Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Scene In Which I Review Books

A little over a year ago I started my first blog, "Just Can't Stop Reading," with the big, shiny idea that I was going to review books. And eventually find fame and (possibly) fortune as an online book reviewer. In my dreams, that fortune came in the form of free newly released hardbacks, a thought that still makes me shimmy a little.

I lasted approximately three months and about four book reviews.


As many of you know, it's been a crazy year doing this whole "be my own boss" thing. But I feel like that's finally getting under control. So last night, I finally got back on the book review track.

And if I last long enough to write another review, I hope you'll join me over there in reading them, commenting on them, and otherwise participating in the cool online world of blogging.

Happy Reading!

The Scene In Which I Can See The Future, And It's Covered In Vomit

When I was a kid, my mom was the one who took care of us when we were sick. My dad might help out, but when the chips were down (or, er, coming up) in the middle of the night, it was Mom who got out of bed and dealt with the puker.

Family lore tells the story of the time my brother got ridiculously ill - and failed to "aim" correctly. For several hours Mom changed sheets, cleaned the bathroom, and otherwise dealt with the contents of Younger Brother's stomach. When my dad woke up at 6:30 AM to get ready for work, he surveyed the cleaning supplies, sniffed the air, and inquired casually, "One of the kids get sick last night?"

Today, I got a glimpse of the puke-future.

I was putting on makeup and getting ready for a morning meeting when Cute Boy came into the bathroom.

"I think the dog threw up," he announced.

I paused.

"You think he threw up, or he threw up?"

"Well, I mean he threw up kind of."

Finnigan does this thing where he gets coughing attacks and kind of spits up, so I inquired, "Was it spit, or actual puke?"

"It was mostly actual puke. I think."



"Yep. I'm going to go now," he said. "Bye!"

"Ok, I'm going to clean it up. Where is it?"

"At the end of the bed."


"No, on the floor."

"Ok, thanks babe."

I have seen -and cleaned- the future. And while there are no babies imminent for Cute Boy and I (we're kind of enjoying that thing called "dating" right now, thanks)I do plan on having them someday, and I do assume that at some point they will puke.

And now I know whose job that will be.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Scene In Which Customer Service Isn't Dead

I'm so tickled by what just occured that I had to blog about it!

Several years ago, when I bought my historic condo (I know, sounds weird, but trust me on this - it's a condo, and it was built in 1890), I knew it was going to need a little upgrading.

What I didn't expect was that in the first six months of ownership, I was going to get this phone call:

*ring ring*
Me: Hello?
BHS: Ma'am, this is Brinks Home Security, your motion detector is going off.
Me: Crap. I'm at work.
BHS: The police are on their way.

And that when I got to my house this would happen:

*unlocks door*
First IMPD: Stay here, ma'am......OH SHIT.
Second IMPD: What?....OH MAN.
First IMPD: Well, you can see what caused the alarm....
Me: (in a style reminiscent of Ralphie's "A Christmas Story" moment): Oh FUUUUUUUUUDDDDDDDGGEEEE....... except I didn't say fudge

To make a long story short, my second floor combo AC/Furnace unit had given out and leaked. And the water had run through the wall and collected in the ceiling. And the ceiling had fallen down.


After we got that cleaned up, dried out, and otherwise fixed up I had the good fortune to make an amazing decision. I called King of Comfort Heating & AC (http://www.kingofcomfort.com/) to give me a quote on a new unit.

As it happened, they gave me the best price, and Mark (the owner) became my new furnace/AC guy. Since then, his company has faithfully called me every 6 months for the service that is part of the purchase package. Mark comes out and checks all the appliances and changes all my filters for me and generally keeps things running - and not just the AC. I'm singlehandedly crediting Mark and his suggestion to run a vinegar wash through the very, very old dishwasher once a month as having kept it running as long as it has- otherwise it would have been dead two years ago.

This winter, my furnace made an ugly sound when we first turned it on. Mark was there that day to change out a part. When the part wasn't enough to combat 20+ years of running (my downstairs furnace was installed in 1987!) he came out and installed a new one - in an unfinished, uninsulated basement on one of the coldest nights of the fall (YES NIGHTS, he had a full day of other appointments and installed mine at 8 PM) just so I didn't have to go a night without heat downstairs.

This spring, Mark's been calling me, and I haven't had a chance to call him back in the last week or two. See, now that the ground is thawed, he's got to run a line from my new furnace to the old AC unit so I can have AC downstairs. Since the house is pretty cool, I haven't been too on top of this.

Until tonight. When my doorbell rang at 8 PM. And Mark was standing on my porch.

