Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Crying Fowl

Man, isn't that idyllic.

I like this picture for its mixture of turkeyscat pseudo-history
and potential for inventive captioning.

Pilgrim Matron: Well, that makes sense! Dark meat for thee!
Pilgrim Padre: (thinking to self) O, when shall the festivities make way for the after-feasting footy?

King Lear (beruffed): I scent a treason and turning against upon the winds.
Earl of Kent: I shall eat no fish. The venison smells sweet, however.
Miles: Priscilla, I lay awake last eve with thoughts of thy sweet corn pudding!
Priscilla: Mind your countenance, Miles!
I mayn't stand closer than two feet to thee -- our elders
condemn the wicked thoughts of handholding such proximity shall produce!
Etc... Please! Add thy own!

But most importantly, know that I am thankful for each of thee, dear blogpals,
enjoy thy feasting and football, and have a


"You ever notice you never seem to get laid much on Thanksgiving? I think it's because all the coats are on the bed." -- George Carlin

The real Thanksgiving story?

Monday, November 19, 2007

On Target (part 3): Requiem for the Red and Khaki

During my tenure of nearly a decade spent in the Crimson Limbo above Walmart and K-Mart and below, say, Macy's, I worked most of my time at the customer service desk. Working every single holiday of my life was de rigeur during that time, as was donning the horrid color combo of red shirt and khaki pants -- there's nothing like a pair of khaki pants to make me run (slowly) screaming, even now -- only black pants can camouflage flab effectively, which is why it is now de mon rigeur to wear black pants 99.4% of the time. To this day, you will never catch me, even if all my other clothes have been burned up in a fire, wearing red and khaki together. Ugh.

At Tar-zhay in the 90's, there was a "no-hassle" return policy -- we accepted virtually any item we had ever sold at any time in the past as a return, as long as we could string a few numbers together to make that identifying number and some semblance of a selling price. I have personally refunded money on leaking car batteries, stolen Monistat, and once, a Nintendo box that was still shrink wrapped, but cleverly filled with juice boxes (oops). Generally I was perfectly happy giving away the store's money, as I was trained to do, and tried my best to assist the thirty and forty and fiftysomethings who came to me with desperate shopping emergencies, imploring me to do such things as call all dozen stores in the greater Metroplex area to find that last fucking cabbage rose chintz sham that was on clearance.

Sometimes, however, it got to be a bit much, as with the lady who returned a paper sack full of white $4.00 canvas deck shoes that were severely worn on the soles, split down the sides, and impregnated with so much red dirt, they looked like they had been worn through a full game by every player in major league baseball throughout the 1992 season. We took them back. Another time, someone dug about three stiff pairs of indigo blue jeans out of their closet. They had tags pinned on with straight pins (a practice I remembered from my visits to Target as a wee babe, in the SEVENTIES). We took them back. It was a magic time. Some of that ill-gotten "no-hassle return" cash doubtless went to substances that would eliminate the awareness of ANY of the hassles of existence, and might just end them altogether.

Working at the service desk beat cashiering, though, just because it was more interesting. It was later deemed "Guest Service" after Target began copying Disneyworld's idea that the customer was a "guest" to be treated as such (a silly notion since guests typically aren't charged for the hospitality you show them). In the particular store that I worked at (now closed -- a SuperTarget opened down the road), Guest Service was located right next to the front door, which meant you could watch as shoplifters were physically apprehended by store security. If things got too serious, the call went out for all male store employees to proceed to the front to assist. A few redshirts could claim that they had run some shoplifter down out in the parking lot. The best fight was put up by a man in a trenchcoat, who had long, lanky hair and was probably in his fifties. He struggled against two or three employees, thrashing wildly in the glass enclosure between the in and out doors like a caged animal. If you've seen Blade Runner, it was somewhat reminiscent of Deckard shooting Zora in the clear plastic trenchcoat, without the shots or blood.

Over time, I even worked my way up to being operator, which means I sat in the fitting room and folded clothes while monitoring the passage of tryers-on and also answering the phone. I liked that position because I got to make announcements over the intercom. Give me a mic and I'm happy, I suppose. This post also allowed for considerable multitasking, and I enjoyed the challenge of juggling the daily onslaught of calls that the store would get. Chief among the perks of this job was that I didn't have to close. Closing meant staying until everything was neat and tidy to the assistant manager's satisfaction (zoning). Even today, I will "zone" behind myself, pulling up cans to fill in the spaces I create if it's close to closing time, no matter what store I'm at.

So as you can see, muchachos, when I walk into a Target store, I know the ins and outs. I have done virtually every job there -- even stocking the shelves. Target is where I learned that soylent green is made from people (as one night manager queried me about my movie watching habits). Target is where I learned to get price adjustments by "returning" items on sale and repurchasing them. Target is where I learned to foil confidence tricksters who would ask for change in a repeated fashion until they ended up with more bills than they should have. Target is where I got a whopping 10% discount for so many years. Target is where most of my paychecks from 1988 - 1996 went.

Was the time I spent there pissed away, or a valuable learning experience?



"Breathing in the fumes from so many idling cars,
Right beneath the sign with the dusty yellow stars,
Watching the sun go,
Watching the sun go down."

