28 January 2009

More on Customer Service

I have always believed that everyone should have a job in customer service at some point in their lives. I learned more working retail this holiday season, after leaving my office job, than I ever did at that office job. However, the best part is that while you may have to deal with irrational people in corporate life (I know I did. All the time), the irrational people stories in retail are usually more colorful, although there's a lot to be said about the temp at my old firm whose "contract wasn't renewed" about four months after he punched a wall because I guess that's how long the paperwork takes.
But anyway, now that I've already blurbed my (second) worst corporate story, I thought I'd share my worst retail experience.
Just before Christmas I was ringing up a woman's purchases - a vase and a particularly unwieldy bunch of fake flowering branches, which were too large for our standard bags, but who the woman had insisted be "wrapped up so [she] could get them home safely." She handed me her credit card, and after I swiped it, I turned to look for a solution while she signed the pad. I was in the middle of shimmying these things into one of our umbrella bags, when she reached over the counter and grabbed her card, telling me, "I'm going to take my card. I've been a customer here for years."
I smiled and nodded (who cares how long you've been a customer here?), then wrestled with the branches some more. After finally getting the things settled in their bag, I put the charge through to get her receipt, when she asked me if I was going to check her signature.
Stunned, I said, "Sure, can I see your card?"
She showed me her card, but kept a death grip on the thing instead of letting me have it. "Looks good to me. Here's your branches...and..."
"How could you possibly remember what my signature looked like?" She demanded.
I told her that, out of habit, I had glanced at her signature before I cleared the screen, and her A's were similar. She was clearly bat-shit crazy, but hadn't deliberately signed the two differently (although I wouldn't have put it past her).
I handed her things to her over the counter, but she wouldn't have any of it, and kept insisting that we discuss why I was so stupid—at no point did she even give me time to interject with niceties—and after a few minutes of listening to her berate me, I was done. I just wanted to get to the long line that was building behind her.
Finally, I interrupted her. "Okay," was all I said, then turned around to help another customer who had been patiently waiting for this lady's insanity to simmer down. Thinking that if the worst I could do to this woman was not say "Have a nice day," (since she wouldn't let me, anyway) I thought ignoring her might get rid of her, and it did. I proceeded to help a very nice man choose some cookware...
Until about thirty seconds later, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Crazy had come back to tell me that she didn't appreciate my attitude, and she did not like the way I'd left things with her. She wanted to know how on earth I decided to work in retail if I hated people so much. Then she asked to speak to a manager.
She asked my manager if they could speak privately while she looked at me with crazy eyes. Out of earshot, she told my manager that she would not, could not buy anything from someone with such a negative energy. She returned everything, but that's not the best part. She then made my manager RING HER UP AGAIN.
The store didn't lose any money, and this woman got to go home with some ugly fake branches no one sane would ever need. My manager and I had a "talk" about this situation—we talked about how bat-shit crazy that woman had to have been. So the moral, here?
Maybe there is no moral. One thing I know for sure - this woman has never worked in retail. She could also use some lessons in common courtesy ("Would you please check my signature so I can have my card back? I'd hate to forget it"), as well as a refresher on cause and effect (before the incident, I had been smiling happily, and chatting about how beautiful those stupid, ugly branches were going to look in her house). I hope that her cat (this woman had at least three cats, trust me) ate every last fake flower on those hideous branches and cost that woman thousands in vet bills, because I'll bet those ugly branches are not very good for cats' stomachs.

27 January 2009

RSS Blips

If anyone reads this through an RSS feed, you might have seen some earlier posts post today - I decided to put them up because I no longer work at my old job, and I thought it was better to be honest, and post them now. I have less to lose; I didn't want to rock the boat at work, before.

I still have some uncomfortable moments thinking about privacy issues and the fact that this blog is highly searchable, but since these issues are personal and not actually work related, and I've been working through them, I figured it might be helpful for anyone who might come by who is struggling with the same things. I tried not to post about work when I was still there, but my job was so high stress that it was impossible to temper that all the time. Still, I'm proud that it took me this long to post those entries. Mostly I'm letting go - and that's an integral part of my story. So there it is.

Problems with CSS Fixed Width

This entry will probably be of no interest to most of the people who still read this blog, but for my own personal reasons I need to document my progress in resolving this issue - if only because every time I run into a problem coding a website, I remember that I had the same, or a similar problem last time I was coding a website. When I can't remember how I resolved certain problems, it kind of makes me want to put my face through things. More so when I figure it out again. So much for learning the hard way.

I'm doing the xhtml/css for a friend's website. He's a graphic designer, himself, so the design he proposed is clean, simple, and pretty streamlined. Simple enough. Or so I thought.

