Tag Archives: Retail

Say Goodbye To The Merch Whore

28 Dec

Two years ago – almost to the day – I started a journey that has taken me across this great country more than once, to cities I’d only dreamed of visiting and, truthfully, to some that I hope to never return to again. Today that journey ends and a new adventure begins.

I never dreamed that I’d be out here as long as I have been – what was supposed to have been 6 months turned into 2 years – and now that I’m facing down the reality of living off the road, I’m having a bit of a freak out. There have been anxiety attacks, cold sores, acid reflux, headaches and ground teeth, not to mention copious amounts of sugar and Doritos consumed. The stress of searching for an apartment from 3,000 miles away has literally kept me up nights and the idea of having a car payment, insurance payments, rent and utilities, etc. gives me heart palpitations and sweats. Add to that the idea of going back to auditioning after 2 years of not singing a single note (and about 60 lbs. heavier) is intimidating, as well.

That being said, the possibilities that are ahead of me get me excited. Jessie, the young lady who’s replacing me as merchandise manager for Kinky Boots, went to college in Orlando and talking with her last night has gotten me really excited for the work opportunities down there. I feel like she’s given me some very good advice and she’s somewhat relieved my anxieties. That’s not to say that I’ve relaxed, but I feel less anxious. I suppose that’s something.

Anyway. It occurred to me just a few minutes ago that, since Jessie will be working today’s matinee on her own as a trial by fire of sorts, I quite possibly sold my last t-shirt/magnet/CD/program/pair of socks ever last night. Today I will spend the majority of the show counting and packing inventory and getting things ready for load out. I suppose it’s a bit of an unceremonious ending after so many years of doing this job, but…this job has never stood much on ceremony.

Monday morning I will board a plane to fly out of San Francisco. I’ll meet my parents in Atlanta, where we’ll have “Christmas” with my brother, and then we’ll drive down to Orlando for New Year’s, where I’ll hopefully get to check out a couple of apartment complexes. I’ll go home to Kentucky after that for a few days, I suppose, and then I’ll have to head up to New York to collect my belongings from my storage unit. From there I’ll have to drive back to Kentucky to offload some of those things and pick up other things that my Mom wants to give me before driving down to Florida and starting my new life. Y’know…no big deal. Easy, right? Riiiiight. Just writing it out makes my eye twitch.

So, there you have it. Today’s the day. The Emancipation of the Merch Whore. Stay tuned for what happens next – it’ll be just as big a surprise for me as it will be for you.

The Final Countdown

5 Dec

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since my last entry. My apologies for being negligent of my tens of adoring fans.

A lot has happened in the four weeks since I last wrote – including, but not limited to, my 38th birthday, a screening of “Big Hero 6” at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, three trips to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, Thanksgiving, a 3-week run of Kinky Boots in Los Angeles and the addition of nearly 6,000 signatures to the Save Cafe Edison petition. And now, here I am in San Francisco – my first time playing this town and also the last city on this two year journey. That’s right, kids…the Merch Whore is hanging up his kinky boots on December 29 to go pursue his own dreams, and it feels really good.

"Big Hero 6" at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California

“Big Hero 6” at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California

I’m still not really sure what this means for this the future of this blog – I still have many stories to share, and I expect my future endeavors will provide much fodder, as well, but I may need to change the name of the blog since I will no longer be whoring myself out as a merchandiser. I don’t know – there are much more important things to consider at this stage in the game, like getting through the next 28 1/2 performances without strangling someone.

Since day one of this particular tour, things have been more stressful than the last three I’ve done. It’s a bigger show, yes, so that’s to be expected, but there has been a lot of unnecessary and avoidable stress, as well. Having a legendary pop star come up and tell you that all of the merchandise you’re selling is “fucking ugly” (sorry, Dad, for the profanity) and that I should be selling in drag on my first day should have tipped me off that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. My grandmother dying two weeks into the run and not being able to go home for her funeral…? Pretty shitty. The immediate and overwhelming increase in workload, while also expected with a show that does the sales that this one has, has been unpleasant and I’m pretty sure has done some damage to one of my shoulders, leaving my fingers numb in my right hand. Add to that a new feature with our credit card system that allows for immediate customer feedback (against which I have no willpower and feel compelled to read everything they have to say about me) and I’d say I’m pretty burnt out.

