Friday, April 29, 2011

The Bonus Check: Are You Shitting Me?

Yesterday we received our quarterly bonus checks. How the amount is calculated nobody knows for sure. Apparently it has something to do with meeting an overall sales quota score for the store, personal sales of technology products, a combined sales number of all Pencils associates divided by hours worked and how many bananas a monkey ate in one week at our local zoo. Instead of cashing this check, I'm going to frame it and hang it on my (bathroom) wall. Pete, my co-worker, plans to cash his check and buy a Coke. And get this... he'll have 7 cents left over!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Working Smarter, Not Harder

One of the biggest challenges of my job at Pencils is to appear to be working, when in fact there is absolutely nothing to do. I've noticed that my associates have taken on certain methods to achieve this ruse... primarily by hiding in a far-off corner of the store, in office furniture or art supplies. For myself, I found the perfect solution... retrieving shopping carts from the parking lot. If I'm lucky, I can spot a cart or two that has been hijacked to the other end of the strip mall, which can lead to a 15 minute "cart retrieval". It has the benefit of allowing me to get fresh air, exercise and the satisfaction that I'm returning property to the rightful owner. When I manage to wrangle the carts back into the store, I inform the manager, Matt, "All carts accounted for, SIR!"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

CSI: PENCILS (Shit & Run)

This is a true story. I personally interviewed all the Pencils associates who were eyewitnesses to the incident. Matt, the manager on duty, refused to let me view the surveillance tape, but I was told it was watched endlessly by all the other associates that evening. I caution the reader: the description of the details of this event may cause nausea, a sympathetic effusion or uncontrollable laughter, or a combination of the above.
At approximately 7 PM on Thursday, April 21st, a large woman, whose weight was approximated at between 275-300 pounds, wearing a long black skirt and white blouse, entered Pencils pushing a shopping cart. Pete, who was working at the Tech Desk, then heard a woman's voice yell out, "I don't feel good." He looked up and saw the woman trying to exit through the entrance doors. She was pushing the shopping cart into the doors, apparently in hopes of getting the sensors to release. The doors did open and the woman quickly exited. Karen, the cashier on duty and closest to the scene, then noticed several large, brown piles on the floor, precisely where the woman was standing. The brown "matter" was tracked by the shopping cart wheels and the woman's feet from the white tile floor, back through the carpeted foyer, and onto the sidewalk in front of Pencils. It was agreed on by all the Pencils associates and managers that the woman did in fact loose control of her bowels and the question now was what to do. If I had been there, I would of suggested calling the fire department to hose it out. As it turned out, the unthankful task was granted to Tom, the Inventory Associate. When I saw Tom on Saturday, I tried to illicit some sort of statement from him, not knowing if he would find it humorous. "It was an abomination, " he told me... smiling. I suggested he ask for a bonus.
Yesterday I suggested to Matt that the carpeting in the foyer be replaced for sanitary reasons. Matt said, "I already spoke to corporate about it."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

My first celebrity-sighting at Pencils... Kojak. (Since Kojak is dead, it must be his twin brother.) He waltzes in and asks me, "Do you work here?" I'm standing behind the tech counter wearing my Pencils Tech Shirt with a name badge pinned above my chiseled chest.  I wondering if he can really be that stupid or he's joking with me. He seems serious and asks to speak to the manager. I walk into Ken's office and note that he is engrossed in a phone conversation, probably the weekly conference call with corporate. I pantomime that a customer wants to see him. Ken blows me off and I walk out and tell Kojak the manager is tied up on a phone call at the moment, but maybe I can help him. Kojak then says, "Tell the manager to get his fat, fuckin' ass out of the chair and come out here and see me. At this point, the assistant manager, Donna, shows up and Kojak starts to rip her a new asshole because there is nobody at the copy center to help him copy a 400 page legal brief. He threatens to call corporate to complain (this is killing me now) and somehow Donna doesn't have a aneurysm. An hour later I see him at the copy machine and ask him if he'd like a cocktail or a special plate of Pencils hors d'oeuvres, courtesy of the management.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Customer of The Day: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Brother Label Maker
White Caucasian male, late 40's, balding, slight resemblance to Danny DiVito, but about a foot taller, wearing blue work pants and shirt, comes up to me and asks, "Where's your P-Touch?" I want to answer, "In my pants," but instead I respond, "Is that a personal question?" I know he is referring to the Brother Label Maker, but I want him to realize how absurd his question sounds, so I want him to ask the question again. He does, but this time, because of his Eastern European accent, it comes out, "Where's your "P" Cup?" I tell him we don't do drug testing at Pencils (thankfully!) and so we can't take his urine sample.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Pencils Does Right