The most current problem I resolved was that my navbar was bullying my main window, taking up the remainder of the container instead of being the fixed width that it had been assigned, which pushed the main window down below the navbar.

You can see the problem above. This was all very confusing and it started happening when I brought iframes into the equation, although iframes had nothing to do with it (multitasking...sometimes it's not your friend). I knew that the css had to be buggy, but I couldn't figure out how. I did the basic scan of open brackets, missing semi-colons...all of it checked out:
#navbar {
position: relative;
display: inline;
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
width: 90px;
height: auto;
background: #ffffff;
After an hour of using firebug, gnashing my teeth, and not seeing anything helpful, I added this, practically on a whim:
#navbar {
float: left;
position: relative;
display: inline;
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
width: 90px;
height: auto;
background: #ffffff;
It worked! I remember facing this problem with the index page of my own website, and as you can imagine, it's really frustrating to have spent an hour banging my head against the wall before that simple no-brainer solution finally started to come into focus. Especially on a project with a fixed budget.

Now. Onto iframes.

(design by tim gentle)

09 January 2009

25 things to do before I turn 26

  1. Reshape and rebuild my website so that it's something I want to share with everyone I meet
  2. Take up yoga, again!
  3. Use a letterpress
  4. Blockprint
  5. Lose ten pounds
  6. Ride my bike more places that we would normally take the car
  7. Cook at least five times a week
  8. Create a new budget, reflecting my new life changes and future goals
  9. Read at least one book a month
  10. Ride our bikes in Rhode Island, or Maine, or up the coast. Something scenic, and long
  11. Have one screen-free night a week
  12. Master at least four new recipes
  13. Sew a dress
  14. Put some entries in my etsy shop!
  15. Dress up for Halloween, make our costumes
  16. Finish Dan and Lydia's wedding present (afghan)
  17. Make my Christmas presents this year
  18. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (I've ridden across on my bike before, but didn't have time to take pictures, or absorb)
  19. Make 25 pieces of art
  20. Take a dance class
  21. Go sledding
  22. Plant an herb garden
  23. Find some photo booths and take pictures
  24. See Bishop Allen live
  25. Deep clean my home and make it a peaceful, inspiring and beautiful place to live

08 January 2009

25 Things I did and didn't do

Last year I was inspired by hulagirl to make a list of things to do before my next birthday. I only managed a few of them, but it was helpful to make the list, and this year's list will be better! Live and learn, I guess.

Things I did do: Built my own website. Screen printed (although it was one t-shirt, one art piece, and many Christmas cards). Started a new list. Began the process of sewing as a means of keeping my clothing nicer longer. Took more photos, and paid closer attention to settings. Made my Christmas cards from scratch. Knit entrelac, although it was just a swatch. Rode my bike four times a week, at least - this slowly dragged as I lost my job and then it got cold, but I was more than successful for a few months. Rode in the New York Five Borough ride. Visited Napa Valley. I'm down to one remaining bulb that isn't a CFL. Got a library card - used it. Built a light box. Used it.

For the most part, things I did not do ended up being things I could live without. As I said, this will only improve the quality of this year's list.

06 January 2009

Meal of the Day: Enchiladas

enchiladasEnchiladas! I get so excited any time anyone mentions them. I love them so much that I buy frozen ones from Trader Joe's just because they're the most authentic thing out east. Sure, I'm half Mexican, learned the recipe from my naturalized grandmother who was born in Chihuahua, but I buy mine from Trader Joe's, because they're "more authentic." Wait. What?

Okay, so the thing about enchiladas: They're messy and they're time intensive. There's either oil involved, or just the flipping and the number of dishes it takes can be overwhelming, plus what do you serve with them? Where's the vegetable? The only thing I do differently than my grandma taught is that I buy my enchilada sauce from Old El Paso instead of making it in my blender from dried red chilies. Oh, and I also buy my tortillas instead of making them from scratch, but let me tell you: I bought some masa last time I was at the supermarket, so watch out supermarket tortillas.

Enchiladas are a highly attention oriented meal, where you're doing all the work the whole time, and then it's time to eat, which is something that doesn't entirely appeal to me (there's something poetic about checking my email while dinner "simmers" or "boils"), but in the end they were delicious and well worth the effort.

The thing that tripped me up was the mexican rice. I haven't ever attempted to make rice that wasn't plain and straightforward rice+water in rice cooker, and I wasn't sure it would turn out fantastically. I added some stewed tomatoes and tomato boullion, and I browned the rice over oil with garlic and onions before throwing them in the rice cooker. Turns out it's hard to screw up rice when you use a rice cooker. Maybe will repeat on Taco night?