“What kind of feedback are the customers leaving?,” you might ask. Well…here’s a smattering of the bad ones.

The person working yr [sic] promotion table had no customer service skills at all!!!! Very rude!!!! Selling products is a no brainer but I expected more personality!!!!

“Selling products is a no brainer?” Really? I have a feeling they’d feel differently if I miscalculated their total and overcharged them… Oh, wait…someone did:

I was overcharged by $10.00. I was charged for 1 ornament (20), 1 vocal selections (28), 1 little black book (12), 2 black hoodies (45×2). I purchased and actually received 1 ornament (20), 1 vocal selections (28), 1 little black book (12), 1 black hoodie (45), 1 black t-shirt (35).

I made a mistake. That’s my fault. But rather than just contact our office and request a refund, they decided to complain about me. Forget the fact that the prices are clearly posted on each item and, if they’d taken the time to do the math or, even easier, check the contents of their bag before walking away, there wouldn’t have been an issue. But consumer responsibility doesn’t exist anymore. It’s always the salesperson’s fault.

And one last one…

The salesman that was there was brusque and unfriendly. I almost didn’t buy because of his behavior.

The operative word in this statement is almost. It is quite possible that I was brusque and unfriendly, but as one person selling a few thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise to 500 people in a 25 minute time frame, there isn’t much time for dillydallying. I’m not sorry I don’t have the time to unfold (and refold) every size of every shirt for you. I’m not sorry that I helped the three people behind you in line while you dumped the contents of your purse out on my booth, looking for your credit card. I’m not sorry that I asked you to step aside while you decided what you wanted while I helped 10 or 15 other people who did know what they wanted and had their money out and ready. What I am sorry about is that I’m not sorry, because this job has made me dislike people, and that makes me sad. Some specific people, to be sure, but I’m speaking in more generic terms. This has never been a secret – I’ve never been a big fan of the general public, and from that dislike and frustration came this lovely blog – but this show has been the final nail in my patience’s coffin. I’m done.

But I still made the sale.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 9.16.07 PM

To be fair to myself (and to make myself sound like less of an douche bag), it should be noted that of the 142 feedback entries received, only 5 have been “Not Satisfied.” Five. There are many comments about how fast and efficient I am (and how I need help) and even some noting how pleasant I was to talk to. The thing to note about people is that they generally can’t be bothered to praise, but they leap at the opportunity to complain. And I understand that…I’ve been guilty of that myself a couple of times. I hope that one of the things I take away with me from this job is the ability to understand that not everyone is having a good day (perhaps their grandmother died just hours before they had to come to work, so you wanting a synopsis of what you missed because you were late isn’t very important to them in the grand scheme of things…) and to just let it go.

I am one with the wind and sky.

In addition to the daily stress of the job, like coming in and finding 5 or 10 boxes of merchandise waiting for me at the stage door when I wasn’t made aware that it was coming, there’s also been some internal drama here at the show with people wanting their significant others to come out on the road as my replacement. To the point that one company member actually defriended me on Facebook and has apparently been talking trash behind my back to cast members…many of whom are my friends. Now, this person has never actually spoken to me about the grievances that he holds against me – I’ve just heard it all through the grapevine and he won’t even look me in the eye now – and I feel skeevy and prepubescent even writing about it because I feel like I’m perpetuating the non-existent drama and being just as passive aggressive as he is, but it’s really been weighing on my spirit lately. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are willing to turn on you when you are no longer useful to them. I don’t make the hiring decisions when it comes to who gets hired, and honestly, I can’t really believe that anyone who knows me would want to take this job from me. I mean, isn’t he one of the ten people who read this blog? (He’s not). No one ever says, “I aspire to be the merch person!” In fact, our head carpenter just said to me a few minutes ago, “Merch and Stage Management: two jobs I would never want.”  I may not make the hiring decisions, but there’s one thing of which to be sure:  I can certainly recommend to my employer that certain people not be hired.

