There’s no official list of standards and practices for customer behavior at Annie Bloom’s. We do have a small note posted on the front door that says “Please leave all large bags and packs at counter” but it’s more of a guideline than a rule. I can pretty much guarantee that none of my co-workers is ever going to point toward a visitor and call out, “You! With the large bag! Bring that to the counter immediately!”
I’ve played out that scenario many times in my brain because it offers a goldmine of material for a humorist. A prolonged and wide-ranging debate about what constitutes “large” in the context of bags, packs and purses would make a great scene in an episode of ‘Portlandia.’
However, one guideline I try to follow in my personal life is not to pretend I’m on a TV show. It’s certainly true that I could probably do more in the way of contingency planning during my on-the-job hours at the store, but in the area of customer relations I’ve had much success by simply following a familiar old saying: Don’t borrow trouble.
Our customers have a tradition of self-regulation that doesn’t require intense, ongoing oversight from the staff. The collective mood always favors cooperation rather than confrontation. I can’t count the number of times someone stepping inside has asked, “Can I bring this in?” and held out a cup of coffee, can of soda or bottled water. I won’t deny there are occasional spills, but accidents happen.
Do we need to draw up a list of food and beverage items that should be strictly prohibited in order to avoid serious cleanup incidents that will waste valuable employee time? Again my thoughts turn to hilarious possibilities. If a customer wanted to browse the shelves while eating from a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs and fell down, that would certainly be unpleasant, and very sad. I always regret seeing good food hit the floor in any venue. Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t think the odds of such an incident happening at Annie Bloom’s justify the establishment of a store policy regarding spaghetti and meatballs or any variety of hot, sauce-drenched pasta.
I admit to feeling a twinge of concern the first time I saw a parent wheeling a baby stroller through the front doors because we have some narrow spaces and tight corners here. Turns out we also have good karma for strollers; in most every case these conveyances navigate the aisles smoothly and some of the occupants don’t even wake up during the visits.
One time a guy brought his bike into the store and told me he’d left the lock at home. The store wasn’t busy and he found the book he wanted quickly so it wasn’t a bother. But—here’s my brain going into overdrive again—I’m not sure what I’ll do if someone rides up on one of those old timey bikes with the giant front wheel and wants equal treatment. I hope the next person making such a request will be riding a unicycle.
Regardless of the situation, it’s always a good feeling to know that nearly everyone who comes into Annie Bloom’s shares a sense of community. That’s why I never get tired of being asked whether or not it’s okay to carry around a cup of coffee. I’m also happy to take the empty cups and throw them into the garbage can under the counter.
And if the Portlandia producers ever wander in here, I’ll be glad to show them where we re-cycle the empty cans and bottles.