Saturday, June 10, 2006

Out Of The Darkness Overnight

The Out Of The Darkness Overnight is a 20-mile overnight walk benefiting the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. They are a great organization that helps to educate about depression and suicide, do research and counseling and give support to people who have been affected by it.

I thought it was a great cause, and I've chosen to walk to support, specifically, gay youth. It's horrible every time I read about a gay teenager who took their own life because they felt that their family, friends or society would never accept them. I know how it feels, so thought this would be a great way for me to do my part.

I have to raise $1000 in order to participate in the walk, and still have quite a ways to go. My employees have contributed over $100 so far, which is terrific. My boss has vowed to match personally whatever the employees contribute from all the stores in the district. I've contacted a lot of my friends who have been willing to donate.

Strangely, the people who don't seem to be that supportive are the gay community. I sent emails to both Andy at Towleroad and Joe at JoeMyGod, two of the most widely read gay blogs on the 'Net, asking them to mention what I was doing to see if I could get the gay community to rally around me and donate. They never answered, never posted anything on their site. I guess it's more important to keep posting pictures of shirtless athletes or Madonna or talk about getting laid than it is to use your clout in the community to help a good cause. My email group made up of authors and readers of gay material failed to generate a single donation either.

To the best of my knowledge, I'm the only one walking specifically for gay youth support, which is kind of sad. However, I vow to raise the money and get out there. I was asked to walk in the Gay Pride Parade here in San Francisco on June 25th as part of the Out Of The Darkness group, but unfortunately I have to work and can't get out of it.

The walk is July 22nd -23rd. Anyone who wants to contribute to helping me raise money can do so at this link. Of course, please spread the word to anyone you know who might contribute.

One Week To Go...

So only one week to go until the big commitment ceremony. I'm not really nervous, but just a little anxious to get it done and over with. So much planning and it'll be over quickly.

The big surprise was my parents' reaction. I had sent them an invitation with a personal note letting them know what we were doing and that I very much wanted them to be a part of it. I told them I understood if they never wanted to discuss it, but I still wanted them to consider it.

To my shock, my mother called and told me that since we were referring to it as a commitment ceremony and not a wedding, she could give her blessing to it. The folks even gave us $300 to throw the reception, which just further blew my mind.

There will be some notable absences from the festivities which make me kind of sad, but I understand. My friend Lee has a great gig going with a national park and won't be able to get away to make it. My buddy Doug in Tennessee has had some money issues, so I completely understand. Fortunately, virtually everyone else on my list confirmed that they would attend. There were some issues with invitations not reaching everybody for some reason, but all seems to be well now.

We are going to take a honeymoon of sorts, to Palm Springs. Now Palm Springs may be the gay mecca of the desert, but try finding a hotel that ISN'T clothing optional. I know, you're probably wondering why I wouldn't want to go to one but hey...it's my honeymoon, and I'm a big furry bastard that doesn't want to get nekkid in front of a bunch of people. Or be tempted by those who do. So we found a great place called the East Canyon Hotel and Spa which is a gay joint but is NOT clothing optional. We'll fly down on the 18th and stay three nights and see what Palm Springs has to offer. I'm just hoping for lots of air conditioning.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Netflix Sues Blockbuster Yet Still Shafts Customers

I find the whole lawsuit of Netflix vs. Blockbuster to be amusing, to say the least. For those of you who haven't heard, Netflix claims that they own the sole patent rights to the idea of creating a list of movies that you want to rent, then sending out the next title in your list after they receive the return of your previous disc.

Netflix sure waited a terribly long amount of time to press charges. I mean, Blockbuster has had their online service for almost a year now...where was Netflix back then to sue?

