Good Will (hunting)

Air-conditioned, music piped in. Mall parking lot full of cars. Everybody trying to keep up with the Joneses by buying what the Joneses already bought. There are more clothes in this world than are needed to dress everyone– and the nice easy way to allow yourself a guilt-free romp at the mall is to bag it all up, and drop it off, especially in the time of emergency.

You have dutifully emptied out your closet of last years style, of things that look awful on you, that are too small, that don’t “bring you joy” in the current KonMari vernacular, into plastic bags you drop off at the donation center of your choice, for the “Disaster Du Jour” drive.

It’s all about making YOU feel good. Honorable. Virtuous. What you’ve bagged and dropped off after a disaster shows no bearing on real need and use… (Winter jackets? Sent to South Carolina or South Africa? Almost expired cans and boxes of food that you bought a year ago and NEVER found a day where it seemed like a good addition to your dinner menu?) AND you get to go shopping again for yourself, to replace those goods you dropped off!! Win/win! Capitalism will continue to thrive!

Donating commodities, or hand-made pillowcases; that makes you feel good while you get to do what you want and shop again! Buy more yarn! New jeans for everyone! Why do you do it that way, rather than just ponying up 20 bucks to slip into the Red Cross box? Is it the same superiority of virtue that you feel when you see a beggar on the street? YOU know better than they do about what they require? You know HOW they should live? You take away free agency from them by handing them what you THINK they need/deserve– (a paper bag from McDonalds?) Giving them 10 bucks means in your mind they’re going to drink it away, but you feel so superior giving them a hamburger– that you are more evolved, more correct? How can you make determinations as to what they actually need? They may use the 10 bucks so they could go buy some object or experience they know they need (I don’t want to assume what they want– maybe a toothbrush, maybe a can of cat food for their furry companion, maybe a new shopping bag… Who are you to decide they can’t buy a new pair of socks? How many $1 menu burgers should a homeless person accept a day?)

Paying it forward in a local restaurant near where they hang out would be a better deal. They can come in out of the cold, use the restroom like a paying patron and have a meal they choose, served to them like a human.

“Do-good-ism” and superiority go hand-in-hand. You feel that Red Cross, for example, uses too much of its money in a non-correct (to you)  fashion and so therefore you’re going to send them your old sheets and towels instead of money– or you are going to really show them by sending that all to Salvation Army instead. You don’t want to shop at Goodwill because they don’t pay some staff “properly” . However, you are willing to shop at Walmart for clothing that is made in Bangladesh (by people who are not paid properly either), whose CEO’s make the Goodwill issues look quaint, and whose store employees are paid so little they are a large drain on your own local, state and federal government social programs.  Hey, you gotta save a buck when you can, right?

You won’t eat at X or buy from Y and boycott Z because of this or that and the other, and yet…..You don’t shop at Salvation Army because of their religious bent, but you spend hours roaming Hobby Lobby. You do have to suffer through Christian revival music in ReGenisis thrift stores, but have you LISTENED to some of the lyrics coming out of the speakers at your local XYZ??  We make these decisions of where to shop on determinations of what is “correct” and what should be boycotted based on our own very narrow view of “what is right”.  Pete Buttigieg said of Chik-Fil-A, “I do not approve of their politics, but I kind of approve of their chicken,”  If EVERYONE is boycotting SOMETHING, it’s somewhat a wash, right?

Why are you willing, even EAGER to fork over your old belongings and yet so stingy with cash? Are you intimating that these folks are incapable of making good choices on their own? Do you feel ownership over their behavior because you gave them cash? You can continue to look down on them because of your superior circumstance? You give them your clothes, not your standards of living. You are silently saying you know better than them. Or do you simply want an excuse to go shop? (Hail, Capitalism!)

Quilters or knitters busily make pillowcase and quilts and afghans-NOT because the newly homeless due to disaster or as yet “unsaved” in some foreign country need or don’t need such things, but because it makes them feel good and virtuous. They give away that $30 of fabric (bought it 5 years ago and never could figure out what to make) They spend three to thirty hours of “effort”, doing something they enjoy doing anyway. (please, I don’t mean EVERYONE. I am using the “Royal You”… ) and shop it off overseas….

