car and sped off with the computer as the girl at the service desk paged a manager, but the car was gone by the time anyone got to the front. I don't think the machine was ever recovered, but we captured the whole incident on our security cameras.

It was certainly one of the more blatant thefts I'd ever witnessed. No opening boxes in a corner, no tools or baggy clothes, or anything like that. Just a grab-and-go procedure. Gotta love people who think they deserve to just take whatever they want whether they've earned it or not.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 5/14/11: If a company has product locked inside a secured case, don't wander around mumbling things like "How do they expect anyone to buy this stuff if it's under lock and key?!" under your breath. You know exactly what's going on, and you know exactly what you need to do to get your item.

Just open your mouth and ask. Politely. Get rude or impatient with us, and we may suddenly have another customer that we "forgot" was waiting on us. Or paperwork that needed to be done. Or a dog that needed walking.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Here's Your Sign

When our CompUSA began posting signs regarding our going out of business sale, I was away due to a family emergency. So I was unaware of just how many signs we had been instructed to post.

Holy crap.

When I came back, there were dozens and dozens of giant purple signs with yellow paint-splatter graphics and giant red letters that read "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE!" Without exaggeration, these signs lined the ceiling from left to right, right to left, front to back, and back to front. Side by side, there was probably only about a foot or two between each. Front to back was maybe four feet.

And they weren't just on the ceiling. Smaller versions were on the counters, the doors, the displays, and the shelves. Along with that were the percentage signs reading how much each area of product had been discounted. The point is, it was impossible to miss these signs.

Then again, just because we posted them doesn't mean they're true, right?

On the second or third day of the sale, I had a man come up to me in the middle of the store and ask me with a straight face, "Are you guys really going out of business?"

He had to be joking. That's what I assumed, anyway. "Excuse me?" I asked, hoping maybe I'd misheard him.

"Someone told me you guys were closing down," he said again. If he was acting, he was doing a spectacular job of it. He honestly looked and sounded upset by the news. "Is it true?"

I looked up a the signs overhead and stared long enough for him to follow suit. "Nope," I said, "we just like the colors on those signs."

He took the joke in good humor. I wasn't trying to offend him, but at the same time, I couldn't possibly imagine how he hadn't noticed any of the promotional material plastered all over the place.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 5/7/11: Have you ever seen those large porcelain bowls in store restrooms? They're called "toilets." That's where you take care of your business. Not on the floor. Not in the trash can. Nope, not the sink either.

Ladies, that applies to you too.

(Ugh, I can't believe I'm trying to teach such basic functions of human life to "adults." Time to start acting your age, people. And if your child causes a mess due to their lack of understanding how the process works, it is your job as a parent to clean up after them. I'm sorry if that comes as a shock to those of you who thought it was the store's responsibility to babysit Junior.)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Classy Lady

I've got a pretty long list of stories regarding in-store theft. While a good portion of the theft I've witnessed has come from employees, I'd have to say that the majority came from customers. Some were stupid, some were brazen, some were slick, and some were planned.

But nothing tops the story of the harness.

I wasn't present for these events, so I can only tell you what I was told. I can say that a piece of me has always wondered if this story was true. But after seeing a recent episode of Worlds Dumbest Criminals, I have been convinced.

Basically, a large woman stole a demo computer from the next CompUSA nearest to our own. The theft was discovered when inventory control associates did their weekly counts of computers and laptops. When they found they were missing a desktop computer from the demo shelf, they loaded up the surveillance tapes.

The video shows a rather rotund (very fat) woman and accomplice enter the aisle. While the accomplice stands at the end of the aisle watching for employees, the woman can be seen yanking the plugs out of the computer (this was before we put alarms on desktop units), pulling it off the shelf, and shoving it...

...under her dress.

Then she waddled out of the store like nothing was wrong, her accomplice close behind. I'm sure the way she was walking might have raised eyebrows of some, but I don't think the average person would've thought, "Hey! She's got a computer between her legs!"

