Friday, July 29, 2011

Music To My Ears

Last year when I was working in the IT department at a local GM dealership, I couldn't help to notice the odd choice of music piped into the showroom. While an 80 year-old couple would be looking over a new Buick LaCrosse, The Grateful Dead would be singing, "Ridin' that train, high on cocaine....". I asked Sarah, my supervisor, who decided what music channel was played, and she replied, "The owner, Bill... he likes the 70's format." Hey, I'll take Frank Zappa over Frank Sinatra whenever I'm car shopping!
On any given day, the music playing in Pencils can be downright atrocious to mildly tolerable. Occasionally I'll catch Tom, the office supply associate, singing along to a Sheryl Crow tune or Mary humming along to Beyonce. Personally, I'd like to hear Snagglepuss' Minnow blaring down the aisles. I can anticipate a customer complaining about the "loud music" to which I could respond, "Sir, if you don't like it, get the hell out and buy your fuckin' loose leaf binders and stupid Sharpies somewhere else... and by the way, do you have a Pencils Reward Card?"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Entrepreneur Of The Year Award

I haven't been contacted by Human Resources at Pencils, but somehow I don't think I'm cut-out for advancing to management. Too many sales quotas, conference calls, employee and customer issues and "Memo's about the TPS Reports." There also may be a notation in my file that says, "Nut Job, but shows up for work and doesn't steal merchandise."
Yesterday I spotted an SUV in the Pencils' parking with a large decal advertising "Crime Site Restoration." At first I thought Pencils hired this company to clean the human feces off the carpet in the foyer, but then I remembered Matt had  contacted corporate and had the carpet replaced last month. So now I'm thinking, here's an entrepreneur who has determined there is a niche market that is being underserved. A few years ago my neighbor, Henry, sent his wife to one of the dozen apartments he owned to "clean up" after a tenant was discovered dead. Amy (Henry's wife) had told me, "Mitch, it was disgusting. She had been decomposing on the mattress for several days and it was quite a mess." Why her husband asked her to do this and why she actually did it, I can't imagine. Henry and Amy are coming over for dinner next week and I'll mention Crime Site Restoration to them. And if they need a virus removed from their computer, that's another story.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Taking It Like A Man

My rectum was still tingling from a prostate exam earlier in the day when I showed up for the late shift at Pencils. The first thing Matt, my manager, said to me was, "Don't forget what I told you about selling ESP's the other day." I took that as an ominous sign, but to my relief, nobody from management bothered me the entire night. My big sale was a pencil sharpener for $1.50. I spent over 30 minutes with that customer explaining the pros and cons of the various electric, manual and "old school" devices. The "Biggest Asshole Customer Award" went to a young lady who insisted on buying a box of 12 Crayola Crayons. Pencils had boxes of 10 and 16 crayons, but not a box of 12. Sick of listening to her whining, I told her, "Buy the box of 16, and take 4 crayons out, then you'll have a box of 12." She didn't find that amusing, because, she stated, "Why should I pay for 4 crayons that won't be used?" I wanted to say, "They won't go to waste because I'm just about ready to shove those crayons up your ass," but instead said, "Look, I go on break in one minute and have to hit the head, so make up your mind."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

No sooner than my boss, Matt, finished royally reaming me out for not selling an ESP (extended service plan), a customer walked up to me and asked if Pencils carried replacement chargers for a laptop. He was quite dapper in appearance, and I pegged him for either an educator or a psychologist. Feeling a bit revengeful for that little "talking to" I had just endured, I informed him that he could get ripped-off for $100 at Pencils, or buy the same charger online at Amazon or at FompUSA down the road for $39. He said he wasn't familiar with the area, and could I give him directions to FompUSA. Since he obviously wasn't a local yokel, I continued the conversation by asking him where he was from. "I'm the Administrator for the Division of Mental Health for the state prison system and work out of state capital," he replied. Now, I couldn't resist. I then said, "Let me ask you a hypothetical question... if I was to come to work one day with an AK-47 and start blowing people away, would you feel my actions would be justified considering the mental stress inflicted on employees here to sell extended service plans?" I detected a slight expression of "are you serious", but the gentleman offered this advise: "You seem like an honest fellow, and you may benefit from counseling. Otherwise I might suggest speaking with your boss to resolve your issues before they get out of hand." I thanked him for his advise and later told Matt that maybe one reason I can't sell Extended Service Plans is because I'm just too stupid. I then asked Matt if he knew where I could buy ammo for my AK-47.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Stinks At Starbucks