Although it's unlikely that Netflix has any chance of winning such a lawsuit, it does make me question a few other things in their operating procedures:

1. What's going to happen to companies such as Intelliflix? I happen to really like my service with them, as they actually leverage the inventories of independent video retailers across the United States to provide you with your movies. Does it take longer? Sure, sometimes. Can you always get the biggest hit movie as soon as it arrives? Nope, rarely in fact. However, I fell a helluva lot better about spending my money on somebody that supports the indie guy than some big corporate monstrosity such as my bastard former employers (Big Blue). Intelliflix, however, uses the same queue style as Netflix and Blockbuster Online. So will Netflix turn around and sue every single company out there that uses a queue format? So far, they haven't made any threats towards Intelliflix...is it just a matter of time, or was Blockbuster the biggest threat and target all along?

2. Why isn't Netflix suing Blockbuster for stealing their idea of throttling? I mean, it's pretty obvious that Blockbuster stole the idea of limiting existing customers from renting a lot of movies in favor of building new customers directly from Netflix. Why isn't Netflix upset about this? After all, they perfected throttling first, were the first to present it on their website...doesn't this just make Blockbuster a copycat thief who deserves to get sued for stealing another brilliant Netflix idea? Funny how Netflix isn't trying to build a case for THAT.

I guess time will tell. In the meantime, I'm off to add more movies to my Intelliflix queue.

Bear Attack vs. Matt Lauer

As I'm sure many people are aware, there was an attack by a black bear on a family who was out wandering around at a wilderness park in Tennessee.

I'm really not a heartless guy...honest. Ask any of the people who know me. However, I have to wonder at the news industry and the way that they have reported this story, particularly a recent interview that I caught on NBC's The Today Show with Matt Lauer and the family of those who were injured in the attack.

I think what bothered me the most about the way this story was presented by Lauer was that he acted as if the family had been attacked by some knife-wielding maniac in their bedroom in the middle of the night. At one point in the interview, he even said to the father "do you feel that by the recent capture of a black bear in that area that justice may finally be served for the attacks on your family?"

Uhhh....what? OK, first of all, let me reiterate....this black bear did not come wandering into their room at the local Days Inn. The PEOPLE were in the BEAR'S hood. So you know what, folks? Sorry you got attacked but you're asking to be some bear's idea of a picnic snack when you go playing around in something's backyard that has a heckuva lot more right to be on that land than you do. Just remember...people reallllly need those houses, roads and so forth that destroyed the bear's habitat and food supply in the first place, right? I mean hey...why should the white man limit himself to Native Americans when it comes to putting people/things with land rights somewhere out of their way?

The sad thing is that they killed a black bear to check its stomach contents to see if it had been the one that attacked. Of course, it wasn't the right bear. Justice indeed.

So what have we learned, Dorothy? Bears and other animals have no rights when humans come trotting up into the few acres that we've given them to live in. We should probably kill anything that MIGHT attack us, or perhaps expand our legal system to try animals for murder/attempted murder. Hire some Yellowstone ranger as counsel for the defense. Then, Matt Lauer can truly say that justice has been served.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rings....We Have Rings!

OK folks, we have officially purchased the rings (ok, let's be honest...they're financed). Here's a look at the new beauty:



They are white gold, satin finish in size 13.5 for me, and 8.5 for my hubby to be. Woohoo! Mine is engraved inside with his name and the date of our nuptials, and his has my name and the date. OK, everyone collectively now....awwwwwwwwwwww.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Penguins Win...And I'm VERY Glad

Both Luis and I saw March Of The Penguins, and I was thrilled to see it win Best Documentary. I was torn between it and Murderball, but the penguins just get me every time. And how can you not love an acceptance speech where all of the people are carrying stuffed penguins?

Three cheers to Wallace and Gromit for their win too. The dynamic claymation duo have been around for years now, but it's still funny, entertaining and a joy to watch. Glad to see them get their due as well.

Brokeback Loses...And In A Way, I'm Glad

Ye gads, the Oscars are finally over and with it, hopefully, goes a lot of the hype over Brokeback Mountain.

Yeah, that's right...a gay guy being indifferent about Brokeback. I have my reasons.

