So, having decided that it's far more effective to laugh at myself and my job, rather than to wallow in complete misery at the futility of it all, I now present you with a few things I have learned working at the happy, corner Ace Hardware store:
1.) Keep your receipts - I never used to follow this, I'll admit, I was fantastically guilty of throwing out every receipt given to me by any long suffering cashier I happened to come across. However, having since discovered the joy of wading through several weeks worth of transactions to find the one that matches the customer's purchases, I have now seen the error of my ways. Seriously people, don't throw them out. You may end up with a shoe box full of old receipts you can't actually remember ever getting, but trust me, if ever have to return one of those unknown things, the cashier will love you forever (or at least, until your transaction's done)
2.) Bolts and screws are NOT the same thing - Seriously! Bolts are the ones with flat bottoms, whereas screws are the ones with pointy bottoms. DO NOT MESS THESE UP! Creepy old men in flannel shirts will yell at you.
3.) Appearance, gender, and occasionally age determine a person's accent - Red skinned old men in either dirty, stained wife beaters, or old flannel shirts with multiple bruises, cuts, and vile smells attached to them will invariably speak with a very strong Northern New England accent most often heard in Northern Maine and New Hampshire, occasionally called the "New England Hick" accent. To compliment this, their wives, typically women slightly younger than the men, though older than their forties, typically dressed in a large t-shirt from some tourist-y place they went to years ago, and thin cloth shorts that don't really match with much of anything, will almost always speak with a heavy Boston accent. As customers descend in age, their accents will either become more secular, less pronounced, or become even heavier than their older counterparts resulting in an inability to properly understand them when they inform you they are in need of propane.
4.) Keep your own accent - In follow up to the last one, accents in hardware stores are many and varied, far more pronounced than most places, and thus it becomes far easier to catch yourself slipping into another person's speech patterns. I seem to have a particular problem with this, and have caught myself slurring words, pronouncing r's as a's, not pronouncing the 'g' in 'ing', developing slight Southern drawls, dropping consonants, and going from British to Scottish and back again. When this happens, I almost always sound like a complete idiot, and for what is probably the fourth time that day, usually make a complete and utter fool of myself. Be aware of what you say and how you say it, and make sure your voice is your own.
5.) SKU numbers are your friends - The SKU for a bottle of soda is 900118, a water is 900115, and a thing of annuals 900000.
6.) Aisle numbers are also your friends - Need light bulbs? Aisle 10. Batteries? Aisle 9. Pest control? Aisle 4. Hydrolic cement mix? No idea.
7.) Gift cards are NOT your friends - Only two people in the entire store can competently handle gift cards, there are about 5 million steps involved in using them, three different ways to authorize them, and almost none of them work correctly when you have a line of seven people tapping their feet behind your current customer who just wants to use their freaking gift card and get out of there. I absolutely despise them. If a customer hands me one, I now at least know how to use them, how to sell them, and how to complete the transaction fairly quickly. If anything goes wrong, anything at all, I'm hopeless. And as things tend to go wrong fairly frequently with gift cards, I'm usually completely useless.
8.) Don't throw staples at your co-workers - Seriously. It's only funny once. Get over it.
9.) Speak multiple languages - Saying "Do you have an Ace card?" over and over and over again can get pretty freaking annoying after a while. When this occurs, start asking in other languages. For example, when customer #3456 of that day comes up to the register and buys 125 individual sockets, all of which must be scanned 125 times individually, when the time comes to ask them for their Ace card, don't say it in English! Try Spanish! "Hola! Tienes una tarjeta de Ace? Gracias! Yo espero tu tienes una dia bueno!" They may not have a clue what you're saying, but their confused, annoyed, and quite possibly angry expression is bound to be amusing after eight hours standing behind the register!
9.) People will do anything to save money - Even if it's only a few cents, people will try anything and everything to not have to spend any form of extra money. Occasionally, this will mean that not only will they require you to instantly know exactly what their Ace card number is, use all three coupons they've provided, check the price on every single item to make sure it meets their monetary standards, and re-count the change you've given them twice, they will also immediately check the receipt you gave them, in front of you, to make sure you didn't charge them extra for no reason, will just about murder you if you forget, or are not allowed to use a certain discount, and will be perfectly willing and able to argue over the price of a certain item they're sure is 25 cents less than what it rang up as. On the off chance you do forget to give them a certain discount or use a certain coupon, they will almost always insist that they return everything they've just bought so they can re-purchase it with the discount, even if only to save 60 cents on a 25 dollar purchase. I know times are tough, I realize there's a pseudo-recession going on, but even without the economic hardships of the day, it is still the 21st century, things are still more expensive then they were 20 years ago, and 60 cents will neither hurt you, nor get you anywhere.
10.) Spackle is the greatest word in the entire English language - It really is! Just say it a few times, spackle, isn't it fun to say? Spackle! Spackle, spackle, spackle. I don't even really know what it is, entirely, I'm pretty sure it's something you use to seal holes in the wall, but seriously, it is the greatest word ever to say. Spackle, spackle, spackle. SPACKLE!!! Spackle.
And last but not least, since I just realized I was shooting for ten things, but got a little carried away:
11.) Don't count the minutes - There is a distinct art and/or science to waiting for your shift to end. Always count the hours, never the minutes, as for the most part, minutes just makes it seem longer. On short four hour shifts, count down first to the point in which you are halfway done, as in "I have two hours till I'm half way done," then count to when you have only an hour left, "I have an hour till there's an hour left," the last hour then, luckily, goes by very, very quickly. On longer days, count down first to the first lunch break, which is my case, Josh's break "I have two hours till Josh goes to lunch" then count down to yours, then go half way, then till the hour mark, and then you're done. If you break it down, and don't just think "I have nine hours left in here," it makes it go by so much quicker, really, I promise.
There are a few other things I've learned over the months I've worked there, but most of them are so bizarrely small and irrelevant that I'll spare you. For now. (Insert dramatic music here) Just remember, if you ever need a random bolt, or duct tape, or even hydrolic cement mix, come on down to Ace, and I may or may not be able to tell you where it is.
Till next time,