This is my first retail experience, and I should have known that most people aren’t like me.

I’ll approach a customer, and the following conversation ensues:

Hello, may I help you?

No. I’m looking for this worm  I hear someone else liked.

Do you have a name, or a description?

No. It was red with two ends.

People are stupid. Oftentimes they will not look at you, staring off into the distance to my left or right, as if eye contact will reveal just how lost they are.

I understand this, as much as I detest it. Not knowing stuff is embarrassing to some people, as is submitting to the superior knowledge of an inferior. The dichotomy allows me to separate the good people from the bad. Good people allow themselves to look vulnerable, and are honest about it. Bad people mask their deficits and look insecure as a result.

Dress is no guide. Well-dressed people are as likely to be as dopey as slobs, and might even be more likely to be dickheads. Personal grooming is of no importance, although it’s more directly linked with boganism. Men (and women) with halitosis are almost always not worth the time, which validates what your dental hygienist knows and tells  you every time. In fact, in most cases, shoppers aren’t worth the time.

However, like panning for gold, you never know. Sometimes a gem will emerge from the dross, and it is always a surprise. Such sparklers are hard to find, disappearing amongst the deadening dross of awful humanity.

Kryptonite for Old People

Given where the ED store is located, its customer base is severely skewed to the ancient. That implies a lot of deaf, incontinent, hairy, poorly dressed, scattered, confused and difficult people. The usual panoply of disgusting older habits and signals are on show aplenty.

These people – most of them, anyway – shouldn’t even be in the market for earthworms. If you cannot remember the type of earthworm you like, you shouldn’t be buying it. If you don’t know what the difference between quality earthworms and junk earthworms, you shouldn’t be buying them. If you are so strapped for cash that the only earthworms you will buy are those in which a coupon plays some part, you might want to reconsider your addiction.

Fishing is well and good, but the bait might not be helping you.

Other customer ideas fall into the category of complete nonsense. One big one is the pursuit of “organic” earthworms, or earthworms without “sulphites”. OMG you morons. When women (and it almost always women) want products that are by their nature bad for you to be as good for you as they think they can be, it’s best not to take them seriously.

This is the equivalent of someone saying “I want to breathe, but I don’t want the oxidative effects of those pesky oxygen molecules”. Theses people are commonly called idiots.

The other moron one must deal with is the 200 pound overweight dude who wants to know “What’s the earthworm with the lowest calories?”. Ditto the comments above, in which I now say “The one that you don’t buy?”.

This is a failure of the education system, and a triumph of generations of marketing and television: people now think they can buy everything, including health, fitness and longevity. No input (like, say, a good diet and moderate regular exercise) required from the individual.

One hopes that old people gain perspective; more likely they’re just dopey young people with a lot of miles on the clock. Time to find a place with fewer of them. As m’colleague says, cold is old-people kryptonite, so that’s where I’m going. Somewhere freezing.

Front End

Bait & Switch managers figured that I should undertake a day’s worth of front-end training.

In English, that means learning how to be a check-out chick.

Never was there a word of explanation as to why I was required to suffer this ordeal, nor whether there would be any follow-up or additional requirements. It was as if someone decided that it would be a good idea to be trained to the point of being useless.

The experience was as awful as you  might imagine. Customers at B&S are impatient and grouchy and there’s nothing to divert their attention while they wait. The queue management is spotty and arbitrary. And then there’s the POS system. This antiquated piece of Titanic-era junk takes absolutely no consideration for the work flow involved in checking out heavy, awkward, breakable items, nor for the apparently important business of applying loyalty points (which really don’t mean a helluva lot for 95% of customers). POS indeed.

With a combination of touch-screen prompts, Function-keys and scanning, I managed to work my way through the ordeal, but it was embarrassing and frustrating. Here’s another case where the “customer is everything” mantra falls completely on its face: If that were really the driving force, the process would look nothing like this.

We shall see. This is another example of treating people like idiots reinforces their idiotic tendencies, both customer and employee.

Daze Orff

Two days off with a five-hour shift in the middle; now that’s not a bad way to go.

At Bait & Switch today the place was busy as all heck, for a nothing-special Wednesday. Sweet supervisors yelling over the radio for us to meet customers, when I was already with two or three people. It doesn’t bug me except when a Bait Supervisor asked me if I could hear the radio.

Yes, butthole, I can hear it, but I am prioritizing by listening to my customers.

Again the problem is clear: not enough people.

Dear Fred, the mandatory non-English speaker in our midst isn’t really any help. He tries, and he knows the procedure when a specific type of bait isn’t readily available, but reverts to his first instinct which is to refer the person to me. When I’m already overloaded, it just make the system look worse.

In any case, the best path is to stay as unflappable as possible and not worry about the dumbass Canadians and the cheapass Americans. If they find their bait, great, if not, no-one dies.

Someone else makes the calculation about staffing levels and the resultant customer satisfaction; not me.