Monday, March 24, 2008

Adventures In Shopping

This morning, in response to yesterday's post, Michelle asks, "So what about those of us who have stores with good customer service?"

My response? Sheer, unadulterated, green-eyed, shopping cart rage, on the verge of losing it, envy! Don't get me wrong; I love Brooklyn. I love the people here. But GF and I have often noticed the the only thing worse than the salespeople in most Brooklyn stores is the people shopping in Brooklyn Stores. I exempt most "Mom & Pop" or "boutique" types of stores, but once a store gets more than three aisles or has to hire people they don't actually know in their daily lives, its a steep downhill ride.

As I alluded to yesterday, the shelves at Target were strangely bare on Saturday. The express checkout was stacked 20-30 people deep. And this is one of the good places to go. In the same "mall", there used to be a Caldor, or it might have been a Marshall's. (Actually, I'm pretty sure both have been in the same space, but the experience was indistinguishable.) Going in there was horrible. First of all the salespeople had no idea where anything was. Maybe they were all hired that morning. Their idea of stocking shelves was to roll a palette-jack piled high with merchandise into the middle of an aisle and walk away. There was merchandise on the floors and just plain strewn all over the place. Trying to pay for stuff, we had to wait in line while the cashier and manager had a screaming fight over whether or not the cashier was taking too many breaks. And the most amazing sight in the store was the three women opening the little eggs and trying on pantyhose in the middle of the store!

Most people love a visit to Home Depot. All I've got to say is, "you've never been to the one in Red Hook, Brooklyn." Once again, about 50% of the staff knows what the stuff is in their own department. Try to find some item in another department and the knowledge drops to about 20% of the folks working there. But that's O.K. Long before you get frustrated with the guy who can't tell you where the 1/2" cove molding is, (much less what it is), you'll be frustrated with the inability to get any of their attention to ask the question in the first place. And good luck getting someone to show up this week to help you get something off of the shelf that's 16' off the ground. The one thing we have had burned into our brains is that you don't want to show up 1/2 hour after sundown on Saturday. The Hassid do-it-yourselfers show up en-masse as soon as the Sabbath is over. And there's at least five in every family.

Our nearest grocery store has renovated in the last couple of years. Its now bright and shiny and the aisles our now wide enough to have two carts pass each other without wiping all of the "Fruity Bran Flakes" off of the shelf. Or it would be if the store did their re-stocking while closed like they do in the rest of America. So every aisle has a stack of boxes waiting to be shelved or a kid on a rolling cart stocking the high shelves. And the stack is always blocking access to the tomato paste you went there for in the first place.

So, yeah Michelle. I'm totally jealous. But on the other hand, as I may have mentioned before, I've got 12 really good restaurants just in the 3 surrounding blocks. And they all deliver if I'm too lazy to walk 3 blocks. I guess I can live with the trade-offs. (And the first person to mention Dominos is gonna get such a knock up-side the head. I think we've covered that.)


Random Michelle K said...

Well, as a trade of, I can all but guarantee you have a lot more variety than I do. The vast majority of my books are now bought from Amazon. And although our "speciality" food item selection is getting better, I still depend upon King Arthur Flour and trips out of state to stock some items. (Let's just say that finding Ghiradelli baking bars in a local grocery store was cause for a happy dance right in the middle of the aisle.)

But I'd still rather live in a small town than a big city.

Random Michelle K said...

trade OFF


Jeff Hentosz said...

Hassid do-it-yourselfers? o.O

Here're two great things that don't go together: a Porter-Cable circular saw and tassels.

Jim Wright said...

I do most of my grocery shopping at the AF Exchange in Anchorage - because it's one hell of a lot less expensive for me. But for average things I hit the local Fred Meyer, it costs more but it's clean and has excellent customer service. Every employee knows where everything is, and, Michelle, they stock a complete line of King Arthur flour products - including high-gluten pizza/bagel flour :)

I won't go anywhere with lousy customer service. Fuck 'em. Wal-mart can kiss my ass.

And what the hell is it with the recent trend to stocking shelves in the middle of the day?

Tania said...

I shop mostly at Fred Meyer (Fred's was bought up by the Kroger folks a few years ago), and Jim is right - the staff are usually friendly, and if they don't know where something is, they find a co-worker that does and that person helps you out.

My local bookstore is awesome, but we also have a deal worked out - at the first of the month I bring them in the list of titles I think I'm going to read for the next six weeks, they order 'em up for me, and call me when they come in.

John loves shopping at Nordstrom simply because they have customer service that is wonderful. Yes, my bearded lineman husband likes shopping at Nordies. He's rather spend money there than at Wal-Mart, and my husband is a cheap, penny-pinching bastard.

vince said...

And what the hell is it with the recent trend to stocking shelves in the middle of the day?

Part of it has to do, at least in us small towns, with when the trucks arrive (we are literally at the end of the road here in Ely) and if they can get people to work during after-store hours. Some can, some can't.

Michelle, you're right about the trade-off. When I lived in and around Minneapolis, I could get food 24/7, and had great live comedy, theater (Mpls has the Gurthrie and some wonderful smaller, cutting-edge theaters) great live music venues, and so on. But I love living in a small town. We have a pretty good selection of goods, great live music, especially in the summer, and a community theater that's pretty good for the size town.

I'm fortunate in that I can drive an hour and be in a larger city (Virginia), 2 1/2 hours and a larger city still (Duluth), and I make forays to Minneapolis from time to time, which is about 4 1/2 hours away. So I can stock up on things I can't get here.

Anonymous said...

Seattle customer service tends to be surly, goth and overcaffeinated.

We have no Fred Meyer near - the closest is about 20 mi/30 min away. This is a sad thing! But, their customer service is horrid, they've trended toward taking people off the floor and staffing the fewest possible lines any time we've gone there. (That's not in Seattle, that's in small-city Bremerton)

In Seattle, you'll usually find minimum wage personnel with many visible body piercings, sleeve tattoos, black and/or rainbow colored hair and Doc Martens. Eye contact is not their thing, nor is actually speaking in complete sentences above a resentful mutter.

My oldest fell in love with our raspberry-haired punky waitress at downtown breakfast dive Minnie's Cafe. She freely admitted to being very hung over, slammed dishes around, and shouted across the diner to the cook anytime she needed something, calling him "cook-slave".

Nathan said...


I snorted a little over the fact that you feel lucky you can head into Virginia or Duluth if you feel the need for a larger city. Although, to be fair, if you wanted to head to a smaller one, you'd be headed to Cotton or Twig. :D

Tania said...

Jeri, describing Seattle's providers as "surly, goth and overcaffeinated" is perfect.

Since I don't live there, I tend to view them as part of my entertainment when I'm in town. If I were local, it's probably be a whole 'nother story.

Nathan said...


I'm reminded that I stayed at The W Hotel in Seattle for two weeks a few years ago. One morning, I went downstairs to get my morning coffee and met one of the other crew members walking out the door. He said we should go to Starbucks. (There's one across the street and one at the end of the block in the other direction). I said I didn't like Starbucks and I was going next door to Seattle's Best. He laughed at me and told me Seattle's Best is owned by Starbucks. When I asked him why they needed three of their own stores so close and why they didn't just call all of them Starbucks, he said, "so idiots like you who don't like Starbucks will still drink Starbucks."

neurondoc said...

Seattle's Best is owned by Starbucks? Really? Hmmm. Somehow I feel like I've been had...

Speaking from the DC metro area -- what is Fred Meyer's?

Nathan said...

re: Fred Myers

If memory serves its a gigundous gourmet whole foods sorta.