Category Archives: How to Be a Human

how to be a human

Adventures in hiring: please, not the flip flops

Lately, one can find a number of thoughtful, helpful posts lately regarding the difficult job market, and how to navigate the maze that is finding gainful employment. This is not going to be one of those posts. You see, I’m one of those assholes known as a “hiring manager” (although that’s not my primary job), and folks, I have some stories for you.

For context, I’m responsible for staffing a retail/customer service-oriented workplace. The positions I’ve been hiring for are hourly, higher-than-minimum wage, and, while not particularly glamorous or prestigious, still fairly decent jobs when it comes to the retail industry. We had five open positions, and I had close to three hundred applicants total, over the course of about three weeks. I did a lot of resume scanning, a lot of interviewing, and a lot of shaking my head in disbelief.

Behold, my list of Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Tell Applicants, But Apparently I Really Should:

  • Don’t show up to fill out an application, let alone for an interview, wearing cutoff jean shorts, a low-cut ribbed cotton tank top, and flip flops. (Please, don’t get me started on the flip flops. Probably two thirds of all applicants I encountered were wearing flip flops. More than half wore them to a scheduled interview. Flip flops are now my sworn enemy, much to the dismay of my fifty zillion pairs of them THAT I WOULD NEVER WEAR WHILE I WAS TRYING TO GET A JOB OH MY GOD WITH THE FLIP FLOPS, PEOPLE.)
  • Don’t be rude to the person at the counter. In a retail environment, there’s a very good chance that person may be the manager. Make no mistake, no matter the industry, if you’re rude to the front line employees (receptionists, front desk staff, cashiers), your application will forever be branded with a Post-It note documenting your assholery.
  • “Why do you want to work for [company]?” “I need a job, and this seems pretty easy.” Wrong answer. At least try to lie to me?
  • Don’t tell me how overqualified you are. If I have your resume, I can tell. I make it a point to interview “overqualified” candidates if I think they’ll be a good fit, because I know how horrific the job market is right now. Telling me you’re too good to work here, but you’ll settle because you’re desperate, though, is just not a good idea.
  • Don’t apply to a company with which you have a history of being a bad customer. If you’ve berated, insulted, or abused the staff, why the heck would you want to work there? If your name is flagged as a frequent returner or a check bouncer, maybe you should move on to the next “Help Wanted” ad.
  • Don’t insult me. “Oh, I could never work in retail as, like, a career! God, that’s so depressing! Who would do that?” Me. That’s who.
  • Don’t spend the entire interview talking about your kids/dogs/spouse/herb garden/novel. If you can’t focus on the job for a twenty minute interview, I’m not confident you’ll be able to focus on it for an entire shift at a time.
  • Don’t send an email resume when the job posting says, “Apply in person only. Email and phone inquiries will not be considered.” I have to help customers during this whole process. I’m not in front of a computer, able to sift through ten zillion emailed resumes.
  • Don’t call and ask why you never got called for an interview after you emailed your resume.
  • Don’t: A) chew gum throughout the entire interview; and B) pop it intermittently to punctuate whatever you were saying.
  • FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY IN THE WORLD, FIND SOMETHING TO PUT ON YOUR FEET BESIDES FLIP FLOPS. I honestly would prefer someone walking in with live crocodiles strapped to their feet than flip flops. I’m not asking for $400 Ferragamo pumps. Payless loafers are fine. Ballet flats are fine. If it’s nine zillion degrees out, dressy sandals are fine. FLIP FLOPS ARE NEVER FINE. Ahem.

(This post also appeared at Persephone Magazine.)

Advertisements

How to make a retail complaint without being an asshole

There are about a zillion articles out there that try to tell you, the consumer, how to effectively complain when you’re dissatisfied with something in a retail or service context. I’m someone who has been the drone on the other side of the counter for many, many years, and I’ve read many of those articles to see what sort of information is being suggested to the general public. And I have to say, almost every single one of those articles pisses me off. Most of them advocate customers being loud, aggressive, rude assholes to retail employees until the customer gets what they want because the employee or store wants them to shut up and go away. Since I’ve been that employee more than I’ve been the customer, I’d like to offer a more realistic guide to how to effectively complain and still maintain your integrity as a human being.