First of all, I saw Crash and I really liked it. Honestly. Did it deserve to win Best Picture? I definitely thought it deserved Best Original Screenplay and I haven't seen the other nominees for Best Picture to see how they measured up.

I've managed to avoid seeing Brokeback Mountain, and it's a movie I've been actively avoiding for a few reasons. Number one, the whole plot line just doesn't appeal to me. I don't care about cowboys, I don't care about cowboys shagging each other then getting married then pining away for their lost love. I just don't care. It doesn't interest me.

However, this puts me at odds with the rest of the gay community. See, there's tremendous pressure in the gay community to give up your personal identity and be exactly like every other gay person out there. You must wear Abercrombie and Fitch, you must go to the gym, you must shave your body, you must love certain music and certain actors and actresses otherwise you just aren't one of the REAL gay people. There's a complete mob mentality in the gay community that you must be like the Borg on Star Trek....resistance is futile, individuality is frowned upon and you must be part of the Gay Collective.

So when one of my favorite blogs to read each day, Towleroad, began running coverage every single day of whatever inane Brokeback Mountain factoid had shown up that day ("Shirts from movie auctioned off", "Read Heath's 12 millionth interview about Brokeback!"), I knew the gay community was off on another one of their rants. For some reason, the gay community had chosen Brokeback Mountain as its champion of all things good about gay love and damn you to hell if you didn't drink the Kool-Aid and lay down with the other Jonestown queers.

At first I laughed. After all, there were all these gay people falling in love with a movie written originally as a short story by a straight female author, adapted to the screen by two straight authors, directed by a straight director and starring two straight actors playing gay-for-pay. This was what they wanted to claim as their own? What's so gay about the movie? Just because two guys fall in love, have sex by a river and stay in love it's a gay movie?

So of course I experienced major backlash when I started talking about how I didn't care one big fig about the movie. My gay comrades were FURIOUS. How dare I turn my back on an IMPORTANT MOVIE. This movie was GAY and A POLITICAL STATEMENT and NECESSARY VIEWING. I said the movie was $8.50, had guys chasing sheep, cornholing each other and I'd still have to get up for work the next morning.

So when Brokeback lost tonight, I knew all hell was going to break loose, and boy did it ever. Everywhere I turn gay people are FURIOUS. The Academy supposedly deliberately ostracized and discriminated against this IMPORTANT MOVIE. It shows they hate GAY people and by voting against it they were making A POLITICAL STATEMENT that gay people will never be accepted, and that members of the Academy should have made Brokeback NECESSARY VIEWING. Kee-rist. Almost enough to make me want to go straight.

Guess what folks, it's a MOVIE. I'm glad you liked it, but you don't have to watch it just because you're gay, nor do you have to accept it for the same reason. It's called free will for a reason. Not all of us want to be gay clones. Some of us want to live our lives our way, enjoy the movies we want to enjoy and don't feel the need to have our lives justified on-screen. Every day I come home to a wonderful man who loves me and you know what? That's all the validation I need.

By the way, you notice how the NAACP isn't protesting because "Hustle and Flow" didn't win more Oscars? Are Katie Couric and Matt Lauer going to go on the Today show tomorrow morning and protest and say Hollywood is discriminating against news reporters because "Good Night and Good Luck" didn't win? Are the Israelis rising up in protest because "Munich" didn't win? Nope folks...it's just the gay people on a tear again about how awful it is to have THEIR film denied.

Guess what folks....when your movie is made by straight people, it ain't a gay film. And if you didn't pony up the bucks to finance it, it ain't YOUR film either. It's just a movie, like hundreds of other movies that will come out this year and the year after and so on. Forget the hype, be your own person.

On Tuesday, Luis and I are going to go to the movies. We haven't decided what we're going to watch yet, but I can tell you one thing for sure. It's going to be a movie we WANT to watch, not because we're pressured into watching it. And afterwards, I'm going to come home, snuggle up next to him, tell him I love him more than anything in the world and hold him all night. That's VERY IMPORTANT. That's GAY LOVE. That's my POLITICAL STATEMENT. And I don't need either straight actors or a gay mob to get my point across.

