Monday, September 22, 2008

laundromat culture

I half love, half loathe doing laundry at a laundromat. Some may wonder, what's there to love? You bare your dirty laundry among strangers, hope your underwear doesn't get lost, hope no one steals your pseudo-designer jeans while you run out for a cup of coffee. You worry the machine will eat your money, or your clothing won't be finished in the dryer after fifty minutes and you'll have to do the wetness test to see how much longer is needed. You have to horde quarters for a week beforehand and you often put off the entire process, opting to buy new undergarments instead. What did people do before the invention of Febreeze, anyway?

But, hear me out. People love to get their noses in others' business, and what better place to do so than at the laundromat? There, you can peak into your neighbor's lives. You learn who only wears black lace thongs. You learn who prefers to hang-dry their outfits and save a few bucks (and the electricity). I once saw a 20-something dude pull a pair of pink panties out of his washing machine, and witnessed his shocked reaction. "I swear, I have no idea how those got there!" he claimed. I'm sure they were from a month-old one night stand who figured it would be better to just hop in a cab than to search for one of the 40 thongs she owned.

Boston especially boasts a seemingly absurd number of businesses that offer dry-cleaning as well as either same day or DIY laundry. I would love to investigate the cost of having someone do my laundry for me at 90 cents a pound versus bringing it to the laundromat, but that is for a time when my finances matter a whole lot less. Plus, taking your laundry to someone else and having them do it for you is almost worse than taking it home to Mom. Plenty of people bring boat loads of laundry to their parents house whenever they visit, but even they themselves perform the act of washing and drying their clothing. You still have to cart all the dirty laundry to the 'We wash it for you!' businesses, which is my major complaint about laundromat use.

So, all your quarter-saving, twenty-something, first or second career kids know exactly what I'm talking about. Whether you love or loathe laundry, you certainly suck it up and do it every once in a while.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Customer Service

I love my job. The jewelry store is in the middle of a tourist destination, across the street from where tour buses drop people off, and rests in the midst of a renowned university. We get a lot more students in during the school year, and a lot more tourists during the summer, obviously.

Now that I've been around for both seasons, student and tourist, I must say that the locals treat our shop with much more respect. Even during very busy days in the student season, the shop does not get nearly as destroyed as when we have the throngs of tourists. The out-of-towners don't have an established relationship with the Boston area or its stores, so they don't mind discarding jewelry on a table or on the glass cases. They make much less effort in putting unwanted items back where they found them. The students and the locals, if they decide not to buy something, are far more apt to put it back where it belongs, or apologize to a staff member with, "I have no idea where I got this, I'm so sorry."

But even tourist season is fun. We get people from just about every corner of the world... Chinese, Aussies, Europeans, everywhere. And for the most part, they're normal and happy with the product. A few things always baffle my mind though.

- Some people expect me to pick out the perfect gift for their friend/family member/wife/girlfriend. I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me what they should buy as a gift but give me zero background about the person. I'm good, but I'm not good enough to give you the perfect gift idea for someone I've never met.
- Some of our necklaces come with free matching earrings. They come as sets, but we don't really sell sets, as such, so we mark those necklaces and keep the earrings behind the counter, as a surprise for customers. Most people are thrilled when they learn about this. We do, however, get people who either try to take more than their share, or take different earrings, and become perturbed when we tell them that no, they must take this pair instead, because we want to make sure everyone gets the earrings that come with their necklace.
- A person walks into the shop. The first thing they see is a table filled to the brim with necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. They say, "I'm looking for a necklace....." Nope, sorry, don't have any of those.
- Shoplifters. Really, is a ten dollar ring going to make a huge difference in your life? Probably not. So please, don't take it. It just makes my staff and me look bad.
- Our return policy. Very few people try to return the impulse buy stuff at the counter, they return stuff that they've had time time to think about it before buying. Our policy is explicitly stated in several places where you check out. We don't give cash back because we are not jewelry rental. We are jewelry SELLING. This prevents people from buying a pair of diamond earrings for an event and returning them the next day. Yet some still insist on claiming they don't want their purchase anymore and either become serial exchangers or just yell at me for a policy I didn't make.

But, all in all, I have an awesome job. I work with more awesome people (who are leaving me, tear!) AND I get a sweet discount on accessories. Best of all worlds.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Feels like the first time

With half the world on the 'blogosphere', I decided it was high time I claimed my sliver of the pie. I'm hoping I got blueberry or apple, rather than rhubarb or keylime.

The first entry is always the most awkward, I hear. You have to introduce yourself, give people background, perhaps even add a disclaimer about your political and moral standpoint, so that if someone stumbles upon your blog three months into it, you can say, "Wait, my opinion that flamingoes are better fit to rule the world is a valid claim, just look at my political manifesto in blog number 4.6!"

All right. So, I'm Clare (NOT with an I.) I'm a mid-twenties career changer who has a penchant for ellipses and parentheses, so bear with me readers. I'm very left-leaning as politics go, did environmental studies in undergrad and environment and sustainable development as a masters (in London). I now work at a jewelry store in a touristy and studenty area of Boston. I've been happily with B, my boyfriend, for over a year. I'm fiercely loyal to my friends, many of whom are not based in Boston. If my perfect world existed, I would relocate my close friends and entire family, and B, and the Boston Red Sox, to London.

Speaking of the Sox, I'm not going to spend this entry talking about the recent trade of Manny Ramirez, simply because I haven't read up on it yet and I don't want to make any uneducated remarks. As a female baseball fan I sometimes feel more scrutinized with my claim to fan-dom. Maybe that's just female paranoia, but I think there is something to it. In this time, it seems more ok for a guy to be a casual baseball fan than a girl. Example: A guy scores free Sox tickets at work. He's a transplant to Boston, so he knows the Sox but isn't exactly educated. But he goes with work, because the tickets are free and he can drink a few beers and have a good time. He tells the work buddies that he isn't a huge Sox or baseball fan, but they all laugh it off. Now, if a girl were to do the same thing, attend a Sox game if she isn't that into the Red Sox, people would criticize her, say it was a waste of a ticket, that only real fans should go to Fenway Park.

A little background on the man in my life. I met him at a bar one rainy Friday night in May. He was out with his friend, I was out with my friend, and for once in my life had zero desire to speak to anyone in the male gender. Zilch. Nada. I had been burned one too many times (the icing on the cake being spending a weekend with a dude who flirted so much that an entire island full of people thought we were actually dating... nothing happened, but a few days after we parted he told me that he was engaged and never meant to send 'mixed signals'). So as a big 'F-YOU' to men I put on my hottest dress, highest heels, and blatantly ignored every single man who wasn't serving alcohol. That is, of course, until B and his friend rolled up to us. B says he doesn't usually just go up to girls and talk to them, and I believe that now. His buddy, on the other hand, was pretty slick with the pickup line. But B actually got my number, waited the required 2-3 days, and CALLED. I wasn't shocked, but I was definitely excited. And now we're talking about adult things like futures and long term commitments, and I love it. And yes... I love him too.

Well, must run (walk) to the jewelry store. That's another Clare quirk - I walk everywhere.