Make sure your complaint is reasonable. Are you trying to replace a piece of merchandise because the item is defective, or are you trying to obtain a free replacement because you/your dog/your child dropped the piece of expensive electronic equipment on the floor/stepped on it/sent it through the washing machine? I assure you, store employees can tell the difference, and while it’s certainly nice of a company to replace an item that was ruined due to the customer’s actions, it’s absolutely not their responsibility.

Are there rules, and are you following them? All stores have return policies. All coupons have expiration dates or exclusions. If you’re complaining because you just don’t like the fact that the rules apply to you, well, you may just have to accept that you need to follow the same rules as everyone else. Once again, it’s great if the store or restaurant bends the rules for you, but they don’t have to, and they may not be able to.

Begin the interaction in a calm, reasonable way. Don’t start off angry. Employees are people. I can tell you, from years and years of experience, that the amount of help I’m willing to give a customer with a complaint is almost entirely dependent on how they start the interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I follow the rules completely and entirely for each and every customer, as do most, if not all, retail employees, but if you begin the conversation politely and calmly, explain your complaint clearly and concisely, and are not yelling, screaming, swearing, or throwing things (yeah, that’s a true story), I can almost guarantee that the employee you’re dealing with will be more willing to go above and beyond for you. It’ll also make the whole interaction much less stressful for both of you.

While you’re at it, avoid these phrases:

“I’m a very good customer.” Here’s the thing. Everyone thinks they’re a very good customer. And there are lots of very good customers. But people who pull out this line tend to be the sort who return more than they buy, who are rude to the employees, and who are generally problematic.

“I’ll have your job for this.” Threatening to get someone fired because you aren’t getting what you want not only doesn’t help you achieve your desired result, but it makes you a pretty horrible human being.

“I’m never shopping here again.” I’m just going to go ahead and reveal one of the great retail secrets: When you say, “I’m never shopping here again,” any employee within earshot is thinking, “Good riddance.” Once again, there’s a certain kind of shopper who feels the need to make this proclamation, and it’s not a kind that anyone will miss.

“Do you know who I am?” Yes. You’re a rude jerk who is making my life extremely unpleasant.

Stick to the issue. Don’t use your complaint as a springboard for every little thing that has ever annoyed you. If your issue is that a sale item was rung up at the wrong price, or that the shirt you bought has a hole in it from where the security tag was removed, focus on that. Going off on a rant about how high the prices are and how no one cares about customer service and how there are never enough registers open just obscures the issue and makes you seem unreasonable.

Treat the employee as a human being. I wish that this didn’t have to be spelled out, but it does. I have two degrees and I work in customer service. I love to read. I have a family and friends. I am not a lesser life form. I am not a servant, an idiot, or a punching bag. Treat me like a person, and this whole thing will be much more civilized. Put yourself in the employee’s place and think of how you’d like to be treated.

Escalate appropriately. It’s very important to know that the first person you talk to may not be able to do what you want. They have rules they have to follow, and breaking them may put their job in jeopardy. If they can’t give you your desired result, demanding to speak to their manager is kind of a crappy way to escalate. Back to the human being thing, saying something along the lines of, “I understand you need to follow your policy about this. Is there a manager or owner I can speak to?” is a far more polite way to move up the food chain. And thanking the employee for their help in front of the manager is always appreciated. If your issue is still not resolved, or if the manager is unable to override corporate policy (which is very often the case), you may need to go to corporate directly. Call the company’s customer service number. While explaining the situation, please keep in mind all of the above steps. The person answering the phone is a person, too.

If you’re still unable to get a satisfactory resolution, go to the top. The CEO of a company is generally not thrilled to have a customer complaint letter (and letters do work better than email) come across his or her desk, and although the top dog may not deal with it directly, they will most likely make the appropriate calls so it gets dealt with. In your letter, if applicable, please mention that the store-level employees were as helpful as they could be, but that due to policy, they were unable to give you what you were asking for.

To recap: Be polite. State your complaint clearly and concisely. Don’t be a raving lunatic. Don’t yell or throw things. Recognize that you are dealing with fellow human beings. And if you do get the result you were looking for, thanking the employee is always a nice touch.

(This post originally appeared in Persephone Magazine)

Hell is for retail employees: holiday edition

I’ve just realized that this month marks the beginning of my seventeenth consecutive holiday season working in retail or close-enough-to-retail-that-it’s-pretty-much-retail. So it’s time for a guide to the holiday season, told from the perspective of the poor drones on the other side of the counter.

