Spent: £5.70 bus fare, £2.45 hot chocolate, £2.99 meal deal, £2 toilettries, £3.49 wine (it’s Friday!)
Hours at Waterstones: 8.5
Applications: 0
Cuddles from my baby nephew: never enough!

I was too organised for my own good on Thursday night, and packed everything but my lunch in a bag ready to grab and go this morning. In theory this meant that I couldn’t forget any of the items I needed to take with me to work. In reality, I forgot to get my sandwiches out of the fridge. Hence the unexpected spending accounted for above.

It was unexpected spending, but not altogether unwelcome. I’m finding myself permanently chilled this week, unable to keep warm despite layers, gloves, hats and scarves. I’m cold at work, where we have to keep a moderate enough climate that our coat-clad shoppers don’t overheat; I’m cold waiting for and on the bus in the morning and evening; I’m cold in the flat at night. My only respite comes when, chilled to the bone, I get off the bus at night and strike out with as much speed and vigour as my muscles can muster in a bid to get the warm blood pumping through my veins. By the time I get home I’m usually rosy-cheeked and breathless, but the effect is soon lost thanks to my Scrooge-like refusal to use the storage heaters until there’s frost on the ground at the very least!

So, in the event, the need to buy food made the purchase of hot chocolate seem a far-and-away more appealing prospect. And while I may have momentarily despised myself for giving in and further lining the already rich pockets of that most famous of corporate coffee giants, it did at least mean that I returned to shop floor just a little less frozen than before. A most pleasing side effect!


The loonies were out in force yesterday, with one customer after another complaining loudly and aggressively about things beyond my control. A man in a t-shirt said the store was too cold, which I agreed with, but could do nothing about, what with the rest of our customers being wrapped up against the November chill. A woman who had to queue for at most 5 minutes pointed out that we were somewhat short staffed, which, again, I was well aware of, that being during the only half hour of the day that I was the only bookseller on shopfloor. A young lad shouted and argued and insisted that I phone head office to complain because all our job applications have to be done online and his CV was already printed out and ready to hand over to me. Waterstones has an online-only application system due to the sheer number – which runs into the hundreds even for a 6 hour Sunday job (i.e. mine) – received for each one. The lad himself was not doing especially well, having answered my “Hi – can I help you with anything?” by thrusting his CV under my nose saying “What’s that look like to you?”. To then shout at me, complain about our policies and state that filling in a form online would take up too much of his time did him no favours! He had no way of knowing that I wasn’t a manager of some description, and did not show himself to best advantage!

But my favourite (ahem) loony of the day was the fella who spent ages in the shop asking me to find books, passing me items to add to his growing pile of purchases behind the till point and never once greeting any of my helpful advances with a polite thank you. In fact, he pretty much blanked me – barely made eye contact, and when he did, looked through me. Finally, he asked for one last book, which he took out of my hands, glanced at, and tossed dismissively on top of the shelf. “Oh dear,” he said, “I seem to have messed up your display.” With which he sauntered from the shop without taking any of the books he’d requested. I could have screamed: rude, yes, AND surely mad as a March hare!

I do think everyone should be forced to work in the service sector for a few weeks at least once in their lives. I’m a polite person by nature, but knowing how much I appreciate friendly, polite and grateful customers makes me more patient and cheerful as a customer myself. It makes me more aware of my own actions and makes me smile and make eye contact. And it reminds me that, yes, we retailers are paid to tidy up after shoppers to an extent, but we do have other chores to do, and putting unwanted purchases back where they came from is something that someone, somewhere on shopfloor is appreciating enormously. Sometimes we all need reminding how the other side feels.


8 thoughts on “Loonies

  1. I think I’m most amazed by the guy looking for a job. I mean, he seriously thought being rude to the staff (possible future co-workers and managers) and throwing a tantrum was the best way to get employed? Every time I think people can’t surprise me any more, I read about something like this and my mind is boggled all over again!

  2. Working in retail always exposes you to the best and worst in people. I’m absolutely sure of it but still, the prospective employee … WHY would you behave like that?

    I’ll take your loonies and raise you … I had a woman with a child who had a rare kidney disease, who wanted to take her child off conventional medicine and heal her using a rare russian crystal because clearly her child had a choice in the matter … and the prospective employee who, when she saw the application required a handwritten covering letter said that would be a problem as she didn’t have her computer (has the definition of handwriting changed recently??)

  3. I’ve always said that my first act as empress of the universe will be to require everyone – and I do mean EVERYONE – to work in a retail position for the two week run-up to Christmas in a bid to develop empathy. I was left in bewildered tears during my first job when I was accused by a customer of being racist after I made eye contact and smiled. I kid you not, she actually said “What? You ain’t never seen a black woman before?” and left in such a huff she broke the front door. (Apparently she’d been in before and was not a pleasant person anyways.) This was balanced by the other kind of customer, a very patient gentleman who told me to take my time during a particularly busy lunch hour when the line was out the door, I was alone in the shop and the idiot credit card machine was playing up.

    As my mom says, it takes all kinds (although I’m not sure why…..)

  4. ps, the thing you don’t want to do is flat out laugh in their faces

    luckily I only meet them over the phone or email so I can cover the receiver until the giggles have subsided

  5. Your ‘favourite loonie ‘ of the day looks allot like a mistery client. Do you have those ?
    The guy with the CV must have been completely insane, you don’t aply for a job screaming to speak to the person in charge.

  6. Hello, thought I should maybe let you know who some of your readers were. I’m in a bit of a style pickle, I have a formal Christmas ball coming up and although this may seem like it is very far away I already have a date, and I would quite like to impress them!
    so I would be grateful of any advice

    • Hi Wendy – thanks for commenting! I’d be happy to help – just let me know if you’ve any specifics with regard to length etc and any no-go areas, and I’ll do a round-up of what’s in the shops right now.

      As a starting point, I’d recommend checking out Debenhams – they have some fabulous evening dresses in the window opposite waterstones! 😀

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