Category Archives: The Thing About Shopping Is This…

Do you work here?

Do you work here?


“Excuse me, miss, can you tell me what size these are?”  said the older gentleman in the thrift store.

I looked around, already well aware of who he was beckoning but wanting to believe something different.  Miss?  I hate being called “miss.”  It makes me feel like the person talking to me is being condescending. But because of my good mood, I allowed it.

I walked towards him, knowing what he thought but deciding to play along anyway, such was my happy mood.

I grabbed the shoe and looked at the tongue, trying to ignore how many different strains of cooties I was exposing myself to.

“Eight and a half,”  as I handed back the shoe and turned my attention towards the jackets, smiling the whole time.

This guy thinks I work here.  He’s not finished with me yet.

I wasn’t looking for a new jacket but I pretended to be enthralled with them, furrowing my brow and doing that scrunched up face thing we all do when we want someone to just leave us alone because they think we are really deep in thought.  Although, to be fair, I usually am in deep thought, thinking things like, “what’s that smell?” or “could I make mac and cheese with chocolate milk?”  The answer to this is yes, but it’s not edible.

“Miss, can you help me again? My eyes can’t see that tiny writing.”

You just don’t want to reach your hand in that icky cooty-filled shoe so you’re asking me under the guise of bad eyesight. Well played old man…well played.

 I gingerly pulled the tongue of the shoe upwards to get a look at it. I made sure to use both hands to perform this task because I knew if I didn’t he was going to let go of the shoe, leaving me to put my empty hand on the bottom of the shoe to hold it.  In these moments my mind focuses on where the shoes have been and how filthy they are.  There is a one hundred percent chance that they have walked on a gum-laden sidewalk, a pee-sodden public restroom and if the person was not attentive, they very well could have stepped in poop.

I will let this shoe fall on the floor before I put my hand underneath it to keep it from doing so.

 “Eleven. These are elevens.” I smiled and started walking away.  I lingered at the jackets a moment more just so it didn’t look like I was trying to escape.  I’m not entirely sure why I felt like it would be rude of me to walk away from a fellow shopper but I did.

I made my way to another aisle. No sooner had I walked seven feet towards my freedom, I heard him calling me again.


Keep walking.  Ignore…..yes, you’re almost far enough away that he will-


You don’t have to turn around….you don’t have to turn around….you don’t have to–

I turned around and the same gentleman was just a few feet away from me, coming towards me, eager for my help, my knowledge, my expertise.

“Miss, do you have any more shoes in the back?”


 Finally, the charade was over.  It had to be.  No more bluffing.

“I don’t work here.”

“Oh, I look like a fool!”

“No you don’t, you’re fine.”  Yup. You look like a big fool.

 Freedom.  I could walk away with a clear conscience (Although again, I have no idea why I felt the need to go through any of this. I could have told him I didn’t work there the first time he asked me to touch the shoes.)

This is not the first time this has happened.  This is not even the second time this has happened.  I can’t even tell you HOW MANY times this has happened to me.  What is it about me that looks like I work in whatever store I happen to be shopping in? True, I used to work retail but I haven’t worked in sales for over eleven years.

Is it my self confidence as I stroll through a store looking like I know exactly where everything is?  Because I stick to the same stores most of the time so maybe that’s it.

Is it my general avoidance of every living creature that gets within a five foot radius of me?  Because most of the time I don’t make eye contact or smile at someone because of the exact situation that just occurred.  And to be honest, even when I did work retail, by the time I was at my breaking point, I had mastered the way to avoid most interactions.

Was I just the closest person to the customer needing help?  Was I just at the wrong place at the wrong time?

It’s hard to say why this keeps happening to me but it does.  And for some reason, every time it happens I’m still a little shocked.  I mean, obviously I am giving off some sort of “I’m here to help you” vibe to people who are shopping in the same stores that I am.

The last time it happened was when I went to Best Buy with my parents.  They were off looking at vacuum cleaners and I had already finished perusing CDs, DVDs, and WII games.  So as I was walking near the front of the store, an older gentleman (I just realized it’s usually an older gentleman) walked through the sliding doors and made a beeline straight for me.

I used to work at Best Buy. But not that Best Buy. And not for several years. And no, I was not wearing a blue shirt.

“Do you know where I could find a watch battery?”

Here we go again.

Luckily for this guy, again I was in a pretty good mood and bored.  I looked around for an employee.  Within my sight there were three “Blue Shirts” as we used to be called.  Each of them was with a customer and none of them looked like they would be finished any time soon.

It’s go time.  Do I ask a Blue Shirt to help him?  Do I tell him I don’t work here and walk away, leaving him standing there looking lost?  What do I do?

 “I don’t know but we’ll find out,” I said, looking around again to try to find an employee.

