Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Half-off Christmas...half-off me...(I wish)

Christmas, (while fun) is a crazy time of year. We look at the week before Christmas with trepidation (only because everything is sold out and EVERYONE seems cranky) and the day after Christmas, when all things Christmas go the inevitable 50% off--well, let's just say that the prospect of getting up at 4am to stand in line for two hours and then, the whole "run-for-your-life-and-shove-people-out-of-the-way-to-get-to-that-Waterford-ornament-that-is-now-half-price" thing, well...it is daunting at best.
But it's officially over. Now, when I go to the local store, all I see is one cart with a few boxes of broken candy canes and that freakish ugly tinsel that no one wants. The Half-off Craze is over, and now, we brace ourselves for Winter. It's going to be a long, hard one. Especially in Wisconsin.
It's depressing when the holidays are over. The brightly-lit trees are packed away, the lights outside are taken down, the wreaths and bells and holiday knick-knacks and garland are put away, and everything seems so bare. I keep clear lights in my fake fica trees just to bring some cheer, but the prospect of six months of no sun and frozen bitter cold can get you really down.
What's even more depressing is that the two solid months of cookies and cakes and chocolate and candy have now taken their toll, and I suddenly find that I now closely resemble the size and appearance of the average baby water buffalo.
So, New Year's Resolutions it is, then.
New Years Resolutions. I have spent the last several days penning mine. I'm ashamed to report that the list is longer in length than my Christmas list was, and I've been wrestling with all my faults and things about me that I need to improve, which, frankly, depresses me even more and makes me want to eat more chocolate (which will result in me eventually resembling a LARGE full-sized Adult water buffalo and I'll get even more depressed and so on and so on).
So I am trying to keep them all to one page (single spaced) while remembering that excess is not necessarily good.
But I'll get there eventually. Just like I'll get back to pre-holiday weight.
...Sometime around July.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I'm Done! I'm Done!

About time too! Christmas Eve is tomorow, and I have officially PURCHASED MY LAST GIFTS. I am finished! Hooray!
Now I'm entering a phase called "Holiday Guilt." It happens when someone you hardly know (or don't really know at all) either A) Mails you a Christmas Card or B) Pulls a mind scramble and actually gives you a gift or bakes something for you.
The latter happened to me twice yesterday. I had people I would never have thought of twice at Christmas, give my family baked goods and in another instance, a present. So of course that threw me into complete panic mode and I have decided on a pre-emptive maneuver for NEXT year:
Buy a bunch of gifts that would appeal to anyone; movie gift cards, board games, etc, and just have them wrapped and on hand (with a sticky note on the outside to identify what's inside) and a "To: (leave blank) From: (The Whatsits)" and have a pen lying nearby, so that when Mrs. Jenkins from down the street (who never smiles at us even when we drive by and wave and doesn't like kids) brings me an entire tray of fudge I can say "Oh, wait a minute, let me get YOURS!" and I can dash back to my stash of anonymous gifts, select one, hurriedly write her name and bring it out. Voila! Yes!!!
THIS IS A FOOLPROOF PLAN. I am amazed at my genius. (heh heh).
I do the same thing with Christmas cards too. I've sent all mine out, but a few come in the mail that I cringe at them and think "Dang, I should have sent THEM one!" And then I debate whether or not to actually run and send one because when they get it they'll see the postmark and know that I only sent it out of guilt as soon as I received theirs. (well, hey, I do that, so other people must!) Right?
I am just very wholly excited that all the presents are wrapped, Santa's presents are hidden away in the Scary Unfinished Basement Storeroom (where the heating system and water softener are: my kids are truly terrified of that place so its ideal to hide things there) and we are good to go.
WHEW. So now I am going to wish Everyone a very happy Holiday--and may Christmas Eve find you relaxing with your family and enjoying the atmosphere, and NOT in line at the local Kohl's store, or screaming at the big truck in front of you in the mall parking lot because he's been waiting seven minutes for the people to pull out of the parking space that is only FIVE FEET CLOSER than the empty space a little further down.
Breathe. Just Breathe...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

It's Beginning to Look a lot like...

I've got that song running through my head, the one with the line: "And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again."
Today I am flying. Literally. Two school parties to help out at (and of course I'll have to have Thing Three in tow) and I am sleepy. I am sleepy because Toys R Us is open until Midnight (don't worry, I was there) and I was having a panic night because for some reason I thought I could just "walk in" to any store and purchase a Playstation2.
Apparently not.
Toys R Us was sold out. I ran next door to Best Buy. Sold out. I drove to the Other Best Buy across town (the scary part). Sold out. I drove back to the Walmart by my house, sold out. I finally stopped off at the Target next door. Sold out. I was ready to throw up my hands in frustration, because I had done this the day before, searching for a damn Strawberry Shortcake playhouse. (Don't even ask me about Whac-a-Mole. It's even sold out on the Internet.)