For me, nothing is more aggravating than standing in a line waiting to pay for something. Pencils corporate somehow recognized this situation and came up with a solution... have the closest associate drop what they are doing and open another register. For instance, I could have my hand inside a tower replacing a power supply or trying to remove a stick of memory when I'll hear, "Mitch, jump on register three!" My first thought is I pity the poor customer who is next in line. Unless you have a straight-forward purchase with a credit card or cash, forget it! If I see someone is preparing to make a return, I immediately say, "Sorry, you'll have to go to the other register for returns." Or, if you have one of those 10% off certificates, it will be 50-50 if I'll figure out how to ring that up. I'd like to blame my check-out problems on my Aspergers, but I may be just too old or too stupid, or both.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

All the "associates"  I work with at Pencils appear to be decent, honest, hard-working people. Which makes it difficult for me to figure out who has the substance abuse problem, who is on anti-depressants or who is a potential homicidal maniac. James, the dreadlocked inventory manager, always seems to have a smile on his face. I know his job can't make him that happy. Tom, another associate, works 3 part-time jobs hoping to save enough money to buy a house. He gets by on 4 hours of sleep a night. William, who works in electronics, is also studying Business Administration at the local community college. Once he gets his degree, he's "out of here." Everyone seems to have a Plan B, which is smart. I'm thinking the CEO of Pencils needs to go on the CBS show, "Undercover Boss."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pencils' Business 101: Low Supply, High Demand

On any given day, we'll have a selection of 16 laptop computers for sale, half of which are actually in stock. The other half are temporarily out of stock, no longer available or "who the hell knows". From a consumer's point of view, if I walk into a store with the intention of buying a $600 computer and told the model I want isn't available, but can be ordered and shipped to me in a few days, I'm out the door. I could of stayed home and ordered from Amazon (free shipping, no tax), or within a few mile radius of our Pencils is a Worst Buy, FompUSA or Hellmart, all selling a comparable product at a competitive price. It doesn't take a genius to know if you want to sell something, have it in inventory. Drive past any car dealership and you get the idea. I'll bet if a corn farmer from Iowa walks into Coon Rapids Ford and wants a Coral Pink F-150 pickup with a Lilly Pulitzer trim interior,  a Bose 16 speaker surround sound system and wire wheel hubcaps, chances are they will have it on the lot. I guess I have to leave it to the geniuses in corporate to figure this out while they're wondering why the computer sales figures are so low.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pencils at Pencils?

A well-coiffed women comes up to me and asks, "Do you sell pencils here?" I looked at her with a straight face for a few seconds and said, "Why would you think we would sell pencils at "Pencils"? She turned around and walked out... Esteemed American journalist H.L. Mecken got it right when he wrote, "There is no underestimating the intelligence of the American Public."

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Theory of Assholeitivity

It never fails. Two minutes before my shift ends, in walks a guy who wants to buy a printer, but can't decide between the HP 6500 and the HP 6500A. Before he makes this life or death decision, he has to tell me all about his pending divorce and how his wife is bleeding him dry for alimony and child support. After he confessed he was a cross-dresser, she threw him out of their $2 million dollar waterfront mansion. He also can't understand why his teenage son won't talk to him. I tell him there is an advertisement in today's paper for 20% off all lingerie at Victoria's Secret. Ten minutes later, he finally decides on the HP 6500A.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The Pencils' district auditor was scheduled to stop by the store today and Donna, the manager on duty, wanted to make sure I knew where the "eye wash station" was in case I was asked. "In the bathroom?" I replied to her inquiry. "WRONG, it is next to the loading dock." I felt so damn stupid. I then asked Donna if the auditor would ask to see my concealed weapons permit. When it was all said and done, the auditor determined "somebody" had used the terminal computer at the tech desk last week to look at Craigslist for 3 whole minutes. I wonder who that could of been? The managers then told us they were penalized 15 points against the monthly store rating. The real problem is that the employees couldn't give a rat's ass about the monthly rating, the manager's score or the price of tea in China. More on this later, I have to go and check my Facebook page before I clock out for the day....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Road Kill

