Thursday, October 12, 2006

Syrup and Sprinkles

Once, this was common. It happened every day and you didn’t even think about it. You walked into a store—any store—and selected some merchandise. You proceeded to the checkout counter. There, you and the cashier had an exchange much like this one:

CASHIER: (Rings up your merchandise.) Hello. Did you find everything you needed today?

YOU: Yes, thank you.

CASHIER: (Bags your merchandise.) Wonderful! With tax, your total is $XX.XX.

YOU: (Reaching for your money.) Here you go.

CASHIER: (Takes your money, makes change, hands it back to you. Hands you your bag of merchandise.) Your change is $XX.XX. Thank you for shopping with us. Have a good day!

YOU: Thanks, you too. (You leave the store.)

Even on the busiest day, it took no more than a couple of minutes. You got your stuff, the store got your money and everybody was happy. Plain n’ simple as that.

Think: when is the last time you had an exchange like the above when you bought something at a store—any store? Doesn’t matter if it’s books, groceries, fast food or that funky lotion your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend buys at the Adult Toy Shoppe. It’s NEVER plain n’ simple as that anymore. Not even close.

Take, for example, my recent experience at the Dippy-Whip Ice Cream Parlor. It was around 11:30 on a Saturday morning. Passing by and nursing a sugar jones, I stopped in. The place had just opened; I believe I was their first customer that day.

I walked in and was immediately struck by the sweet smell of fresh sugar cones. Everything—the walls, the floor tile, the counter, the tables—seemed to be white and/or silver and sparkling clean. Three employees, all clad in Dippy-Whip’s trademark red aprons and caps, stood behind the counter in front. All guys and all of maybe twenty years old. One guy’s cap had the word ‘Manager’ printed on it in white script letters. As I neared the counter, I stumbled on to the following conversation:

MANAGER: (Sorted through a big milk crate filled with bananas.) Hey, there’s only two dozen in here! Which one of you phawkers was supposed to count bananas last night?

EMPLOYEES: (They looked at each other and shrugged.) Dunno.

MANAGER: You lazy cock-knockers! Can’t you even count? What if we have a run on ‘nana splits? Well, you can bet your ass I’m not the one running to Dominick’s if we run out! Is the shake machine up and ready?

EMPLOYEES: (They looked at each other and shrugged.) Dunno.

MANAGER: (He smacked his forehead.) What the phawk?!? You guys have been here for an hour! You were supposed to open—‘open,’ a verb, meaning ‘action,’ as in ‘do something besides stand around and scratch your balls ‘til I get here!’ I ought to fire both of you bitches! You worthless mother—

Then the manager noticed me standing there, smiling politely.

MANAGER: OOOOOOhhh, hel-LO, sir! Lovely day, isn’t it? How may we serve you today, sir?

Turning 180° on a dime, he’d transformed from Gomer Pyle’s raging, ball-busting Sergeant Carter to the grinning, buttsmooching Eddie Haskell. In other words, a typical retail manager.

I scanned the menu. Lots of good stuff, as usual. Someday, I’m going to work up the nerve to try an “Old-Fashioned Sundae”, whatever the hell that may be. But I’m a creature of habit, so I went with my old stand-by.

ME: I’ll have a Hot Fudge Sundae to go, please.

Now, I had exact change. All Eddie Haskell had to do was ring me up while his two minions scooped and dollopped and sprayed and sprinkled all the appropriate stuff in all the appropriate quantities in a paper cup. And to their credit, once they’d heard my order, the two minions set to work doing just that. Surprising industry for Gen Y’ers, I must say. But Eddie Haskell wasn’t ringing me up. Young Edward had other priorities in mind.

MANAGER: Excuse me, sir, but do you have a Dippy-Whip Card?

ME: No.

MANAGER: (He smiled so widely, the edges of his mouth touched his ears.) I respectfully urge you to allow me to sell you one today. With a Dippy-Whip Card, you get a 5% discount on each and every purchase. And with every purchase you put on your Dippy-Whip Card, you earn 3 Dippy-Whip Credit Points that—

ME: No thanks. Just the sundae, please.

MANAGER: Would you like a free sample of our new Halloween pumpkin-flavored ice cream, sir?

ME: No thanks. Pumpkin makes me puke.

MANAGER: Sorry to hear that, sir. Then how ‘bout an advanced free sample of our special Christmas cinnamon and nutmeg milkshake? Starting in November, it’ll be available in quart and half-gallon bottles. It’s the perfect treat for those holiday get-togethers with loved ones!

ME: No.

MANAGER: Need any milk? Butter? Eggs?

ME: No.

MANAGER: (He pointed to his red cap.) Like our caps? Now, for a limited time only, the world famous Dippy-Whip caps are being made available to our valued customers for the low price of $19.95 each! $17.95 for Dippy-Whip Card holders. . .

ME: The sundae. Only. Please.

My ice cream finally arrived, nestled in a crisp, white paper bag. Only then did young Edward surrender and ring me up. We did the cash-change-receipt square dance. I thanked him and headed, quickly, for the door.

MANAGER: (He called after me.) Sir, do you have a long way to drive? That sundae might melt. For only $22.50, you can buy a special Dippy-Whip insulated vinyl bag. It handily keeps cold stuff cold and warm stuff warm! Sir? Sir. . .

I was already in the parking lot and halfway to my car. I had no time for Eddie Haskell’s bullshit.

Weekend days were prime times for hooking suckers on new Spendorama credit cards. We’re “required” to open at least one for every 20 hours we work. I hadn’t opened any in over a week and my name had been posted on the “Nonproductive” list in the employees’ lounge. Already, two Spendorama employees I hired on with had been fired for “Nonparticipation” in the New Credit Account Program.

I had to get home, eat my sundae and get ready for work. I had syrup and sprinkles of my own to shovel.


Blogger Happy Villain said...

Some days I feel like every second of my life, I'm either selling something or someone is trying to sell me something. Does the fact that what I "sell" has no monetary price mean I'm selling my soul for less, or does it mean I'm stupid? I'm a librarian -- I think it means both.

Hey, I thought about you recently when I was roped into purchasing something that cost me TWICE what I told the saleswoman I was willing to pay. I thought about you because I hope you aren't that kind of salesperson. This post kind of makes me think you're not.


7:26 PM  

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