So, the Electronics guy at Target must have taken pity on me (I think he's seen me near tears a few times, heh heh) and asked me my kid's ages. I told him, and he said there was hope in sight. He said that the Nintento Gamecube was better suited for younger children, and of course, they had two left. If I wasn't a married woman I would have kissed him. I was that happy.
Now before you think I'm an awful mother, I want you to know that the winters here in Wisconsin are so (insert expletive here) cold, there isn't much to do but stay in the house. We want something for our kids to do, and we really love that video dance game where you dance, and the educational games. And then there's Super Mario Power Tennis, which my hubby will end up playing all day long and he'll be lost to me. Well, it's either that or a Football game, so there isn't much difference!
I've made some New Year's resolutions. I want to have TWO (not one, but two) novels completed by the middle of the year. I've already been working on and off on two of them for six months, it's time I stepped it into high gear. I figure the more novels I write the better my chances of getting at least one of them published!
I told my hubby to get me an ENORMOUS gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. Then I'd be the Happiest Woman On Earth.
Research can get expensive, ya know? *wink*

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Yesterday Through Hagan's Eyes

Hagan is a 5-month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel we brought home four months ago. He's always looking at us as though we've gone slightly mad, so I decided to think about what it would be like to be in HIS shoes...

Monday, December 20th:
6:30 a.m. I have to go to the bathroom. Must go. I have been dutifully holding it until the small and big hands on the clock are both pointing to six. This is now my cue to whine and scratch at my crate, because I have to GO TO THE BATHROOM!!! Whine. Scratch scratch.
Nothing. If someone doesn't hear me soon, I'll have to bark. Whine. Scratch scratch.
Ah, I hear a sound, yes, YES! It's my MOMMY! She's coming down the stairs to let me out of prison! I get to go outside! Yay!! I am just so excited that I finally get to pee that my tail (geesh that thing has a mind of its own) is thumping the sides of the crate quite loudly: thwack thwack thwack thwack.
Mommy is putting on her coat and mumbling about something; I'm not able to make it out. I catch the words "too friggin early" and "you're lucky you're cute" but I have no idea what those mean. All I know is in about 15 seconds I get to PEE!!! YAY! (thwack thwack thwack). Now I am so excited my whole back half is wagging out of control. Most embarrassing, but I'm too overjoyed at the prospect of peeing to care.
The cage is opened, my leash is put on, and I am at the door! The door slides open and...wait....what is this? White stuff? How pretty! Mommy is standing in it, saying words like "damn cold" and "hurry up" and looking slightly annoyed so I guess I'd better get going.
WAIT. The white stuff is cold! BRRRR! Where's my sweater? No one told me about this stuff! Sniff sniff. Uh oh. This could be a problem...sniff sniff. Oh, no, the scent is gone! I can't smell anything! It's covered over by the white stuff! I guess I'll have to sniff the whole backyard until I catch a whiff of scent, since I have to find exactly the right spot to pee in. It should only take about ten minutes...
My family is strange. I've decided that they run around a lot. Especially after they all sit at the table in the morning. (I can't tell what they're doing, but they don't make much noise). They all get up from the table and run in different directions. And Mommy always yells. She yells at them to clean up the table. She yells at them that they wore that shirt yesterday and no way will they wear it again today. She yells up the stairs that they need to get their hair done. She yells that they need to wear the thick coat and not the thin one. Then they yell that they are NOT wearing the fluffy earmuffs and she yells at them that they WILL or they will catch Pneumonia and die, whatever that means.
Luckily she doesn't yell at me. She stopped doing that after I learned to not pee and poop in the house.
Mommy is upset. She's on the phone, (to Daddy I think) complaining about the roads. She's saying that there's so much salt on the roads, the car looks like it's had a run in with a Christmas-tree Flocking Machine and she's used up all her windshield wiper fluid in one afternoon. Now she's complaining that she needs more hours in the day. Poor Mommy. Maybe if I climb into her lap and poke her with my cold wet nose she'll want to play with me.
My Mommy is DEFINITELY strange. She's dancing in front of the computer now. Now she's picking up the phone and pushing buttons. That phone looks tasty...
She's talking very excitedly. Something about the "do not disturb sign being off the door at J.K. Rowling's site" and something about a release date of harry potter and the half blood prince. Wow. She's really excited about this one. She's distracted too. If I just slip out of my bed and sneak into the living room she doesn't like me to go into...
I am just SO excited that I found my chewing bone behind the sofa! I've been smelling it for weeks and I just knew it was somewhere back there. I took the opportunity to sneak back there and grab it while Mommy was glued to the screen with human words on it at her desk...she didn't even notice. She's been staring at that screen for an hour now, tapping on the buttons furiously with her fingers, pausing only to rub her hands together in fiendish glee.
Yep, People are strange. I am the only sane one around here.
And I lick my butt, for Pete's sake!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Life's little Ironies...

I haven't blogged this weekend, and for that I apologize. Weekends are so jam-packed for me, sitting down in front of a computer is a futile desire.
Now for the conclusion of "Retail Woes..."
As I blogged previously, the entire store was on "CEO May Arrive Any Minute" alert, and I spent the next hour very tense and angry and frustrated.
To make a long story short, the CEO never arrived at our store. All our angst was for nothing. He was mostly likely doing last-minute christmas shopping at the store closest to his home, and then on to other things.
We had tricked our minds into thinking that on the all-important Saturday before Christmas, he was going to methodically visit each store and criticize, (since that's what he normally did, on business days).
The one thing we forgot, is that Corporate Management are People Too. They have families, they do wear clothes other than power suits, and they are generally REALISTIC about chaotic selling days before Christmas.
Case in point: and here's where Life gets a little ironic: My hubby is one of those Retail Corporate people. He spends his time traveling to New York and L.A. and other places, and he tours stores (with all his buyers in tow) and the whole shebang.
Just this Saturday; the Saturday before Christmas, we decided to go out shopping as a family. We were finishing up, and I suggested we go to the mall. My hubby's response was interesting:
"We won't find a parking space, and to be honest, I don't want to freak out the store people. If they see me there, they'll go into a tailspin and think they'll have to clean the store and we won't get any shopping done because everyone will be coming up to me and telling me about their departments, and problems and sales."
He was absolutely right. I remember that awful time when we had "rumors and whispers" of Corporate Management about to descend on us (the sky is falling! the sky is falling!) and Chicken Little was in full force.
Not this Saturday. Instead, we went and had a wonderful lunch with the kids at Panera, and topped it off with Hot Chocolates with whip cream and chocolate syrup.
In reflecting back, I suppose maybe on that awful Saturday, the CEO's wife whispered in her husband's ear: "Honey, maybe we should stay away from the stores--these people are panicking!" If she did, she is nothing less than an Angel of Mercy.