She was caught, if I remember right, though I don't remember how. I just know that the report later revealed that the woman had a harness between her legs that she was able to fit the computer into so that she wouldn't have to hold it with her hands as she left the store. It was definitely the most creative theft I'd ever seen or heard of.

But again, I questioned it because it sounded too crazy.

Not anymore. Go to Youtube and look up videos of the TV show "World's Dumbest." There's an episode where a woman steals a giant case of beer by slipping it between her legs under her dress. Then she just walks out. Crazy stuff.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/30/11: While stealing is always a bad idea, you highly increase your chances of being caught by stealing from your own workplace. Don't think for a second that you're safe; you're not. Don't assume no one will suspect you; they will. And most retail stores will prosecute employee theft further than external theft for the simple fact that these companies put trust into their employees and they don't appreciate your spitting on that trust.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Included Means Included

I'm sure I've mentioned before that we are professional box readers. Well, never was that made clearer to me than on this day at CompUSA.

I was walking toward the front of the store when a customer stopped me. He was holding a floppy disk drive in his hands (look it up, kids). "Does this thing come with interchangable faceplates?" he asks me. "I have a black case. The picture is white. Does it have a black faceplate I can use?"

A fair question. The item was a generic CompUSA brand drive, and most of their units were plain white. But, as always, the only way I know how to answer the question is by looking at the box. I didn't have to look for long.

Right on the front, in big black letters across a yellow star, were the words "BLACK AND WHITE FACEPLATES INCLUDED." To top it off, an image of both colored faceplates was pictured right below the text.

I just pointed at the picture and handed the box back to him.

"Nah, I know that," the customer says. "But they're in the box, right?"

That's what "included" means, Sir.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/23/11: No, we cannot honor your expired coupon. The expiration dates are not "suggestions" to try to make you come back within a certain amount of time. They are deadlines. And if we make an exception for you, we have to make it for everyone. Most coupons last months; that's plenty of time for you to make use of it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Really? REALLY?!

Frequently, customers leave products anywhere and everywhere around the store. If they decide against buying that fresh beef, they have no reservations about leaving it in the cereal aisle. Why should they have to worry about putting away the products they picked up? Common courtesy isn't necessary when you have store associates to clean up your messes. That's what the employees are there for!

No, it isn't.

Although it is part of our jobs to keep the store neat and clean, we are not your personal butlers and maids. There is no reason other than laziness that you can't put something back where you found it.

But as bad as that kind of behavior is, it's nothing compared to what one customer did right in front of me.

I was helping him with a CD-ROM drive (this was years ago). He picked one up and looked it over for a few minutes. "Will this work on my PC?"

I explained that it would and told him that it would slide into the same drive bay as the old one. Then he saw the price. "I'm going to have to come back," he said.

Then he did something that made me want to wrap my hands around his neck. Rather than put the merchandise back in the open spot on the shelf from which it game, he reached up and dropped the box behind the other products on the top shelf. It honestly took far more effort to do that than it would've to put the thing back where he'd found it.

Then, when he saw me staring at him with wide eyes, he said, "Oh, sorry." He had to stand on the tips of his toes to retrieve the box and return it to it's rightful place on second shelf right in front of his chest.

Some might give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was just trying to make sure it would be there when he returned. But I have two problems with that. First, there were at least seven other drives of the same make and model. Second, when you want to know if a store will hold a product for you, you just need to ask. As long as it's not a sale, most companies are willing to hold products for customers for up to twenty-four hours or sometimes more.

Seriously though, clean up after yourself. This is another one of those things that will help you get better service. After all, the more we have to clean up after you, the less happy we will be to help you.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/16/11: Got some groundbreaking mind-boggling logic for you here. Are you ready? See if you can wrap your head around this.

If the door had a sign that reads "EMPLOYEES ONLY," then only employees of the store are allowed to enter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gossip Trumps Everything

As I'm sure most of you already know, one of my biggest pet peeves is customers with cell phones glued to their ears. Not only is it rude when an associate or cashier is trying to help, but it often causes a detachment from the rest of the world. This lack of consideration is even worse when their attention is desperately needed elsewhere.