Perhaps others should learn to do the same.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Thanks For....Err...Welll....Just About Nothing

Well, I attempted to do what my grandmother would call a mitzvah, or good deed....

I was contacted by the San Jose branch of the Muscular Dystrophy Association recently and asked if I'd be willing to help out with their fundraiser. Local business people allow themselves to be "arrested" and "raise bail," with the proceeds going to help kids with MS attend a summer camp that's especially tailored to them and where they can feel like normal kids. I, of course, thought it was a wonderful idea and jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Besides, my store is located in an extremely affluent area of the peninsula, and I figured raising money would be as easy as drinking water.

Never underestimate a rich person's inability to part with their money except for expensive toys.

Getting money out of these people was ridiculously impossible. We kept asking every customer to donate anything they could towards the really great cause. We kept getting pathetic excuse after pathetic excuse as to why they couldn't/wouldn't contribute. Then, they'd take their $100-300 purchase out to their Beamer or Hummer or Jag and drive away.

You know who contributed? People who clearly barely had enough money to keep them going. Oh yeah...and my staff? ONE person donated out of a staff of 10.

Amount donated by customers over ONE MONTH: $23
Amount donated by staff in ONE MONTH: $1
Amount donated by me: $25
Total to MDA: $49

I was so embarassed, that I couldn't even bring myself to attend the special lunch/lockup for everyone that participated. Which in a way was really too bad, since the cop they sent to arrest me was kind of short, stocky, muscly and I was more than willing to be handcuffed by him...

Sorry Jerry's Kids....the wealthy would rather spend their money on trinkets. As Aerosmith said: "Eat the rich...there's only one thing that they're good for."

FOLLOWUP: When Good Employees Go Bad

Here's an amusing one for you....

Those who read my blog saw a couple days ago where I posted regarding "H" quitting and giving no notice. Now, it seems she's living in fear of running into me. She text messaged my assistant manager because she wanted to see if he was working since she had something to pick up in the store. When he told her he was off, she decided to not come in because she was "afraid of running into" me.

Afraid? Of what? That I'm going to hit her or something? Banish her to the Netherworld? Hey, she dug her own grave, burned her own bridge and built whatever other cliche you want to throw in here.

Needless to say, I've made it clear that the only person that can give her the final check due her is me. So, if she wants her money, she's going to have to deal with me after all.

Just think, all of this could have been avoided if she had just been professional and said "I'd like to give you one week's notice that I'm quitting." Oh yeah....and not being a twit to my District Manager. She's young, and maybe she'll actually learn in time.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another S**tty Former Employee

Well, this one actually requires a little bit of history soooo....

When I took over this particular store, it was in a REALLY sorry state. Orders were hopelessly backlogged, the place was a mess, etc.. The previous manager and assistant manager had quit, but had basically hung out for the last month or two they were there and allowed the store to run itself into the ground. Only through the hard work of two other managers who came in to help out, plus myself and my team, were we able to get this store back in order and making money again.

The previous assistant was named "V" (hey, I try not to mention actual names here if I can help it). She had given notice, but was pretty much asked to leave since there were many unethical things happening in the store while she was running the place, along with some suspicious activity in the way customers were constantly being overcharged so that V and the manager would make their bonuses. They would also send returns to a nearby store so they wouldn't have to take the hit, although they got caught for that one.

At the same time they were running this place, the lead framer named "J" and the assistant framer "A" were busy screwing up orders left and right in the frame shop and carrying on with each other...if you know what I mean. We spent months trying to clean up their messes.