05 January 2009

Meal of the Day: Beef & Veggie Stir Fry

Today I made a beef and veggie stir fry that was adapted from a Stir Fry cookbook I bought off of half.com years ago. The beef was nice and tender because I marinated it overnight, but for some reason this recipe had much less flavor than it has had the past few times I've made it. I've made this before, but it's taken us a while to find a combination of veggies that works for both of us (hint: only one of those vegetable is actually called for in the book), and last night's rendition was good, but hopefully it's better next time. The first time I made this, I think we both ate in awe and silence for a few minutes, it was that. good.

1/2 cup dry red wine (I use cooking wine, but sometimes open a nice bottle of cab or chianti if we're going to have it with dinner)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic

1LB of sirloin, beef tips, or whatever kind of beef you feel like cutting into stir fry appropriate pieces
1/2 cup green onions
1 cup broccoli
1 can of sliced water chestnuts (sometimes I throw these in recipes that don't even call for them! YUM)
1/4 cup of celery (the recipe calls for a ton more, but celery? yuck, after a certain point. that point being 1/4 of a cup)
*a few radishes, sliced thin (which I skipped this time around)
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce

After the meat is marniated for at least 30 minutes, you put it in a wok with some vegetable oil until it's cooked through. Take it out of the wok, then mix all of the veggies (I start with the tougher ones for a minute before I add the softer ones) with the hoisin sauce and cook those for a few minutes. Add the meat back in, and let it all cook together for a few more minutes.

I serve this with Jasmine rice, and there's always enough for lunch the next day.

04 January 2009

Baked Chicken

J and I have developed this really bad habit in the last seven months when we go to the grocery store. Sometimes I have a pretty detailed menu in hand, complete with a shopping list, but most of the time I have a menu in the broadest sense of the word, and we kind of piece it together as we shop. We know how unproductive this is, but we have persisted in doing it this way, anyway. Even when we have the detailed list, we either are derailed (damn you Trader Joe's and your delicious organic products), or we become super lazy as the week progresses, and end up eating out, leaving things like the vegetables or all of the bread to rot (damn you Trader Joe's and your highly perishable organic products), which is disappointing and not exactly encouraging, then it leads to less grocery buying, and thus more eating out. By the end of 2008, we were eating out quite a bit, and our fridge didn't smell very nice. There kept being "too much to do," though, and it just felt too overwhelming to fix it at the moment.

Jointly, we have decided to ditch this habit in 2009. Partly because I am so dead broke right now that I cannot afford to eat out more than once a week (we do breakfast with friends on Sundays, and even in this economy that's a non-negotiable for me), and partly because of my resolution to be more careful with what we bring into the house. Cooking for ourselves is a good way to ensure that even if we're not being 100% organic or green and healthy, at least we know what's going into our meals, and the waste that is associated. I said jointly and then I listed my reasons...but don't worry, J is jazzed, too.

So for the month of January, hopefully until this becomes habit, I will be documenting what we eat, if we stray from our goal, and maybe some notes on how delicious and easy a meal is, or how I will never put it near my mouth again.

Tonight we used some chicken that had been sitting in our freezer for a while, some couscous that had been sitting in our pantry for a long time, and some fresh green beans. We've been out of town for a while, so even though we took a trip to the supermarket today, our goal this week is to rid ourselves of the last of the 2008 perishables. We paired the meal with some of the Yuengling that we brought back from PA. We have a lot of Yuengling.

This meal was simple enough, very tasty, and I'd say it was fairly healthy, too (although portion sizes...? I didn't bother to check). We almost always buy organic chicken breasts - I don't like dark meat, and the Perdue thin sliced breasts cook up pretty easily - those were what I* cooked today. I basted about 1 lb of chicken breasts using a little less than one Tbsp. of butter, and then covered them with Progresso breading mix. I baked them at 400° for 12 minutes, covered, then flipped them over and baked for 8 minutes, uncovered (does it matter that I uncovered them? Probably not. I basically forgot to put the aluminum foil back on...).

I saute├ęd the green beans, with a little bit of olive oil and some minced garlic, for about 6 minutes, although I think they could have used another minute or two - I kept reading warnings about how nasty overcooked green beans are, and don't do it, and I got nervous. I also got to use the new paring knife J's mom got us for Christmas, which was exciting.

The couscous came in a box.

My other secret desire is to take better food pictures. Today's was kind of a quickie (I forgot until just as J and I sat down to eat), but I'm going to try to be better about it in the future, at least for new recipes.

*While J is actively involved in the decision as to what we eat, I tend to do most of the cooking. This is because I abhor cleaning up. This doesn't mean my boyfriend doesn't cook, or can't cook. This also doesn't mean that he doesn't help. He chops, mixes, and grabs the wok from our tall shelf for me, sometimes. But mostly he does the dishes, which is why he is possibly my favorite person in the world.