Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Fabric Store Lady Must Know All Things

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  A customer approaches me with a bolt of Christmas-print cotton.  "I want enough of this to go around the bottom of my Christmas tree," she says.  "How big is it?" asks me.  "It's twelve feet tall."   O_o

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Bold and the Beautiful

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  Two stories to share today.  A woman came to the cashier's station and said she wanted to return some merchandise.  She pulled out two cookie sheets from a shopping bag, both obviously used (and not well washed, even!) and presented them and her receipt to the cashier.   The cashier refused the return.  The customer asked to speak to the store manager.  The store manager refused the return.  The customer called the corporate office to complain that we would not take the item back.  The store manager stood fast, though.  Yay!

A customer approached me at the cutting counter with a shopping cart full of artwork.  Some was framed, some was in plastic sleeves, and she had a well-worn and very large portfolio on the bottom of her cart, as well.  She asked for the custom framing department.  I apologized, and told her that we don't offer custom framing.  She then showed me four of the pieces she'd brought in:  two Japanese woodcuts that were jaw-droppingly beautiful, and two beautiful Marc Chagall watercolors.  (She told me that the portfolio held two Dali drawings, but did not offer to show them to me and of course, I didn't ask to see them.)  A few minutes later, she asked me if I'd watch her shopping cart, stuffed to the gills with high-end artwork, while she browsed the upholstery department.  I hesitated for a split second, and then  told her no.  She laughed and said, "I don't blame you.  I probably shouldn't even have asked."  And off she went to find fabric for drapes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Same Tales, Different Day

Tales from the Cutting Counter:
Customer: I am covering a headboard. The bed is queen-sized. How big is that and how much fabric do I need?

Different Customer: I am covering this pillow [fabric lady's note--pillow form is 16 inches square.] Can I have a yard and a half of this [very trendy and ridiculously priced] trim to go around it?

Yet Another Customer: May I have 3 yards of this fabric, please?
Me: This piece is only 2 yards, 16 inches.
YAC: OK, I'll take 3 yards, then.
Me: This piece is only 2 yards, 16 inches.
YAC: Yes, I'll take the 3 yards.

Some days are diamonds, some days are gold.

All The Colors For Everyone!

Tales from the Cutting Counter: At the cutting counter, I actively refrain from bringing politics, religion, and social issues into my conversations with customers. There is banter, but if somebody heads to my light-conversation-no-no-zone, I just change the subject back to the task at hand. Keep this in mind as you read on.
A woman comes in a few days ago and asks me if we carry luggage tags. No, we do not. She looks surprised and a little annoyed. (Because of course, if you think "luggage tags" the first place that pops to mind is "fabric store." -eyeroll) She comes back several minutes later with a spool of ribbon, marked down to clearance price. She asks for 2 yards. "What are you doing with it?" I ask. "We are going on vacation and I want to tie it on our luggage to make the suitcases easy to see on the luggage carousel," she replies. "You had some very bright pink ribbon marked down more, but my husband will not appreciate pink ribbon on his suitcase," she continued. I looked at the spool she had handed me, measured two yards, cut it, scanned it, handed it to her with her cutting ticket, smiled broadly, and said, "No, probably not." She left the counter and headed to the cashier.
The ribbon she purchased was rainbow striped.
Karma never sleeps, people.

Measure Twice...

Tales from the Cutting Counter:
"Could you tell me how much fabric is here?"
"Sure. There's a yard and 29 inches."
"OK, I'll take two yards."
...nice fabric store lady starts weeping softly...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sticky Fingers

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  This is a different sort of tale.  I have people who are surprised that craft merchandise, especially fabric, is more expensive than they expect.  Sometimes, they convey the attitude that we're deliberately ripping them off.  This, friends, is not the case at all.  We are the ones getting ripped off, to the tune of $40k a year in my store alone.  Here's a brief list of things I have found in my store recently:  A bolt of $25/yard silk dupioni with a 5"x7" chunk cut out of one edge.  Packaging for a $40 pair of shears in the cheesecloth box.  An empty bolt board hidden in a batting bin, devoid of the 6 yards of linen it should have been carrying.  A stick-on-velcro reel that was missing half its contents--soft side only.  The hook side was left on the reel.  A snap fastener card tucked in the terry cloth, snaps removed.  Two tree-style cupcake holder boxes, empty.  Five quilting precut bundles that should have 6 pieces of fabric per bundle, neatly stacked with one piece removed from each one.  More button cards than I can count with one button removed from each--we find at least one of these a day.  A set of five sizes of knitting needle with one size removed.  A set of five sizes of crochet needle with one size removed.  Contrary to popular opinion, we cannot (and do not) sell damaged or partial packages at a discount.  We take the loss, and swear under our breath, and go back to face the thieving public with smiles on our faces.  And the Big Corporate Bosses mark up our merchandise to cover the losses.

Quit stealing stuff, people.  Just quit it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In Which We Remind the Customer that No One Lives in a Vacuum.