I walked around several areas of the store, half looking for watch batteries and half looking for a Blue Shirt to help him.  After several minutes, I realized neither was going to come to fruition so I interrupted the herd of employees that were selling ONE PHONE TO ONE PERSON. (Seriously, how many Blue Shirts does it take to sell a phone?  This sounds like a riddle, please feel free to comment with a witty answer)

“Excuse me, this guy is looking for watch batteries. Can you tell me where they are?”

This is your clue, Blue Shirts. Surely one of you can help this man.  I’M DOING YOUR JOB.

 One Blue Shirt looked up, semi-annoyed that I broke her concentration (because obviously you have to really focus to get the phone to start working; it all boils down to mind control.)

“They’re up by checkouts,” she said.  No sooner had the words left her mouth had she bowed her head back into the huddle to will the phone to activate.

Ok then…I’ll just do YOUR JOB.

 “Follow me,”  I said to the gentleman. And he did.  And we found the watch batteries. And he didn’t even say thank you.

You’re welcome…..jerk.

 Over the years I’ve been in similar situations.  Sometimes  I  help the person, sometimes I don’t.  And secretly sometimes, because of the cruelty I endured from customers over the years, I get great satisfaction in saying,

“I don’t work here,” and walking away.

And while I have yet to figure out why this happens to me so often, I have figured out a few things that make my shopping easier:

Never wear blue to Best Buy or Wal-Mart.

Never wear red to K-Mart.

Never wear stripes to Foot Locker.

Never wear a paper hat anywhere near the food court of the mall.

And never, EVER, wear any kind of khaki pants anywhere because it’s the go-to of every establishment.

POST SCRIPT:  After writing this blog, I was walking around the Goodwill By the Pound store (wrote a blog about it, you should check it out if you haven’t.) and a guy stopped me..

“Do you know what size this is?”  he asked me about the stained and soiled comforter he was pawing around on.

“Nope,” said I, breezing right past him without stopping to feel guilty.

I may just beat this trend yet…


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The Underpants

The Underpants

When it comes to shopping, I am a bargain shopper.  I look for the best deals anywhere I can.  And also, despite my OCD behavior (that includes but is not limited to: total disgust if someone sips from my drink or touches my food in any situation other than preparation, panic when someone threatens to use my chapstick)  I like used clothes.  Especially Levis. It keeps me from having to break them in. I also have loaded my closet with St. Louis Cardinals attire at Goodwill prices to the point that I could wear Cards gear every day for a month without having to do laundry.  Before the thought even creeps into your little peabrain though, NO, I DO NOT BUY USED UNDERWEAR. I do however, find other uses for the underwear while I’m in the store.

Earlier this year, Goodwill opened a “by the pound” store in the city. It is exactly as it sounds.  They sell stuff by the pound.  This is my dream store.  The store is in a refurbished downtown warehouse and is basically just one huge open space with bin upon bin of used goods.  The giant blue bins are about a foot deep and are on wheels.  Each day the bins are full to the brim with everything you could think of: glasses, dishes, shoes, toys, books, cds, movies, tons of clothes and recently, Christmas junk. As the bins begin to thin out, little Goodwill worker bees wheel them off, two at a time, like animals to the ark, leaving a gaping hole on the sales floor.  Then, within five minutes or so, as a pretty healthy crowd of customers has gathered waiting for new bins to come out, the worker bee comes back, dragging with him two NEW bins chock full of more merchandise.   As the bins reach their new home, the crowds swarm it, like cockroaches on a crumb at midnight.  This area of the store looks a lot like Wal-Mart on Black Friday. 

Romy and I have a system for our shopping adventures.  We get one cart and then go from bin to bin digging through like pirates searching for the golden booty.  After our first time shopping there, we now wear latex gloves to do the dig.  We roam around the bins, digging and rooting and rooting and digging and finding bargains:

You want this parrot made out of tiny metallic beads? Yes!

Hey, did you want this bag of cookie cutters? Yes!

I found this statue of an old man and old woman on a double seated toilet holding hands. You want it for your bathroom? Yes!

Just recently we have gotten brave enough to get in the swarm as a new bin comes out. But we are still newbies and we don’t last long. Soon we have backed out of the crowd. But not before snagging a Hallmark plate and a bag of embroidery floss.

When we feel like we have exhausted every bin, we take our loot over to the side of the store and begin to sort.  This is where we get serious.  This is the point where we decide whether or not to keep the things we have thrown in the cart or to put them back in the bins.

Do I really need this Christmas tree made out of gold painted pasta? No.

Will I use this egg poacher? No.

Don’t I already have a sequined reindeer sweater? No. But I don’t need one.

The first time we went, as I was digging through a bin, I found a pair of underwear.  I didn’t even think about it. I just threw them at Romy.  They landed on her arm. 

And tradition was born.

