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Rant #83
(published Early, 2002)
A Rebuttal for Johnny Retail
by Tom Plain-and-Tall

(a rebuttal to The Retail Manifesto and What I Don't Want for Christmas, or The Johnny Retail Xmas Rant)

On the one hand, designer moms do suck ass. there's no denying that. But most of the other examples are just as much about staff being bitches. (though I'll grant you the drunkard and the person-who-slaps employees. and the bathroom thing. I really don't get why people have to make a mess of bathrooms.)

I understand that retail workers are "underpaid" and dislike their managers. That they probably couldn't find another job. Tough shit. You took the job, and now you're getting pissy because someone is asking you to bend over for a customer.

There's a long line and only one register open? Sounds pretty fucking stupid, alright.

A man runs in with an emergency that's about to cost him what... his job, his health, his sanity? His cell phone just broke, he isn't carrying change, and the only thing he wants is to make a quick phone call. Sure he's pissy about it. For all we know, this is the moment where his life turns around.

This are viable excuses for why we should be made to eat feces? I don't think so.

I'm really fucking tired of bookstore workers, especially. Here in Portland, there are 3 breeds. The Powell's worker, who knows a lot about one specific room, (or type of book), but is so fucking high priest of indie-ness that they're straight up bitches, too cool to be polite to customers.

Then there's the Borders / Barnes & Noble crowd. People who view working with books as just another shit job. like they're getting shafted, like everyone who works with books isn't piss-poor. And of course they don't know shit about what they're selling. You wouldn't expect a McDonald's crew to be enthusiastic about their job. You wouldn't expect them to do anything but put shit in your burger like a shitty little wannabe teen rebel, because McD's has such a long and noble history of hiring 16-year-olds who don't get it, live in the suburbs with mom and dad, and are just rude shits through and through. These people aren't big mighty heroes, standing up for wageslaves. They're mostly mindless pubescents who think it's funny to make someone eat shit.

Lastly, there's the small independent bookstore worker. You know why these people EXIST? because you borders assholes are assholes. Independent bookstores have higher prices and smaller selection. But people come, because the employees (who get paid the same shit wages you do, and probably don't get benefits) know the books, like the books, like the industry and give a shit.

You don't want to be a retail robot? GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY INDUSTRY. go sell posters or light fixtures, I don't care. You'll still be just another whining nobody who wants to change his lot in life and doesn't know how, doesn't want to expend any effort.

Quoth Johnny Retail:

Example: last week, while putting a schedule in the kids' department, a woman stops me. She is a Designer Mom. You know the type, all of her clothes are her child's clothes match in a subtle, earth-toned expensive way. She is wearing designer sandals, designer sunglasses, and has named her child some awful post-millennial name like Cameron. The child is spotless, and has no conscience nor supervision. The Designer Mom follows little Cameron around making sure that Cameron isn't hurt but not minding when Lil' Cam tears a book in half or dumps a pile DVDs on the ground or hits another child. Protected, but not instructed, you can be sure.

So: not even looking at me nor waiting for replies, Designer Mom says, "Do you work here? Great. I'm looking for this book called Global Families or something. Do you have it?" I smile and search the computer for it. There is no book by that name. I tell her this and ask again about the title. "I don't know what it is called. How about the kids' book in the same series?" Still having never even looked me in the eyes, she gives an exasperated huff and follows Cameron around a corner.

Stop a second. If I couldn't find the original book, how the hell can I find the kids' book in the same series?

"It's white," she says. I ask about the author or if she remembers any words in the books title at all. "Look." Still not looking at me. "Is there anybody who works here who will just know the book?" Now she glares at me, and gives me a look like I've just shit on her child.

Hands Around the World : 365 Creative Ways to Encourage Cultural Awareness and Global Respect (A Williamson Kids Can! Book Series, No. 7); try that one. You can find something to offer the lady to get little Cameron out of the store. find a book with "global" and "family" in the name and throw it at her. Or "think out of the box" and just call security, make the woman pay for whatever her kid destroys.

What will my 15-year old retard like? Will my dad like this?

Here's what you, apparently, should tell them. "I Don't know. I'm not willing to think about the problem. I'm not here to help you, only to work the cash register and stock books."

You work in a bookstore. It's a good job, where you have a chance to meet vaguely interesting people, even educate someone.

I hate the idea that retail workers have a right to give shit. Should people be nice? yes. Can anyone be nice 100% of the time? no, not even you. You want the world to be all nice and brotherhood promote-ish? Put out the extra effort to make someone's day better when they're obviously not at their best. Be really polite and just friendly. Treat THEM like a human having a bad day, not the evil customer-beast-thing. Because when they go home and finally get to sit down, they'll think "Jesus, what a piss-ass day. I went over the top there while I was in Borders. The kid in there was a saint to put up with me."

This works. I've worked retail, too, and I've had people come back the next day, or a week later, and apologize, or thank me for helping them. And I tell them the truth: that's what they pay me for.

But it feels nice to get the occasional compliment. So I take it, and I smile, and then at the end of the week I get my paycheck, and I spend it, and I look for a better job in the classies.

End of story, so shut the fuck up.

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