Mama’s retail rules

One thing that can get my Mama up on her indignant high horse quicker than anything has always been customer service, or the lack thereof.

Growing up, I learned to bristle anytime a retail clerk told Mama it was not their job or their department.

She would make a sharp inhaling sound as she drew her hand up in the shape of C.
“Do you see this C? It stands for customer. That is what I am. And the customeris always right!”

The salesgirl would normally scurry off in search of someone in a higher pay scale to deal with the crazy redhead, as Mama stood her proverbial ground, Virginia Slim in hand.

Mama pulled out the C once when we were shopping for a debutante ball gown.

Going shopping for a formal required a trip to a mall other than Georgia Square, so we took a day – a whole day– off from school and work to go. Even Granny went, figuring we would need protection, deliverance or bail money if we ventured outside the county line.

After trodding through multiple stores, Granny decided to go back to the car.
“She ain’t never gonna find a dress she likes,” the old gal declared. “I ain’t never seen such a wishy-washy child.”

I was not wishy-washy; I just knew what I liked and so far, had not seen it.

Finally, after going into several more stores, I found it. A royal blue strapless dress with a full, fluffy skirt.

“This is the one I want,” I said.
“You need to try it on first,” Mama said. “I am not going through this again if you need to bring it back.” She grabbed the hanger only to find the dress secured to the rack by some locked cable.

I guess shoplifting mountains of taffeta and tulle was a thing in the ‘80s.

There was no sales clerk in the immediate area, so Mama went to the closet department where she saw an employee.

“Would you please call someone who can unlock the formal wear to come help us, please?” she asked.

The girl didn’t even look up but continued to pick her cuticles.

“That’s not my department,” she said.

Uh oh.

“Excuse me?” Mama said.

“I said, that’s not my department.”

Double uh oh.

Mama bristled and pulled herself up to her full height. “I didn’t ask you what your department was. I asked you to call someone for that department.”

The girl looked up long enough to roll her eyes. “You will need to go find someone yourself.”

That was it. The final straw. The comment that broke the crazy redhead’s sense of decorum.

“I will not go find someone. I already did, and I asked her — that’s you, in case you missed it – to call someone. I do not have an intercom to page someone. And if I did, I would be paging the manager!” Her hand came up, making the C and I knew what was coming. “Do you see this C? Do you know what it stands for?”

I bolted out the door and across the parking lot, hoping I could find Granny.
I found the old gal, sitting in her Oldsmobile, eating cookies.
I banged on the window, startling her. “What in the devil is wrong? You almost made me drop my snickerdoodle.”

“Mama is doing the C,” I began breathlessly. And when did she get the cookies? “I found the dress, but Mama is going after some sales girl in luggage.”

Granny frowned and put her cookie back in the bag in her purse. “Lord, have mercy. Let’s go save that poor girl.”

Mama was schooling the store manager on customer service when we returned. “Where have you been?” she asked me when she saw me. She shoved pounds of blue taffeta at me. “Go try it on. Now.”

In the dressing room, I could hear her continued barrage. “Maybe if you had enough people working, I would not have had to walk to another department. Did you think about that? It is the holidays. You need to be properly staffed to meet customer needs.”

We got the dress and left, Mama fussing all the way home about how people no longer took pride in their jobs and didn’t have a clue about customer service.

“You need to be nicer to the sales clerks, Jean,” Granny said.

“They need to be nicer to customers!” Mama retorted.

“That poor girl was probably making minimum wage and you were chastising her – it was not her department. She was in luggage.”

“You missed the whole thing, Mama. I asked her to call someone to that department; she was too busy watching her nails grow to help me. I am nice. I am beyond nice. But the reason she has a job is to help customers.”

When I worked in retail, Mama’s lectures on good customer service stayed in my mind.

And the holidays could be the worst.

I would be in the middle of a sales floor, sometimes with just one other employee, trying to help scores and hordes of customers.

People would get upset. Some would be frustrated if they had to wait in line. We were short staffed, overworked, underpaid, and usually out of whatever they wanted to buy.

But none, not one, gave me the C.

I made sure I was courteous and cordial, and not once did I say, “not my job.” I thanked all the customers with a smile and wished them a Merry Christmas.

I did have over 20 years of prior training.

The other day, a friend posted a graphic on Facebook reminding people that retail workers were away from their own holiday celebrations when they were waiting on them and that patience and politeness were important. Maybe I should send a copy to Mama.

some assembly required

Some assembly required (4/8/2015)

IKEA, I will never darken your doors. Never, not ever.

In fact, if I bring home anything else that has instructions in the box, I may be divorced.

It all started years ago shortly after we married, I decided I had to have a baker’s rack and brought it home for Lamar to put together.