Today, Romy brought her entire family.  Her kids had gone with us before but her husband, Duke, was new to this experience.  And what better way to introduce him to the store than to throw a pair of underwear at him?  So as we were standing between bins, a pair of tighty whities caught my eye.  Again, I didn’t even think. I just grabbed the underpants and flung them at Duke.  My aim was off and they landed on the cart.

Except that my aim wasn’t off. As if in slow motion, we all saw the underpants land unceremoniously on the cart.  And at the same time we all saw the condition of the garment. Soiled. But it was Romy who spoke,

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU THREW UNDERWEAR WITH SKIDMARKS AT MY HUSBAND!” she said at the decibel level of an oncoming fire truck.

I would be lying if I told you that people didn’t stop and stare at these grown adults flinging dirty underwear at each other.  I would also be lying if I told you that I was able to keep my composure. I laughed so hard my ribs were hurting.

When I reached for the underpants, I had no idea that they would have stains.  I had no idea that they would land perfectly so that the stain could be seen by all. 

And much like that perfect shot at the buzzer, I couldn’t do it again if I tried.

Which I will continue to do….


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The Danbury Mint

The Danbury Mint

Once upon a time in a faraway land, in a rat-infested apartment in Illinois, lived a young, quirkily eccentric girl with a butt that would double as a drink tray. We shall call her Jennivere. Although Jennivere had all of her basic needs met, enough time to lurk on e-bay at work for up to 10 hours a day and enough expendable money to buy Chinese takeout in bulk, she was left with a longing, an emptiness that she thought only more material items could fill.

From the greenest regions of Southern Illinois to the smoggiest neighborhoods of Chicago, Jennivere was known for her extensive Peanuts collection. It began innocently enough when her father purchased a little Hot Wheels-sized covered wagon with Woodstock at the reins. Over the years, she began to collect different items from her favorite comic strip, mostly focusing on Snoopy. Throughout Jennivere’s college career, she would receive gifts and trinkets such as figurines, jelly jars, toothbrush holders, and sippy cups for babies. By the time she got her first “real” job (that included LARGE commissions), she was on the path to a vast collection which she eventually insured for $25,000.

As she sat at her desk in the empty cell phone store, having already well-exceeded her quota for the month in the first four days, Jennivere began to look on ebay for things to buy. She looked at a Wurlitzer juke box and then for several months considered buying an operational full-size replica of the General Lee.  Then she turned her attention to her first love: Snoopy.  She bid $125.00 for a Hallmark Peanuts nativity (didn’t win), $85.00 for a Snoopy leather jacket (thank God she didn’t win) and won a 1969 Snoopy Astronaut figurine for $10.00 that she had previously seen in an antique shop for $90.00.

Still it wasn’t enough.

One fateful day, her mother called her and said,

“I saw an ad in the Parade magazine that you might want to see. I’ll save it for you.”

And that she did, my friend….that she did.

The girl got the ad:

Christmas 2002: a Danbury Mint exclusive! A Snoopy collectible figurine forever calendar (you know the ones, the little tiles that you can change to fit every month) Introductory offer: $19.95 for the first figurine! Also included: a doghouse shaped display board with shelves for each figurine! Each month the Danbury Mint will send you a new figurine and at the end of your 12 months you will receive the bonus doghouse. a must have for any Snoopy enthusiast!

Jennivere took the bait. Having too much money for her own good, and falling for the exclusivity of this rare item, she knew she had to have it. She sent the check.

The first figurine came. Her Discover card was billed for $19.95 + $5.00 shipping and handling. Each month like clock-work, the charge showed up on her credit card bill. And each month she received a small box containing a Snoopy figurine.

At first the little boxes coming in the mail were a welcome sight. But by about June, the thrill had worn off and been replaced with bitterness and irritation. Jennivere did the math and knew what this calendar was actually costing her. Each month brought a new figure and a little more fuel to the fire of “What the heck was I thinking? If I had seen this crap in a store for three hundred dollars, would I have purchased it?”

From the deepest regions of her inner self came the answer:


Jennivere was stuck. She couldn’t cancel the order because then she would have half a year of a calendar and that would really be worthless.  Doubly as worthless as a full year of the calendar.  Finally, relief- the doghouse arrived and she hung up the calendar in her bedroom. Each day passing the calendar was like a little jab in her money-bag.

One might be saying at this point “Yes, indeed that is a sad story and from it I can learn that one should never buy items that are marketed like the Fruit of the Month Club.”

But that wasn’t the end. Five years later Jennivere made the best investment of her life, a seven week old shih-tzu who would eventually go on to poop a cigarette butt, destroy a decorative rug, look Jennivere in the eye and squat and pee on the floor and drag socks, underwear, bras and towels from the laundry. A few months after getting the puppy she got an envelope from none other than the Danbury Mint. This was a common occurrence as they had been periodically sending her every Snoopy related item that they were selling. For the record, Jennivere nearly fell for it twice, but she didn’t succumb.

