Way back when, I used to have my own small website. It was the kind of site that's regularly featured in conversations that begin with phrases like “Oh hey so you know what was really shitty?” or, “No, I purged that from my memory. With bleach. I bleached my brain because of words you wrote, Cole.”
It wasn't very good, is what I'm getting at here.
But to any of you who used to read that site (shout out to both of you, by the way), you might remember one of the more regular features that was only mostly unreadable bullshit, as opposed to exclusively, like the rest of the site. It was all just me bitching about work, and transcribing conversations with customers. Sometimes it was funny. You had to be there.
And since I've been so swamped with work lately, I haven't really been able to get around to finding the inspiration for/time to research articles like I should. So to hell with it, I'm just gonna let my work, work for me. Let's dust off the old article model where I just talk about the kind of people who frequent my work.
So for the few of you reading this who don't subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter “Cole Tips,” I work at what is essentially a warehouse-sized thrift shop. It's really more of a resale shop, but the sign out front has the word “thrift” on it so hey, fuck it, you know? We have everything from clothes, to furniture, to electronics, to curling-iron ovens, to… yeah this could go on for a while. Basically, if it isn't clearly stated by word of law that it is illegal to sell something, we will slap a price tag on it and try to convince you that you need it.
Also, I live in Northern Georgia. So yeah, that's pretty much like living in the South of the South.
* * *
I Have a Knife
An older woman had come in and walked around the shop for a while without me paying her much attention outside of the usual meet and greet, and after a while I found her looking at our enormous collection of heinously outdated office supplies. A whole shelf full of office supplies that seem to have been made in the 80's, but where impossibly already dated when they actually came out. It's dope.
Anyhow, the woman was looking at the price tags with some disdain. Rightfully so, as most of the items on that shelf still have prices tagged on them from when someone in an ancient time (and someone with very optimistic ideas about the value of these items) had priced them, hoping to make a profit off of them.
They did not.
But because of these tags, I often take a second to mention to anyone looking at the items that the prices are wrong, and that most everything on the shelf is only a dollar or two per piece.
Hearing this, the woman seemed much relieved, and started asking specific prices on a few items.
Very few people in the entirety of the universe have ever spoken as slowly or with such absolute disregard for a fact that what they're talking about is the most sinfully boring topic ever broached. So I smiled and politely nodded along as this woman droned on about the myriad assortment of uses for filing folders. Spoiler alert: she uses them to file things. See how quickly I conveyed that concept?
But I digress. After a couple of solid minutes of me trying to hint via eye signals, body language and at least a couple of audible sighs that I had to go help out the other customers currently filling the shop, we finally wrap things up.
I informed her that the items she had handed me would total about four dollars, and I would happily carry them up to the front counter for her, so she could check out when she was ready.
So, in the exact same droning monotone she had just spent a solid quarter of my life rambling about files, she looked up at me, smiled and said:
“Oh, and I have a knife.”
“You…um…wait, are you threatening me or just bragging?”
She looked confused for a moment (she actually had the entire time we talked), and clarified.
“Oh, no, I picked out a knife I like up front, and left it on the counter so I could buy it on my way out.”
So no, I didn't almost get robbed by a forgetful old lady, but apparently my reaction to thinking I'm about to be is just to stand there, dumbfounded and say something stupid.
Seems about right.
* * *
That Damned Mexican Flag
We had a few different flags lying around for a bit there, and at one point my boss suggested that we actually, you know, hang them up so that people could see them. A novel idea, to be sure. Just something we hadn't actually done for a while, since most of are walls are either covered in merchandise, or leak horrible, on account of our indoor weather. That is not a joke.
Anyway, we cleared room, and we hung up the first flag. An old USMC one. It sold pretty quick, so the next day, working alone, I put up an American flag. That one also sold pretty quick. The next one on the pile was an Italian flag. Not quite as patriotic, but still colorful, so I hung it up.
Sometime that weekend a couple of guys in their 30's came and looked around the front room and while they did so one of them glanced at the flag a couple of times, looking confused, though he said nothing.
They moseyed into the back (if you walk with your hands holding your belt, while overweight, and wearing either flannel or ass-less chaps, it's legally considered “moseying”), and after a bit I followed them back there, because there really wasn't anything going on that day and I thought I'd try and sell them a futon or some shit. Well I went back there and overheard one of them talking to the other about:
“And that damned Mexican flag hanging up front, what the shit…”
And that was the only legible part before the Southern “accent” garbled up the following words. So yeah, some chubby mountain guy thought an Italian flag was Mexican, and this fact seemed to visibly upset him. So naturally on the way out I made sure to ask, loudly and with emphasis, if the gentlemen would like to buy the lovely Italian flag we had for sale, allthewhile gesturing to it like a great big idiot. After a second something seemed to click, and the angry one just said, “Uh, no…thanks.”
And then they left.