...This is why we should be nice to retail people over the holidays. They are working their butts off, and they have to endure so many parts of Hell that we would never understand. They have pressure from Within, and pressure from Without. They have no quality of Life around the holidays.
So next time you go shopping (if you are one of the crazy ones who actually does shop the week before Christmas) please, please be kind to the salespeople and even maybe wish them Happy Holidays.
It will make all the difference in the world. Otherwise they'll end up "people-haters" like I did, for several years. That's a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Retail Woes Part VI

It's funny, as I write this I am thinking about tomorrow, because tomorrow is the last Saturday before Christmas, which is the topic of my writing as of late. You may want to have a moment of silence for those poor souls who work retail this time of year, because their day tomorrow is going to be exactly like the one I've been describing in my last several blogs. Granted, I haven't worked retail for four years, but things I'm sure don't really change.

So I left off with all the managers standing in the executive office, mortified and panicked because the CEO might be descending upon the store at any moment. Granted, we like to tease our store manager, even under normal circumstances--we've dubbed her "Chicken Little" you see, because to her, the sky is always falling in some form or another. Today is no exception.
A hand goes up in the air, and I'm surprised to find that it's mine.
"Yes Lara?" She asks quickly.
"Well, I'm thinking that if he's just shopping with his wife, he's not going to want to "walk the store" and talk business. Not to mention the fact that he has to understand that this is one of the craziest days of the year, next to the day after Thanksgiving, and he would expect our store to be messy and in turmoil, because it's a mark of good business."
"Nice try," she smirks, and snaps into action. Reality has left her. She is one of those people who would Sink With The Ship.
"I want all of you, ALL of you, to go to your individual departments, and pull any available associates and blitz the aisles," she instructs with a fanatical glare. "Folding tables, displays, anything he can see from the aisle. If he walks through and at least the aisles are clean, he won't have much to complain about."
She has a point, I concede. It's a little trick that we employ in a pinch. I call it the "Aisles-only Illusion." Even if the rest of the department looks like a pack of dogs was let loose through it, if the aisles are straightened, it won't matter. She tells us she'll call a "Code 100" as soon as he's sighted, so that even if we are working fast, that will be our cue to jump it up to superhuman speed.
I hightail it back to my department as fast as my waddling legs will allow. I'm starting to officially get tired. To make matters worse, the baby has finally gotten some of that Cinnabon and I'm getting jabbed in the ribs. "Oohh," I gasp, and stop, as a foot connects with my liver. But I can't stop. If I do, I'd be in danger of not accomplishing the Aisles-only Illusion. So I must press on. I flip open my phone and call my department as I continue to make my way through the store.
10 minutes later, I'm on my knees again, folding an enormous Polo Boys table of polos and pants, and dressing the naked boy mannequins, while some of my associates work furiously beside me. We're nearly 50% there. I'll be damned if I don't acheive the Ultimate Illusion. The CEO will pass through this department and think he's entered the "perfect store zone" and he'll marvel at our prowess and control. I'm lassooing the tornado and riding it like a mechanical bull. Yeee Haawww!
Then my pager goes off, and it's the Shoe department. Gaw, I hate the shoe department. All those shoes and the freaky commissioned people freaking out if they don't get their sales in. But I especially hate shoes because people try to return worn shoes all the time and I actually have to put my foot down. Then there's contention, and I hate contention. I just hate Shoes, period.
Reluctantly I leave my department and walk towards Ladies Shoes, and I see Kate, the Shoe Manager, beckoning furiously at me from the aisle. I walk up to her with a questioning look and she leans in towards me, all secretive. "I need an opinion really quick," she hisses desperately "Look at all these drags. If he sees these...I'm toast."
I look around, and there are semi-formidable mountains of loose shoes (which are called "drags") and tissue and empty boxes, and I count about 20 of them. I look back at Kate, who has a look of sheer panic on her face. "I'm thinking of getting a big dumpster," she whispers. "We can pile them all into the back and he'll never see."
"But then you won't be able to sell them," I counter, growing slightly impatient and surprised at her desperation.
"Who cares!" she snaps. "They're not buying them on the floor like that anyway! Besides, if HE'S coming through...as soon as he leaves I'll set someone to work on them."
"Do as you like," I reply, shaking my head. "But I'm telling you, he's realistic. He's going to EXPECT a mess on a day like this."
She looks at me with horror, as if I've uttered a major blasphemy. I guess in Retail Terms, I have. We must always acheive the Illusion, or die.

