Category Archives: retail

Like Everyone Else


* It’s my duty to put out a warning that the following story does not once mention cats or sharks or ass-hats or made up words of any kind. This story is pretty sad and somewhat depressing. Maybe it’s the constant rainy weather that compelled me to write something so blue? Anyhoo, this is a short story that I just whipped up this afternoon. It’s totally fictional, but I based it on this lady that I always see at the mall where I work. She is so intriguing to me. She is literally at the mall EVERY DAY! Why is she there? Doesn’t she have other things to do? She looks so crushingly lonely to me, it’s almost palpable. Now I shall stop my italic ramble and let you read this sad, pathetic piece of fiction. Enjoy?*

A mall is an odd place to find solace.

The air is recirculated.

There is no natural light.

The bathrooms often smell.

Crystal doesn’t notice any of the mall’s unpleasantries. To her, the mall is a place of freedom, a place of comfort and a place where she belongs.

The mall opens every morning at nine-thirty. This gives Crystal just enough time to put her children on the school bus and herself on the city bus. It’s a forty-five minute bus ride to the mall, but Crystal doesn’t mind. She’s gotten friendly with some of the other commuters. She considers them friends.

The first thing she does when she arrives at the mall is head upstairs to the food court. Once there, she goes straight to Tim Horton’s and orders herself an orange juice and a chocolate dipped donut. Denise works the weekday morning shifts. She always saves a copy of the morning newspaper especially for Crystal.

Following her breakfast and hour long perusing of the paper, Crystal is ready to begin her day. Reusable shopping bag in hand, she makes a mental list of all the stores she needs to visit.

She spends her morning roaming the halls and purchasing things she doesn’t need. They include;

-New pillow cases for the kids, on sale.

-Gum, lollipops, stickers, markers, Pepsi, nail polish and a chocolate bar at the Dollar Store.

-An Ottawa Senators t-shirt for her husband, who wears something from his favourite hockey team every day. This was also on sale.

-New sundresses for her girls, on sale.

-Two pairs of sunglasses from the new kiosk. Only ten dollars each!

Delighted with her haul, she breaks for lunch. An extra-large Booster Juice and her chocolate bar hit the spot. Just as she takes her final sip of smoothie, her cell phone rings. It’s her husband. He’s just woken up at one fifteen in the afternoon.

“Where are you?”, he asks rudely. He never says “hello”.

“At the mall”, she says knowing what’s about to happen.

“Of course you are. How much?”, he demands.

“Just twenty. I needed some stuff for the girls”, she says knowing that’s she’s spent at least three times that amount.

“Jesus Crystal. We needed that money for supper”, he says in an infuriated tone.

“There’s some bacon in the freezer and we have some eggs left. We’ll have that”.

“I wanted steak. You said it was on sale this week. I don’t want no eggs for supper”, he yells into the phone.

“Fine. I’ll go get you a steak. You need anything else”?

“I need batteries for my X-Box controller and a pack of smokes. And some more Pepsi. And don’t go buying nothing else for them kids”, he shouts as he hangs up the phone.

Crystal reaches into her pocket and pulls out her last crumpled twenty dollar bill. She was hoping to go and buy some shorts after lunch, but if she doesn’t come home with steak she’ll be in serious trouble.

She realizes that she won’t have any money until the following week and begins to panic. It’s almost the first of the month and she has rent to pay and groceries to buy and the collections agencies keep calling. If only her government cheque was bigger.

In the midst of her panic, she remembers that her child tax payment will be in at the end of the week. She lets out a huge sigh in relief and decides to go try on some shorts after all.

She puts three pairs on hold until Friday. And two tops. And a skirt. They’re all on sale. She’d be out of her mind not to buy them.

As she leaves the store, she remembers that she has some clothes at home that she bought last week. She’s been hiding them under her bed so her husband won’t yell at her for over spending. If she returns them tomorrow, then she’ll have more than enough money to fund her mall visits for the rest of the week. She’ll just have to go when the manager isn’t working. She’s such a bitch. Accuses her of wearing then returning the items she bought. Crystal’s only done that a couple of times. What’s the big deal?

Crystal looks at her watch and realizes that she has just over two hours until she has to pick up her kids at the bus stop. Luckily the grocery store is right beside the mall. She’ll have plenty of time to get the steak and the other items for her husband.

Crystal always feels a little sad when her day at the mall is done. She doesn’t like having to go home to her irate husband and ill behaved kids. She knows she should want to spend time with them, but she doesn’t.