I was working register at Staples when a man came up and placed a mouse pad on the counter. I took it, scanned it, and told him his total.

He just stared at me.

I assumed he hadn't heard me. So I gave him the total again. He points at the mouse pad, then starts rummaging through the little bins of impulse items on the counter.

"Did you have a question?" I asked him. I really wasn't sure what to do. He took a pen out of the display and put it on the mouse pad. I scanned it and gave him his new total. Still no response.

Next, he added a pack of gum. Not knowing what else to do, I scanned that too. He kept staring at me. And by this time, he'd built up a nice line behind him.

Then, out of nowhere, a woman on a cell phone comes up and takes the man's hand. "Come along, Jeffrey."

Now the pieces fall into place. Jeffrey has some kind of psychological handicap.

He picks up the mouse pad and shows it to her. "No," she says. "Put it down. That's not for you." She takes it from him and drops it on the counter, not once even making eye contact with me. To top it off, she's still got the cell phone to her ear. "I'm sorry, Margie. Just give me a second here."

I don't know why I allow people's inconsiderate behavior to surprise me, but I was honestly stunned by what I was seeing. This woman was so wrapped up in herself and her phone call that she wasn't paying any attention to this poor guy she was supposed to be caring for!

I took Jeffrey's items off the counter, returning the pen and gum to their displays before placing the mouse pad on the shelf behind me. When I turned back around to take the next person in line, I was astounded to see that Jeffrey had already vanished again. The woman was standing by the far side of the counter, babbling away on her cell phone about some he said/she said nonsense. That's right; she was neglecting this poor guy for gossip!!

I shook my head and worked through the line of customers. As I did, one of the other associates came up to the front. "Keep an eye out for a middle-aged guy in a striped shirt," he told me. "He's acting weird and rummaging through all the shelves like he's looking for something."

That was Jeffrey. I explained to the associate and asked him to keep an eye on Jeffrey since his caregiver was busy catching up on the latest rumors amongst her circle of friends.

"I hope she's gonna clean up the messes he's making all over the place," the associate muttered, heading back onto the sales floor.

Not 5 minutes later, I spot Jeffrey. He was headed up to the register with a purple ruler in his hand. Just as he was about to put it on my counter, the woman snatched it out of his hand, dropped it on my counter, grabbed him by the wrist, and practically dragged him out the door. She never looked at me, never muttered an apology, and never got off the phone.

You know how truck drivers have those signs on the rear of their trailers that say, "How's my driving?" with a phone number? Well, I wish she'd had a sign that said, "How's my caregiving?"

Sadly, that would not be the last time a mentally challenged adult would be neglected in our store.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/12/11: The furniture department is not a customer lounge. Don't recline in one of the chairs with your feet on the desk while you have a leisurely cell phone conversation. Don't unload 4 bags of Burger King to have a ncie little lunch with your gang of friends. And don't come in on your lunch break with a pile of office paperwork and set up shop at one of our display desks to get your extra work done.

Yes, I have witnessed all of these and more.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Truth Be Told

There was one particular manager at CompUSA that I always enjoyed working with - especially when dealing with customer issues. He had a name I could pronounce but couldn't begin to spell, so we'll just call him Roy. And Roy was an honest guy.

During that time period, we had a lady who took advantage of the system on a routine basis. See, CompUSA had a policy of doing "Whatever it Takes" to please the customer. Normally, this sort of policy would be a good thing. But any time a business shows any sort of benevolence, there are going to be people who exploit it.

So when word got out about the company's more lenient policies, this lady's eyes turned green.

Her scam was a simple one; a scheme she probably got away with in other stores both before and after us. First, she'd flip through the Sunday paper and check out our weekly ad. Once she located an item with an fairly respectable discount, she'd come into the store and buy it with cash. They weren't excessivly large discounts unless it was a holidy sale. I'd say the biggest amounts were between fifteen to twenty bucks.