-Yes, the stores set up their holiday merchandise earlier and earlier every year. Yes, it’s appalling. Yes, it’s annoying. But, as I’ve mentioned before, the employee you’re dealing with in the store has nothing to do with these decisions. Here’s what happens: an email or FedEx package comes from corporate, spelling out exactly what goes where and when. Schematics are given. Floor sets are scheduled. And the stores have to do it. They don’t have a choice. Even if every single employee in any given store decides that Christmas decorations shouldn’t go up until the day after Thanksgiving, they can’t do anything about it. So please, don’t bitch at the store-level employees about the decorations or the music or any of that. If you see a bunch of stodgy-looking people standing around in suits, looking intently at displays or cash register setups, holding official-looking papers and wearing shoes that are clearly not made for standing up for a nine-hour shift in, that’s most likely corporate. They love to invade stores during holiday. Bitch to them.

-If you shop between the day after Thanksgiving and December 24th, the stores will be crowded. You will have to wait in line. You may have trouble finding what you’re looking for. Just fucking accept that and plan accordingly. Everything will take twice as long as you think it should. Things will be sold out. You will  be inconvenienced in some way. Just fucking deal with it like a goddamned grownup.

-There will not be enough registers open. Let’s talk about the too-few register problem for a minute. Those people in suits and improbable shoes I mentioned before? They’re looking to maximize profit. They do that by cutting costs where they can. And where they can is always payroll. So there are four employees doing the job of ten employees. And those four employees have to fight to take their legally mandated breaks, and they get yelled at because the stores are understaffed, and they’re expected to make five zillion dollars in sales per hour with not enough cash registers and no one to spare to do floor recovery, which is retail-speak for cleaning up the unimaginable shitstorm that shoppers leave in their wake. Trust me, those four employees would love to have ten registers open. But the companies won’t pay for that, so they do the best they can.

-This one’s important, so please listen carefully. If you do all of your shopping on the morning of December 24th, you pretty much forfeit your right to bitch about anything. The stores will be cleaned out. The shelves will be bare. Nothing will be on sale anymore. The great deals are gone. What you see is what there is. Get a gift card and save everyone some aggravation. Some Christmas Eve shoppers are awesome. They’re laid back and funny and know they’re sneaking in at the last minute. If you’re going to be a Christmas Eve shopper, be one of that kind.

-Regarding holiday hours: the old saying, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” applies here. Places close early on holiday eves. They close on the holiday itself. Last year, I had to call the cops because a group, no, I’ll say a pack of men attempted to break down the door of my job because we closed at 1:00 on Christmas Eve afternoon, and these men had not yet purchased gift certificates for their wives. So clearly the most logical answer was to pound on single pane glass, screaming, “We know you’re in there!” to two reasonably concerned women. I should mention that our posted hours said that we closed at noon. We stayed open until 1:00, then decided it really was time to close up, an hour after we were supposed to. If the gate is down, and the door is closed and locked, your “But I know what I need” or “It’s only one little thing” or “I’ll just be a second” makes you an awful person. Call ahead. Find out the store’s hours. Be there before that. Because, and I speak from experience here, if we let one last minute shopper in for “just one thing,” the floodgates will never close. Plan better.

-Not being a total and complete dick is the nicest thing you can do for a retail employee during the holiday season that doesn’t involve bringing them chocolate. There are days that I would kill for one person just to be nice to me. For when I say, “Good morning!” to not be answered with, “Fifty dollar gift card.” Basic social niceties. Patience. “Please” and “thank you.” Maybe even a smile. These things cost you nothing extra.

-For those of you who like to get your panties twisted because I say, “Happy holidays” and not “Merry Christmas,” seriously, you can fuck right the hell off. I say that because I don’t know what you celebrate, if you even celebrate anything. Most of the time, I say things like, “Good luck with the rest of your shopping,” or “Drive safely out there; the roads are getting bad,” or sometimes even just “Have a good afternoon.” My not saying “Merry Christmas” is not a personal affront to you. It’s not a symptom of the war on Christmas. I personally don’t celebrate Christmas, but I don’t angrily try to impose my religious beliefs on total strangers during a two-minute interaction. So take your hissed, “Merry Christmas” in response to my “Happy holidays” and shove it up your self-righteous, xenophobic ass. But if you nicely, with good intentions, say, “Merry Christmas” to me, not knowing that I don’t celebrate it, I will always respond with a sincere “Thanks! You too!” Because I’m not a total asshole, and you’re just being nice.

