Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gift Cards

Sometimes, Guests pay with gift cards. Not just Target gift cards (which are a post for another time), but gift cards provided by Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.

This is not a good thing.

First of all, when you buy one of these gift cards, the bank actually charges you on top of the amount on the card. So that’s a point to the “con” side of the tally sheet.

Then, there’s the usage. When you get, say, a $25 card, you know it has $25 on it. But when you use part of it, will you remember that you have, say, $4.82?

Well, I hope you do, because if the amount of your card is less than the total cost of your purchase and I don’t know that ahead of time, we’ll have a problem.

Some of these cards want to work as debit cards. I don’t have a problem with that, as long as you have a PIN. But 9 times out of 10, you don’t, and my register doesn’t accept debit cards without PINs.

So we use it as a credit card. Except when the card has less money on it than your total, the register will reject it, just as if you were using a normal credit card and went over your credit limit.

The way around this requires you to know exactly how much you have left on the card. You tell me that amount, and instead of having you insert your card for automatic payment fun, I tell the register that you’re using a card – and how much you’re putting on it. I essentially treat it as if I were going to run the card on my end rather than through the reader.

Which I’ll explain another time. Just trust me on this one.

Ok, so you’ve put your $4.82 toward your purchase, and now it’s time to pay the balance. But wait! You can’t use a credit card, because the register will only accept one credit card and one debit card per purchase.

Complicated, isn’t it?

So what’s the lesson of this story? If you want to give a gift, but you won’t/can’t give an actual gift, and you don’t want to limit your loved ones by giving them store-specific gift cards, but you find cash tacky…

Write them checks. Everyone wins.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


It’s Saturday. You got the sale circular in your newspaper, or in the mail. Since you got it today, the sale must start today, right?

Not exactly. Sales run Sunday to Saturday. If it’s in the ad, it won’t go on sale until Sunday. The dates of the sale are on the back of the circular, if you’re not sure.

But to be fair, what you call a “sale” actually encompasses several things. There are actual sales; they are usually what are in the ad. Sometimes there are a few things that don’t make it into the ad; sometimes, a few things in the ad fall into other categories. But generally, “in the ad” equals “on sale.”

Something else that shows up in the ad is the “Low Price.” That tends to be our normal price; we’re just bragging that we sell it for less than the other guys. Often, that’s not even the case – our “Low Price” is the same as Wal-Mart’s or Best Buy’s, at least within a few dollars. Hold out for a sale if you can.

“Price Cuts” are like sales, but they last longer. The item might be marked down for as much as a month, but it’s going back up at the end of that period. If there’s a sign on the shelf bragging about a “Price Cut,” check the date – sometimes, someone forgets to take them down, and then I get yelled at. I don’t know why; I’ve never set a sale price in my life.

Then, there’s “Clearance.” Clearance items have those little reddish tags on them. Clearance items are priced as marked; if the item is 25% off and the tag reads “$9,” it costs $9 and originally cost $12. See how that works? Clearance stickers usually have the original price, the percent discount, the current price, and the DPCI (item number) on them – so we know when a sticker has been scraped off one item and stuck to another.

Sometimes, two similar-looking items will be different prices. Sometimes, the wood-stained furniture is on sale, but the white-painted furniture isn’t. I can’t mark down the white furniture for you, because it’s not an error; the ad specifically says “wood-stained,” and that’s all there is to it. Sometimes, the black shoes are clearanced out but the brown ones are not. This means that the brown shoes still sell well, but no one is buying the brown ones. I can’t give you the brown shoes at the clearance price. Sometimes, an item is on clearance at one store but not another. That means that one store sells it well and the other doesn’t. That’s just how it is.

We only give rain checks for sale items. If it is in the sale circular, and it is not a seasonal, Low Price, or clearance item, we give rain checks. Otherwise, we don’t.

But the story of rain checks will have to wait until some other time.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Price Check

“Wow,” I said, sounding concerned. “Are the price scanners still broken?”

Now, full disclosure: the price scanners were broke recently – if, by “recently,” you mean “June.” And I am legitimately concerned about them being broken, because I use them when I’m shopping.

But that quote? I say that when I’m asked to do a price check while ringing your purchases up. Roughly translated, it means, “Why haven’t you already taken care of this?”

What am I talking about?

