Thursday, December 26, 2013

Post-Holiday Return Guide

It's the rare person who enjoys returning stuff, whether it's an unwanted gift or a defective piece of merchandise. Here are some tips to make the return process much easier, plus some information that might head off problems and save you time and money:

1. Argh, I can't find my receipt and/or I can't get the receipt and/or I don't want to confess that I really didn't want that lime green and pink striped sweater!
  Don't just assume that you're doomed. Not all stores require a receipt. What you will need to know is where the item was purchased. It may require a Google search to find out what stores carry the brand and model of item you're looking for. Stores often have a designated UPC code, so, for example, an item bought at Joe's Mega Store won't usually come up in the system at Woo Hoo Grocers, even if the model is identical in every way. One store can't accept a return on behalf of another store, especially if it's defective. Manufacturers and distributors track what goes where, and they're unlikely to give one store credit for an item that they knew was shipped to another store if the item can't be resold.

Speaking of UPCs, bring as much of the packaging as possible. Don't throw away those boxes until you're absolutely sure your gift has no defects. I know they're bulky and awkward. Fold them up and put them someplace until the thirty days are up and you're no longer able to do a store return. Keep the boxes longer if the item has a long warranty that requires shipping to fulfill. If you don't have the box or whatever packaging the item came in, be prepared for the possibility that your return will take extra time or may not be able to be processed.

2.  Okay, I took the item to the right place and they accept returns without receipt, but they're giving me the sale price and I know it was purchased at full price. What the heck?
  Unless you can prove it, you're likely stuck getting the most recent sale price when you return an item with no receipt. If you bought the item, sometimes if you provide the date and time that you bought the item, a store with a decent tracking system might be able to pull up an electronic receipt for you. They might not be able to do it on the spot, which means you'll have to take your item home and wait for a call back when they find the information. Prepare to be patient, calm, polite ... they're more likely to help you out than if you play hard ball.
Every customer's business is valuable, but threatening never to return will probably earn a sigh of relief rather than force the clerk to accommodate you. If it seems like the clerk is exhausted, edgy or evasive, remember, they're human. After return number one hundred and eleven they're done with special cases. Nicely ask to speak with a supervisor. They're there to handle special cases and you may be asking the clerk to do something he or she doesn't have the authority to do anyway.

3.  It's been more than thirty days. I hate my life.
  Don't hate your life! Many stores will accept returns after thirty days, especially around the holidays because they know many things were purchased well in advance of the holidays and were intended for a holiday gift. Give it a try. But, be warned. Some stores have exceptions, for example, delicate electronics might not be returnable after a much shorter time frame, like 2 weeks, or they may not even be returnable at all. Kindness, patience, and persistence go a long way toward reaching an accommodation. Yelling or threats tend to make even the most customer-friendly managers dig their heels in. If you're really nice, they might even offer alternatives that you're not aware of. Managers like friendly customers, and want to help them any way they can so those customers feel welcome to come back.

4.  It's defective, never worked right out of the box and I have nothing. Nothing! I'm doomed.
  It's a gift, right? If you really want it, really love it but it doesn't work and you can't return it at the store level, go to the manufacturer. Really. They'll probably make you ship it to them, but not always. I had a problem with a leaky water filter. It started leaking only a couple of weeks after I installed it. I had no receipt, and the store I got it from wouldn't take it back. I called the manufacturer and they sent me a coupon to get a new one for free. They didn't even make me ship them the old one, because they were aware of the defect in that lot.
If you do have to ship ... shipping can be expensive, but it might not be as bad as you think, and it may be worth it. If you think about how much the item is worth to you versus how much you're willing to pay to have it ....  Yes, it stinks that the gift-giver is robbed of the intent of giving a gift because the manufacturer goofed. But the way the manufacturer keeps costs from skyrocketing through fraud and theft, and the way they learn how to develop a better product, is to actually have the defective item in their hands. Long term, that works to your advantage.
You can always call the hotline or email and find out whether or not they'll refund your shipping costs if they find an actual manufacturing defect, or compensate you in some other way, like coupons or special offers.