-This one will come up approximately a dozen times a day for the next six weeks or so. You cannot use someone else’s credit card. I don’t care if it’s your husband’s. I don’t care if it’s your mom’s. I don’t care if you have a note. None of those things are legal, and none of them are allowable under your cardholder agreement or our merchant agreement. I don’t know if your husband just left you and you stole his cards and are charging up a storm before he finds out. If it doesn’t have your name on it, you can’t use it. Your husband or mom or whoever can call their credit card company and get a card sent out with your name on it. For free. And you can then use that card. It’s really fucking simple. And while I’m at it, see on the back of your card where it says, “Not valid unless signed”? Yeah, fucking sign your card. Leaving it blank is not a deterrent to theft, and does not automatically mean stores will ask for your ID. It means your card is NOT VALID and that if someone does steal it, they can just sign your name in their handwriting and no one will ever question them. And “See ID” is not a valid signature, but whatever, I check signatures LIKE I AM REQUIRED TO, and if your card says “See ID” and I ask for your ID, fucking have it ready to show me. And don’t get shitty because I asked for it. You’re the one who made up your own little “See ID” rule, not me. Easiest way to avoid all of this? Sign your fucking credit cards.

-For those of you who are good-natured, patient, joyful shoppers: welcome to the holiday season. I hope you find all the bargains you’re looking for and that your season is filled with family and friends and good food and cheer. For those of you who are miserable assholes who take your aggravation with life out on retail employees: online shopping is awesome. You should try it. Alone. In your house. Don’t inflict your misery on the rest of us.

I traded my biological clock for an Xbox: understanding the childfree

We’re going to start this one with a statement of fact: not everyone wants to have children. If this fact confuses you or causes you great moral outrage, proceed with caution. It’s only going to get bumpier from here. If you’re capable of processing that first fact, but are still kind of tilting your head, wondering if it’s really necessary to point out that very simple, basic notion, let me assure you: it is. I just want to make sure everyone’s clear on that before we go any deeper. Mostly because life experiences have taught me that way too many people have a notion in their head that having children is not a decision; it’s a predetermined fact. And for someone who has decided not to have children, that notion is equal parts infuriating and exasperating.

People who have decided not to have children call themselves a variety of things, but “childfree” and “childless-by-choice” are the two most common. Some don’t call themselves anything special, because they are optimistic enough to believe that making a personal decision like that doesn’t need to be given a name. Unfortunately, it sort of does. Because being a parent is seen as the default, and anything that is different from the default seems to need a name so people can process it better. If I have to use a name, I prefer “childfree,” because any version of “childless” implies that children are the desired result, and I am lacking in them. There’s also the fact that “childless” is often used to describe someone who is infertile, or who wants children and does not have them, for whatever reason. While the childfree may be infertile, it’s usually by choice.

When I was younger, I would have classified myself as “militantly childfree.” It was a defense mechanism, really, since at every turn, I was being told I was wrong and young and stupid and didn’t know my own mind. Being part of the over-30 set now has brought me a little bit of credibility, I guess, because while the questioning and the insulting still exist, they’re a lot less overt. So I’d say my current stance is more “gently childfree.” I don’t begrudge the people I know who are parents any happiness with their children, but it still doesn’t mean I want any of my own. And it really doesn’t mean I want to try to be convinced otherwise.

Childfree people get a lot of shit from other people about making this choice. You know, because other people totally have the right to pass judgment on what is, at its core, a very personal decision. Here’s some of the crap we hear:

-“You’ll change your mind.” This is probably the most infuriating, because it assumes that someone doesn’t know their own mind well enough to make a major life decision. And yet, no one says this to anyone who, at 19 or 25 or 30, decides that the only possible way their life will be complete is to have children. Why is that? Why are people who decide the “default” given the benefit of the doubt that they know what they want, while those who decide something that requires an awful lot of contemplation are assumed to be flighty and immature? Do you tell someone who’s pregnant that she’ll change her mind? That it’s permanent and you can’t undo it? That a baby is a big decision that affects the rest of her life and she can’t possibly know at 19 or 25 or 30 that it’s something she’ll want forever? Of course not. But try being a woman who wants to get her tubes tied before having any children. Try telling people that your life plan doesn’t include reproducing. Then, suddenly, you’re an idiot who doesn’t know her own mind, regardless of age.