See, he'd been working late at someone else's house nearby and thought of me as he was driving home past the condo. He remembered that he hadn't heard from me about hooking up the AC, and he was worried about me- not just for getting the AC hooked up, but because he knew it was really unlike me not to return a call. So he pulled over, came up, and rang the doorbell just to say hello, and see if he couldn't set up a time for me this week to come out and allow him to finish fixing up my AC? And by the way, how was the flower business going and did I find a space yet and how was that new furnace working out for me, did I notice the reduction in my heating bills this winter?

And THAT is why I still have faith in people, and faith in small business.

Because that? That is a rare story, my friends. And it should be recognized and celebrated.

Now, because I'm a cynic enough to be skeptical about other people who write "OMG AMAZING PRODUCT" blogs, I'm going to add this: Mark has no idea I'm writing this. And he definitely isn't giving me anything free in return (though a new filter would be nice.) This is just me, simply awed by the kindness and sincere service of another human being. And thinking that we should all try to be a little bit more like Mark.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Scene In Which I Am NOT Going To Be A Retail Florist

Recently, I had the opportunity to shine up my selling skills and host a small "shop" for my florist business during the Decorators' Show House. For two weeks and three weekends, I had the opportunity to interact with the people who came to the house.

For those who do not, and have not, worked in retail- may this post serve to educate.

For those who already operate successful retail businesses, this was my christening of sorts into that world. And yes, I can hear you laughing already.

Let me first start by saying that there were many nice people that I met, handed out business cards to, and who purchased merchandise from my area. And for that, I am grateful beyond words that my handmade products are considered worthy and valuable to people other than my mom and grandma.

And then there were these folks. In each interaction I will refer to them as PB (Potential Buyer).

To give you a slight bit of background on my booth - I am a wedding/special event florist. I relaxed my normal "no cash and carry" offerings to provide silk wreaths and decor, kalanchoe and azalea plants in potted ceramic planters, and a "Fresh Flower Bar" where people could pick out and take fresh flowers home in an arrangement I would make for them on the spot. That's it. That's what you've got to choose from in my area.

Customer 1:
PB (reaching out to touch, then squeeze, head of $2 rose right over the "DO NOT TOUCH" sign): Are these real?
Me: Yes, they are.
PB: Oh. I thought they looked too good to be fakes.
Me: Would you like me to make you a little bouquet to take home?
PB: Nope! (touching roses. touching daisies. touching all the flowers)(because darn it, if she's not taking them home, no one is!!) (seriously these crazies killed about two dozen roses this way).

That interaction happened about eighteen times a day, no exaggeration. I had SEVEN "DO NOT TOUCH" signs posted within a 3' x 3' area. Apparently FOR NO REASON.

Customer 2:
I look over (from about five feet away) to see this woman yanking flowers out of the Flower Bar (yep, the one with the DO NOT TOUCH signs all over it). Petals of other flowers she is destroying in the process are literally raining down on the floor.
Me: Can I help you make a bouquet?
PB: I want these flowers.
Me: Yes, that is great. Can you allow me to help make them for you? (aka STEP DOWN, CRAZY, you're killing everything in your path!)
PB: Well (yank) I just can't (yank) get these couple (yank) ones out without (yank) touching them, so I saw the do not touch sign (yank) but how am I supposed to get them otherwise?
Me: Ok, please stop. Please. Please let me help you not to damage any more flowers while we take those out for you.
PB: (Notices floral carnage) Oh. (Mercifully stops).
Me: Thank you. Now, what can I make for you?
PB: Well, I really just wanted this $1 worth of wax flower.
Me: ......................................(buries head in hands at sight of $20 worth of destroyed flowers).

Customer 3, 4, and 5 (through 8 million)
There was a lovely, if I do say so myself, silk wreath hanging in my booth. I'd used several high-priced silks to make it, and it was completely covered in large blooms, so the cost was $80. Not terribly unreasonable, given what it cost to create it. I also marked it down to $70 during the show. Approximately EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE touched, squeezed, shook, pulled on, and literally groped this wreath during the duration of the show. Here are just a few of them.

PB: This is lovely! How much? (I'd like to point out, the price tag was bright red and affixed to the wreath in a very obvious place.)
Me: Thank you. It's $80.
PB: $80! (Turns to her friend but continues to look at me, speaks in stage whisper) It's AMAZING how much they upcharge these!

PB: (Touch. Squeeze. Grope.) This is really cute. Is it really $10 marked down from $80???
Me: No, sorry, it's $70 marked down from $80.
PB: Oh.
PB: Well, I'd give you $10 for it.
Me: No. (Seriously? No.)