Last night, apparently V and A came into my store to visit with one of my leads and to see how things were going. Now V no longer works for the company, but A works at another location. For some reason, A took it upon herself to allow V to go into the frame shop, where V decided to post the following message on our board:



Now maybe it's just me, but what business does this former employee have a) coming in my backroom and b) leaving me snotty notes like this on the board? I don't even know her! The amusing part is that we are already making our number, so it's an immature and petty little thing to do.

Then, J called today asking if he could have a part-time position framing at our store again. I believe the term is "not on your friggin' life," but I was a bit more diplomatic. I also called the manager of A's store and told him I didn't want her anywhere near my store again, especially if she was going to let non-employees in my breakroom.

So I was of two camps on this one. One, I was really pissed off that some snotty, immature former employee I've never met would come in and do something so petty. Two....damn, my Nokia 6230 takes one helluva good picture for a cameraphone. Does even better than my regular camera. How about that? Who knew?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

When Good Employees Go Bad

One thing I've always prided myself on is treating my employees as well as I possibly could. I know what it's like to work for some absolute jerks of bosses, so I always promised myself that when I got to be a manager I would never be like them.

So, let me introduce you to "H", a young lady who actually got hired before I took over the store. H has demonstrated repeatedly an amazing commitment to her job. She is well-liked by the entire staff, she's always on time, always does a terrific job and was being considered very seriously for a promotion to a lead position. She is also a student, so her hours are somewhat limited but that's been fine.

Lately, however, H started becoming a bit withdrawn. She had submitted various time-off requests, and had always gotten them. I know she was trying hard to balance her life, especially school, but there had been no signs that she had any dissatisfaction with her job. She did break up with her boyfriend and moved in with her brother and father.

So imagine my surprise this past Wednesday when the district manager came into my back room on a surprise visit and told me he had just had a negative encounter with H, who up until then had been a prized employee. Apparently, when he arrived, she had been reading her textbook at the front counter. When he asked her if there weren't things in the store she could be doing, she answered "this is more important."

Fast-forward to Saturday, where H calls out sick a couple of hours before her shift, claiming that she was coming down with a migraine. She certainly didn't SOUND like she wasn't feeling well. I gave her phone numbers for four employees to call to cover her shift. She didn't call any of them and we went short.

The next day, she called two hours before her shift and informed me she was sorry, but she was quitting effective immediately...no notice, no final week to work....nothing. I told her that if she was truly sorry, she wouldn't have disrespected the district manager or myself, and that she had always been shown the utmost consideration and professionalism, and I was disappointed that she was unwilling in the end to do the same.

I really hate being lied to, and I really hate being treated rottenly by people whom I've treated well. I guess in the end if she was unhappy it's best that she move on, and it's not as if I don't have other employees who would be willing to pick up the hours. It's just that it bothers me that someone could be so callous to a group of people who had treated them really well.

Some days, retail REALLY sucks.

The Date Has Been Set!

Mark your calendars, boys and girls (and those of you who aren't sure). Luis and I have decided to have our commitment ceremony on June 30th. The location of the ceremony and the reception have yet to be decided, but we're working on it.

Luis has finally given in to my pestering him to wear a tuxedo for the ceremony. Woohoo! He's going to look great in a tux.

So far, the colors we've chosen will be silver and black. Wedding bands are a whole other issue at the moment, as we're trying to get the money together and decide on a design that we both like.

Due to recent negative developments with my parents, they won't be invited...nor will I be mentioning it to them. They've expressed their opinions that they can't handle any type of romantic affection between two men, and I'm pretty much supposed to edit my conversations with them so as not to offend. I'd rather just have people be a part of a happy celebration that actually want to be there.

More news on the ceremony as the plans continue developing.....


Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's Official!

I'm excited to announce that today Luis and I received our official notification from the state of California telling us that we are officially Registered Domestic Partners and entitled to all the rights thereof. It's a pretty huge deal for us. We're still planning on doing a commitment ceremony in the spring, so stay tuned as things develop for that.

Birthday Recap

Just thought I'd drop a bit of a note regarding my 34th birthday yesterday (February 10th).