5. Ugh. It's such a hassle!
  It's tempting, especially with gas prices being what they are, to do a return at the same time that you do a regular shopping trip. Resist temptation! You don't have to make a designated trip, but do consider going without the kids if you can. It's even more boring for them than regular shopping, and there's less for them to see and do during a return.
Try to schedule your return when you have plenty of time, and when you don't have a ton of stuff to pick up and get home in a timely fashion. Avoid peak hours if you can. Lunch, and right around 5pm (when people are getting off work and on their way home) are usually busy. Weekends after 11 am are also typically busy, especially after the holidays.
Also, assume that there's going to be a wait, and that things might not necessarily go smoothly. If you have that expectation, you'll be less likely to develop frustrations that will make the process far less pleasant for you.
If the clerk is dawdling or talking to a coworker, rather than let your blood pressure rise and your temper get the better of you, take a deep breath and resolve to fill out a customer service report card. Getting worked up and angry at the clerk will do more harm to you than to that person. Taking calm, rational actions against poor customer service will do far more good for you and for everyone! And if you get good, fast customer service, consider filling out a report card for that too. Employers are more inclined to give good clerks more hours and more compensation, making it more likely that you'll continue to get good service. With no feedback, employers only know how well their employees are behaving when they're physically present, and employees are usually on their best behavior then. Bear in mind, too, that an employee may not be deliberately malicious, just poorly trained.

6.  It's hopeless. The store won't do anything, the manufacturer won't do anything, and I'm stuck.
  If the item is in good condition, package it, store it someplace safe, and regift it somewhere down the road. Or save it for a garage sale. You can organize a gift swap with your friends in mid-January. If the item doesn't work, look into charities that accept non-working items of otherwise high value that require repair. Sometimes they have volunteers repair them or they sell the parts for a good cause. Look up recycling centers and scrap services, especially for items that have a lot of metal in them. If you approach your unwanted or non-working gift as something you can apply your creativity to, it can cease to be an issue and turn into an opportunity to try something new or have a little fun.

7. This sounds horrible. It's not worth it to even try. Besides, all the store customer service desks are packed this time of year, and the phone lines are always busy and I'll end up on hold forever ....
  Don't talk yourself out of it before you even begin. A little planning, and with your expectations aligned with common store policies, you're far more likely to find that making a return is easier and faster than you anticipated. As for the wait on the phone, learn to love your speaker on your phone and play some solitaire. They'll get to you as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Creation and Destruction

Another brilliantly gorgeous day. I'm listening to Lindsey Stirling, and I'm debating whether I want to clean up around my desk area, do artwork, write ... might have to just do it all today.

I think the thing that makes me most resistant to cleaning is a close relative of what makes me happy when it's done. Sometimes the clutter is incredibly overwhelming, and it feels like clearing a small part of it does so little good that I might as well spend my time and energy on something that has a more significant impact, or gets me closer to my longer term goals. Cleaning is an endless battle and I get emotionally worn out even before I begin.

At the same time, when I do clean even a tiny bit, I get a disproportionate sense of pride, and a little burst of hope. If only I did just this little bit every day, my home would be so fantastic!

But I don't do a little bit every day, and I lose whatever progress I've made in the days that go by.

That's one of the many things I love about writing and art. If I dilly dally too long, I might forget what I was doing in a book, but other than that, I can't 'lose' progress on a work of art or a book through neglect. Once the colors or the words are there, they're there until they're actively destroyed.

Of course, now that I've said that, is adding clutter to a clean area a form of destruction?

Stuff to think about. Like writing and art, keeping house requires developing good habits and rooting out bad habits. That requires long practice. Think that after almost thirty years of keeping my own house, I might learn how to keep it neat?

That would be nifty.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Almost Isn't the Season Anymore

A gorgeous Christmas Eve morning. Brilliant sunshine, a bit of mist on the river and between the hills, and the rain-soaked landscape has a diamond glitter to it. It's going to be one of those days when our goats and chickens will be out playing and chasing each other, and the dogs will be basking in the sunlight as if they're on a beach in 80 degree weather.

I'm not sure what to expect at work today. Panicked shoppers picking up last-minute things? That's a fair bet. Big crowds? I'm hoping not. That'll stress everyone out. Crazy driving? I pray people will remember that they're controlling thousands of pounds of deadly steel, and that you can't negotiate with physics or hit reset in the real world. Will folks be relaxed and ready to enjoy themselves after weeks of preparation? That would be sweet. And for everyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, I hope that you'll find reprieve from the beautiful madness that burdens this time of year.

Well, maybe after the post-Christmas sales are done, and the return lines shrink back to normal.

Assuming the weather doesn't get dangerously playful.

Soon we'll say farewell to 2014. Are you ready to take stock of your year, and make your plans for the future?