Retail People are Freaks of Nature, you see. I'm not talking about the gum-chewing, phone-talking teenagers who would rather be doing ANYTHING but standing behind a counter, but true-blue Retail People, (usually managers of some sort) who are devoted to overachievement and always come in on their days off and literally live at the store to make sure everything is perfect.
Kate is one of these people. Sadly, so am I. (I once re-opened a store at 1am so I could scan markdowns by myself in the dark for four hours just to get caught up.) I've done crazy, desperate things too. Retail People are Freaks of Nature. We really are.
And since we are, I nod my head at her and say "Do what you need to. Just remember you have to deal with it again tomorrow."
"Pshaw, tomorrow is Sunday, we don't open until 9am," she hmmphs. "I'll just bring in half my staff at 5am to clean everything up. It will be fine."
I head back to my department, shaking my head. "She's crazy. We're all crazy." But I stop myself there, because if I give it one more minute's thought, then I will really REALIZE that we're all crazy, hoop-jumping poodle slaves, who work 80-hour weeks and get paid for 40 hours.
I shake my head, and return to my department, continuing to frantically straighten, as I wait with baited breath to hear the dreaded page over the Store Intercom: Code 100, Code 100.

To be continued...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Retail Woes Part V

There’s a little something you should know about the Retail “Hierarchy”: A retail company has its CEO, then President, then GMM’s and DMM’s. Then there are Buyers, Assistant buyers, Administrative staff, etc. This comprises the Corporate part of the Retail world.
Then there are “The Stores”. The peons of the industry work in “the stores”.
Occasionally, the CEO or President, with his entourage of GMM’s, DMM’s and buyers will descend upon a store for a “Walkthrough.” Most of the time stores are given ample notice of an imminent Walkthrough and can staff accordingly for these momentous occasions. I say momentous because whenever the Top Management is coming through-- the victim in question…er—I mean the Store that is getting walked through, goes through a period of what I like to call Preparation Insanity.
During this time (usually three days before a scheduled Walkthrough) all available resources are pulled into the store, to blitz, ticket, floof, puff, perfect, etc. Any illusion that can be achieved, will be. The store manager and her ASM’s bury themselves in figures and sales and stock reports so that they might be able to spew out Statistics and Sales/Stock/Whatever Your Fancy Facts, on command. They also pull open to close shifts to work side-by-side with their associates recovering, re-arranging floors, ticketing, double-checking signing, etc.
On the Day Of The Dreaded Visit, extra associates are called in, so as to give the illusion of being fully-staffed. Any empty Fire Exits and Disabled Fitting rooms are crammed (*gasp* yes, don’t look at me like that, nothing is sacred during a Walkthrough!) as I was saying, crammed with all sorts of crap that needs to be hidden, like stock boxes, hanging racks, empty fixtures, etc. Even the stockrooms get stuffed to capacity—it's all a common practice that is part of the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell Genre.”
The atmosphere during a Walkthrough is tense, Managers work in their departments until they get “called up” to walk with the Big Wigs (sort of like taking the last walk before an execution—honest it really feels that way sometimes) and they suffer through anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour of walking every facet of their departments, at attention and ready for questions while the CEO, President, GMM or DMM walks about, gesturing and speaking in a booming voice, while the Entourage furiously scribbles notes with their pointy noses buried in their notebooks.
The day of a Walkthrough is usually very tense until the Corporate Party leaves, and every thing has to be perfectly straight and straightly perfect.
It's a sad thing to admit, but on days like this you actually get mad at customers for shopping and messing up your perfect displays and fixtures.
Now how twisted is that? We should welcome and love and rejoice in the customers who shop in our store, not hate and wish Death upon them for messing up our row of Neatly Folded Scarves!
Pathetic, yes. But it really happens.
I only tell you this to give you an idea of how horrid it is to have someone from Corporate come to a department store—WITH ample warning.

Now we go to once again to my current situation, where we are all standing in our Store Manager’s office, hands on our mouths in a parody of the oft-stolen Scream Painting, on one of the busiest days of the year, where the entire store looks like a Level Five Tornado blew through, then turned around and decided to blow through again.
Customers are angry, the aisles are clogged, the lines at the checkouts are reminiscent of the lines for Opening Day of the Star Wars Movies during the eighties, and there is no hope in sight of making even a dent in the next few hours, let alone ten minutes. And the CEO is coming. THE CEO IS COMING!
And here I must leave you, because I’ve once again run out of room on this blog…
Until tomorrow

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Retail Woes Part IV

I’ve had some people ask me, "is this account for real?" I have to clarify, the answer would be YES. Anyone who has ever worked retail around the holidays knows how desperate and crazy things can get. So, onward we press

