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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Running Holiday Gift Suggestions

How about giving books for the holidays?  I'm a professional librarian.  Books are great gifts and the variety is awesome.  Books are especially nice gifts for children.  New Jersey has many, many local bookstores.  In addition to books, Bogarts Book Store and Cafe in Millville, Cumberland County, has a cafe with coffee, tea and tasty treats -- and they have live music.  The Book Garden in Frenchtown, Hunterdon County, "features strong sections on local lore and history and works by homegrown authors."  Books, Bytes and Beyond, in Glen Rock, Bergen County, specializes in children's literature and author events.  And, there are so many more.  Visit our Directory of Cultural Resources to find more (and we have many more to add).

A very special gift for the family would be to have a family portrait done.  Village Studio of Hunterdon in High Bridge, Hunterdon County, or Joel Gerard, Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, are 2 possibilites to make that happen.

Planning a unique activity, for the kids or as a family outing is another great gift idea.  You might consider The Lakota Wolf Preserve in Knowlton Township, Warren County or Field Station Dinosaurs, Secaucus, Hudson County.  

Or maybe you know someone, adult or child, who has a burning interest and you'd like to give them a gift certificate for a workshop of some kind.  The All Children's Theatre in Parsippanny, Morris County, provides theater camps for kids.  Anne's Artistic Journeys, Lake Hopatcong, Sussex County, has "classical and contemporary instruction in the fine arts  for ages 3 to adult."  

How not to do business

I had a very bad shopping experience this past week.  I'd misplaced my gloves, looked everywhere for them and decided I'd have to replace them; there have been a few cold days recently.  So, my list of errands took me to a nearby department store where I knew I would probably find a pair to my liking.  The list included a new winter cap and an additional pair of jeans, if I was able to find a pair that fit.  

I found acceptable gloves (over priced), a pair of jeans that actually fit and a very cute hat that also fit and stayed on my head.

It wasn't busy so I didn't have to wait for a cashier.  She began ringing up my items as I looked in my purse for my debit card to find my card case missing.  I asked her to stop as I kept looking but she ignored me.  (Nobody was waiting behind me)  I asked her to stop again and told her I must have left my cards home.  I asked her if she could hold the items for me while I went home to get my cards.  She finished ringing up all the items and handed me a slip with some numbers on it and the word suspended.  She asked me if I was coming back and I told her I expected to be back in about half an hour.

When I returned, the cashier who had rung up my items wasn't visible.  I waited a few minutes then asked the next nearest cashier about her and told her what had happened.  She told me to look behind the other cashier's counter.  Really?  I didn't think it was a good idea but I did what she suggested.  I didn't see anything and told her so.  She told me to go round that cashier's station and look from the other side.  That seemed an even worse idea but I did it.  Again,  I didn't see a bag or anything and told her that.  She said she didn't know if that cashier was returning and that I should go to Customer Service and waved her hand toward the other side of the store.  

When I got to that end of the store, there were more cashier stations and some set back but the sign didn't say Customer Service, it said Returns and Checkout.  But, I waiting in line until I was able to tell my situation again to the cashier there and showed her the "suspend" slip.  She said it meant the items weren't rung up - I hadn't paid for them and they had probably been returned to the racks.

I was angry and left.  What I hadn't thought to ask either cashier was why I'd been asked if I was coming back if the items weren't going to be held for me. I went home angry and frustrated and wanted to write to the manager who, as a manager of quite a few large, public institutions, I hold responsible for not having trained store staff and for not setting up procedures and communications methods that benefit customers.

Words mean something; they aren't just sounds that come out of mouths.  I was asked if I was coming back.  I said yes and gave a clear time frame.  I wasn't told where the items might be when I returned and I failed to ask.  When I returned, nobody thought it was important whether or not I was satisfied shopping there or whether or not I got the items I came back for.

As a customer, and someone who has spent most of my adult life working in public service, this is NOT the way to do business.  But, I understand that national chains can afford to be indifferent and cavalier toward their customers which is why shopping at local, independent businesses is a better shopping experience.

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