Peace, joy, love and all good blessings upon you. May your day be bright.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Musing of the day:

Over the course of a long-term relationship, do people naturally stop planning and dreaming together and start working around each other? Maybe over time, as goals are achieved one after another and there are fewer things on the list of mutual goals, the list of things we want to accomplish together seems short compared to the list of things we want to do that the other person isn't interested in. Or maybe we become specialists, either by design or default. Managing a relationship and/or a household becomes more efficient as the couple negotiates who will replace the furniture when it becomes worn and who will clean out the garage when the clutter starts to build up. Our busy lives can pressure us not just to specialize, but to work independently and alone. Efficiency is good, but it runs the risk of creating territories, and human beings can be very territorial. I know. I'm pretty territorial.

I think it's good to get together now and then to plan and dream, and to work toward projects as a team rather than individuals. Tasks might still be divided, territories will still form, but with big dreams of big futures that require two people, two friends, two lovers (come on you guys, this is poetry, not me talking about six different people!) to achieve, maybe the things that change a relationship into rote roles and territories won't seem like the whole of the world. Maybe those things will become the lesser part of the relationship, the maintenance part, and the purpose behind the relationship, the dreams and plans, will take their rightful place as the things that make two people into partners instead of room mates.

I have a great partner. I wonder what we'll plan for next.

And he'll say, "the same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!"*

Except it'll probably be something more like, start pricing fencing materials for a new goat enclosure.
Carving out new pasture is pretty much the same thing as trying to take over the world.

Taking over the world might actually be slightly easier.

* quote from Pinky and the Brain, an animated TV series produced by Steven Spielberg that aired from 1995-1998

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter Wildlife Feeding Tips


This weather is tough on the wildlife. Most people don't think about that, or think too much on it. There's a lot of suffering going on out there in the big world, both in human-created civilizations, the outskirts, and in the animal kingdom. It's a balancing act. There's no way to make all the animals in your area happy and safe and warm and fed, and they're never going to weave your hair into a braid or sweep your porch for you. But it is nice, as a fellow living creature, to look out for our companions on this planet when resources are thin on the ground and the weather is nasty.

Salt licks for deer. Yeah, the fuzzy, sweet-faced, big-eyed and big-eared vermin drive me nuts, but they are adorable and it's great fun to watch them hang out in your yard. When it's cold, the molasses in those licks gives them a few extra calories plus needed minerals when the plant life all around them has sucked most of the nutrients down to the roots for winter.

Suet cakes for birds. Lots of calories, and not as much waste as plain ol' seed. Hang up multiple cakes so that bully birds have a harder time hoarding the cakes, although I've noticed that different species of birds come to the cakes at different times, so the bully birds aren't always going to be there every second of the day. That gives other birds a chance to supplement their regular winter diet too.

Hummingbird nectar. One part sugar, four parts water. I usually do a 1/2 cup of water and 1/8 cup of sugar, but if you have lots of them in your neighborhood you may have to do more than that, or even have more than one feeder. Hummingbirds go into torpor overnight and during the worst parts of the day. They'll usually come to the feeder first thing in the morning when able. They'll also return later in the day during warmer or lower-wind stretches if weather allows. My mom puts a regular light bulb in an outdoor-rated socket near the feeder to keep it thawed. Another friend activates a hand-warmer and tapes it to the bottom of the feeder. Still another takes the feeder in overnight so that it's at house temperature and then puts it out in the morning. Unless the weather is exceptionally cold, sugar water will remain thawed for several hours if it starts at room temperature. The clear boxes with the red lids that have holes in them are the easiest to keep sanitary, but I find that the suction cups that hold them to the window become detached more easily in winter than in summer, so I use one of the hanging bottles with fake flowers around the red base. Protect your hummingbird feeder from wind if you can, both to help the birds and to keep the feeder from smashing to bits, but don't overdo it. The birds need space to approach and depart from the feeder safely, and they feel safer if they have a clear sightline in as many directions as possible. Yes, cats can catch hummingbirds. A friend of mine told me about a cat who caught hummingbirds almost every day out of her yard until she strung up a feeder up high to divert the birds from feeding in her flowerbeds and raspberry bushes where the cat could easily sneak up on them.