Tales from the Cutting Counter: Yesterday, a 60-something woman came into the store. Her cell phone rang almost immediately, and she spent the next half an hour browsing the aisles and chatting in a very loud, clear voice. It quickly became evident that her conversation was personal and rather gossipy. As she segued from subject to subject, everyone around her became privy to financial information, opinions about the parenting habits of neighbors, snarky comments about acquaintances and so forth. The chatter was so annoying that my floor manager actually came up to me and asked if I was listening to it; I replied that it would be impossible NOT to listen. Eventually, she made her way to the cutting counter, where I waited hoping that she'd hang up. She told the person on the other end of her call that she'd call back in 10 minutes and closed her phone. She put a bolt of black fabric on the counter, asked for a yard of it, and as I was preparing to cut it she said, "My daughter just moved and she was telling me her troubles." I looked her dead in the eye and said with as little expression as possible, "We know." A yard of ponte knit: $12.99. Leaving somebody speechless: priceless.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I Used to Rule the World

Tales from the Cutting Counter:  I am a realist.  I know I'm not as young as I used to be, or think I am.  I doubt I am anything close to hip, or cool, or trendy.  And since I quit pretending to be a blonde, I don't look like that proverbial spring chicken, either.  But that doesn't mean I live in a cave.  Today, a very young woman--I'd guess she was 18 or 19--came up with five bolts of brightly colored cottons and asked for 5 inches of each one.  I started cutting, and asked what she was making.  "There's this band," she said, then cut herself off.  "You probably have never heard of them.  They're called Coldplay."  I took a step backward, and looked her dead in the eye.  I hoped that my scissors looked huge in my hand.  "And why," I said slowly and clearly, one tone softer than normal, "would you think I had never heard of Coldplay?"  "You know who they are!?" she said, truly incredulous that a fogey like me had any inkling of who she was talking about.  "Yes, I have.  And frankly, *I* am surprised that YOU have heard of them.  They have probably been around longer than YOU have,"  I said.  She thought a minute.  "I think you're right," she said.  And then she described her project (a jacket like Chris Martin's in the Viva La Vida video, for her boyfriend) and we had a nice chat.  Folks, the Fabric Store Lady is feeling old.  :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I'm Looking Through You...

Tales from the Cutting Counter: A thirty-something-ish couple walks up to the cutting counter. She tells me they want to make a curtain, and shows me her measurements. Could I help with the fabric selection, she asks? Sure, I say. Do you want sheers? or something opaque? I want fabric for a curtain, she says, looking at me like I am a total moron. I know, I say, but what function does the curtain need to perform? I need to know if we should be considering opaque fabric or sheer. O-what? she says, looking totally flummoxed. OPAQUE, i e-nun-ci-ate. What's that? she says. Not see-through, I said. As opposed to sheers. They make scissors just for that? she asks. I don't know what happened next; I spontaneously combusted.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maybe she was from DC?

Tales from the Cutting Counter: I was putting a bolt of fabric back on the shelf today, and saw a customer at the end of the aisle. She was about my age, short, dressed in a purple velour jacket and pants, and had dyed-black long hair pulled back with a sparkly, glittery purple doo-dad. Her makeup was bold and perfectly applied. As I approached her, I smiled and said, "Hi!" She looked at me, sighed, shook her head slowly and said, "Don't I wish."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Size, and other matters.

Tales from the cutting counter:  Yesterday was busy, and I was multi-tasking most of the day.  I was answering questions, giving directions, and cutting fabric all at once, flat out busy.  A petite woman comes up to me and asks, "There's a pattern on the wall and it only comes in tall, eight-one-eight.  Do you have it in any other size?"  She gives me the pattern number.  Now, keep in mind that we have thousands of patterns, grouped by manufacturer and then filed by pattern number.  There's no way I can know this off the top of my head.  What I *do* know, though, is that there are no tall patterns in any of the pattern lines we carry. And the "eight-one-eight" has me flummoxed. I'm more than a little confused.  "What line is the pattern?"  I ask.  The woman doesn't know, so she goes back to the pattern wall and grabs the pattern in question.  I look at the cover.  "Ma'am," says me, pointing at the printing in the corner of the pattern cover,  "that doesn't say 'tall,'  it says 'taille,' which means "size" in French.  This pattern has a size range from 8-18."

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Tale of Two

Tales from the Cutting Counter: Two interesting customers today. One woman, well into her 80's, bought several 1-yard cuts of cotton. She confided--almost conspiratorially--that she buys baby dolls at a discount store, makes a blanket, pillow and matching dress for each one, and sends them to hospitals in Ohio, where a friend is an administrator. Last year, she shipped 500 dolls. "You've gotta do something to stay busy!" she told me. A young woman with long dark hair and freckles, asked for 5 yards of extra-wide white tulle, like you might use for a bridal veil. I asked her what she was making. She giggled, and said, "a dress." As our conversation continued, I learned that she was not local, but came into town frequently "for appointments and things". She then asked for apparel trim with "dangly beads or fringe." It became apparent that this young woman was working either private parties or at a gentleman's club, and was doing her best to preserve her anonymity while doing so. She was very nice, and thanked me for the help I gave her. Because, I guess, "you've gotta do SOMETHING to stay busy."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Tales from the Cutting Counter: I worked the opening shift this morning. The very first customer comes up to the cutting counter hauling a massive bolt of upholstery-weight navy blue canvas. "We have a problem," she says, in that tone that means "I'm spoiling for a fight." "I ordered 18 yards of this fabric, and there are only 10 yards on the roll. The girl (author's note: please, call us "women," not girls, unless we are male, and then you can say "man") who brought this out for me said that she didn't have to measure it since it came direct from the manufacturer." (Author's second note: this is true. If it's a factory-direct order, we just act as the middle man. If the fabric comes from our warehouse, we measure, just in case.) The customer was obviously ready to draw and quarter the sales clerk who didn't measure. To my rather experienced eye, it was pretty obvious that there was more than 10 yards on the roll. But of course, we remeasured the goods. This was not an easy task. Very heavy fabric is stronger than you think, and fights back. But we managed to get it through the upholstery measuring machine, and sure enough, there are 18 lovely navy blue yards of fabric. "There are 18 yards here." "No there aren't, I measured it myself." And the customer, with a bit of a flourish, produces a well-worn tape measure from the depths of her handbag. The light bulb went on over my head, and some quick arithmetic confirmed my suspicions. "Is that a 60-inch tape measure?" I asked. She looked at it. She looked at me. "Oh." she said. "Have a great day!" I said, handing the roll of fabric back to her.