I’ve been paged to the Lingerie department. I glance at my watch and see that it is now 4pm. I avoid looking at the racks of bras as I pass by them, remembering with pain how this morning the racks were even and sorted, the bras hanging neatly, and the panty tables stocked with the panties in neat rows, by size.
Now the bra racks look more like colorful lumps in a sea of disarray, and the panty tables each have just one big pile of panties on them. There is almost as much merchandise on the floor as there is on the racks, and I wince as I see the absolutely enormous line of frazzled-looking customers standing at the wrapstand. One of my best employees (we’ll call her “Frances”) is in tears behind the counter because her cash register has literally blown up and eaten all the gift receipts for a man who has just bought about 12 pieces of lingerie. He is yelling at how ridiculous “this all is” and how he has a plane to catch and how she’d better fix this quick.
Her counterpart, Lilly, is trying to ring up customers as fast as she can on the other working register, but the line keeps growing. As I walk up Lilly is waiting on a lady making a large return; she can't seem to find her receipts for anything and as she rummages s-l-o-w-l-y in her purse I note that the looks on the faces of the customers behind her are becoming nothing short of murderous.
I attempt to fix the journal tape, then tell Bernice to take him to a register at the other end of the department and call the Ops Manager. As I’m hanging up with him I hear more sniffling coming from the fitting rooms. I go inside and there is my other trusted employee, (let’s call her Bernice) sitting atop a large pile of assorted bras, girdles, panties, camisoles and other unmentionables. All of them are inside out and off their hangers, and she is frantically trying to put them back on hangers (which by the way, needs to be done in a very specific, time-consuming way when you are hanging bras) and hang them on a double-hanging rack, that is starting to bulge precariously.
“We need to get these back out on the floor,” I comment nervously, looking at the rack with alarm.
“Oh, that’s just part of it,” she hiccups, and motions to the Fire Exit, which I reluctantly walk towards with my eyes half shut and discover SEVEN racks just like the one she’s working on, fairly bursting with hangbacks. I make a call and soon “CODE 99 TO THE LINGERIE DEPARTMENT” sounds over the store intercom.
An hour later I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve put back two of the racks myself, made a side-trip to Housewares and dealt with a screwed-up Caphalon order the size of a small principality in France, asked eight associates to stay to closing (even though they’ve been there since 6am) and performed surgery on three display mannequins because they were wearing the only remaining size the customers absolutely had to have.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been a few good points to my day so far, one lady hugged me because I found the truly, truly last pair of the only slippers in the store that would fit her husband’s feet, and another lady told me that she was going to write the store manager a nice note about me because I climbed up onto a display ledge in housewares and whacked down the last dust-bunny-covered box of Exclusive Penguin-tipped Cheese Spreaders. The complements are few and far between...but dang it, I’ll take ‘em.

At 5pm I get a frantic call from the store manager, asking me to come directly to her office. I hurry there as fast as I can, and by the time I arrive all the other managers are crowded inside, and my manager, voice shaking, announces gravely to us that “Mr. So-and-so” (CEO of the company) has been sighted shopping with his wife at the sister store ten miles down the road, and that means he could be here any minute. We all clasp our mouths in horror and a collective gasp of cardiac arrest travels through the room.
To be continued

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Retail Woes Part III

One thing I will never understand about department store customers, is how, when there are large signs posted in EVERY fitting room, practically begging the customer to return their fitting room merchandise to the long hanging bar right outside their fitting room door, the clothes still end up inside the fitting room, on the floor, inside out, times about twenty.
Are they all really pigs like that at home? Or is it the sheer knowledge that someone in the store will ultimately come along and pick up their crap "empower" them to be slovenly and piggish?
Ok, rant over.
The majority of the next eight hours is spent out on the floor, being paged to put out numerous "fires" (like the dishonest Christmas Ornament Return Lady) and helping muck out fitting rooms, change cash tills when they get too much cash in them, listening to disgruntled customers yell at me over our policies (which I usually give in "one time only" for them) and floor recovery. "Floor recovery" is a retail euphemism for Cleaning Up The Tornado The Customers Left In Their Wake.
A page comes over the loudspeaker system "Code 99 to the Handbag department." That means all available managers must go "recover" in the Handbag department, which means that the store manager walked by and noticed that the whole department looks like a sewage dump and is currently freaking out over it. We all hurry to Handbags and lo and behold she's there, frantically heaving piles of handbags with tangled straps from the floor to the sale table they originally resided on.
I spend forty-five minutes in the handbag department on my knees, tucking in straps and replacing tissue into the bags (while answering my pager phone every minute or so) and silently cursing that after this I will never want to see another handbag again.
After the department is satisfactory I realize I never had time for lunch so I grab a diet coke and a Cinnabon just outside the store in the mall (besides, at my stage in pregnancy to walk all the way to the Food Court would kill me) and I eat hurriedly at my desk as my phone rings every 30 seconds because I have turned off my pager and they know it, so they try my office. I bark out instructions and advice on the phone with a mouth full of cinnamon roll, and finally drain my diet coke and heave myself out of my chair, turning my pager on. It immediately beeps and its a 911 from the Lingerie Department.
Whew, only eight hours to go!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Retail Woes Part II

So, after the big 5:55 am store meeting, the doors are opened and the crowds flock in. I give my associates their till bags and then get whisked off to the executive office because I had two associates call in "sick" that morning and I must find replacements. I call people at home and after ten tries of getting no answer, I finally resort to rearranging people from different departments, begging them to work from opening to closing because we need the coverage.
Then I get my first page of the day. It's in the Trim-a-tree department. It's a very angry lady who bought ten boxes of ornaments and she is livid because she's now trying to return them and they are ringing up for three cents each, and she doesn't understand why that is.
"I paid twelve dollars for each one of these boxes! They're right over there!" She points to a stack of boxed ornaments under one of the trees. I look closely at the ornaments that she's returning and scan them, and I see that the barcode is from LAST YEAR and to us, they are only worth three cents.
"M'am" I explain. "These ornaments were purchased last year."
Her eyes get really wide and she says "No. Really?" I swear that I purchased them this year!"
But there's a tone to her voice, and she's got the look, and I know she's lying.
It's the "I-bought-these-last-year-and-shoved-them-in-my-closet-and-forgot-about-them-until-I-saw-them-here-so-I-thought-I'd-try-and-pull-a-fast-one-on-you" look.
I explain to her that the barcodes on the ornaments she's returning are from last year, and they are old merchandise. The wind goes out of her sales quickly, and she packs up her ornaments and leaves, and I breathe a sigh of relief because if she had remained adamant, I would have had to refund them, because after all, they really ARE the exact same ornaments we're selling this year. But that doesn't matter because I get paged again.
It's an angry customer over in Dresses who put a dress on hold the day before, and didn't return to buy it, so we sold the dress to another customer and now she's back and Out For Blood.
Ah, my day is starting out well.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Retail Woes Part I