If you've seen wild bunnies in your area, you can try to put out sunflower seeds and/or cracked corn in pans on the ground for them. (Doves will also help themselves to cracked corn if it's left on the ground–they're ground feeders and very rarely go to regular bird feeders unless you have a large one with a flat bed they can hop around in.) I avoid attracting bunnies, and in fact try to deter them in the summer, but I like to see them in the wintertime because I don't have vegetable gardens for them to raid, and feeding them keeps the pressure off of my dormant roses. I used to put a pan of sunflower seeds and chunks of dried, stale bread out on a defunct wood stove we have in the garden and the bunnies would hop right up to feast. They've also hunted around for fallen stuff under the bird feeders before. The jays, of course, also help themselves (which will keep them out of your regular bird feeders so the little birds can have their share.) Don't leave pans of bunny food on the ground overnight. It'll attract rats.

Squirrel mix, peanut butter smeared on dried corn cobs, unsalted peanuts in the shell, etc. for squirrels. Hate squirrels because they get into the bird feeders? Try giving them their own spot with their own food. Bully birds tend to focus on whole peanuts too. They can only carry one at a time, and tend to fly off with their loot rather than pick at it at the feeder, so it majorly reduces competition for those seeds you put out for smaller birds.

Got any winter wildlife feeding tips? Post 'em in the comments.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Dogs in the Man House

Finn, with Brian in the background
It's about 26 F (-3 C) here. The outdoor dogs are in for a warm up. Our big dogs, Brian and Finn, are fine in this sort of weather, especially since there's no wind. Little Chase, on the other hand, is just a wee thing with only a thin coat of fur (well, she's got long-ish hair over most of her, but still) and it especially does her good to be inside. In fact, it's good for all our dogs to be in for a little while to let their ears warm up. Besides, who would want to break up the pack? They're a team. Buds. Family. All for one, and one for all.

They all spend the night in the same big doghouse together. It's a pile of shaggy, white fur with the little black and white one curled up somewhere in the middle. During the day today, when it was a balmy 32 degrees, the white dogs basked in the sunshine, stretched out on their sides while Chase ran after cars along the fence line. Her well-worn track is nice and hard and dry right now, in prime condition to help her outrun even the fastest moving drivers along the road. She gives herself a little head start on them, but by golly she beats them fair and square. If she was loose she'd snag 'em by the bumper and flip them through the air for sure.

I love our dogs. They're really amazing. They function really well outside in temperatures that have me shivering in a few minutes, and that's with me wearing layers of clothes. When it gets this cold, though, they can't tell me when their ears are getting numb or when they're hurting. They don't always shiver when they're cold. And Brian? Giant, beautiful, over a hundred pounds Brian? He's a big chicken. We usually have to drag him indoors because he's afraid of the slippery floors. If he had his choice, he'd be outside all the time. None of the dogs, in fact, whine to get let in during weather like this. We have to decide for them when it's a good idea for them to warm up for an hour or two.
Chase, the wee one, with Finn

It's a judgement call. Everyone makes their own based on breed, habits, what they know of their dogs, and past experience. Some things to take into account:

The dog itself may not be in danger, but ears can freeze and then the skin can split apart, causing permanent damage. Puts a whole new meaning to dog-eared. Happens to cats, too.
Just like on people, toes are vulnerable too, and snow and/or ice can get packed in so tight that only thawing will get it out.

Access to water in extremely cold weather quickly becomes limited. One of the first things our dogs did when they came in was have a good drink of water. Their water, despite the fact that we refresh it with warm water over the coarse of the day, freezes over quickly. They're accustomed to drinking a little here, a little there ... and a little there isn't always available in freezing weather.

Brian washes Finn's ears
Oh, and the water they drink? Icy, icy cold. Imagine eating ice cream outside in freezing weather. Cold water can bring their core temperature down.

If you suspect your dog has received an injury from cold, call the vet and talk to them. A phone call costs nothing. Even cheaper? Head off any chance of it and enjoy some quality time with your outdoor pets. If you're used to having them outside all the time, initially your home will seem like a madhouse, but trust me. The contrast between the temps outside and inside will soon have your outdoor dog or cat reclined somewhere comfie for a nice snooze. There will be peace, happiness, and safety. Added bonus? Rare opportunities to snag some great pics for facebook or your blog.

Even as we speak, Brian has made his peace with being inside for a while, and is snoozing by the couch, fast asleep ....

For the curious who don't know, Finn and Brian are Great Pyrenees crosses. Finn's dad was a lab, and Brian's was a golden retriever (at least as near as we can tell.) They're reserved, affectionate but not overly pushy about it, and tend to bark more when they want to play or because they're excited that we're home than they do at strangers. Chase is probably mostly border collie. I don't base that purely on form (which isn't perfectly typical) or color (which is.) She's got the personality, and loads of it!