PB: (Touch. Squeeze. Grope.) I like this. Would you take less for it?
Me: Nope, sorry. 15% is a donation to the cause and the silks are high quality and cost quite a bit to produce.
PB: Ok. (Literally starts yanking at the blooms trying to pull them OFF the wreath).
Me: (Staring) Can you please not damage the wreath?
PB: (LOUD, IMPATIENT EXHALE) I'm just TRYING to figure out where you GOT these so I can go MAKE my own!!!
Me: Riiiiiiight....still, please stop damaging it.

The potted plants were also a high source of consternation. Apparently, once upon a time at another Show House, a landscaper offered large potted plants for your deck/steps and large potted hanging baskets for the home. I don't do that. Apparently I should.

PB: Where are you selling hanging baskets?
Me: I'm sorry, I'm not. That vendor is not here this year and I do not offer that service.
PB: (Staring me down)....Why NOT???
Me: I just don't. I'm a special event florist, it's not my specialty, I don't carry the supplies.
PB: Well, why NOT???
Me: Yeeeeeah. It's really just a "no."

PB: Are these potted plants?
Me: Yep.
PB: (To her friend, in another "stage whisper"). Remember when they used to have the NICE potted plants?
Me: Um, I can hear you.

PB: (Currently manhandling azalea plants with big "SOLD" signs around them)
Me: Can I help you?
PB: I'd like one of these azaleas.
Me: Those are sold, but I have two more of the same plants over here.
PB: (Sighing as if COMPLETELY weary of having to deal with SUCH incompetence): I KNOW. But I don't WANT those, I WANT these.
Me: Well, those are sold, but I have these two.
PB: I don't WANT those two. I want the ones that are SOLD.
Me: Yeeeeeeah, I'm not going to sell you those, they are sold.
PB: (SIIIIIIIIIIIIGH). Fine. (Flounces off).

Then there were the ladies who, inexplicably, treated all other shops as shops and my shop as a rest area/lunch spot/waiting room.

Me: (to a woman standing in my booth, staring at the fresh flowers, standing about an inch from me) Hi! Can I make you a bouquet today?
PB: (LOOK OF DEATH bears down on me) UM, I'm all-ER-GIC.
Me: Oh, sorry! We do have some silks if you're interested.
Her: (LOOK OF DEATH gets worse) Silks? Ugh. Silks are SO awful.
Me: Ohhhhkay, well, I don't know that there is anything here for you, then.
Her: (Condescending doesn't even begin to describe it) Well, NO, of COURSE there isn't. But I am WAITING on my FRIEND."
Me: "Riiiiiiight."

Me: (to a woman who has not only entered my booth, but has SAT DOWN in my chair and is leafing through her booklet): Hi, can I make a bouquet for you?
PB: (looking at me like I've just crawled out of the garbage heap): No? I'm just FILLING OUT MY BALLOT.
Me: Riiiiight, ok. (Continue to stand near her in her personal space so maybe she gets the hint).
PB: (Clues in to where she's sitting and what I've asked her. Looks at the flowers next to her and inquires scathingly) Did you mean with THESE??
Me: Guess not.

The discount ladies were another story altogether. Seriously, folks, it cost $20 to get into this event. It wasn't like it was some freebie off the street. These ladies treated the shops like they were a personal yard sale.

PB: I like that wreath. It's $60, right?
Me: Yep.
PB: Would you take less for it?
Me: Nope, sorry. 15% is a donation to the cause.
PB: Well, you know, it's the last day and all. I'm sure you'd rather sell it than take it home....?
Me: Nope. I'd rather sell it for $60. It's ok if it doesn't sell today, it's silk.

PB: Those flowers are nice. How much are the roses?
Me: Thanks! They are $2 each.
PB: Oh. Would you take $2 for two?
Me: No, sorry.
PB: What would you bargain on?
Me: Ummmmm.....prices are as marked.

PB: I think I'd like one of these $15 bouquets. How much are they?
Me: $15
PB: Oh. You're not selling them for less because it's the last day?
Me: No, sorry, that actually IS a discount from what they're worth.
PB: So what do they cost?
Me: $15
PB: Ok, but I'm a *insert membership in various organization here*. What does it cost for ME?
Me: $15
-blank stare-
PB: Um.....ok.

And that settles it, folks. If I had any aspirations of ever wanting to subject myself to this on a daily basis, I'd become a retail florist. My hat goes off to anyone with the ability to do this and NOT murder someone, 'cause I came close around the same time the nine thousandth person fingered that damn $70 wreath.

In closing, I want to thank the girls around me who shared in the incredulousness that was our PB's, and urge you to patronize their cool businesses!

Twisted Sisters
The Blue Door (65th & College)
Sew Divine
Periwinkle Paper and Home (on Guilford in Broad Ripple)
Ruth's Gifts (At Shows Only)
Friends (Hazel Dell Crossing in Noblesville)

I'd love to hear YOUR stories of retail craziness. Leave a comment and we'll publish some of our favorites!!