-“It’s different when it’s your own.” This one comes in response to someone saying they don’t like kids, or don’t have the patience for them, or any other reason that involves not actually wanting a child around in your everyday life. The argument is that when it’s your own child, those things don’t apply. You love it no matter what. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Plenty of parents can’t stand their own kids. And even if there’s a possibility it’s true, should someone really take that chance? That maybe they won’t hate kids once they have one? Seems awfully unfair to the hypothetical kid if it doesn’t turn out that way.

-“You’re selfish.” So? Quite frankly, I have the right to be. If I decide that free time, discretionary income, peace and quiet, and flexibility with various parts of my life are important to me, then it would be awfully dumb to think I could still have all that with a child. As parents are fond of telling anyone in earshot, having children changes everything. And if someone doesn’t want everything to change, then why do we try to force that? Plus, isn’t having children one of the most fundamentally selfish things one person can do? What are the reasons people give for having kids? “I want someone to love (or to love me) unconditionally.” “I think my DNA is special enough that it needs to be propagated.” (That one’s clearly a paraphrase. Save the angry emails.) “I want a little me.” “I want a perfect combination of me and my spouse.” I want, I think, I want, I want, I want… I have rarely, if ever, heard a reason to have kids that doesn’t start with “I want.”

-“You don’t know real love until you have children.” Yeah. Fuck you very much. Who are you to decide that the love I have for my husband, or my parents, or my friends, isn’t “real?” There are lots of kinds of families, and the ones created from choice are just as meaningful and full of love as the ones created by biology.

-“It’s a miracle.” Every living organism ever since the beginning of time begs to differ. Everything alive reproduces. One could argue that it’s the least miraculous thing possible. It’s happened billions and billions of times and will happen billions and billions more.

-“You’re not a real woman.” Yes, I’ve heard this. Yes, the person was serious. Yes, I did somehow manage to stop myself from telling the person to go fuck themselves. Aren’t we as women, hell, as people, past deciding for other people what makes them a “real” woman?

-“Who will take care of you when you’re old?” Do me a favor. Go to your local nursing home/assisted living facility. Talk to some of the residents. Ask them when their children last visited them. Producing offspring doesn’t guarantee you security when you’re old; money does. Most people end up having to pay people to take care of them in their declining years. Plus, fifty years sounds like an awfully long time to wait for a payoff, and frankly, the investment is too high for the potential return.

-“But you’re such a good dog mom!” Last I checked, you can’t crate kids while you’re at work. Not to mention, dogs are pretty self-sufficient, except for the feeding and walking stuff. They amuse themselves. I don’t need to teach them values and spelling and how to use a fork and stuff. The dogs=children thing is not even a thing. Seriously. I love my dogs; hell, I love them more than I like most people, but they are not a substitute for children.

The point I’m trying to make here is that all the choices are valid. Just because you don’t agree with mine doesn’t mean you need to belittle me, infantilize me (and how’s that for some irony?), and insult me. And take a moment to think about this: if someone has decided that they really don’t want children, why would you spend so much time trying to convince them otherwise? Does it minimize your choice as a parent if someone takes a different path? If you feel that children are The Greatest Miracle Ever and being a parent is The Most Important Job In The World, wouldn’t it be preferable if every child was born to parents who are 100% certain that they want them? After all, a child is a permanent decision, and I’d rather take the very very small chance that I regret not having one than risk the more likely outcome that I would regret it if I had one.