-- Cake, "Alpha Beta Parking Lot"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Target, Part 2: Ask me. I like to help.

Back in 1988, "Ask me. I like to help." was printed on a white plastic card in large Arial script on a ground of thin red-lined grid. This card was fused in some fashion to the large, uncomfortably identifying name tag which is the universal badge of shame of the retail store employee. I would have preferred, as at the telemarketing job that I held for one day when I tried in desperation to quit the red-walled retailer, to have been able to use an alias emblazoned above the lofty plastic claim of undaunted helpfulness, but it was not to be. From the first time I pinned on that promise of unqualified assistance with ANYthing the customer might need, it galled me daily.

I started my training far earlier than that first week of employment. As a kid, we took weekly trips to Target, complete with the obligatory two-foot tall bag of popcorn. Once, when I wouldn't obey my mom, I got my ass flat-out busted in front of the shopping carts, to the amusement of the whole store, it seemed. This was only to be the beginning of Target-fueled punishment, however.
In September of 1988, I was 17, and really only cared about two things: going to as many rock shows as humanly possible and my serious boyfriend. I was taking a fluff Marketing class during my senior year of high school, for which I was 20-30 minutes late almost daily. I hated high school with a passion, almost enough to quit, because, except for English class, it was nothing more than passing time doing things I had little interest in on the way to a murky future for which no one had really helped me prepare. To stay in this class, one had to find a job at some sort of retail establishment. I had been given 2 or 3 weeks to do so, and in my teenaged efficiency had halfassedly applied at 1 or 2 places. Apparently Sears didn't like the Peter Frampton-haired look of me, so some guy in the class grudgingly referred me at his place of employment and off I went. Little did I know that that successful interview would spell retail imprisonment for the next eight years.
It was a sad time, my time of toil at Target between 1988 and 1996, but a time that has nonetheless shaped my being permanently. I have come to recognize with laser sharpness, the lack of training in giving a shit for the customer's wants of most stuff-vending places today. For back in that day, when I jockeyed the register, valiantly staffed the complaint desk throughout all seasons of the year, flipped burgers at the snack bar for an additional $0.10 per hour!, or sometimes filled in at the jewelry counter, we were instructed that the customer's word was as a magical bush aflame, to be heeded as we fell prostrate before its echoing sound. (Though I know that is, even at Target itself now, a foolish dream, I still on some level want the same level of service that I was trained to provide.)
I started working there BEFORE the appearance of laser scanners by probably about a year or two. Even now, all Target's merchandise is identified by means of a six-digit number: department, class and item. At that time, you had to punch in EVERY SINGLE NUMBER for EVERY item you rang up through the use of what they termed "ten-key", as well as sliding items into the bag immediately after ringing them, and properly, too. You were periodically tested and made to run cashiering gauntlets of more and more difficult items. Not only did I learn how to cashier correctly in those crimson lanes, my awareness of and opposition to the workplace as "The Man" began there, too. I would frequently remark how Target cared nothing for developing marketable skills in its wage earners: over time, I became the fastest cashiering gun in the store; however all the number punching I did was not in traditional, office transferable ten-key, but REVERSE ten-key. Now of course, I accept as given that companies do not necessarily wish to train their employees to better themselves out from under their serfdom. Then, my idealism had not yet faltered...
Next time: Fun with Complaints! (unless I bore myself any further with this)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On Target (part 1)

Cashiering would seem to be the province of the swift, friendly, and accurate.

Yet today, I was checked out at my town's new Super Target by a mostly silent older woman, name of Nadine, who likely lived a previous life as a good and moral sloth, and thus earned reincarnation into a higher, yet not any speedier, form.
I felt like my blood itself might have turned to vinegar between the time that she asked me for my ID because I had dared to purchase a bottleful of Yellowtail Shiraz (pedestrian, I know, but it has a nice bite and does the trick besides of fuzzing and furring the sharp edges of consciousness) and the time when she finally, with a lethargic stuffing of bananas into concentric-circle-dotted plastic, completed my purchase.
As she sloooooooooooooooooooowly scanned and dragged my merchandise across a filthy rectangle of glass, I had time to rate and rank every male person within a 50 yard radius according to level of attractiveness to my peculiar likings. I also had time to admire one guy's yellow Heavy Metal Karaoke shirt, as well as consider and choose a song, "Still Lovin' You" by the Scorpions, that I would perform should I ever get the chance to enter such an event. I might well take the $150 prize, I mused.
It probably didn't help that my g-damn underwear was too loose and was falling off my ass, held on only by the gentle caress of my thighs in twain. Apparently, the constraints of money and time allowed me to lose a pound or two, but not to purchase correctly-fitting underwear.
I did not foresee that a simple trip to Syooper Tarzhay for olives, wine, and mushroom "purse" appetizers would be such an opportunity to deal with repressed anger. Though I wanted to shout out, "STEP OUT FROM BEHIND THERE, SLOVENLY SLATTERN, AND LET ME PLY MY HANDS TO THE TASK!" a few dozen times, I did not, even once, utter it.
{Here at Overthunk we only blog about the issues within a hair's breadth of your blood-filled heart, so this shall be the first in a Targeted series. And yes, the Yellowtail Shiraz is quite nice, thank you.}
Done, done, and I'm onto the next one.
-- D. Grohl
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