The other day, when I went past this door in a thrift shop, this stockroom was SO piled high with bags that it inspired this post. It’s pretty empty today

I do enjoy thrifting.. the odd aisles, the lack of rubber-stamp corporate decor and layout, the non-organized hangers, the digging about on shelves, and the excitement of locating something unique, something old–something that is a memory trigger. Ask me and I will most likely inform you that 75% of any outfit (NEVER shoes or undergarments) I am wearing is from a thrift store. I like that I choose what I like, that I am not looking like every other person every day. I don’t aim for far-out or vintage vibes, although I do admire those who pull it off. I just can’t think of anything better than letting someone else take a stiff new pair of jeans and turn them into something relaxed and comfortable. for me to wear. I enjoy the hunt, the search for that elusive something that others set free. It’s not as easy as breezing through Target and finding all my sizes right there. It isn’t the place to go if you KNOW you NEED a purple short sleeve sweater and nothing else will do… (but if purple short sleeve sweaters aren’t the style this year, you may be out of luck at Macy’s, too.)

I read once that every piece of clothing uses on average 7 gallons of water to be made. That is a pretty shocking thought. The clothes I am purchasing second-hand are obviously not stopping that, but it doesn’t hurt to do my small part to save the planet, either. If you shopped even some of the time at a local thrift store, their back rooms wouldn’t look like this… and yet if you stop shopping at your Kohls or Target or or or… then the local economy falters and the person who has a part time job at Walmart loses their precarious foothold in the work world…

We really HAVE jacked things up, haven’t we??

We spend our weekends hunting through yard sales and flea markets and estate sales while our homes are FULL. (and our credit cards fuller) We are looking for what? That item that makes it to Antique Roadshow and brings in the big bucks? That unicorn of an item we didn’t know we couldn’t do without until we saw it sitting there, shoved to the back of the shelf, our hunter-gatherer DNA popping to the surface.

We buy another coffee mug with a cute saying (guilty as charged over here) while we know we have more mugs than ever make it into rotation, and STILL use the big green one every morning.

My pots and pans are copper-bottom Revere Ware from my grandmothers home. over 50 years old. I love them and will never willingly get rid of them. Yet still, Kohls puts up the shiny display that I stop to admire. I know my cabinets can’t accommodate another item, AND yet. (I do resist the temptation here!) If I were to spot a piece at thrift store, it would probably come home with me.

We are not a nation that is willing to do without…But we are also not a nation that feels we should be cognizant of any type of “WHAT ARE WE DOING?” either.

Just some thoughts on a hot summers day.

Two very interesting articles. IN KIND DONATIONS

The Huge Potential of Cash Transfers

If you can’t complain about the weather….

People are an interesting breed. We complain about EVERYTHING.

Right now, a goodly portion of the USA is recovering from a blizzard. Snow is unlike other weather, and the logistics are, well, involved. There was as much complaint during the 113 degree days of summer.

The rest of this post is an elaboration on a rant from a message board. Not stating the stores, because if I did, you might not see yourself in this, because you don’t shop at the particular store.

Their store. Their coupon. Their sale. Their rules.

“They”  create the rules. They print said rules on the coupons/advertisements/policy sheets. One gets mailed to each address in their data base (snail or email), or put into each newspaper. If ‘you’ collect coupons from your friends and neighbors, create multiple email or mailing addresses to collect extra coupons, then ‘you’ are the one attempting to create a problem by not playing by the rules, (or in other words, by being dishonest.)

I’ve heard people complain that all the store is trying to do is to get you in there. DUH.  ‘You’ seem to be forgetting the POINT of an advertisement for a place of business IS TO DRAW IN CUSTOMERS. The purpose of the place of business itself, for the owner/investor is to make a profit.