Marcia, a clinical psychologist I met at Starbucks a few weeks ago, surmised  that I may be afflicted with high functioning Aspergers. We only spoke for 10 minutes, but I'm a believer in quality over quantity. Anyway, I told her one of the many things that "set me off" are the bums masquerading as military veterans collecting money (panhandling) in the road medians. The issue for me is that I see them occasionally on my way to work at Pencils, and that pretty much sets the tone for me for the remainder of the day. It's not so much a case of anger management as being so pissed off I want to run these guys over (with my Ford Explorer- see previous post). Bill DiPaolo, a reporter for The Palm Beach Post, wrote an excellent and unbiased expose about the shady Veteran's Support Group and if you are thinking about making a contribution to these charlatans, I suggest you read his article first:
Panhandling Organization Under Fire Over Claims To Help Vets
As for my Aspergers, it hasn't affected my work at Pencils unless someone walks in with a huge plate of smelly Nachos or starts singing "Happy Birthday".

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Worst Piece of Merchandising I Have Ever Seen... The Henry Ford Mouse Pad

First of all, who still uses a mouse pad? Secondly, although Henry Ford was an engineering genius, he was also a anti-semantic nutcase. And thirdly, the overall graphic design is nauseating. Whoever is responsible at Pencils corporate for buying/ordering this item needs to have their head examined. (Full Disclosure: I drive a 2000 Ford Explorer)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What's Up With The Bathroom At Pencils?

It seems, in my mind, that an inordinate amount of people come into Pencils and ask where the bathroom is. Why this is I'm not sure, as the facilities are one step up from the Calcutta Central Train Station. The only explanation I can come up with is the comfort of the institutional/prison-like decor. Both Home Depot and Lowes are right around the corner, and I can personally attest to the nice tile work and high pressure toilets that they offer. A better bet for my money is Starbucks, just a few blocks away where the restrooms are at least cleaned daily. I guess this question needs to go to "corporate", where I'm sure their bathrooms are in similar condition as ours. (see photo)

Bad Check, Good Colon

Gentleman walks in last night and buys 2 laptops, but his check doesn't clear. He apologizes, then tells the manager Ken and myself he's an "herbalist" and would like to offer us free colon cleansings. I pass, but urge Ken to give it a try.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Highlights of The Day

Man comes in and wants to buy a typewriter. (Pencils has one!) A guy who wants a case for his girlfriend's Kindle. When I suggest a clip-on light, he shouts, "It's for my fuckin' girlfriend, the case is enough!" A woman who tells me she still uses "dial-up" and the grand prize winner was her friend whose teeth and gums were a shade of burnt siena. After the wave of nausea passed, I wanted to suggest she see a periodontist.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Going "Pencil"

Next person who comes to the checkout screaming into his cellphone is going to get a pencil (a #2 Ticonderoga for symbolic reasons) rammed into his/her eye socket.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"90% of Life is Showing Up"

It's 8:30 AM and I'm at the Dog Beach with my son's Miniature Fox Terrier, Cujo. My cellphone rings. "Mitch, do you know who this is?" I don't recognize the voice, so I answer no. "This is Donna from Pencils. You're on the schedule to work 8 to 2 today." Well, I think about this for a few seconds and tell Donna that I am on the schedule to work 8 to 2, but on Thursday. Donna then says, "Today is Thursday!" I'm not sure if Pencils uses the Mayan Calendar, but today is Wednesday on my calendar.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mission Statement

I don't have a MBA from Harvard nor did I attend the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. In fact, I barely graduated from high school, but I would like to meet the genius at PENCILS who came up with this business plan: Sell laptop computers and other high-end merchandise below cost to generate floor traffic, then rely on low paid, part-time employees to sell customers shit they don't need (expensive anti-virus software, Microsoft products, 3 Year Extended Service Plans and other add-ons) in hopes of generating a profit. These are my stories.