Thursday, April 19, 2012


As I sit behind the counter of our purposely quaint little shop I marvel that customers to ask if we accept interac or credit cards. Of course, I say, pointing out the wireless terminal that could take money from the middle of a farmers field. I could give it to a homeless person and then when someone says they have no change to spare they could whip the pin pad and take cards. How could I survive without electronically transferring some numbers from your account into mine, the paperless transfer of the idea of money. It's a little scary but absolutely necessary in the modern world. The Banks are always trying some new technology, pins, chips etc just waiting until the shameless generation that has no idea of privacy, the Facebook generations children, who won't mind having an identity chip inserted at birth so that we can scan for identification and payment. I won't even have a vehicle with built in GPS. I don't care if you can't find my car when it's stolen, I don't want you to be able to find me. I wish I lived in a world where I did not have to accept electronic money. Cash still makes my knees weak. Beautiful, negotiable, non traceable, legal tender. Oh well, it's just the cost of business. I pay my tithe to the bank and try to summon the gods to bring in that one customer who will make me a true believer again. Do I accept cards? Just try to stop me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An honest days work

I have taken to physical labour lately trying to build a new house. It was getting dark tonight as We finished up for the day and I sat with my friend Ray on the tailgate of the Ford. The beer had been cooling in the creek all day and as I looked out at what we had accomplished I was happy. Working on a definable project with a solid end result is satisfying and despite the physical challenges it is easy, much easier than the uncertainty of retail. At the store and in my real life I have the grinding mental concerns that chase away sleep and create anxiety. Out here building the house it is a black and white world: I get done what I get done and one day soon it will be finished. When is business ever finished? I am still agonizing deals that went south five years ago and obsessing over business decisions that are long past relevant. My bones and body ache but the cold beer an a job well done have eased my mind. I am so relaxed. If I can carry this attitude to the store I will make killer sales. Damn the world is creeping back in. Time for another beer.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Hard Sell

Often when asking a customer if they have any questions they will reply with a terse no, they are just browsing. That's not what I meant I say, I mean any questions like why is the sky blue or do you think a nut like Mitt should ever be President: people refuse discourse with others so easily. Sure they are expecting the hard sell but their response always annoys me a little. Why are they upset that I will answer any questions. I am simply breaking the ice. I am willing to talk and often wonderful conversations result, the kind of conversations that make you feel connected with another person. Why are they shopping at all if they are so grumpy. I do enjoy the people who do not respond at all and I realize they have on the ear buds, listening to the ipod. I begin to insult them at increasing volume until I break through, much to the amusement of the other customers in the store. I understand the need to be alone or the need to rock out to my favorite music but isn't it completely rude to enter a situation with a social context and not be prepared to interact at all. I am a gregarious person and I understand we are not all the same but if someone smiles and says hello the human response is to reply in kind. I will continue to smile and say hello as long as I am rewarded with good conversation at least once in a while.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Being self employed and flying by the seat of my pants makes blogging a difficult proposition. Not to put too fine a point on it I like to be paid but unfortunately, like any English major, I think I have something to say. Sitting in the store these winter afternoons I find myself cursing when the door opens as I become involved in my busy work or book keeping and find the customers a nuisance. My mind wanders and I don't like my train of though to be derailed by some twacking bayman with yet another stupid question. I love everyone who shops in my store but find my attitude needs adjusting this time of year. I need the energy I get from a full store and a bustling street. I need the confidence that a few days of great sales brings to this tenuous life. I know there are others like me out there, fiercely self employed retailers who by mid April doubt every decision they have ever make and honestly believe they are going to starve to death: it's the price of gas, an airline strike, a ferry strike, a civil service strike, fox news, something that will scare people into staying home. But they come every year. I can't wait to believe again. I have decided I need this blog as therapy, even if I am just a voice in the cyber wilderness.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rebublic of Doyle

The success of the local TV production Republic of Doyle has effected the tourism trade in our lost corner of the world. Jake Doyle solves a murder or two a week and more crime every fifteen minutes than has even be heard of here in the last fifty years. It reminds me of other TV shows in which death and destruction follow the main characters so a story can be squeezed out of thin plots every week. Why would anyone hang out with these people. If Jessica Fletcher ( Murder She Wrote) stayed at an old country inn there is no doubt a body would be found face down in the garden with a protruding shovel: better an implausible story than none at all I suppose and you can't argue with success. I fully the support the money this production spends in town and brings to town. The more Jake Doyle runs around town without a shirt on the more people I see in my store. It helps that the local talent eats and drinks in the fine establishment across the street. I'm surprised they still let me in to have a pint. Not long ago a wonderful couple from Oregon said they came to town because they had hooked in to "Doyle" on Netflix. I reminded them that they lived just north of California and could perhaps star gaze a little closer to home. They said that was all the same but "Doyle" happened in this exotic place. I love it. We all want something fresh even if it means leaving paradise. The production sure makes us look good. And they seem to have the power to make the sun come out, but look carefully, when Jake has his shirt off it's plain to see, if you look closely, that he is freezing to death. But best of all I see my storefront many times a week on the tube as Jake races up and down Water Street. And every now and then you can catch a glimpse of my old Ford Pickup parked downtown. Why this makes me happy I can't explain. And why we are so driven by pop culture I will never understand but as long as the money rolls in I don't ask too many questions. Things just seem to be going our way.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Long lost Birdman

Blogging is like a diet, it never lasts unless you really change your lifestyle, or your born tendency to get exited about something for fifteen minutes. I'm still in retail but much has changed since 2009 and it's all about oil. I've never lived in a boom town before. It is disconcerting. Even as my pockets fill with cash I have an uneasy feeling. Change is the bastard we all avoid and money just means more bad habits. It is; however, now possible to get a decent cup of coffee and produce that does not look like it was retrieved out of a dumpster. It is also fun to sell the kind of items that I could not sell before: high end toys for men. I created a section in my store that is a public service for ladies. For so many years they have come in the store and said they can not think about what to get for their husbands. This blows me away. It is a no brainer: a remote control helicopter and a bottle of single malt. He will weep. He does not like the sweaters he gets. He is a simple stupid creature who wants nothing more than something to play with. It is good to be a man. I'm not known for my brilliant business sense, my partner does all the buying, but in this one instance I am a genius. And I am creating happiness, the mandate of all of us in retail, finding the gift that really makes an impact, that really shows you know and care. It has been a ton of fun and I get to fly the helicopters all over the store. So far I have knocked over a jewellery display that took a full afternoon to sort out and flown head on into the grandson's face but that turned out great. I can tell people no one will get really hurt, they will just cry for a little while. So we're doing better than surviving here. Cheers to all of you in the retail trenches and I'll try to post a little more often