You have to hand it to the retail people in the stores this time of year. Generally, they are under tremendous pressure anyway, to perform saleswise (it has to ALWAYS be better than Last Year or else) and for their merchandise to look good. Add the Holidays to the mix (which for retailers begins end of August through mid-January) and it's a one-way ticket to Insanity.
I love the Holidays. All the lights and trees and crisply wrapped presents. I even love shopping in the malls--that is until the week before Christmas, when everything gets chaotic and shoppers get nasty and all the selections are picked over to the point where all that remains are size Small and XXXLarge. So I stay far away, because the week before Christmas holds unpleasant memories for me.
I worked retail for twelve years in assorted positions, from selling associate to Manager to Visual, to assistant Buyer.
After a few years, I began to loathe the Holidays. I was a certifiable Ebeneezer Scrooge, because all the Holidays represented to me anymore was long lines of angry uppity customers and a mad scramble to constantly rearrange the store to make everything fit and shift when new merchandise came in.
And then there was the Day After Christmas Sale, which is too painful to talk about and frankly I've blocked most of them from my active memory as a self-preservation mechanism.
So, in my next couple of blogs I'm going to chronicle the typical day of a Retail Manager working for...hmm...let's just say a Major Department Store. But this particular day will be the Saturday before Christmas.
And by the way: this is a TRUE story.
It's the Saturday before the 25th, and I am the manager over the Accessories and Kids' departments. I get to work at 4am, because we were so busy with long lines of customers the day before, none of the new stock got put out. (I stayed at work the night before recovering the store until 1am, because we closed at Midnight.) I am not scheduled to come in until Noon, because I closed the night before, but I'm here anyway, out of sheer panic over "not getting stuff done," and as I walk in, I see all the other managers who closed with me. We're getting ready for another 18-20-hour day, just like the day before, and the day before that.)
The store will be opening at 6am (lines actually begin to form at the doors at 5:30) so we have roughly two hours to put out twelve hanging racks of merchandise and 19 large boxes of stuff like socks, and slippers and toys.
Some of my loyal associates stumble sleepily into the store shortly after me, I've brought doughnuts and coffee for them because I know the day ahead of us will be absolute hell.
By the time they arrive, I've already run the sales numbers from yesterday, printed the markdown sheets for today, ensured that I'm adequately staffed, and gotten out all the new sales signs because the ones we spent an hour putting up the day before need to be changed now: from 40% off to 50.
I give my associates a quick pep talk, we discuss sales and credit apps (all stores make their employees push credit applications on the customers--in fact the store I work for actually terminates employees if they don't get a certain number of credit apps during a specific time period!) and then I break them up into groups: one group to put stock out, one to put signs out, one group to re-ticket markdowns, and another group to tackle Mount Vesuvius outside of each fitting room--the clothes are piled several feet high on chairs, the cashwrap, thrown over racks, you name it. They all must be re-hung and folded, and THEN put back wherever they go in the vast department.
And yes, we only have an hour and 40 minutes to accomplish this.
I turn on a portable radio: I take requests and we work to the station of choice, blaring, because we must, absolutely must drown out the Elevator Christmas Music playing over the store speakers. (Not that we hate the music, but we've been subjected to it for the last two months, and even Elvis singing Blue Christmas can get old after you've heard it a couple hundred times.)
We work quickly, mostly in silence, and I busy myself with tearing open boxes and throwing merchandise out as fast as I can.
Then at ten minutes to Six we hear an announcement over the loud speakers announcing a Morning Store meeting, and would everyone proceed to the bedding department, so we can have a pow-wow before the store opens. My associates groan because they've only accomplished about 50% of what they needed to get done, and as soon as those doors open what is left will have to get shoved and hidden (yes, even in the Fire Exits and Spare Dressing rooms) until 4am the next morning.
My associates leave to go to the meeting, I tell them I'll be right there, but I have to go to the office and sit down and remove my shoes for 60 seconds, because after all, I am Eight months pregnant...

to be continued...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Soapbox Time...