All our dogs are rescues, btw, which is my favorite breed. Hope you had a happy turkey day, everyone!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Holiday Shopping Technique & Etiquette

In my experience, people don't really put a lot of thought into how they shop, when, etc. except from the perspective of their own immediate, as opposed to long-term convenience or the real consequences of their behavior. If you grab stuff out of other peoples' shopping carts, let your kids run wild through the store, or bring your pet and lie about whether or not it's a service animal, stop reading. There's no hope for you. Failing that, if you're curious about a retail employee's perspective on shopping and the surprisingly simple things you can do that will actually make things easier and enjoyable for you when you shop, read on.

The number one challenge for many parents: shopping with kids. Don't worry. I'm not going to chastise you about supervising your kids, observe how dangerous carts are, or complain about bawling toddlers forced to go shopping while they're ill or during their nap time. I'm assuming you're already doing your best.

A lot of kids hate the carts. I don't blame them. Riding in those little seats is uncomfortable. I strongly suggest bringing a baby blanket along. Don't worry so much about the plastic seat. That's not the issue. It's hard contact with the plastic and metal that runs under their thighs and the bar between the legs. It takes a little practice, but if you can get just a couple of layers in there, it makes a world of difference. Some kids don't mind, but the ones that do ... yeah. A lot of kids point at the baby carts we have, wishing they had that padding but they're too big and it would be dangerous for a toddler to ride in a seat meant for an infant. If they're too big even for those seats built into the carts, a travel blanket still comes in handy as padding for the bottom of the cart for those times when it's easier for them to ride inside. If the kids are comfortable, they're far less likely to whine and cry.

Kids like to help. Let them! Send the older ones on missions to find things, and younger ones can try to find what you're looking for first and point to it. This will keep them occupied, and teach them how to find stuff for the family. They can even learn to approach and ask for help from employees, which is always a good habit. But, if they don't get the right thing ....

Part of my job involves cleaning up the aisles after people have sorted through them. I get paid for it, so I don't mind finding a tube of toothpaste shoved behind the dolls. It's all good. Having said that, you can make shopping easier for yourself and your kids by not making them put stuff back themselves. In fact, you don't have to put it back either! As long as they're not chewing on it or tearing up the packaging (more on this later) let them have it in the cart for a while. You can pass it off to the cashier, and we'll put it back for you. It's just like the library. If you don't know exactly where something goes, it's much easier for the librarian and you to just put it in the go-back cart, right? Some people tell us that various items are things that they thought they wanted but decided against getting and they couldn't remember where it went, but no explanation or apology is necessary. "I don't want this," is fine.

There are some neat tricks parents have used to get kids to give up toys that I've seen over the years. My favorite one was the parent who told the child to give the toy to the cashier so they could keep it safe. The child handed it right over. Genius. Also, if a child runs up to the register with a toy, resist the urge to tell them to put it back. Yes, it's a good habit to learn to put things back where they belong, but even after years of working in the same store, I still have trouble finding where some of these things go, and I work there full time. A store is very different from your house. It's constantly changing, and there are a huge number of items, all similar to each other, in every four foot section of every shelf. Tell the child to give the thing to the cashier or a floor person instead. It's still being responsible, and we'll make sure it goes back exactly where it needs to be.

By the way, products in stores are amazingly dirty, even the food items. After just few minutes of putting stuff on the shelves, my hands are black with dirt. To prevent illness, it's a good idea to keep children in the chewing phase of their lives away from toys, packaged food, etc. And keep a lookout for the shedding of shoes, or sitting on the floor, crawling, etc. The chemicals and bits of broken glass we can't seem to get all of when a pickle jar breaks ... yeah. We really do our best, but it's a constant battle with the dirt in the stores, and new dirt comes in all the time. It may surprise you to learn that most of that doesn't come from outside, but the warehouse and the trucks, and they are all shipped together on the same pallets ....