“How” they make that profit is not part of this ‘argument’….(as long as it isn’t illegal, immoral or unethical…)

These complained about coupons are no different than your local grocery store ad that you peruse weekly. Or department store ad. (Buy one pair of regular priced shoes, Get one at 5o% off. Purchase 2 containers of ice-cream and receive a box of waffle cones free. Exclusions apply.)

If you spent the better part of ‘your’  parenting life teaching your children the difference between right and wrong, about how it is important to follow the rules, behave fairly and be honest, well, perhaps it’s time to revisit those lessons.

The coupon states (and as I am not calling out any store, I am ad-libbing) “ONE coupon PER person PER day, not to be used on XXXXXX.”

It doesn’t say, sure, run outside, come back in over and over; it doesn’t say, aggravate the cashier (and the customer behind you) as you argue your case about using it on Sale items, or three in one transaction. Or that you can hand your phone with it’s email coupon to the three people behind you to use also. Nor should you be ringing up one item per transaction, cash register hopping, going through over and over, paying one at a time for a $3.99 –before discount—item.

It doesn’t even state you HAVE TO BE ABLE to use the coupon.

‘You’ are all adults. You are intelligent enough to understand that it’s designed to be a loss leader, not a gift to you. You are also (assuming you are reading this on the screen) literate, and can read the sale signs and not bring up something on sale and demand to use the coupon. Something being mis-signed or misplaced is not part of my conversation. (But, the reading of the words on the signs, not just the numbers? Part of the conversation. If you know it’s 50% off, how come you don’t know what the sign says other than “50% off??”)

A coupon or a sale flyer  is designed to bring you into the store. Just as the Kleenex coupon cut out of the Sunday paper is designed to take $1 off one box, (of the size stated, not the size you choose to pick up.)

The stores in question during this message board free-for-all carry something like 30,000 to 50,000 unique products. As I have put sale signs up in two of the conversed about stores in my day, I can guarantee you that there are tens of thousands of items that are NOT ON SALE at any given time.

The fact that you don’t wish to purchase any of them is of no regard to the rules printed clearly on the coupons.

As a corollary,  there is as much complaining about the fact that discount store quilt fabric quality stinks as there is about LQS (local quilt shop) fabric prices being too high.

Think on it.

(Running now, probably won’t be allowed to show my face for a week once the $$^& hits the fan…)

Ready, Set, FEAST!

I know this week is a short one at work for most. There are turkeys and stuffing and pies to think about, and the thought of 3 or 4 or 5 days away from your job; the myriad things you can do…shop, decorate, visit with friends and family. Laugh, relax. EAT.

So, I offer here just two things.

FIRST

A Public Service Announcement; offered with the gentlest of smiles, and the sincerity of years on the other side. (At a job I ENJOY, and believe I am good at, thank you. Despite my little rants, I am a professional and expect the same from my staff at all times.)

Be KIND to the people you meet on Black Friday: The throngs of likeminded holiday shoppers who are determined in any way possible to make Christmas dreams come true. Think back to Thursday, when you sat, stuffed at the Thanksgiving table, and remember this….

It’s your day off. As was Thursday, as will be Saturday and Sunday. While you are scurrying about, trying to locate the best and brightest (and the cheapest) don’t take it out on the unfortunate other shopper who got to the parking space first. Park in “Outer Siberia” (the ring road around any mall) and walk, breath deeply, enjoy the briskness of the season, and worry not over getting the spot closest to the door. You will be liberated by this small lack of stress.

Recall this, as well. Chant it as a mantra if you must. “I do NOT need to buy everything TODAY.” You have 26 more days to find the perfect gift. (If you can’t find it in 26 days, is it possible you have over-thought or over-bought in years gone by? Let go, and go for less than perfect.)

And please, be aware that the poor harried cashier, stock boy, sales person, or even store manager is NOT personally out to get you, to ruin your day or you child’s holiday.

Generally speaking, it’s not their fault if the advertised item is out of stock by the time you got there. (They don’t hoard things, waiting for the saddest story, the most forlorn face, before they whip the item out from behind a curtain with a flourish. They want it sold. They had it, they sold it. Sorry.)