Okay. Celebrities. We love them, and hate them, but mostly hate them because they're self-absorbed, selfish, egomaniacal, over-medicated, spendaholic entouraged flakes who ruin their kids lives with the bestowal of ridiculous monikers at birth. HOWEVER, you have to feel bad for them for one reason:
So I'm standing in line at Target this morning, and one of the Celeb mags (not even a tabloid!) had a big picture of Jennifer Lopez on it and the caption read something like "JLo and Marc headed for a Breakup?" The crux of the entire story was based on a loud argument they had at a hotel. This is where I don't envy celebrities. And I can see why they're so cranky and mean. If a tabloid came out with an "Imminent Divorce" story every time I had an argument with my hubby, I'd be cranky and mean too. Granted, we argue seldomly, but we do argue and THAT'S NORMAL. Someone needs to get it through these magazine bloke's heads that when people argue, IT'S A NORMAL MARRIED THING TO DO AND IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY'RE HEADED FOR DIVORCE!!!
So please, Leave Brad and Jen alone! Leave Nick and Jessica alone! Can't they argue and get annoyed with each other like normal married couples should?
There, I'm putting away the soapbox.
I am not going to get any writing done today, I can tell. I have to shop for insurance. I am NOT excited to do that. I also have to plan out my husband's christmas gifts for his work. He has about 32 people working for him in his division, and that sure is a lot of cookies and fudge and gift certificates. Yikes. I'd better get planning--only two more Saturday's till Christmas!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Insomnia getting to me

I think all these nights of staying up late are getting to me...last night, after the kids were in bed, (around 9pm) I was clicking through the channels, and I stumbled on "Bend It Like Beckham," (I love this movie) and I started watching it.
Suddenly I was snapping awake and I was at the end of the movie! I don't even remember falling asleep--that's how tired I was! It was very strange. But then I wasn't tired because I'd had a little "nap" and I ended up staying up until 2am playing around with one of my chapters from my victorian novel.
So, once again, I'm tired. I just got Thing One off to school and I get to drag Things Two and Three with me to the dentist--now that should be an adventure.
My Christmas card list has grown at this point to where I'd better just get them all sent now before I remember more. Especially since I've already received a few from the people I like to call the On Top Of Things People. My friend Aimee is On Top Of Things. My sister-in-law Michelle is On Top Of Things.
Sadly, I fall into the category of: Underneath About Ten Tasks And Desperatly Attempting To Claw My Way Out So There's No Way In Hell I'll Ever Be On Top Of Things Until Maybe About Spring.
But hey, I'm still a good person!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Busy busy day

Whew! I JUST got home--it's been a crazy day. I've been in a sort of pissy mood today because it has now rained for three days straight, and every time I run from the car to the store, to the school, to the wherever, I get soaked.
And all I have is this ancient, HUGE embarrasing white and yellow striped umbrella that says ARAMIS across it in huge letters. (I still don't know how we ended up with it because my hubby doesn't even wear that cologne) But I can't go and actually buy a non-embarrassing umbrella because my current one is funtioning perfectly well and I shouldn't be so materialistic and dammit, I can fit eight people walking under it if we time our steps right! So the Aramis (aka Thorn-in-my-materialistic-side/Dinosaur) Umbrella continues to embarrass me. I've taken to just putting my hair in a clip and saying to heck with it.
Of course running from the car to wherever in high-heeled boots is a different story...

I am looking forward to tonight. After the kids are in bed, I'm going to have a bowl of Blue Bunny Toasted Almond Fudge icecream and watch a movie, just because I can! Even on a school night! Ha ha ha ha! I'm such a rebel!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Playing it Safe?

My three-year old turned four yesterday, and he said (as I placed his Spiderman icecream cake in front of him) "Mom, you're STUPENDOUS!"
Who knows where he learned that word--maybe it stems from the fact that he and his siblings have watched every episode of SpongeBob Squarepants known to Man...but it was really a *cute* moment.
It's pouring rain outside--has been for two days now. Our lawn is this supercharged deep-sea green color--not something you fnd much in December! All the snow melted a few days ago and now it's warm enough for capris--I don't get this weather. I definitely want to stay in and write as opposed to going out and running errands.
Hubby left for New York yesterday so I was an insomniac last night, but I got a bug and decided to organize my walk-in closet--I started at 9 and finished at 2am. Whew! I could have been writing, but hey, everything is hung and folded and coordinated by season. I am giving away 75% of all my old dresses (who really wears dresses anyway nowadays?) and I am a very nostalgic and sentimental person (Oh, I can't toss this dress, I had my first kiss with so-and-so in it, etc..) so it was an emotional night for me. The other 25% I couldn't bear to part with. I also got rid of roughly half my shoes. Now I can actually walk into my walk-in closet! :-)

I have a confession to make--I think I chose closet-cleaning over writing for a reason: this story I'm working on has taken some turns that have confused me. I usually write safe simple YA and children's fare, and I decided to try my hand at a light romance for a change. Well, it's turning into this heavy adult drama on me, and I'm surprising myself. My characters are adults, and they're living in the Promiscuous 1700's, and they're wanting to act accordingly.
My problem is--I don't know how well a story like this (written by me) would be received by my peers. And family. Everyone I know, friends, family, etc. are very conservative and religious, and frankly, this story would shock (and offend) them. So, I'm having second thoughts. I toyed with the idea of a pen name, but I decided that if I'm embarrassed for my own husband to read this, it would never see the light of day. (heh heh, I just remembered my mother reads this blog--sorry Mom!) I also just asked myself the "CTR question" (don't ask) and that settled it for me.
So I think I will quit writing this story for now. Maybe it's a phase--I am dissatisfied with writing "safe fiction" because it's all I've ever done. But that's not a bad thing. Who knows, someday when I'm 60 and don't give a rat's a** what people think of me I'll pick it out of the drawer and dust it off.
For now, I'm playing it safe...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

An Interesting Turn of events...