All this drama, and I don’t even get a curtain call.

Alright, so this has turned into one big, negative entry and that wasn’t my intention, though unfortunately, that’s kind of what I’ve been reduced to with this show. So, it’s time to go. I have 28 shows to go – only 25 days – and then I’m free. I’ve already started getting “nesty,” searching for kitchen and living room and bathroom necessities and looking at deals for one of those newfangled flat screened TVs. I’ve started researching housing in Orlando and I’m formulating a plan to get myself down there by February 1st or so. I’m so excited for this new chapter in my life – a complete reboot. I’m nervous, too. Not only will I be leaving my tour bubble after two years (what do you mean, I have to buy my own toilet paper again?!), but I’ll also be looking for a new job, making a car payment and all the other stuff normal grownups around the country have to do. As Little Red sings in Into the Woods, I feel excited. Well, excited and scared.

In the meantime, I hope to enjoy my time in San Francisco, see some sights (I have yet to see the Golden Gate Bridge) and spend some quality time with my friends Toni, Amy and Matt, who all live in the Bay Area.

Tomorrow I’ll do my best to recap what was, quite possibly, the most fantastical Thanksgiving I’ve had in years, including a visit with my future boss, though he doesn’t know it yet…

Me and my future employer...he just doesn't know it yet.

Me and my future employer…he just doesn’t know it yet. Look at the joy on my face!

A PSA From Your Friendly Merch Whore

21 Sep

Last night a woman approached my booth asking about the white ladies’ fitted shirt we offer with the red glittered logo on the front. The conversation went a little something like this:

WOMAN: I need an extra large in the white shirt.
ME: Unfortunately, I only have those in smalls and mediums right now.
WOMAN: Well, let me a see a medium, then. Maybe it’ll work.

Ladies. Gentlemen. In what world should any of us truly believe if we normally wear an extra large shirt that we could ever possibly fit into a medium – especially one that is fitted through the waist? I could understand thinking you might fit into a shirt that is one size smaller than your regular size, but two? C’mon. And don’t get offended when the person behind the counter has to tell you that a medium is not going to work for you if your normally wear an extra large. A great deal of my day is spent trying to be tactful about sizing because, it turns out, a lot of people are delusional about their size or too proud to buy a size that actually fits them because they don’t like the size that’s written on the tag, even though the person selling it to them has said that the shirts run a size small. No one has to see the tag but you, and if it offends you that greatly, tear it out, but please, don’t buy and wear shirts that are two sizes too small for your body. Thank you.

Hope springs eternal.

Hope springs eternal.

Cold Hearted

28 Jan

Greetings from downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, where upon our arrival last night, the wind chill was -26°F! Never in my life have I felt cold like this, except for maybe when we were doing Junie B. Jones in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where the windchill was supposedly -30°. The diesel fuel in our van froze and we weren’t able to go anywhere. Someone had left an unopened can of Diet Coke in the backseat which froze and exploded soda slush all over the inside of the van. It was a good time.

It was -11°F (-26°F wind chill) when we arrived in Minneapolis, MN last night!

It was -11°F (-26°F wind chill) when we arrived in Minneapolis, MN last night!

So here we are at the Orpheum Theatre, halfway through opening night. Surprisingly, we had a really good turnout tonight despite the cold weather, but no one really seems interested in buying any merchandise. I did have one rather interesting interaction with a patron, though, which left me scratching my head.