That there aren’t any more shopping carts is really not something they can control.  If all the registers are running, the lines can’t really be blamed on the cashiers. (Possibly it’s the person she is with, who INSISTS that every item is on sale, and needs price checks?)

If all the registers are not up, it may be someone came down with the flu, or is helping someone in aisle 12, or is stuck trying to get into the parking lot (or possibly just needed a pee break.)

That a salesperson can not answer to your satisfaction questions (simplex or complex) that you pose about an item is more the product of Corporate not allowing enough and early hiring, or training to the level that the store management might prefer, and that the customer would prefer.

Your salesperson was likely hired a few weeks ago, at something close to minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour… not enough to be thinking about buying most of what you have in your cart) and has no guarantee that her job will last more than the next thirty days. It may be her first job ever, it may be a second job so that she can buy Christmas gifts for her kids.

But, yes, she is happy for the job. (For that $7.25, how much rudeness and carrying on of shoppers could you put up with, still with an almost smile on your face?)

She arrived at work at 4:30 AM or is looking at the disaster of the sweater department with the sinking realization that she will not be leaving work until long after midnight.

Speak to a Corporate entity on Monday about the fact there weren’t more cashiers or sales people the floor, if you must. But know this. The store manager was given very stringent payroll that he or she MUST come in on. And to do that, they likely have worked and will work 6 or 7 day weeks till the new year.

Remember too, that these people gave up time with their family and friends on this holiday weekend so that on YOUR day off, you could shop.

SECOND

I wish you the blessing of loved ones surrounding you, happy times, and many opportunities for you to look about you and realize all that you have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Now, go EAT!

A tale of two quilt stores (or three or four…)

I don’t write a lot about my work life, which is in retail sales. However, I have recently acknowledged out loud that I will be approaching my 20th Christmas season. Which means I have gone through at least one other “it’s the economy, stupid” cycle. (Or competition. Or is it customer service? Or simply over-saturation?)

The competition theory can’t be argued. Once upon a time I worked at the ONLY branch of Bath and Body Works situated inside the five boroughs of New York. Yep, us on Staten Island, we WERE the New York City store. And it was good. We had, of course, loads of customers who worked in Manhattan. But they came to us—after work, on weekends, and shopped.

And then the company decided it was ready to join the Disney-fication of Manhattan. It opened a huge store in the mall under the World Trade Center. It was a BIG store back then for them. I was one of the employees that helped them to set up before opening.

And they opened. And then, terribly surprisingly to the “Powers that Be,” but not at all to ME, my sales went down. Alas, not only did my sales go down, but for a time, those on their lunch hour in the Towers would pop down to BBW and purchase. Only to decide over the weekend that the scent was wrong, or some such. And since they were headed to the mall ANYWAY, well, they made us their return center. Ultimately, it led to my leaving the position because I was unable to maintain a +30% volume from the year before the WTC store opened.

Yeah.

Not much to do with quilting, you are right. I am getting to that (come on, you KNOW I blether on forever!!!)

Timmy and I took a trip to San Diego over the summer. And my girlfriends and I took a jaunt to some quilt stores in North Carolina last week. I Googled quilt shops in California, because HE Googled Car Museums. I found a bunch. And one, I even found had a Car Museum on the next corner. Bingo! It was out in El Cajon, and so we set our GPS eastward and headed out to the hot part of town.

We arrived a little after 4 pm. The sign said they closed at 5 pm. Now, being in retail for so long (and having had the opportunity, mostly repressed) to harass people out of the store so we can get on with it, I was aware that I couldn’t meander to the degree I might normally.

The store was FABULOUS. I am talking probably the nicest quilt store I have ever been in, bar none. HUGE, but comfortable. The color stories set through out, the overall feeling was like I had found my home away from home. It didn’t take long at all for my arms to become filled to over-flowing with bolts of fabric. I’m talking maybe 20 minutes and I had spent over $100 in single yard pieces. I was in LOVE.

