This is not about Johnny Depp or John Waters despite my undying devotion to both
Hello Dear Reader. Let me set the scene for you. Just past 6PM on a Saturday night in PDX. Everyone else is downtown getting ready for the Starlight Parade. Yours truly is obsessed with stitching Natalie Chanin's rosebud stitch and decides, after a long day's work at her own retail job, to head to Fabric Depot -hereafter (and occasionally prior to) known as Fabric Creepo.
My beloved Mill End is already closed for the day and it is a sewing emergency. I need buttonhole thread.
As usual, Fabric Creepo, you do not have what I need, but I find a few things I want. It is me, about 4 other customers and 15 staff members in the gigantic store. I pick out some stretch denim for a skirt I want to make and embroider. I just need a yard or two.
There is one customer at the huge 4 sided cutting station. Normally there is a line at each corner with 2 employees on each side cutting for 8 customers. Tonight, praise the Rose Festival Princesses, it's just little old me waiting for the sole employee who is assisting the customer ahead of me.
As I wait calmly for a few minutes I am approached by two different employees. Do these employees want to offer to cut my fabric? Hell no! Each of them has decided I need to be herded like the stupid sheep I am.
The first says, "You need to stand at the corner of the cutting tables." She then walks away. O.K. I move to the corner. Then moments later another employee sees me standing with the bolt of fabric in my arms by myself, still the sole customer waiting at the cutting station. She also decides I need to be moved and tells me " Please move closer to the sign with the arrow." Oh, the sign a foot to my left? That one? O.K.
A minute or so later the employee who has been helping the other customer wanders my way to tell me, "You need to be standing behind the sign."
O.K. ladies, throughout each of these encounters I have moved exactly where I have been directed. I have not made a single sound or strange facial expression. I have merely complied with your need to assert your dominance over me your obviously highly annoying customer.
However, I feel at this juncture that its my turn to give some directions. So I say, "I have now been asked to move 3 times by 3 different employees and still no one will cut my fabric." That's all. Said in a friendly, if somewhat ironic way.
The employee looks at me ( in a rather self-satisfied manner imho but I am trying to spare embellishment for the sake of absolute clarity here) and says, "Well, if you won't stand where you are TOLD to, we will think you are being helped and we will ignore you." Then she smiles nastily, walks away, and does just that.
Bitch please! Have I mentioned that I also work retail? It is a tough gig. I know. There is no glory, only guts and not always your own. I give tremendous latitude to retail workers because we see some pretty atrocious human behavior on a regular basis. I have been at no time during this visit unkind or, up until my first exchange with the 3rd clerk, verbal at all. Now I am rendered speechless.
I stood there for a few moments just stunned and heart sick that someone felt so small they need to wound a stranger. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. I was immobilized by such a sense of grief.
She wandered back, took my bolt, and said "How much?" Still in a state of disbelief I simply said, "Two yards please." She cut it and I moved quickly to the bank of cashiers. No waiting there. No directions for location changes either.
However, as I tried to pay with my credit card, the cashier kept scrutinizing my signature and then looking up at me with a very puzzled expression (which probably matched my own). Then she said, "I'm going to need to see some ID please." " Going to need to" not "please may I."
O.K. no big deal. It is good to be careful about credit cards. And admittedly, a $9 dollar fabric purchase is probably the perfect crime. So, I hand her my license.
She takes a good long look at it and then, apparently horrified, a good long look at me. She does this not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. THREE DOUBLE TAKES AT ME!!!
O.K. yes, my license picture could be better. I look a bit like a serial killer in the photo and at the time it was snapped I had long hair which was today curled up in two buns on either side of the back of my head. But lets take a moment to return to reality. A $9 dollar charge that has been authorized by the credit issuing bank. A woman wearing a blue linen jumper and birkenstocks (for the love of dog!) with a wallet full of id splayed before you, and your thoughts turn to what? Robbery?
Finally, I snapped.
I said, "Now I remember why I always vow never to shop here again." And she looked at me like I'd asked for the cash in her register. I asked if she need more forms of ID, a DNA sample, or if she and her fellow clerks would like to take a moment to see if they could possibly cook up any other ways to make me feel more uncomfortable. I started to flash on Jack in 5 Easy Pieces (you know the diner scene) and yet I was barely making any noise at all-still in shock.
The cashier just next to us asked if there was any trouble and the clerk said, "No. She doesn't want me to check her ID."
My head exploded.
Then I detailed calmly and concisely (with, I am certain, an embarrassing crimson red face of mortification) my experience of Fabric Creepo's customer service during my 10 minute visit for this newly interested employee.
She apologized multiple times for my "being made to feel uncomfortable" which was nice of her as she was blameless and yet took one for her ridiculously rude team. She gave me a comment form to send in to the company and a card with the address. So, I am grateful for her attempts to be kind when all around her a sea of retail workers seemed hell bent on making me cry.
I love textiles of all sorts. I think I have mentioned that I am a die-hard Mill End girl. They may not offer 35% off sales often, but they are near my hood and have everything I need when I need it. Their staff is made up of fellow artists who are professional, helpful, and kind.
They close shop before I am finished with my work day. This is an O.K. thing. Apparently, assisting fabric store customers is equivalent to hand to hand combat or bomb disposal. I believe stores should keep human hours and workers should have time to be home for dinner. When forced to work past 6PM on Saturdays, they can not be held accountable for their rage.
I can only visit The Mill End on my days off. I will bear that in mind whenever I am jonesing for buttonhole thread, denim, embroidery floss, or in fact, anything textile related. Mill End and Etsy only from here on out.
I promise you Fabric Creepo I will never darken your door again.
Now I'm gonna go have a good cry and maybe tell Johnny all about it.