No, I didn't get a pony. Dammit.

However, the day started very nicely with my friend Lee checking in from Arizona to wish me good tidings, an email from Lisa out in Georgia and a text message from Matt here in the Bay area. Luis surprised me at 12am with a new flat-panel monitor for my computer, which I'm beyond happy with. I've been wanting one of these for umpteen ages. Now, I can finally return the monitor I borrowed to the guy who loaned it to me almost a year ago.

Luis and I ran some errands, but otherwise just spent a really peaceful day hanging out. At night, we went to Bubba Gump's for my birthday dinner. It's sort of a tradition for me to go there every year, and I really need to try and get there more often. Some of the best food anywhere and the customer service is beyond excellent.

I called my parents around 7:30pm because I hadn't heard from them all day, and thanked them for the $50 Old Navy gift card which I'm going to use in a pretty big hurry. I can do some serious damage with that.

After dinner, it was back to the apartment for cake slices and a birthday candle wish. Last year I wished for a wonderful guy to enter my life and hey...I got Luis! We'll see how I do in the wish-come-true department this year.

And no, I didn't wish for a pony.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Welcome To Over The Counters

So, I'm finally doing it....

I have friends who have run a LiveJournal for ages, and still others who have managed all sorts of other blogs. For me, though, I never thought I really had anything to say, especially to keep up on a daily basis.

Until now, that is.

You see, after 15 years of working in retail (not to mention 30-some-odd of being a customer), I'm finding that I'm becoming rather jaded and cynical about the whole industry. I think that overall the retail industry has given up on customer service in favor of higher profits and expansion not seen since the days of Lewis and Clark. Not every company is evil, mind you...but heck, a good chunk of them are.

That's not to say that the average, everyday customer is so swell to deal with either. I'm finding customers today to be even more hostile and rude than they were, say, 10 years ago. Extremely demanding, ready to treat a retail employee as less than human and less willing to part with their cash than ever.

There's still hope out there. There ARE many retail environments that are both excellent to work and shop in. There ARE really terrific customers who help to offset those who would otherwise ruin our day. I'm also learning valuable lessons through my everyday experiences on both sides of the counter that are helping me to be a better employee as well as a better customer.

So welcome to my blog, celebrating anything and everything having to do with retail. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. To quote the great Bill Cosby on Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids: "If you're not careful, you might just learn something before it's done."

Hey, hey, hey!

Write what you know, they say. So I'll be writing about the retail world from all aspects. Sometimes I'll include news stories. Sometimes something witty, sometimes something (hopefully) profund and sometimes just something obscure off the top of my head. Sometimes it'll be a personal thing. Here's a guide to the meanings behind the various blog headings you'll see:

The Handbasket: A retail story indicating a person/business that is heading straight to hell thanks to the poor way in which they've chosen to conduct themselves. These stories won't be pretty, kids, but maybe it'll make you go 'hmmm....'

The Road To Hell: The old saying goes "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." These are the stories of people/businesses that came up with REALLY lousy ideas and proved that the finger that's supposed to be on the pulse of America is actually stuck somewhere closer to the vicinity of their colon...along with their head, I presume.

Redemption: These stories are about people/businesses that found retail religion and praise us all....they've turned their act around. I hope to find a lot of these stories.

Saints And Angels: These are the true do-gooders out there. The Saints are those who practice strong ethics and morals each day in the way they conduct themselves as either a customer or a businessperson. The Angels are those who smile down upon us and can possibly change our outlook for the whole day just by either giving terrific customer service or being a terrific customer. Let's all hope for a lot of these stories, eh?

As for me...I'm a retail manager for a well-known chain of stores in the art industry. As I'm only human, you get the fun of watching me go from Saint to Handbasket and back again as time passes.

So welcome to the wonderful Hell that is retail. I'm hoping you'll stick with this blog, drop your own thoughts and comments to me and help to make it an interactive experience.

Brace yourself.