This lady would then take the item home and hang onto it until the sale concluded at the end of the week. Then she would return to the store with it. Of course, sometime during the week, her recept would mysteriously disappear.

Every week.

And every week, the same conversation took place. She'd tell us the product isn't waht she wanted. We would ask for the receipt. She'd tell us she lost it. After all, "Who keeps receipts?" We would explain that we normally require a receipt for a return. She'd get angry, demand a manager, and eventually get her product returned.

The scam? Well, let's say she purchased the product at a sale price of twenty-five bucks. The following week after the sale has ended, the price goes back to its normal price of fourty bucks. Without a receipt, we have no idea what she paid, so she has to get the full amount back. Normally, something like that would go to store credit. But she'd use the fact that the items were inexpensive (usually under fifty dollars) to argue the manager into giving her cash.

Thus, she walks away with more money than she paid for the product to begin with.

Now, for obvious reasons, we're not allowed to tell customers when we suspect they might be scamming us. It would cause a nightmare if we were either wrong or unable to prove it. Roy, however, must've reached the end of his patience with this woman.

I was working the cash register next to the customer service desk when she came in. "I want to return this," she says, dropping a mouse on the counter. It had been on sale for ten dollars off the previous week.

"Do you have a receipt?" the customer service employee asks.

"No," she says nonchalontly as though that was the last thing in the world that was important. "I'll just take cash," she adds.

This might come as a shock to some people, but we aren't alowed to let customers tell us if or how they'll be refunded. I was in charge of the front-end at that time, but I was stuck ringing register. So the cashier called Roy.

Roy seemed to be struggling not to roll his eyes as he approached; I assumed he'd dealt with her before. The customer service rep told him it was a return with no receipt and that she wanted cash.

"I can't give you cash, Ma'am," he told her. "The best I can do is store credit." He didn't even have to do that much, but again, CompUSA was trying to be softer about their policies.

"No, no," she said matter-of-factly. "I want cash. I've gotten cash without a receipt before! I don't see why this is such a problem!"

Roy picked up the mouse and examined it. It was still sealed and in good condition. "I'll tell you whatt," he says. "I'll give you cash back for this, but you have to promise me something."

"What's that?" she asks, giving him a suspicious stare. I fully expected him to make her promse to hang onto her receipts going forward.

I was wrong.

"I want you to promise that you'll never return to this store."

My eyes bulged. I was ringing someone else up at that point, but listening intently to the events unfolding beside me.

Not surprisingly, the woman was highly offended. "Excuse me?!" she nearly shouts.

"Ma'am, you and I have been through this before. You're frequently here making returns without receipts. And every item is one that was on sale the previous week. Your business does nothing to help my store, so I'd like you to take it elsewhere."

Inside, I was laughing and cheering. It was something every cashier has wanted to say to a customer at one point or another.

The lady didn't react well to Roy's proposal. "Excuse me!? Who do you think you are?! You can't tell me where I can and cannot shop!"

I've heard conflicting stories over the years regarding whether or not a business can refuse service to certain customers. After one incident with another frequent problem-customer, the police told us that there was no rule that we had to do business with everyone out there regardless of their behavior. At some point after that, we had put up a sign that said "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

Roy pointed at that sign. "I don't care where you shop," he told her. "Just as long as it isn't here."

"This is unheard of!" she explained in disbelief, shaking the mouse in her hand. "This thing is brand new! I didn't even open it! I just want my money back!"

Now Roy smiled. "You're going to get your money. But after that, I want you to consider our business relationship severed. Do you understand?" Before she could argue any further, he thanked her for cooperating and handed the mouse to the cashier. "Return this to cash."

This is unbelieveable," she muttered, pulling her keys out of her purse. "You just lost a customer!"

Roy didn't look back, but he raised his voice for her to hear. "I'm aware of that." There was a bit of satisfaction in that statement.