Andy, a retiree from Rhode Island, works mornings at my local Starbucks to keep himself occupied and to supplement his social security dollars. He frequently extols the benefits of working for Starbucks, which apparently has a completely different business philosophy than Pencils. Each Saturday and Sunday morning, at approximately 9:30 AM, a boisterous, smelly, obnoxious and inconsiderate group of bicyclists arrive, much to the dismay of the Starbucks customers, and to Andy in particular. "They're dripping sweat all over the counter, they're rude, and some only want a free glass of filtered water. Of course none leave a tip," Andy recently lamented to me. The kicker here is that I too ride my bicycle to Starbucks, but refuse to travel in pack, or wear those tight-fitting Lycra bike shorts. I don't mind looking at the girls' asses, even those who could afford to loose a pound or two, but those fuckin' guys... with their "junk/package/anthony weiner" hangin' out is too much for me to take. But I digress, let me get back to the issue at hand.
This past Sunday morning Andy apparently had enough of the group's behaviour and shouted out, "Can you people please use your indoor voices!" This really pissed the bicyclists off, and later as I was standing outside I heard one hormone-infused guy say, "Who the hell does he think he is telling us that?" I relayed that comment to Andy and suggested he add a little urine to the guy's latte next Sunday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Digital Detox

Welcome sign that hangs in the foyer of my house
My buddy Jon, aka Jonny Dread, is an addict... and he's not addicted to ganja, but to his cellphone. There is usually an extra place set at his dinner table... for his cellphone. I once called him and he answered his phone while he was sitting in a dentist's chair. Granted, I had trouble understanding him as his mouth was filled with cotton. I bring this up because last week while I was sitting on the crapper, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about "digital detox." A group of resorts have offered a discount to guests who surrender their laptops, iPhones, iPads, Crackberry's or anything else that digitally connects them to the real world... which got me to thinking.
My wife recently asked me if I was busy at Pencils with computer repairs. "Of course not, who wants to pay $200 for virus removal?" I responded. Anyway, she then commented, "Pencils needs to revamp their business plan if they want to stay in business." So now I'm brainstorming: Pencils needs to franchise Digital Detox Centers. There could be a million ways Pencils corporate could fuck it up, but I'm considering dropping this idea in the suggestion box. Who knows, I could get a $15 Gift Certificate to Applebee's.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pencils: An Equal Opportunity Employer

Pencils job applicant Charles Manson: Excellent
people and organizational skills; has anger issues
and not available to work weekends.
It seems nobody wants to answer the phone at Pencils. Chances are it's another stupid customer asking yet another stupid question. I recently answered a call from a young man who asked if the opening for the cashier position was still available. It wasn't the typical asinine inquiry... then I noticed my boss Matt consulting (i.e. ripping-off) a customer on the other end of the tech bench, so I saw my chance to stir the pot. I politely interrupted, which really pissed Matt off, then asked him, "Matt, there is a young man on the phone inquiring about the cashier's position. He wants to know if a manslaughter conviction would prevent him from getting the job. His father came at him with a pitchfork and he blew the guy's brains out with a shotgun in self-defense." Matt just stared at me, so I then asked him, "Should I tell him to fill out the application online?" The customer looked at me somewhat horrified. I told the young man on the phone to stop by the store and introduce himself to one of the managers. I also mentioned, "If you don't steal or smoke crack on the job, chances are you'll get hired."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold In A Pretzel Bowl

Tonight a customer purchased a HP Desktop that was on sale for $329. Matt, the tech manager, tried to sell him Microsoft Office, then Norton Security, then the Extended Service Plan. The customer wasn't falling for the bullshit sales rip-off, so Matt turned to me and said, "Go ring him out." As I'm at the register Mat comes over and is relentlessly going over his sales pitch, almost to the point I want to say, for the customers sake, "Shut the fuck up already with the extended service plan shit." As soon as the customer is out the door, Matt comes up to me and says, "Don't ever rush a customer through check-out when I'm trying to make a sale." Now I'm wondering if this guy is for real. He then asks me, "Do you know what a market basket is?" I want to respond, "Do you know what a fuckin' asshole is?", but answer, "Sir, yes sir!" Matt then says, "Your market basket was $6.99 for the pretzels the guy bought along with the computer." Later, while Matt is spending 30 minutes in the crapper, I'm able to convince a customer not to buy the Toshiba laptop on display but go purchase a MacBook at The Apple Store instead.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

