Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Purse Dog

Purse dog. Don't leave home without it. I'm not sure when this happened, but it seems that dogs have ascended to eye level. I have a lifetime of living with dogs, but I've never seen them treated the way they are now. They are just too precious for words. No wonder Mitt Romney is in so much trouble for strapping his Irish Setter to the top of the car.

People are spending a fortune on their pets. Can we talk about accessories? Boots and jackets and hooded raincoats. Playpens and carriers festooned with glitter. You can get a cute collar with a charm from Coach for only $78. Cats have gotten precious, too. We have a cat boarding establishment near us with fireplaces. It costs extra to have a "Kitty Worshipper" sleep with your cat!

I grew up with big dogs. We had a series of German Shepherds: Dusky and Dusty, Freida and Schwartzie. Later on I had two Dobermans, Albert and Tiggy. For a short time my mother even had a Saint Bernard named "January". She could barely squeeze into the pumpkin orange Honda and did she ever drool.

We had numerous litters of puppies and all sorts of doggie adventures. One loved to roll in dead animals, another chased after the mailman. When we lived in Michigan we had a notorious chicken killer. Poor Freida was afraid of thunder and actually died of a heart attack during a thunder storm. We were away on vacation and she was at the kennel.

My mother is a dog lover through and through. Sometimes I even think she liked the dogs more than the kids. They were certainly easier to understand, if not train. They barked but didn't bite. They also didn't talk back. The kids weren't spoiled and neither were the canines. They did not sleep on beds or chairs. I don't even remember them having dog beds. For dinner we fed them Gravy Train with a little warm water. Dog feeding was one of our chores. I was fond of snacking on the kibble and remember being so small I would practically topple over into the fifty pound bag of food.

Those days (when pets and children knew their place) are long gone. Now people take their dogs everywhere. Shopping and on planes. They sit on public benches and on chairs at restaurants. People's precious pooches are so entitled they deserve a seat at the table. If you question someone they'll claim they have a "service" dog and god forbid you don't allow them access everywhere. What kind of service? Companion?

The biggest change I've noticed has been at the local shopping center which has become very upscale. Until recently dogs were not allowed on the premises. Now they are "welcome" everywhere but Nordstrom. Rules of "Petiquette" are posted. So, dogs no longer have to stay at home or in the car or left outside. They're in all the stores. I find it unnerving to be nudged by an Irish Wolfhound while checking out bras. These dogs really need to be in the lingerie department?

Of course it's not the dog (or the child). It's the owner. I was feeling bad about being such a hater when a couple things happened. I was walking to work on Valentine's Day in my new hot pink tights when a dog came tearing by me, splashed in a puddle and splattered me with mud spots. I was so pissed and turned to glare at the owner, but guess what? Rover was out on a solo jaunt. When I got to work there was an enormous pile of shit on the sidewalk in front of the store. Thank you again.

This all followed a weekend adventure. Eric and I were in the woods and came upon a wayward lab self-walking. He was such a good looking guy and obviously alone. Eric called the number on the tag to alert the owner to his pet's present whereabouts. No answer. No return call thanking Eric for his concern. Nothing but rude silence. Over the years I've tried to rescue numerous lost dogs and found it to be thankless and frustrating. It led me to this ruthless conclusion: people who can't keep track of their dogs are jerks.

I have observed that there are dog people and baby people. I am a baby person. I LOVE babies. Whenever I see one I want to make eye contact and get them to smile. I have to restrain myself from touching if it's not a baby I know. Eric is a dog lover. We stop and greet every dog - get a wag of the tail. Eric has to flirt with every leashed critter and I have to flirt with all the babies. It can be a process getting down the sidewalk sometimes. All the flirting and greeting, tail thumping and gummy smiles.

I have loved my dogs deeply. My heart has been broken when they died. They were like part of my family, but I didn't expect them to be part of your family. I don't love your dog. I may not even like them, but I absolutely adore your baby.

Photo: Toby the Purse Dog

As an antidote to going negative on the four legged friends, here's a cute piece written by Leslie Martin about Gina's dog, Boomer.