What not to say: things better left unspoken

  • Telling total strangers to “Smile!” This drives me up a fucking wall. You know what? Maybe I have a naturally unhappy looking face that looks like I’m frowning when I’m really just neutral. Maybe my grandmother just died. Maybe I just slammed my finger in the car door. Whatever the reason, people are fully entitled to make whatever facial expressions they want without total goddamned strangers commanding them to smile. This is especially infuriating coming from a man directed at a woman, because the man will invariably think it’s a friendly conversation starter. It’s not. It’s rude, it’s invasive, and telling me to smile makes me want to do it even less.
  • “What are you/where are you from/what’s your background?” Nine times out of ten, this is a fishing expedition to find out someone’s race or ancestry. Before you ask this question, ask yourself a few things. Why is it necessary for me to know this information? Is it likely to offend the person I’m asking? Am I really so fascinated by people who look different from me that I need to essentially demand a family tree and DNA report?
  • When are you going to have kids?” I guarantee that every married woman, and probably 90% of all women of childbearing age, regardless of marital status, have been asked this question more than once. Frankly, it’s never appropriate. If the person being asked doesn’t ever plan on having children, the question puts her immediately on the defensive. Not to mention, even if kids are part of the plan, you don’t know if someone is struggling with infertility, or waiting until they’re more financially stable, or really what the situation is at all. Plus there’s the added bonus that, at its core, this is a question about one’s sex life. And it’s really none of your business. If you matter to the person at all, they’ll tell you if and when the kid is on its way.
  • “You’d be so pretty if you’d …” However you were planning to finish that sentence, just don’t. People generally feel two ways about how they look: they’re either unhappy with (or insecure about) their appearance, or they’re perfectly happy the way they are. Either way, telling them your brilliant idea about how they could be even more attractive (to you) is just insulting and unnecessary.
  • “Have I told you about [my religion]?” Look, you seem nice enough. We had a good conversation about that movie that just came out. So far, you seem like a perfectly normal person. And then you start in about your religious beliefs. Usually with no prompting, and always to tell me all the ways in which your beliefs are right, and everyone else’s are wrong. If I wanted to know about this stuff, I’d ask. And I never ask. So let me tell you about the Flying Spaghetti Monster…
  • “Do you know how many calories are in that?” Nope. And I don’t care. If I cared, I probably wouldn’t be eating it. The need some people have to act as the Food Police is obnoxious, presumptuous, and an inclination best kept to one’s self. It’s incredibly annoying, and just stinks of “I wish I were eating that, but I’m so obsessed with the nutritional value of every little thing that I have to make everyone around me as miserable about food as I am.”

Why the grocery store is the fifth level of Hell

  • The aisles are barely wide enough for two carts to pass each other, often leading to an awkward dance of back up, pivot slightly, push forward, hit something, back up again, lather, rinse, repeat. I realize that narrower aisles mean more real estate for consumer goods, but the aisle situation is just annoying.
  • People who leave their shopping carts randomly strewn about the parking lot. The corral is RIGHT THERE, and I bet if it were your car getting battered by a runaway cart, you’d be pretty pissed. Lazy douchebags.
  • Those goddamned kiddie shopping carts that are shaped like cars and are twice as wide as regular shopping carts. There’s no possible way to share an aisle with one of those things without being assaulted by it in some way.
  • People who use shopping carts as weapons are fucking assholes. A polite “Excuse me” works just as well as ramming your cart into the back of someone’s legs.
  • OH MY GOD IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO USE THE SELF-CHECKOUT, PLEASE GO TO A LANE WITH AN ACTUAL HUMAN CASHIER. The process of ringing up a basket of ten items or fewer should not take more than three minutes or so. If you can’t quite grasp what to do when the robot voice tells you to “move your red onion to the belt,” then please just realize that the self-checkout is not meant for you.
  • People who let their kids run wild. I hate it everywhere, but twice as much in the grocery store. Leash the kid to the cart if you have to. Hell, use one of those monstrous abomination kiddie carts. Just keep them out of my way and not throwing shit from the shelves onto the floor.
  • This may only apply to those of us who live in college towns: the gaggles of carbon-copy sororiwhores, decked out in their finest pajama pants and flip-flops, walking three wide, blocking the entire aisle, comparing the calorie counts on Diet Mega Pepsi Maxxx Zero and Coke Cancer.  Their carts always contain: a case of bottled water, lots of diet soda, and six thousand kinds of yogurt.
  • Just once, I would like to walk out of the grocery store without being pestered to donate to this or that, sign some petition, or buy some overpriced useless crap to send the local school club to whatever place they’re going this year. (And, frankly, parents? Pay for that shit yourself. Not my fucking problem.) The donation thing bothers me the most because I do donate to things. I have a budget for it and everything. I don’t do it with coins, though, and I don’t do it outside of the grocery store. Don’t try to make me feel like a bad person for walking by you. I generally only have my driver’s license and debit card on me to begin with, and you don’t have any clue what I gave to the animal shelter this month, so back off, please.
  • The combination of fluorescent lights, perplexing Muzak choices, too many people who are always too loud and too close, the inability to find the one item you were looking for without backtracking halfway through the store, and the constant assault on every sense in every way imaginable is just a panic attack waiting to happen.
  • Grocery delivery services just aren’t for me. The selection of items never quite includes what I’m looking for, I like to pick out my own produce, and I generally “meal plan” around whatever ingredient looks interesting as I’m wandering the aisles. I’m sure, given time, grocery delivery will be perfected, and I’ll use the hell out of it then, but until that day, I need to actually get my ass to the store itself.

