Whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all shopped in a retail store at one time or another. K-mart, Target, Wal-Mart, and others have swept the country to bring you low prices in large quantity.
There are those of us who have worked in retail: Answering pointless questions, contending with difficult customers, challenging the boss’ authority, and then there are the tough days.
Mom and Pop shops are a thing of the past and for as often as people want to boycott the corporate industries, more and more shoppers will go to their local retail store to get what they need. One thing’s for sure: retail is here to stay and, even if you don’t approve of Big Box stores, they have made shopping much more convenient.
Ten Items or Less
As I stated in my previous article, I’ve been a part of the retail industry since 1996. I’ve seen a lot of changes made from within the company itself, to the overall industry and the way people shop.
In all those years I’ve encounter a wide variety of customers and fellow employees, both memorable and forgettable, as well as, the good, the bad and the downright ugly! It’s always been my desire to write a collection of observations in the tradition of Robert Fulgrum, the author of Everything I need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
But rather than have people call me names and Unfriend me on Facebook, I’ve decided to write these observations in the form of fiction in a fictional setting. This way I can veil certain people and certain events in a ridiculous fashion to the point where everyone can say, “Oh, I know that guy” or “Yeah, I’ve encountered a customer like that” or “Hey, he’s writing about me! Swine!”
While waiting for the 2008 edition of the National Novel Writing Month to commence, I was lurking the forum boards. I like offer advice, make suggestions, and even post helpful links along the way. I also jump into the games section and start game threads (The Steel Cage of Doom) and participate in others. It’s a great way to whittle the hours away as you wait for November 1st to arrive. It’s also a way to eat up valuable writing time as you enter the middle of November as well.
I stopped by the RPG & Community Story Board and, in addition to the usual character bars, End of the World games, and Mystery Round Robin style, I happened across a thread entitled, Supermart Deluxe. I forget who originally posted it but they started the thread and, if memory serves, they never returned to participate.
Being a member of the retail community, I immediately jumped in with both feet and made quite a commotion. That also was the first year that I met my Writing Partner-In-Crime, Laurie Nelsen, as she jumped in and provided the overhead announcements. The two of us worked together and made the thread, and the store, thrive with eccentric customers and crazy employees…or is that the other way around?
Over the next couple of years, I went back into the forum boards and launch Supermart Deluxe myself. I had so much fun with the idea that I incorporated it into my third book of my trilogy. Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea of what Supermart Deluxe is all about…
“So you say you’re on a scavenger hunt?” Reg asked.
“Yes, here’s our list,” said Sara showing it to him.
“We need a picture of two smiling ogres,” said Erika.
“Not a problem,” said Reg. His brother came up carrying some more carts. “Picture time, Brother!”
“Oh boy!” said Runt, as he hustled over to the door. They posed with the girls in front.
“Say cheese!” Debar requested, and then took the picture as the ogres gave big toothy grins.
“Thanks!” said Sara. Runt returned to the parking lot while Reg looked again at the list.
A young man hurried out the door carrying an armload of clothes. The alarm went off and Reg stuck his leg out causing the man to trip.
“Can I see your receipt, Sir?” he asked.
“I don’t have one,” he said, picking himself off the ground. “I got these clothes from the Shoplifting Aisles.”
“I understand that, Sir,” said Reg. “But you still need to go through the register and have them deactivated and then get a receipt. We do need to keep track of our merchandise, shoplifted or otherwise.”
The man sighed as he picked up the clothes. “All right,” he said, and then returned inside.
“Excuse me, Mr. Ogre,” said Denbar, while listening to their conversation.
“Call me Reg,” said Reg.
“Reg,” said Denbar. “What is this ‘shoplifting’ you were talking about?”
“Aisles one through ten are for shoplifters,” explained Reg. “It’s another word for stealing.”
Denbar and Sticky exchanged looks.
“You’ll know where to find us,” said Sticky to the girls, as he went inside.
“Wait! Permission…to…steal?” asked Denbar.
Reg nodded in response.
“Somehow that just seems so immoral. But, I’m not one to judge.” He hurried inside as well.
Reg returned his attention to the list. “Tome of names, yellow,” he read.
“We’re guessing that means a really old book, since the pages are yellow with age,” explained Sara.
“Does it have to be old?” asked Reg.
“I guess not,” said Erika, “it just says yellow.”
“Okay. Then I have that for you right here,” said Reg. The ogre walked over to the public phone, grabbed the Yellow Pages and ripped it off the wall.
“One tome of names, yellow,” he said with a smile.