And then I got to the counter, and the love affair was over. A cursory “Hello” was uttered to me. Not the simplest acknowledgement of any kind to any of the fabrics I was purchasing being one of their favorites, or very popular, or what are you making or …..well– or anything. I could have been at the deli counter at a supermarket.

Now if you’ve never bought fabric that might not shock you. But when you are buying fabric, even at Joanne’s’ where I had worked for 4 years, there was usually an interaction. After all, one Fabri-holic to another, you know, we find comfort in the fact the people in a quilt shop *UNDERSTAND* our addiction. They feed it. They caress it.

They usually comment on a color combination, or wonder what you are going to do with it (ANSWER—Did I have to DO something with it??)

So, while I stood in my solo contemplation of my lovelies being cut to size, I spotted a color combination I hadn’t noticed yet, and said to the cutter as I was picking up my sizable stack, “I’m just going to go and see if I can’t find a bit of that green…it would be awesome with this selection and I hadn’t even noticed!”

Her response—“Well, you have a few minutes yet. We close at 5.” Not, “Which shade of green? You can find them in the room to your left.” Not, “You are so right!! That would be beautiful together.”

Nope, ‘just hurry the hell up so we can go home.’

Double yeah.

Now, I have thought on mentioning the name of the shop. But since I want to write a nice little anecdote about another shop, and want to mention THEIR name, I feel I probably should. After all, I have told a lot of people how unhappy I was with the treatment I received at this California shop (Rosie’s Calico Cupboard)

Now, a few thoroughly enjoyable experiences.

We started out our quilt trip by collecting my NJ friend from the train station in Richmond so we could have a quick hit of quilt shopping before we left for North Carolina. We stopped in at Quilting Adventures, and of course she was bowled over by Joyce’s selection. We had a couple of wonderful impromptu chats with other women roaming about and found a fellow Staten Islander in between the bolts of fabric (maintaining my belief Staten Island is the center of the universe for some odd reason—or at least it plays well in the Game of Six Degrees of Separation)

A lovely little place where we spent Saturday morning was called “Knit One Smock Too” in Winston-Salem, NC. They have only the smallest of selection of quilting materials, as you can you tell by their name. My friend, a NY transplant, had us down last week for a fun-filled “quilting” weekend. (We did NO quilting, other than quilt shopping. Which is as my husband expected.) ‘Us’ being me from Virginia and our friend from Red Bank, NJ.

This shop was small, and it offers a variety of needlework arts. We walked in and the atmosphere screamed ‘Welcome.’ A few women were sitting around a table chatting about starting a Sit and Stitch. A woman came in and sat down with her project, stuck on a stitch and just knew someone would take the time to talk her through her difficulties.

We oohed and aahed through the store (we are NOT stealth shoppers) and the owner quickly, politely and without us feeling like she was hard selling, showed us add-ons to projects, and even suggested, with sincerity, that if we came down again, to call her and she could schedule a PRIVATE CLASS in any of the items we were drooling over. It was a place I could imagine stopping by of a Saturday morning with coffee for everyone and just settling down to hang out and be amongst kindred spirits…

Oh YEAH!

We also went to Maryjo’s, a large fabric store, which doesn’t have the atmosphere, but was dizzying in its array of all things bolted. And while they were not chatty, they were friendly and the customers were too….

Why was I writing this? Dunno. It just was something I had observed. And I was lovingly folding all my new fabric and it all seemed to come together in my head.

Retail this Christmas will probably be hard. I am already having to explain to my powers that be that really, the customers who COME to my counter, they mostly leave happy, and with a purchase…but I can’t make them COME to the counter. And that seems to be a point of disagreement on their part. I know I do my level best and make an effort to find the good in the customers I deal with. And let me tell you, from the other side of the counter, if you have never been there, it’s not the easiest thing to do. And I feel I have trained my staff in a similar fashion. So, it’s now waiting on you, the consumer. The one thing I can’t control.

So, yeah.