By Reason of Insanity

By all outwardly appearances, the middle-aged woman standing at the tech bench seemed to be normal. I overheard her telling Matt, my manager, her hard drive had crashed and she was desperate to have her data recovered. This is where it gets strange... an hour later, she is still standing there, and I hear her say, "I'm not leaving this damned store until I know my data is recovered." Every few minutes when I come into earshot, I hear more of her ranting and raving, when this comes out of her mouth: "I know my God-damned brother screwed my computer up, and he is HIV positive, and I hope he dies." Now she has gone from annoying to making me sick to my stomach. She soon segues into an Iraq war/oil conspiracy theory dissertation when I can stand it no longer. I interrupt her and say, "You don't have to explain the war to Matt as he worked for Halliburton before coming to work for Pencils. He was also a hunting buddy of Dick Cheney's." For the first time since entering the store her mouth stopped flapping like a whippoorwill's ass. Matt looked at me somewhat puzzled, but thankful I got her to shut the fuck up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Full "Mental" Jacket

It takes a lot to creep me out, but one customer last night managed to raise the bar. He was a middle-aged guy and had two kids with him, a boy and a girl, both young teenagers. What immediately caught my attention was he looked like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, only he was wearing large wire frame glasses... I'll also go out on a limb and say his photo may be on one of those registered sex offender websites. In any case, he spent over an hour looking at shitty MP3 players when he finally came up to the Tech Bench said, "Can I ask you a few questions?" My first reaction was to say "Fuck Off" and call The Department of Children's Services, but said, "Go ahead." For starters, he wanted to know how many movies and songs his son could load on the MP3 player. As it only had 4GB, I told him that depended, but asked why didn't his son want to buy an iPod at Best Buy instead. Well, come to find out this poor kid didn't know what iTunes was, apparently had no friends who he could pirate movies and music from, and was stuck with his strange-ass father and a sister who acted like she was on thorazine. When "Dad" finally decided to hold off on making a decision on whether or not to buy the MP3 Player, he started to reach into his pocket and say, "Would you mind if I gave you something?" I'm thinking a $5 or $10 tip, but no... its a pamphlet that reads: "4 Things God Wants You To Know"- That explained everything...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pencils: Sweat Equity

In what the marketing department will say is a corporate effort to "go green," Pencils' associates will say is yet another attempt by the bean-counters to add a few cents to the bottom line at the expense of the employees' comfort. What I'm referring to is the turning off of the air-conditioning 40 minutes prior to the store closing. If you're working in the downtown Anchorage, Alaska Pencils or store # 2630 in Bismarck, North Dakota during the summer months, I'm sure it's no big deal. But if your sorry ass is in any of the stores located in Florida, Arizona or Texas... watch out!  The average night time temperature in South Florida is 80 degrees, add that to the heat generated by the indoor lighting and then the hot air generated by the managers, and it won't take long to feel a bit sticky. I've noticed several of the male employees waddling around like ducks just before closing, so I'm going to suggest we all pitch in and buy a case of Gold Bond Medicated Powder. Gold Bond's website says, "Gold Bond Powder is used to curb moisture, control odor, and soothe minor skin irritations, most notably jock itch." I'm thinking the "Extra Strength Powder" is the way to go. As for my female co-workers, I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Stand (Or Sit) Corrected?

Last week I criticized the corporate geniuses at Pencils who thought it would be a good idea to sell toilet paper at an office supply store. Yesterday, while covering the register for Karen, a lady came to the check-out with one package of the Charmin 16 roll pack. I had to ask, "What's up with the Charmin?" She told me that the price, $4.99 was almost half of what Walmart was selling it for, and when she used her 15% Rewards Points, "It a deal I can't pass up." Judging by her girth, I wanted to suggest she buy a second 16 roll pack. But here is where corporate should take note: She didn't buy anything else. No paper clips, no paper, not even the stupid $1 LED flashlight, only the toilet paper. So the marketing mavens did miss the mark. Like the bean-counters in corporate, customers who come to Pencils for the deal on toilet paper are only interested in one thing.... keeping their asses clean.