“Cool,” said Sara. “Thanks!” She took the book and placed in the bag that Erika was holding.
“Glad to help,” he said. “Good luck with the rest of your list.”
“Thanks again!” said Sara.
“Attention Supermart Shoppers! Will the owner of the horse and buggy please report to you vehicle in the parking lot? You left your horse running!”
The girls entered the store and stood in awe at the size of the interior. As they walked further in, they noticed there were one hundred shopping aisles, plus: books and magazines, a pharmacy, a bakery, a meat and seafood department, and an automotive area. There was even a place called ‘The Beyond Department’ which was blocked off with yellow tape and a security guard stationed in front.
“Attention Supermart Shoppers! Our Thirty Minute Deal is now taking place in the Automotive Department. For every large recreational vehicle purchased, you will receive four tires absolutely free! That’s for the next thirty minutes in the Automotive Department. Thank you for shopping the Supermart Way and have a Deluxe Day!”
Back in the bakery, the girls were eying the display case of pies, cakes and cookies. Sticky and Denbar were looking for a Brownie, but only found two human girls working the counter.
“He must be in back,” said Denbar.
“Who?” asked Kit.
“The Brownie, of course,” replied Sticky.
“They’re right here.” Kit took a box off the shelf and showed the word ‘Brownies’ on the front.
“Those aren’t brownies, they’re just brown squares. Besides, why would a Brownie be in the box?” asked Sticky.
“Sure they are,” said Kit. She opened the box, pulled out a chocolate square, and bit into one.
“I think I’m going to be sick!” said Sticky.
“What kind of monster are you to eat a defenseless woodland creature?” added Denbar. He started looking for a weapon.
“Brownies?” asked Sara. She and her sister went over and each grabbed a brownie and bit into it.
Sticky clutched his stomach and groaned. “Have you no respect for my cousins of the forest?” He demanded.
“Try one!” said Erika.
Reluctantly, Denbar took one, sniffed at it, closed his eyes, and bit into it. As he slowly chewed, his eyes popped open and he chewed quicker. “Mmm!” He motioned to Sticky to try one.
The gnome reacted the same way as Denbar; cautious at first, then chewed with great delight.
“I must say that they are indeed delicious!” he said.
One of the girls came from behind the counter. “Are you finding everything okay?” she asked.
“Not just okay, but wonderful!” said Denbar. “These Brownies are amazing!”
“I have the recipe behind the counter, if you’d like to make some of your own.” She went behind the counter and grabbed a small index card.
“Thank you ever so much!” said Sticky. He grabbed the card and a second box of brownies.
A couple of months ago I decided that along with the short stories I was working on, I wanted to develop a collection of short stories using the Supermart Deluxe as the main setting. I brought together some of the previous characters from book 3 and added some new ones as well to round out the cast of employees.
To really make this a “Supermart”, I increased the size of the store to 100 aisles, including outlying departments; added a second floor monorail system to allow ease of travel from the parking lot up to the building, and introduced a store within a store, known to most as Aisle 35.
I have contacted Laurie in regards to this project and she gave an immediate “yes” response to want to be a part of this controlled pandemonium. She was the one who devised Aisle 35 which is the “Deluxe” portion of Supermart Deluxe and there will be a story or two involving that particular aisle. Make sure you have your membership card when you enter.
To draw this whole retail catastrophe together, I created a brand new character in which the reader would follow in the day-to-day life of the store. Monica Phelps is her name and, after 8 years with the company, she’s now looking for ways to get out. The trouble is, people rarely get fired, just reassigned.
As an employee, myself, I sometimes look at working in retail as a prison sentence so I decided to call the first collection, Confessions of a Retail Inmate. I have plans to write a total of four collections, each with a prison sounding title to it. As an incentive, motivation to myself, I plan on writing a Christmas based story to be released, by the end of November of this year.
Attention all Shoppers and Customers!
And now I’m asking for your help! Most, if not all, of us have had that retail experience whether good or bad. I’d like for you to share with me some of the stories or encounter you’ve had: If you’ve worked in retail, shopped there, or simply saw the commercials and wondered, ‘what were they thinking’. Send me your stories, suggestions, or comments to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and write the phrase ‘Supermart challenge’ in the subject heading.
If your story or suggestion gets used in one of the collections, you’ll get a mention in the ‘Thank You’ section or you may find yourself wandering the aisles of the store itself. The more you send the more motivation it will give me to keep writing these stories.
As always, Happy Adventuring!
And thank you for shopping the Supermart way!