ME (to a PATRON and HER DAUGHTER after THEY bought a cast recording): Thank you very much! I hope you enjoy the show!
PATRON: Well, now that you’ve broke [sic] the bank…
ME (teasing): Oh…now, I didn’t make you buy it!
PATRON: Yes, you did.
ME (still thinking we were teasing): Noo…you chose to do that!
PATRON: Oh, shut up!
(SHE walks away)

This is somewhat similar to an encounter I had when I was working at Shrek the Musical on Broadway, too. I had just sold a Gingy hand puppet to a patron during intermission…

ME (walking away): Thank you so much! Enjoy the rest of the show!
PATRON: Don’t tell me what to do.

People are weird. I don’t understand them. And apparently someone on Facebook – a ‘friend’ – seems to think that I am the problem…that I have anger management issues and am not cut out to work with the public. While I will agree that I’m maybe not cut out for public service – and for the record, I never claimed to be…I have two degrees in musical theatre performance, not social service, for goodness’ sake! – I do try to do my job well and to be professional with patrons. It’s what my employer has entrusted me to do. What I choose to write on Facebook or here on my blog is my outlet because some of the things I would like to say, I can’t, so I write them instead. With my former employer, I most certainly would have been fired for writing what I have, and I definitely took a risk when I started writing blurbs on Facebook months ago during Flashdance.  As far as I know, I haven’t crossed any lines with my current employer and I know that he and I have the kind of relationship that would keep the door of communication open if I had. He would tell me.

I try to stay away from writing anything negative about the shows or the performers or crew or even the venues in which I work. Believe me – there are lots of people and things that I could write about that I haven’t, and maybe someday I will, but I’m trying to maintain a semblance of professionalism here. Just the other day I wrote something to which a cast member of this show took offense – he thought that I was making fun of the show, which was not at all my intention, but I deleted it from Facebook because I didn’t want anyone else to misinterpret what I’d written. I’m not a total jackass.

I don’t really consider what I write to be terribly important or life-altering, but I do consider what I write. Meaning I give it a lot of thought. It’s an extension of me, and honestly, some of it is pretty funny and it’s always honest. I don’t “publish” things willy-nilly. My writing is not intended to be hurtful or to imply that I’m better or smarter than anyone else. It’s an outlet and, perhaps, it’s also a learning opportunity. Or not. I don’t know. I mean…I don’t even know if anyone even reads this stuff most of the time, let alone takes it to heart. But if there’s anything you should take away from this blog, it’s this: Never, ever tell someone who’s serving or served you to “shut up” unless you have a very good reason. We’re people, too, and deserve to be treated as such. And if you treat us badly, don’t be surprised if you find your story on Facebook or Twitter or WordPress or Buzzfeed.

You Is Smart. You Is Kind. You Is Important. But You Isn’t That Important.

2 Aug

There’s an old adage that says, “The Customer Is Always Right.” I could not disagree more.

Being back in New York after six months on the road has reminded me that people are dumb here, too. I don’t know exactly how I never noticed it, but people say and do the most ridiculous things, and often because they feel entitled to something. The example that immediately comes to mind transpired in Houston, Texas, just a few weeks ago. Here’s how it went down:

PATRON (buying a sweatshirt): Do you have posters?
ME (indicating the poster under her hand): Yep…that’s the poster there.
PATRON: Is it free with my purchase?
ME: Um, no. The poster is $15.
PATRON: Oh! Well. Can we make an exception for me?
ME: Are you accustomed to getting a free poster with your merchandise purchases?
PATRON: Sometimes.
ME: But not all of the time.
PATRON: Sometimes.
ME: Well, unfortunately this will not be one of those times.

What, exactly, made this woman think that simply by asking, I would make an exception for her and give her a poster for free? Everyone else had to pay $15 for a poster if they wanted one, but for some reason she thought that didn’t apply to her. Would she walk into a western wear store and ask to get a free pair of spurs with her purchase of boots? My guess is that yes, she probably would. But why?! I’m all for self esteem and whatnot, but really – who did she think she was? The Queen of Houston? The Czarina of Texas?