She’d much rather spend her time at the mall.

Even with the crowds and the noise and the pushy salespeople, at least at the mall she blends in with everyone else.

She’s not labelled as that poor mom with all the kids and the deadbeat husband.

She’s not frowned upon for getting government cheques.

She doesn’t have teachers lecturing her about her kids failing grades and ambivalent attitudes.

At the mall, she is anonymous.

At the mall, no one knows what her life is like at home.

At the mall, she is a paying customer, with errands to run.

At the mall she blends in…

Just like everyone else.

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Frustrating Friday



Today was a legendary day in the world of retail.

L E G E N D A R Y.

Every single terrible customer in the history of the universe decided to come shopping at my store.

Here are the top three offenders…

1. Irate granny who didn’t get her senior’s discount. When I refunded her the difference, she complained that it took me too long and put everyone in a bad mood. When I told her I was in great spirits she rolled her eyes at me.

2. Strange french speaking woman who went on and on about how she bought the same product that we sell for $3.49 for $0.99 in the United States. This baffled her to no end. Her mind was totally blown. She might never be the same.

3. Creepy twins with even creepier parents who are regulars at our store and stay there for HOURS. Today they spent a good two hours in the morning and probably a solid hour after lunch. Creepy twin dad even asked us for a chair to sit on and if we could fill up his water bottle. We said no to both because I work at a toy store and not a spa. At one point, creepy dad even asked me to watch his twins while he went to another store. They are five. FIVE. Obviously he thinks we are both a spa and a daycare. 

Now that I am sitting in my cozy house, double fisting beer, I can laugh at the irksome behaviors that I had to endure. 

Deep down in my cold black heart, I feel sorry for these people. Their lives must be so miserable. The only way they can feel better about themselves is to be complete ass-hats.

This terrible day was not a total wash. I came home to a delicious bbq dinner, my son scored a goal at soccer AND there are cookies in my cupboard. 


I wonder what all the ass-hats are doing right now???

Actually, I don’t want to know. I just want to sit here in the beautiful silence of my home and forget that they even exist.


*Serious italic time…I feel bad for writing such a bitchy and unkind post. These people might be swell individuals. Who am I to judge them? I’m just some mom who works in a toy store. I really should try to be a nicer person…I really should. But it’s so easy to hate people who treat you like used toilet paper. I’m sure there’s some good inside of them…deep, deep, deep down. Like maybe they are good at recycling or baking or origami or underwater basket weaving or shoveling snow or breathing.



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I’ve been working ever so hard on the first chapter of my story. I was extremely confident that it would be ready to post by today.

Sadly, it is not.

I was just looking it over and have decided that it is absolute shit.


The plot rivals that of a terribly cheesy Disney Channel show. I think my main character was a sentence away from turning into a wizard or seeing the future or going to school on a cruise ship.

Obviously I need to rethink my whole story. But before I do that, I’ll write a little something about French people.


I love French people. I really do. I love them so much, that I married one.

French people are animated and passionate and they like to talk with their hands. The French people that I know like to break out into song, bake things with funny names like Nun’s Farts and they often cry at random things like cell phone commercials or old episodes of Saved By the Bell.

When I say French people, I am of course talking about French Canadians. I live in Ottawa, which is a super bilingual city. I work in retail and I pretty much speak french every day. I can honestly say that French is the only useful thing I ever took in high school. I don’t seem to use much algebra or chemistry or Canada Fitness Beep Tests in my day to day life.

My French isn’t awesome, but it’s not terrible. I can totally follow a conversation in French. I might get a little jumbled in my head when I’m trying to speak the language. I might not conjugate the verbs properly. I might mix up the words for “chin” and “jacket” and “sheep”. I might make up words in French to sound intelligent. Actually, I do that in English too. I like to refribulate words.

At work, I’ve had some great experiences with French customers. Most of them are kind and patient and appreciative when I’m serving them in my choppy, beat up French.

Some, however, are not.

Here are two examples…

1. I don’t understand when a customer comes up to me and asks me in French if I speak French and I say yes and then they ask me their question in French and I answer in French and then they answer me back in English??? It’s so confusing and terribly awkward. Do I keep talking in French? I feel like if they wanted to be served in French in the first place, then that’s what I’ll do. Or should I? Is my French offensively bad? Je ne pense pas, mais peut-etre???