I’m one of those people who is thrilled about the gradual shift to an all-automated grocery shopping experience. Yes, as someone who works in retail, I do worry for the jobs being replaced by deli kiosks, self-checkouts, and those magical scan-as-you-shop guns, but frankly, grocery stores even before these things were invented were always wildly understaffed, so I think that they aren’t so much replacing jobs as supplementing them. I love placing my deli order by touch screen, then coming back for it later. I love scanning each item before it goes in the cart so I can see a running tally of how much I’ve spent. I love breezing through the self-checkout with a swipe of the debit card and being on my merry way. It’s all so civilized. You know, except for the other people.

I hate your voicemail

You probably have no idea how annoying your outgoing voicemail greeting is. Or you do, and just don’t give a fuck. Either way, I can pretty much guarantee that, from the perspective of someone who makes often hundreds of phone calls a day, your voicemail is just awful. And here’s why:

  • You have a “ringback.” When someone calls your cell phone, an automated voice tells them to “Please enjoy the music while [their] party is being reached.” Then music of your choice is played in their ear. Here’s the thing: no matter what you’ve chosen, it sucks. It’s a shitty song, played on a shitty half-a-chorus loop, and it makes me want to blow my damn brains out.
  • Your outgoing message is forty minutes long. Listen, it’s voicemail. Everyone knows how it fucking works. “This is [name], please leave a message” is perfectly adequate. As opposed to this: “Hello,  you’ve reached the Jones family, and this is our answering machine! We’re too busy to take your call, or we don’t want to talk to you! {chuckles} If you’d like to leave a message for John, Joan, Jack, Jenny, or Spot, please leave your name, phone number, time you called, and message, and we’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible. If you are a telemarketer or are trying to sell us anything, please remove this number from your dialing list and never call again, or we will seek action under the Federal Do Not Call List. For everyone else, we’ll call you back! Have a nice day! Bye!” So. Fucking. Unnecessary. For fuck’s sake.
  • You let your barely verbal child leave the message. “Burble burble mehmeh ggllllggguh BAH BAH BAH BAH Jones fammy weev meffige BYYYYYYEEEE.” This is cute to no one but you. I promise you that.
  • Your voicemail doesn’t pick up until ten rings in. OH MY GOD DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THAT IS WHEN I HAVE TO MAKE FOUR THOUSAND MILLION PHONE CALLS?
  • Each person in the family shouts their name into the phone, in succession. Too many voices. Too much volume. Let’s just keep the shouting to a minimum all around; can we do that, please?
  • This one is not your fault, but it’s still unbearably annoying. This one is entirely on the cell phone providers. The neverending menu of choices after your outgoing message has ended is just ridiculous. No one ever presses 5 to leave a callback number. No one ever sends a numeric page. No one ever needs to do anything except leave a message, so just cut the shit, cellphone companies, all right?

Now, I think it’s only fair that I tell you what a good voicemail greeting is. As far as I’m concerned, you have two choices, really:

  1. The aforementioned, “This is [name], please leave a message.” Short, straightforward, and to the point. Simplicity is key here.
  2. The robot voice. I love the robot voice. We’re close friends. The robot voice tells me your phone number, and tells me you’re unavailable, then lets me do my thing. The robot voice doesn’t think it’s funny or clever. The robot voice doesn’t try to impress me. It’s simple, direct, and easy to understand. It doesn’t waste my time. We should all aspire to be more like the robot voice.