Someone else bought the futon later though so it's cool.
* * *
The Furniture Has Been Spoken For
At one point there we had a lot of furniture that was sold, but hadn't been picked up yet by the people who had purchased it. So, we sort of grouped it all together in the furniture section, and then covered it over with moving blankets, so nobody would mistake it as being for sale.
Pretty much the very next time we opened I came around there to a guy, having tossed half of the blankets onto the ground, looking at the furniture in a manner I can only describe as “Aggressively.”
“Umm, sir, that furniture is—”
“How much you want for the table?” he asked, nodding towards a table and chair set while I walked up to him.
“Unfortunately it's not for sale, sir.”
“All the furniture here, under the blankets, has already been sold.”
He considered this for a moment.
“You really should put a ‘sold' sign on it,” he said, disapprovingly.
“Yes. Yes I suppose I should,” I said, putting back the dozen large blankets that had until recently completely obscured the furniture from view.
* * *
Free Irons Aren't Sexy
We have entirely too many irons. Like, at any given times, we have a whole table of different sorts of irons. All tested, working. It's super awesome, trust me. But nobody buys them. Because literally nobody actually needs an iron. If you really need to get the wrinkles out of something just hang them in the room while you take a long, hot shower. But even then if you wind up in any social situation and somebody says “man, fuck this person and their not perfectly un-wrinkled attire” then you can wholeheartedly say, “no, fuck you” and never talk to them again.
But I digress again.
I bring this up because the other day I was trying to sell a lady an ironing board. It was quite a nice one. It would retail for around sixty or seventy dollars, because the world we live in is not one of logic. But, because of us being a resale shop, and also having a sale going on, it was only fifteen bucks. Sexy deal, right? Of course not. It's still money for an ironing board. That's ridiculous.
But she was on the hook. Only she said she wasn't sure if she wanted to buy the board because then she'd need to get an iron, too. So I offered her one for free. There was a table full of them right there and none of them where priced above four dollars, so I figured it would land the bigger sale. She was not quite so readily impressed.
“Well, I don't really know anything about any of them,” she said, looking at the table of assorted irons.
“I've tested all of them myself, so I know they work.” A true statement. I test all of our electronics/appliances.
“But I don't know any of these ones. I would have to do some research.”
I blinked nine times.
“Well”, I said, trying to maintain my professionalism. “It is a free iron. So, even if it's not exactly what you want…it's free.”
But for whatever reason, she wasn't really into the “get a free thing for no risk” offer I offered her, even though still clearly expressing a need for an iron. She wouldn't take one.
The real kicker though? She bought the ironing board. But refused the free iron because she “didn't know details about any of them.” Seriously.
* * *
Your Finest Cabinetry Only
“So how much is that cabinet yuh got over thar?” a man asked, walking up to me in the front room. It's important to note that while he pointed in a direction when he made that statement, he pointed at a wall. To be fair, there is furniture on the other side of the wall. Some of it is even cabinets.
“Not sure. Which one where you looking at?” I asked, foolishly thinking that he would provide any useful form of information.
“It's got the doors that swing open.”
You know, unlike all of those cabinets that don't have opening doors.
“…let's go look at it, shall we?”
We found it, and looked at it. To his credit, it did in fact have the doors that swung open.
* * *
Gently Used Brain
The clientele at my shop is split pretty evenly down the middle between terrifying mountain people, and retired old white people. Sure, the occasional visiting college kid or out of town city-slicker wanders in, but it's mostly the first two groups. And sure, the rednecks might occasionally come in with the meth-shakes, or worse, say that they find Donald Trump to be a legitimate presidential candidate, but at least they know what they're signing up for when they walk into a warehouse sized thrift shop with a giant banner out front that says “MEGA THRIFT.”
But at least once a weekend, we get at least one person, or one couple, who just absolutely reeks of a stereotypical “rich white person” vibe. Like they walked out of a damned “fish out of water” comedy from the early 90's.
Except that these people are real, and seem absolutely disgusted by the idea of a warehouse selling used things. They always wear an expression like they just wandered into a Chicago ghetto by accident, and always smile at you like you're an exhibit of some kind. I kind of like it, actually.
Oh, and I'm not kidding either. One of my absolute favorite moments at the shop came when a somewhat distressed (although quite proper) looking older woman came in and looked about for a bit, before arriving at our clothing section. She asks me, with a look of growing concern reaching over her face, “Are, are these clothes used?”
A human being walks into a warehouse thrift shop that's labeled “MEGA THRIFT” and, taking one look at dozens of racks of clothes (none of which have anything that could be remotely called a tag to be mistaken for new) and legitimately felt the need to ask if they were used or not.
And when I said, as professionally as I could muster, “Yes ma'am, everything here is.” she looked, I don't know…worried? Concerned? Not sure exactly, but after a hurried “Oh, thank you” there were no more questions, and she quickly found her way out.
Some people's children.