2. I usually say “hi” or “hello” when customers enter my store. Most people say hi back or smile or nod in my general direction. Do you know what really gets my goat? When I make eye contact with a customer and say hello and they just stare blankly at me like I’m a moron. I’ve had this happen several times. So awkward. I usually follow up with a “how are you” and often get a reply. When I don’t, I have to pull out the big guns and hit them with a “bonjour” The power of that word will never cease to amaze me. More magical than Bibbity Bobbity Boo or Wingardium Leviosa or Hocus Pocus Alamagocus, a simple “bonjour” said to the right person can completely change their personality! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! Upon hearing it, their whole demeanor changes and they often become chatty, social or dare I say, PLEASANT. It must be really hard to live in a completely bilingual city like Ottawa and not know what “hi” means. How awful it must be to have people in stores, restaurants and even on the phone taunting you relentlessly with this strange and confusing syllable.

All this writing about French people has gotten me really hungry for a giant pile of poutine…

I shall resist my craving for some delicious fries, gravy and curds and instead go back to work on my terrible story.

Maybe my main character should be French? I could give her a great French name like Pierette or Guylaine or Maude???


And maybe from now on, I’ll end all my posts like this…



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The other day, a grandfatherly looking gentleman came into the toy store where I work with two toddler sized children. I greeted them with my usual charming “hi”, to which they did not reply. I didn’t take it personally. It’s the plight of many a retail worker. Besides, Gramps looked overwhelmed by his shopping companions and in need of a stiff drink.

The toddlers yanked Gramps to the back of the store and began having a game with some of the toys. I helped a customer and then did some tidying up and pretty much forgot about them until I had to put something away near where they were playing. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. Gramps was desperate to leave. He kept telling the boys that the store was about to close and that “The Lady” was going to be very mad. Customers often do this. Children are smarter than they look. They know that the store does not close at two o’clock in the afternoon and they have absolutely no fear of “The Lady”. I am “The Lady” and I’m about as scary as those kittens in the Royale commercials.

Poor Gramps. I could feel his desperation as he offered up the promise of ice cream cones, candies and a trip to the park in exchange for their timely exit from the store. A few more minutes and I bet Gramps would have bought them each a pony or a lazer gun or ponies wielding lazer guns.

All of a sudden, I realized that Gramps was trying to flag me down like a Taxi in Times Square. My insides filled with dread.

“Can I help you with something”, I said in my sweet as sunshine retail voice.

“Yes. You have something to say to the boys, don’t you?” Said Gramps.

I knew the drill. He wanted me to help him get the boys out of the store tantrum free. I’ve had customers ask me to do this before, but I had never been put on the spot. Who did this guy think he was?  Just because he was too much of a ding dong to muster up enough courage to tell his kids something they didn’t want to hear, didn’t mean that I was automatically obliged to do his dirty work. If he’d asked politely or given me some sort of  a head’s up, I would have totally helped him out. What grinded my gears was that he assumed I would be the bad cop to his good cop.

I took a few breaths to steady myself as I felt my sunny retail disposition fade  away. I begrudgingly decided to be the better person and humour grumpy old Gramps. I looked at the toddlers and said, “I think your grandfather wants to leave now. You can come back and play another day”. I was pleased that I sounded as monotone as Ben Stein. Gramps seemed satisfied with my work as he told the boys that “The Lady” was very mad and that they needed to leave.  I promptly turned around and walked away before I lost my shit on grumpy old Gramps.

Within seconds, the boys erupted into two epic tantrums. They cried and screamed until something miraculous happened; Gramps found his balls and was able to drag the screaming boys out of the store. I made sure to yell out and extra bubbly “buh-bye” as they left. Poor Gramps looked like he was about to spontaneously combust.

Now, if Gramps had been kind to me and asked politely if I would help him get the boys out of the store, I would have been pleased as punch to help out. I would have come up with some sort of elaborate plan to make their departure effortless and tear free.

Sadly Gramps did not follow the simple rule that if you treat people with kindness, they will return the favour. Gramps is a grump. Gramps probably treats all people like used toilet paper. Gramps is probably a sad person who lives under a bridge all alone and sleeps on a bed made of sharp rocks that dig into his back. I bet his only companion in life is a dog figurine that he made himself out of mud an old cigarette butts that he found in the murky creek that runs through his sad under bridge home.

The moral of the story is that if you are nice to others, they will be nice to you.

Or maybe it’s don’t bring cranky toddlers to a toy store at nap time?

Or maybe it’s be nice to me or I’ll imagine that you live under a bridge?

Grumpy Old Gramps

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