She opened the envelope a little excited at what she might find. Would it be a Snoopy snowglobe? A Snoopy Halloween scene? An animated Snoopy smoking crack with Woodstock? Alas, no.

Inside the package was an offer for a collector plate….of a shih-tzu. How? She had never sent any kind of notice that said “Hey, Danbury Mint, I just got a shih-tzu puppy! Could you please start doubling up your sales pitches and send me crap for Snoopy and shih-tzus”?

Two days ago the reign of terror reappeared in the form of a Danbury Mint Claddagh collectible Christmas ornament. How? As many of her friends and acquaintances know she always wears an Irish Claddagh ring.  Jennivere never registered the ring with the Danbury Mint.

Jennivere now lives in constant fear of being stalked by the Danbury Mint.  They are worse than Big Brother. They are tracking her every move, watching her every purchase, waiting to pounce on a chance to send her junk mail full of enticing, over-priced crap. But they will not win.


Seriously, though, I’m screwed when I get a job because I know me. And I will give in.

And I will end up with a gold-plated Snoopy toothbrush holder.


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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Jenn's Adventures, The Thing About Shopping Is This...


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Little Hollow Plastic Boundaries

My favorite part of every trip to a store is the checkout line. The checkout line offers you a variety of people watching opportunities as well as a chance to do experiments on other shoppers. And you get to count it as an independent study credit in college! (This statement is not based on reality.)

I always do that final once-over of my cart, which provides its own entertainment: Going to the store for cotton balls, I usually end up with a basket that contains: cotton balls, a pencil tray, white nail polish and a little glass cube that has a 3D unicorn etched into it (to put on the desk that I don’t have.) If I have a long wait, I use this time to figure out how I settled on this assortment:

“Let’s see, I need cotton balls…Oh, there they are on the bottom shelf! (I bend down to pick up a bag.) My goodness, will you look at that! I need to repaint my toenails, they’re chipping! (off to the nail polish aisle) Red polish is too sassy….I have blue polish at home, so…white. White would be great because of my tan (that I don’t and won’t have.) If I’m going to get a tan, I’m going to need sunscreen. When am I going out in the sun again? Probably not for a few weeks. I’ll wait. I really should start making lists so I don’t forget something…(off to the stationary aisle).  Let’s see, pencils…I have pencils at home…but where are they? I KNOW I have pencils..I need to organize my paper supplies. Oh look at that, they have a pencil tray. I could put that in a drawer and then I’d never be lost for a pencil. I need a desk… I should buy a desk (off to the furniture aisle) That one’s too expensive, but I really like that one! I don’t have room for a desk. But I like the idea of a desk’s personal touches: inbox, outbox, nameplate, paperweight…maybe I’ll just get a paperweight and set it on my coffee table and that will satisfy my desk craving(off to the crap-for-one-dollar aisle) It’s a 3D unicorn! In a glass square! Mine!”

Now I feel better because I have justified my random purchases while simultaneously moving up to the best spot.

I’m the third person in line.  The first person is being checked out.  The second person has put their stuff halfway down the belt, wasting the first two feet of conveyor belt closest to the checker. So I take my stuff out of the basket and I start putting it on the conveyor belt, less than a foot from Second Person’s stuff. On purpose.

Second Person notices that my stuff is on the conveyor belt too and they panic a little bit (I say they panic because I know I panic; therefore everyone must panic.) Recourse? Put that little hollow plastic barrier between our items. The boundary setter of the retail world, it says, “Don’t touch my stuff!  I don’t want your stuff touching my stuff! I don’t want this clerk thinking I would buy a glass cube with a 3D unicorn in it.  I’m not paying for that.”

If I’m the Second Person, I’m always sure that the Third Person is going to be offended when I set my little hollow plastic boundary.  As if I am saying, “Hey, buddy. I see you putting that stuff on the belt. Why aren’t you leaving at least a foot between your stuff and mine? You better have money for that baby formula because if you don’t, I.WILL.NOT.HELP.YOU. Stop eye-ing my 3D unicorn! Mine!”  Then I give them that half-smile that says “I know you’ve been the Second Person. I hope you understand it’s nothing personal, I’m just not going to feed your kid.”

Really the person who SHOULD be offended is the clerk, because we are essentially telling this person that we don’t think that they are smart enough to understand that the gap between the items means that it’s a totally different order.

Putting up the little hollow plastic barrier is the most power that you will ever have in a checkout line. Literally. You are never more in control in a checkout line than when wielding a  tiny hollow plastic square tube…unless you are the First Person and you are paying for one hundred and fifty-two dollars’ and seventy-four cents worth of groceries in pennies.

Check. And. Mate.


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