Lamar, who had a nasty case of road rash following a bicycle crash two days after we married, loaded the thing up and took it back to the store and swapped it out for one that was already put together.

Considering how painful it was to put on britches just to go in the store, he displayed his distaste for products requiring assembly.

“Don’t go buying cheap furniture that has to be put together,” he has said.

He’s a man of few words so for him to make such a proclamation was a pretty big feat.

I ignored it, of course, and brought in a few things that have required power tools. He has not been too happy with me, either, but has obliged, giving me a heavy sigh and a hairy eyeball all the while.

What can I say? I live in a small cabin with little storage and a lot of stuff.

I decided I needed one of those corner shelf thingies to go in the shower to hold my extra shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deep hair conditioner, extra soap, soap that smells good, soap that cleans well, soap to soften, soap to moisturize, shaving cream for sensitive skin, shaving cream for irritated skin, shaving cream that smells like flowers, and shaving cream that has some kind of chemical to keep me from shaving my legs every day.

Like I said. I have a lot of stuff.

We wandered around Bed, Bath, and Beyond for 40 minutes, looking at all the possibilities.

I found a corner shelf thingy and was deciding which finish I wanted when my dreams were ceremoniously dashed.

The corner shelf thiny needed to be put together and was $49.99.

“For 50 bucks, that thing better wash my back,” I muttered.

“I got an idea that will save you a bunch of money,” Lamar said.

“What?” I wanted to know.

“You quit putting so much junk in the shower. No one needs that much shampoo, conditioner and all that other junk that ends up falling on my head. Just put one bottle of shampoo, one conditioner, one bar of soap-and do you really need body wash if you have soap? Just leave all that stuff outta there and you won’t need a corner shelf thingy and I won’t have to put one together.”

Did I really need body wash if I had soap? What in the world was wrong with this man? Was he out of his ever loving mind? Did he not know that you washed with the soap first to get clean, then you used the body wash to make your skin soft and luxurious and smell good? How could he even suggest I not have soap and body wash in the shower?

Lamar had a near death experience then and there in Bed, Bath and Beyond and didn’t even know it.

“I want a corner shower thingy and I am going to get one,” I declared.

Maybe not a $50 one, but I was going to get one.

Finally, weeks later, I remembered my declaration in Walmart. I found one with four shelves that seemed big enough to put all my shower goodness in for $19.99.

Yes, it needed to be put together, but for $19.99, it was a bit more reasonable.

Lamar groaned when he saw what was in the buggy.

“Don’t get something I am gonna have to put together,” he pleaded.

“I will put it together myself,” I said resolutely.

I could.

I was able to figure out some stuff, surely I could figure out a shower corner shelf thingy.

But I couldn’t.

I dumped the contents into the floor and studied the instructions.

For some reason, the pictures labeled the pieces, but the items themselves were not labeled. Nothing matched up on the instructions either. The instructions didn’t make any kind of sense and I am pretty sure they were in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Lamar watched me from the couch, silently, then turned up the volume of some documentary to drown out the clanging metal sounds.

I thought I had managed to put it together, until Cole asked me what I was supposed to do with the two pieces lying to the left of me.

I realized I had the shelves on wrong and the pole was upside down. How did I do that?

“There should be a pole in it with a spring so you can fit against the tub and ceiling,” Lamar advised from the couch.

I am not sure if he was amused, felt sorry for me or was just glad he wasn’t sitting amongst 57 pieces of cheaply produced metal.

“This one maybe?” I asked, holding up a piece with something loose rolling around inside of it.

He said nothing, just frowned and turned back to his history documentary, because finding out about the downfall of a civilization is far more important than helping put together a corner shelf thingy.

“Maybe it will fit anyway, without the springy pole,” I said.

I wasn’t too sure, but wasn’t about to ask him to help when he had invoked an embargo on putting stuff together.

I was defeated and felt pretty pitiful, being bested by something that proclaimed “easy to assemble” in big, bold letters on the front.

“I will finish it for you tomorrow,” he said, not even looking up from his program.

But the next day, Lamar met the same frustration I had.

“Last night you had leftover pieces, today, I don’t have enough!” he said.

He told me there were supposed to be some whatchamacallits that were not included, too.

I decided to just take it back.

Maybe Lamar was right and I could make do with one shampoo and one conditioner in the shower. Or just one shaving cream.

When out antiquing – I did have $19.99 plus tax burning a hole in my pocket – I found a cute little table I could use in the bedroom. I texted Lamar. “Should I get it?” I asked.

Minutes passed. I knew he wouldn’t care – especially if he didn’t have to refinish it. But maybe he was mad at me for the corner shelf thingy after all.

“Do I have to put it together?” was his reply.


“Get it. Get everything you want as long as it does not have to be put together!”

Finally – a win-win for both of us – and no assembly required!