Would you like a candle maintenance kit with that?

For a few months when I was studying I worked as a checkout chick at Safeway (Woolworths). Most of the time I enjoyed the job very much because it's fairly easy work and I loved chatting with the customers. We were instructed to wish the customers a nice day/evening as they left the store, but I admit I usually ignored that directive when I was there at 11pm and my customer only came in for condoms and lubricant... there's something a little creepy about putting those two items in a bag and cheerily saying, "Have a great evening!" Other than that, though, I was happy to chat with them and I had quite a good time.

What I didn't like about the job was how seriously the supervisors took themselves. These were kids of maybe 21 or 22 who thought they'd hit the big time because they had been promoted to supervisor. They really thought that this was their big break and that one day they'd move up the ranks until they were managing the entire chain. A simple calculation of the number of stores, each with 10 or so supervisors, versus the number of senior management positions Australia-wide should have crushed their dreams fairly early on, but apparently not. They blindly spouted the company line without question, at least in the store where I worked, and didn't approve of people like me (and 98% of the checkout staff) who treated the job as merely a way to get through their studies without being forced to sell a kidney.

I thought that Safeway supervisors were the ultimate in self-importance and self-delusion but I was proven wrong the other day. I walked past a candle store and noticed that Christmas candles were on sale. The only thing that makes these candles 'Christmas' candles is that they were red, white or green and had a label attached to them that said "Christmas candle". They were exactly the same as the other red, white and green candles in the store but because of the label they'd been reduced to half price. I selected a couple I liked and walked to the counter with them. I was greeted by a stern looking girl who subjected me to the following interrogation:

Stern Girl: Have you purchased our candles before?

Me: Yes, I have

SG: Oh. So you know about trimming the wick?

Me: Yes

SG: And using a snuffer to put it out?

Me: (like I'm going to fork out money for a snuffer when I can blow the candle out like a normal person) Yes.

SG: And you also know about creating a candle memory?

Me: (having no idea what she was talking about and wondering if this is some kind of test) Uh... yes.

SG: Do you have one of our Candle Care Kits?

Me: No, I don't.

SG: (with disapproving frown) Well, would you like to buy one so you can take care of your candles?

Me: (feeling like I've just admitted to using a pillow and gaffer tape instead of a car safety seat for my child) Ummm... no, I think I'll leave it for today.

Stern Girl realised at this point that I was an irresponsible candle owner who was clearly beyond redemption so she gave me my candles and let me go. I feel quite sure that she and the other stern looking girl behind the counter spent their lunch break talking about the customer who clearly didn't care about the candles she'd just adopted purchased.

And another little part of me feels sure that Stern Girl has had business cards printed in which she refers to herself as a Candleologist.

9 comments:

Swift Jan said...

YOu didn't happen to go into "dusk" did you? I know they are ALWAYS harping on about candle care... I mean. Who cares!?

I love your new blog design BTW! Very nice indeedy!

Femina said...

Yep, it was Dusk! I wasn't sure whether to laugh in her face or humbly apologise for being a bad candle owner.

Manda said...

I've had that at Dusk as well.

The candle memory is apparently when you make sure it burns for a few hours the first time so the wax puddle is a big one, a bit less than one cm in from the outer edge of the candle. That way, it's supposed to burn longer (rather than having a smaller wax puddle, which the candle goes through quicker).

I feel sorry for those salespeople. Obviously management has decided that "candle care" is the only way they can get some more money out of their customers, so they invent funky little trimmers and bowls and stands and snuffers that you must have (or else be irresponsible like our misguided Femina).

Shame on you. Shaaaame.

Hippomanic Jen said...

I had no idea it was so technical. Now I'm not game to go anywhere near a "proper" candle shop. Fortunately my town doesn't run to that level of specialization. Whew.

The Blonde Duck said...

Small people in charge syndrome....

Femina said...

Small people in charge syndrome

Oh, so true.

Givinya De Elba said...

I love the phrase "small people in charge syndrome" - not small ins stature but small in the mind. I totally get it.

Candle care! Hah! Same as being flogged a tube of Zanolin every time you buy a pair of shoes.

Melissa... said...

Wow, you have Safeway stores in Australia? As a former grocery store employee, I found great humor in your blog.

rhubarbwhine said...

Those Dusk staff members are trained to make sure they givethe same scenario to every customer, every visit. It's ridiculous, but it supposed to (and probably does) increase sales.

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