She continued grumbling as he walked away. I have no doubt she just went to another CompUSA and tried the same thing, but at least she was gone from ours. At least, I never saw her again.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 4/4/2011: This tip is great when shopping, but also useful for the rest of everyday life. When walking forward, its best to keep your eyes forward. Crazy concept, right? You be surprised how many people can't figure that out on their own.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Like" Kevin Domenic on Facebook!

Help my author page get to 100 Likes on facebook and I'll give all 100 fans a free copy of Key to the Stars on Smashwords!

Kevin Domenic on Facebook

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Links

Greetings, everyone!

I just wanted to point out that I have added a couple of links on the right sidebar. The first directs you to my official author website. You'll be able to get updates on my current and future writing projects there along with whatever random thoughts I feel like posting.

The second is a link to the new official homepage for The Fourth Dimension. All future news and updates regarding my science-fiction/fantasy series will be posted there.

As I'm sure you've all noticed, postings to Retail Ramblings have slowed greatly. I do apologize for this, and I have intentions of writing more often. However, I'm currently working full-time, helping Laura start her own crafting business (check it out at keilantra.etsy.com), writing a new book, and trying to juggle the many other aspects of my writing career. As a result, I haven't had as much time to dedicate to Retail Ramblings as I'd like. That having been said, once I get myself into more of a routine where I can dedicate a little portion of my day to each project, I should be able to post more regularly. In the meantime, I do appreciate your patience and I promise you that there are great things on the way!

Thanks for your continued interest in my work!

God bless,
Kevin

Take a Number

Our local post office is a nightmare for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest problems comes from the other customers who are too wrapped up in their ipods or cell phones or egos to see the "Take a Number" stand when they enter.

Let me make something clear here. This "Take a Number" stand is about five and half feet high. It also stands RIGHT BEHIND the door! I mean literally, when you open the door, you have to walk around it to get inside. There is no missing this thing unless you're either distracted or think, for whatever reason, that it's not important.

Now, I understand that sometimes places don't use the numbers even though they're there. The deli counter in the grocery store, for example, doesn't always use the numbers. But you know what? You can't be an idiot and just assume that any place that had a "Take a Number" sign doesn't use it. Because then you suddenly find yourself in a position where people who came in AFTER you are being helped BEFORE you. And, of course, you then complain that it isn't fair.

Right.

That's what happened when I went in to the post office to ship a couple small packages. I went in and took a number. Behind me, a tall guy entered - looked like a truck driver - and took a number. He leaned against the wall across from me and waited.

In the outer vestibule where the various confirmation and tracking tags are located, there was a lady filling out a packing slip. A few minutes after truck driver entered, she finishes filling out her slip, comes inside, and walks right around the number dispenser. She looks like she's got a bit of an ego, too. Holds her nose real high, too much make-up, highlights in her hair, fur coat, high heels, fancy-shmancy purse, etc. The look on her face said that she was disgusted to have to mingle with the rest of the disgusting "average" people in order to get mail her package.

There were two people working at the counter. My number was called next. I handed my packages to the postal worker and while she weighed them, the other worker called for the next number. Of course, snobby lady steps forward at the same time as truck driver. He holds up his number with a mere "Uhm..." and she gives him the most dirty look.

"I was here first," she snaps.

In the building first, yes. In line first? No way.

The postal worker speaks up. "You're supposed to take a number, Ma'am."

None of that is important to her, of course. "No, I was here first!" she insists. "That's not right!"

Truck driver clearly didn't feel like dealing with it. He held up his hands and went back to his spot against the wall. "That's not really fair, but whatever," he mumbles. I felt bad for him.

Meanwhile, the lady had this annoyed sneer on her face for the entire rest of the time she was in the building. It was drizzling outside at the time - I really hoped the rain would POUR down on her once she left.

It didn't.

Shopping Tip of the Day for 3/22/2011 - If someone holds the door for you when you enter or exit a store, whether it's an employee or another customer, THANK THEM! Don't just walk in with your smug little smile like you somehow are owed such treatment. You're lucky people don't let the door slam in your face.