But some of the dirt does come from customers. You might be shocked to learn how much fruit is handled by other people who may or may not wash their hands. Even very nice, well-dressed people don't bother to wash their hands. I see them walk out of the restrooms without washing. They also blow their noses or cough or sneeze right on the products every single day. As far as the 'shopping sick,' I don't judge. We've all had to do it. Not everyone has a personal shopper who can go get their prescription or cold medicine for them, and sick people have to have groceries too. So it's on all shoppers to remember this and act accordingly as far as cleaning your new purchase when you get it home. The warehouse dirt and any pesticides they used in the warehouse to keep vermin out of the product, or dirt and chemicals from other products are easily transferred by customers and employees over the course of the day just by picking up things and putting them down again. It's impractical to isolate the handling of products, so, just bear in mind that babies probably shouldn't put store products in their mouths for their own safety.

Speaking of sorting through products, the packaging is not always an indication as to whether or not the product is in good shape. For example, I had a beautiful cabinet with a bad door come back. I ordered a new door for it. In that time, the box was opened and re-taped by the original customer and twice by me. Nothing else was wrong with the cabinet. The next customer rejected it because the box was all torn up and taped up, and insisted on a new, nice looking box. Guess what? One of the panels on the cabinet in that pristine box had a gouge in it. Most products on the shelf that have been opened and taped back up are fine, and may in fact be in better shape than the factory sealed ones because we carefully inspected them before putting them back on the shelf. If something has been opened already, I'm happy to help you reopen and inspect it before you buy it. I think you can understand why we might be reluctant to open an unopened package, though, unless you're sure you're going to get it, because it will be much harder to sell because of the opened package stigma.

About opening packages: please ask for help. Chances are there's an opened one already that you haven't noticed. We'd be happy to help you to either locate the display or sample item. Also, we have tools for opening stuff that causes the least amount of damage. Because of the prejudice against opened boxes, people won't buy them, and in the end we have to return the stuff to the manufacturer for no good reason. If we don't get credit from the manufacturer, the loss ends up folding back into the prices you see reflected on the shelves. So it's in your best interest to not damage products or their packaging. In the long run, it will save you money. Also, some stores won't carry items that are frequently opened, inspected and damaged through over-handling because of the cost. If you as a customer respect the more delicate and vulnerable products, stores are more likely to carry them.

Budget sufficient time, when you can, for shopping to reduce stress, but sometimes you just gotta come in at the last minute. I'm fine with folks coming in right up until the door is locked to do their shopping. (I may be rare in that attitude, but read on.) My manager will often invite people to come in just before he locks up if they've parked their car already. We'll wait to serve you. Our job is, formally and literally speaking, to 'wait on' people, right? When you dash in at the last minute, please consider asking for help. We're happy to be your personal shopper. Don't worry about being a bother! If you're concerned about keeping us late (thank you, that's very kind) then help us help you by allowing us to lead you to the things you want. We're happy to fetch a cart or basket if you end up carrying more than you intended. And please, if you want furniture, say so as soon as you know. That way, if it's in the warehouse or needs a hand truck or pallet jack, we can get those things right away while you look for whatever else you need.

Speaking of which, it's a good practice, if you shop for furniture, to look at that first. Often there isn't floor space for the boxed pieces, just the displays, which means a floor person has to get them for you. Your shopping experience will be more pleasant and efficient if you browse for your other items while we hunt for your box among the many other boxes in the back. We'll have your items waiting for you at the front of the store when you're ready to check out. Asking for it while standing in line will aggravate the other folks in line behind you (never a fun experience to have people mutter about you, roll their eyes or change to a different lane after shooting you a dirty look), and it will take up your valuable time. Our time is no biggie. We get paid by the hour, and I'll be at the store all day long whether I have to get furniture or not. In fact, I like the change of being able to go outside for a carry out. Considering your own time and convenience works best for you and for us too by giving us the opportunity to help you in a way that doesn't hold you up when you're ready to leave.

One more thing about furniture. We can give you dimensions for furniture over the phone if you forget to take them, or let you know if we have something approximately the size that you're looking for.

Onward and forward to more general advice again.

Don't be shy to ask for help even if we look really busy. Good floor people can multi-task. The best floor people will ask if you need help before you even approach them, but bear in mind that we also don't want to unduly disturb you if you're concentrating on reading the label on a product or talking with your shopping companions. Good customer service and customer relations is a complex social game, and sometimes we fail to see the cues people give us that they need help. If we're with another customer, usually we have to finish helping that customer before we can help you, but if we're stocking shelves, cleaning, or racing from one end of the store to the other, we're happy to stop and help, even if it's only to pause long enough to promise to send someone else to help you. You're not a bother. We're there to help you. Without customers, we'd have no reason to have a store in the first place.