Once upon a time there was a little black and white border collie named Boomer. His parents called him Boomer because they thought it was a cute name and he was such a cute puppy. But Boomer didn’t like his name. All the other dogs called him Doomer Boomer and Boomer Sooner and made fun of him. The bulldog down the street, who was named Spike, said “What kind of dog is named Boomer? That’s not a name! That’s a sound! Ha! Ha! Boomer doesn’t even have a real name. It’s just a sound!” All the other dogs laughed and growled, “Yeah, a boom is a big noise. Hey Big Noise, how’s it going?” Boomer was so sad. He hung his head and tucked his tail and walked slowly back to his yard. I’ll show them he thought. I will become Mighty Bitey Boomer and then will see who makes fun of me and with that, Mighty Bitey Boomer was born.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Shop Talk

I've been minding the store at Moss & Daughters for over two months now. There is a bit of rhythm to the days, but no rhyme or reason. It's dead when you think it will be busy and busy when you expect it to be slow. The best day we've had so far was one of the 49er playoff days. That was one screaming Saturday. A woman bought enough gifts to last for a lifetime of weddings. Or maybe she's like Lucy who is attending eight weddings in two years - five of them as part of the bridal party. Waves of weddings. 

The last playoff day and, of course, the Stupid Bowl itself were really slow. There can be a morning lull or a morning rush and vice-versa. One day I sold nothing for the first four hours but ended up with a good day. Only four customers made purchases, and oddly enough, they were all in the store at the same time. Before and after - nothing. 

I have discovered a few ways to make sure we get busy. One method works every time. Try to close. When I  start bringing in all the outdoor items, the shop is so crowded you can barely move around. Inevitably, a customer will appear. Intent on buying something, they're oblivious as they step over baskets and around flower carts. More than once twenty-five percent of the day's business has been transacted after closing time. 

It's fascinating to see the way people shop. The most money is spent by customers who are in the store for the shortest period of time. The turbo shoppers. They'll cruise through the store with impressive efficiency, loading items onto the counter with barely a glance. Pay, bag it up and done. If you didn't have the charge receipt you might think it never happened. A shopping mirage.

Other types of customers are more work. Like the serial returner. There are the 24 hour approval junkies. They shop, make a choice and bring it back the next day. It could be an oil painting or a lamp. The same people keep going to different shops. They buy. They return. Most people are somewhere in between. They browse, they find something they like and then they buy it. Normal people.  

Some people don't buy. They just touch. One day a woman started at one end of the shop and worked her way through, compulsively touching everything within reach. I was so fascinated that I just watched her. At one point she turned and made a comment about it. She hoped it was okay that she was touching things. I smiled that fake "the customer is always right" smile and assured her it was fine. Of course she touched everything but bought nothing.

Other customers don't JUST touch, they rearrange. They'll pick something up and put it down in a slightly different place. And then there is the bull in the china shop. One lady had such a flowing poncho that she knocked over a glass piece and it broke. These things happen. You've seen those "you break it, you bought it" signs. It's not really true. You're not going to charge a customer for something they broke by accident. The store eats it.

I love to watch the couples. Our shop is a little feminine and can make certain men kind of squirmy. Manly men. I try to steer the guys across the way to the antique store where there's more to entertain them. It doesn't always work. Then they can really interfere with the shopping process by looking bored, sighing or overtly nixing every potential purchase. Some women deal with their guys directly. One lady sent her husband to wait in the car. Another one told him to wait outside, like a dog. I thought I heard her say, "sit" and "stay".

Other men are much more cooperative. They just whip out the charge card no matter what. It's all good. Wrap it up. We'll take it. She wants a candle that costs $120? She wants a large, paper mâché Rhinoceros? She wants it shipped to Los Angeles? Done. I love these guys. No muss. No fuss. Decisive, authoritative. No over thinking or buyer's remorse. That's the way to spend money.     

I don't expect all customers to make purchases. It's an experience. Sometimes you just want a little fantasy, an escape. A bit of inspiration. Sometimes you feel like crap and you just want someone to talk to for a few minutes. A lot of people are lonely and need to feel a human connection. Some customers are killing time. Others are breezing through and have no time. 

What surprises me most about my job isn't what I do. It's what I don't do. I don't use a computer. I don't read or write anything but sales slips. I rarely talk on the phone. I unpack shipments, price product, feed the fish and tend to the plants. I sweep the floor and tidy up. I see people I know. One of our customers was Lana and Allie's first grade teacher. Mostly, I chat with people. 

I don't worry about work when I go home. Nobody expects me to be on call 24/7 like when I sold real estate. It's peaceful and you can't beat the commute. Five minutes if I drive, ten by bike and twenty to walk. Every day is different. There's a lot going on with the restaurant - special events and photo shoots. Come by if you're ever in the neighborhood and we'll talk. Shop talk.