*Yawn* Stretch...I've been sleeping in the guest room (my choice mind you, I have strep and I don't want to get anyone sick) and it's very peaceful down here, away from the family. Not that I want to "get away" from Hubby and the kids, it's just more conducive to writing.
Everyone is still asleep right now, my little puppy woke me up to go to potty, and so I'm relishing the quiet time. But in about 15 minutes, they'll all be awake so I have to type fast...
Last night was Stay-in Movie night and so we finally watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I have to say, that Dan Radcliffe is becoming quite the hottie. (No, I'm NOT Mary Kay Le Tourneau, I'm a 32 year-old woman making an OBSERVATION). I just love how the HP world is brought to life--it really is the way I picture it when I read the books.

Speaking of books, I had an interesting thing happen last night while I was writing. My characters made some unexpected turns and twists. For instance, my main hero, (yeah, the one who was going to "get the girl" etc.) turned out to be a lecherous creep. He wants none of that Protagonist bullsh*t. He wants to be himself, and *himself* is not worthy of my pristine, righteous heroine.
So, I've added a pristine, righteous older brother, who seems to be wanting the Protagonist job. It kind of shocked me--frankly I didn't see it coming. But it works out better--more tension for the reader!
Oooh, I hear the pitter patter of pajama'ed feet--time to make one of my enormous "Saturday Breakfasts!"

Friday, December 03, 2004

Under the Weather...

Well, it's official. I have strep throat. I was at the Urgent Care clinic two days ago, my throat so painful I couldn't swallow or talk, and my culture came back positive. BLAG. I just hope and pray my kids don't get it, or my hubby, because he's leaving on a ten-day business trip to New York this Sunday.
But hey, I have Tylenol with Codeine, and life is good. I just can't drive anywhere. Which is bad. I had about six errands to run today. Maybe I'll have to forgo the lovely Codeine until nightfall, when I won't need to drive anywhere.

Okay, daunting item of the day: THE DREADED CHRISTMAS CARD LIST.
I have developed a system that every time we get a Christmas card (with the exception of businesses) I drop it in a folder so that when the next December rolls around, I can pull them out and use them to start my Dreaded Christmas Card List. So far I am up to 36 people, which isn't bad, but my hubby needs about 50 cards for his work people and contacts, and I pride myself on hand-making the Christmas cards every year. That brings the grand total to about around 100 hand-made cards I'll be needing by THIS weekend.

To HECK with that. I'm heading to the local Hallmark...

I got inspired last night to start another novel. This one will be much shorter, and it is unlike anything I've ever done. (I've always done fiction for youth and children). I have two WIP's already out there, I don't want to overload myself with a third, but when I get something buzzing in my brain, I can't ignore it. I'll work on it during Hubby's business trip (nights are long when he's gone) and we'll see what happens...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I love my dog, I love my dog...

5 a.m.
Five Freaking a.m. That's the time this morning at which my puppy, Hagan, decided he absolutely had to go to the bathroom. There's nothing like a brisk trudge through frozen snow at that hour, to really wake you up and get your thoughts percolating. I'm not a coffee drinker (Postum is my morning drink of choice) but I was wishing I was this morning. Other lovelies I have discovered this morning are that we left the Christmas lights burning all night long (*gasp* the Energy bill!) and my youngest son, Thing Three, forgot to put on his pullups last night and wet the bed. (And this kid drinks enough water to equivalent the Snake River most nights.) Lovely.

Today is a quiet day--I only have to run to the dry cleaners after packing the kids off to school, then I'm on the Preschool Christmas Party decorating committee (we're setting up at 10:30) and after that I only have to bake and frost six dozen cookies, make fudge and Almond roca for yet another party, and then deliver it across town and then run like hell and actually ATTEND the first party I decorated for (after we gulp down a quick dinner) which I will be lugging all three children by myself to, unless my hubby gets home by 6:15, which would be nothing short of a Christmas Miracle.
But I believe in miracles. *grin*
Speaking of which, I have the desire to write again. I watched one of my favorite movies, The Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice (well, just the first few hours anyway, didn't have time for the whole bloody thing) and I feel renewed, motivated and ready.
Now if I could just find the time...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

CSI Overload

My poor hubby. Our favorite TV shows are finally getting to him. On Mondays, it's CSI Miami. On Tuesdays it's Law and Order SVU. On Wednesdays, it's Cold Case and CSI New York. On Thursdays, it's CSI and Without A Trace. Talk about your crime shows! We're obsessed. They're too much fun.
Alas, my hubby told me this morning that he had a dream that lasted the entire night--that he was a CSI and he was working on a horrible case where a woman had been dismembered and he and his CSI buddies (armed with their little CSI flashlights in the dark) were methodically going through a very large house and collecting all her hidden body parts. A finger here, a toe there, a hand in the fridge, etc. (Ew, I know!) He said it was an awful dream.
I told him it would have been a worse dream if he had been stuck in the lab with all those little cotton swabbers and water droppers and microscopes---all night long.
So...tonight it's CSI New York. I'm hoping it's not about recovering body parts--for his sake!

On the Writing front, I'm still stagnating. I can't seem to get out of my funk. My story has been with the big publishing company for several weeks now, I would think that if the response was positive it would have been quicker. I am waiting for the polite and perfunctory rejection note ANY day now. I seem to have lost the heart to dive into anything for the time being. I need to find something to inspire me. I just don't know what...