Throughout the store, there are red posts. These have a call button you can push if you need help, a phone Team Members can use to communicate with Guests or cashiers, and a price scanner. If you run the bar code under the scanner, it will tell you the current price.

So if you’re not sure if a particular item is on sale, or if you can’t find the price tag on the shelf (if it’s been put away properly, you should be able to, but that doesn’t always happen), or if you don’t know which of two items is a better deal, you can use these scanners to find out.

The scanners are on the same system as the registers and the Team Members’ scan guns, so you can be assured that the price that comes up on the scanner is current – and that if it’s wrong on the scanner, it’s wrong in the register, too, so you can be prepared to deal with that (or, better yet, inform a Team Member in the department, so that he or she can fix it right away).

The scanners are there for your convenience, so that you don’t have to lug around items that you’re not sure you want. In the end, though, that works out into our convenience, as well. So, ultimately, it helps everyone if you use the price scanners instead of waiting until you get to the register.

The Belt Part II

Your clothing will not drag on the conveyor belt if you just set it there.

Conveyor belts are a lot like escalators. The belt moves around and around, but you – or your purchases – stay still. When you go up or down on the escalator, your feet do not drag, or pick up the dirt from the stair you are standing on.

Likewise the conveyor belt. If you put your shirt – even your white shirt – on the conveyor belt, it’s no different than, say, setting it on the counter. Sure, it might not be the cleanest surface in the store, but it’s not like you’re dragging it on the floor.

Now, if you’re really worried about it, feel free to set your clothing on top of one of your other purchases (just make sure I can reach everything). I should warn you, though – my belt is probably cleaner than some of your boxes.

On that note, let me mention the cleanliness of the belt. Sometimes, there are wet spots on the conveyor belt. There are generally two reasons for this:

First, I just cleaned the belt, and it hasn’t had time to dry completely.

Second, someone placed a cold item on the belt, and the condensation dripped off.

Now, in the first case, clearly the belt is clean, or at least cleaner than it was before I wiped it down. Still, many Guests would prefer to set their nice, new clothing on the dry, dirty belt than the newly cleaned, slightly damp one. Fine.

In the second case, though, think about it. Condensation is re-liquefied water vapor. When something really cold is exposed to hot, damp air (as the air tends to be in Philadelphia in the summer), the coldness actually causes the moisture in the air to get cold enough to turn from a gas to a liquid. This water sticks to the cold items, usually sodas or frozen dinners.

The water, in other words, came directly from the air. Assuming your food products are clean, the water that is on the belt is probably cleaner than the stuff coming out of the water fountain (which, if you’re curious, is located right next to the rest room).

So either way, if there’s a damp spot on the belt, it’s likely to be the cleanest spot there. Now, you might have items you don’t want getting wet, no matter how clean it is. But if it’s dirt, not water, you fear, you’re in good shape on my slightly damp conveyor belt.


Sorry about missing last week. The move to New York was hectic, and the process of getting internet access continues to be hectic. But to make it up to you, I'll be posting not just one entry for today, not just two entries for this and last week, but three entries today. So enjoy.

Where’s the bathroom?

You’re almost done with your shopping, and thanks to that soda you’ve been carrying around (and yes, I can throw out the bottle for you once it’s paid for), you have to go. So you ask me where the restroom is.

Turns out, it’s right behind you. And you actually could have found that out on your own. How?

Look up.

There’s a large sign hanging from the ceiling that reads “Rest Rooms.” That would be where the restroom is. Often, you are standing directly under it when the need presents itself.

There’s also a large sign hanging from the ceiling that reads “Fitting Room.” That would be where the fitting room is. Trying things on is a great way to avoid having to return them (although I’ll give the men a break; the fitting room is tucked neatly between little girls’ clothing and maternity wear. Awkward).

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Not all of the signs are hanging from the ceiling. Some are attached to the walls. Scrawled across the wall in neon lights are the phrases “Guest Service,” “Electronics,” and “Grocery,” to name a few.

Some of the signs are less obvious. The ATM has a small “ATM” sign hanging over it, but since the machine is in a corner next to Guest Service, you’re unlikely to see the sign from across the store. Fair enough.

Generally, though, you can find any department in the store by looking up. You can find out which registers are open by looking up. You can find the Taco Bell by looking up.

Supposedly, the last place anyone looks for anything is up. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea to give you…

A heads-up.