Tonight a scenario played out that I surprisingly experienced last year at Evita. It went a little something like this:

PATRON (on her way out the theatre with her 12-year old daughter in tow): Hi. My daughter bought this mug and then when we were waiting in line for the bathroom, someone bumped into us and it shattered. I was wondering if you could just give me a new one that’s not broken…?
ME: Was the mug broken when you purchased it?
PATRON: No, it wasn’t. It got broken after we bought it.
ME: No…I’m sorry. If the mug had been damaged when we sold it to you, I could, but it was in good shape when you purchased it. (Inner monologue: It’s not our fault you can’t take care of things for more than 10 minutes.)
PATRON (Offended, as if I’d just told her that no, she could not take her top off in the lobby): Oh! Fine! I was just asking, but that’s fine!

Can someone please explain her reasoning to me? From a salesperson’s perspective, here’s how I see it: The merchandise was in sellable condition when she purchased it. Had the mug been cracked or broken when it was handed to her, I would happily have replaced it. However, when she paid for said mug, she became the owner of that mug. I simply do not believe that someone bumping into you would shatter a ceramic mug. My guess is she or her daughter dropped it or hit it against something much more rigid than another human being, so why should I – or, more specifically, my boss – have to give her a second mug for free to replace the one that she was so careless with in the first place?

Now, I know some of you may think that’s harsh or rude or unprofessional, but let me put it to you another way. Scenario: You walk into Macy’s and buy a bottle of perfume. Ten minutes later, you go to the bathroom and set the bag in which your perfume is stuffed on the counter as you wash your hands. As you turn to grab a paper towel, you accidentally knock the bag to the ground and your bottle of Exclamation! or Electric Youth shatters all over the tile floor. Would you return to the perfume counter and honestly expect Macy’s to provide you with a brand new bottle of perfume free of charge because you “just bought it a few minutes ago?” I think most people with any common sense would say “No!,” but sadly I’m learning that we are in a severe common sense drought in America. To me, expecting to get a free replacement for something you bought and destroyed in less than 10 minutes is as asinine as being shocked by a “You Break It, You Bought It” policy.

To continue this line of entitlement, yesterday during the matinee intermission I had a very large group of people rush to my booth, including several theatre camp kids who all wanted to buy keychains and magnets – basically anything under $20. Including those kids, I probably had about 60 people waiting for me to help them, and I was trying to handle three people at a time. After all, I only had 15 minutes to help them all. (Selling on the road has prepared me well for getting through large groups of people quickly.) To my right, I could see a woman was standing there sort of staring at me. While I was counting someone’s money, this happened:

WOMAN: How much are the t-shirts?
ME (shocked that she clearly didn’t notice or care that I was in the middle of three separate transactions): Ma’am, the line starts back there.
WOMAN: I was just asking how much the t-shirts are!
ME: They’re $30 or $35. Now, please…the line starts back there. All of these people are waiting patiently for me to help them.
WOMAN: I was just asking how much they were! You don’t have to get pissy!

Again I wonder, “What made that person think that she didn’t have to wait in line while everyone else did?” She “just” had a question about prices, but I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone in the line wanted to know, too. She just didn’t want to wait, so she skipped the line. It would have been unfair for me to take care of her needs while I had three people waiting for their change or shirts and fifty some-odd people waiting behind them, but she felt that I was rude to her by suggesting that she had to wait just like everyone else. So she complained about me. And, unfortunately, that’s how this job goes sometimes. I had already explained the situation to my manager by the time the complaint was made and he was able to blow it off, but still – I don’t like getting complaints. Especially when I don’t feel that I was in the wrong.

So, please. Someone please explain to me this idea of entitlement…this mentality of “the rules apply to everyone but me,” because I was certainly not raised that way. You is smart. You is kind. You is important. But you isn’t that important.