The Other Side of the Counter

As you know, I am a staff member at Rosie’s Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia. It’s a wonderful shop, not the least of which because we have great customers: talented, creative, innovative knitters who also happen to be good-hearted people. (Incidentally, Rosie’s is also having a kick-ass clearance sale right now.) Working at a yarn shop is a fascinating experience. Yes, it is like Bill Clinton renting a room in the Playboy Mansion: so much temptation of all sizes, shapes and colors that you can barely keep your hands off. No matter what your spouse will surely say.

But there is a darker side to it, too. Though 88 percent of our customers may be wonderful, that other 12% will kill you. To wit:

The Shoplifter: Believe it or not, not all knitters are honest. Sometimes they take stuff. Without paying for it. Or to use the 4th grade favorite, the Venn diagram:

Consider the Great Mission Falls 1824 Cotton Scam: Customer walks in (about 5’4”, salt & pepper hair cut short in sensible do, wirerimmed glasses, cell phone & daughters. I am describing her so that in the unlikely event she reads this, she will know that I’m on to her. Next time, I will call you on it, ho-bag.) Wants to return some Mission Falls 1824 Cotton. This is a discontinued yarn – sadly, they’re no longer making it – and in the midst of her return, she sends us in the back to see if we have any more colors. We later discover that the balls she returns are, as we say in the biz, “light.” They used to have 50 grams, but now have only around 39 or so. (Why, of course we weighed it. Don’t want to go around making false accusations.) I don’t care if you only need to knit one row with that last ball; it’s shoplifting. (And no, we can’t just return it to the manufacturer and get our money back; they’re not stupid either.)

We even have one documented incident where an ersatz customer tried on a sample garment “to see how it fits” and, brazenly, walked out with it still on. (She was chased, by the way. The sample sweater is still at large.)

The Ditherer: The Ditherer isn’t exactly evil; she’s just kind of annoying. She can’t make a decision. Wool? but it might be too warm. Cotton? but it stretches. But wool is so elastic. Except cotton can be worn in three seasons. You get the idea. I could decide for her. I could also knit the sweater for her. But I won’t.

The Rude-ner.
The patron who lacks common courtesy. Like the one who comes in with galloping consumption and coughs in my face. Repeatedly. Without holding her hand over her mouth. After I’ve brushed the lung pieces off my shoulder, I flee to the bathroom and scrub with antibacterial soap. It’s too late. I will get sick, and I will give it to my three kids, and I will not sleep for the next 14 days.

The Anarchist. Let’s just say that avant-garde and Right Guard are not mutually exclusive.

The Naysayer. No matter what you bring out – buttery soft Rowan wool, magically light laceweight alpaca, 15 new shades of Koigu – it’s not right. That shade of black is too, well, dark. That wool is just a wee bit scratchy. This pattern’s too trendy; that one’s too classic. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Just fricking buy something. Or not.

Close cousin to the Naysayer, but infinitely more evil: The Power Tripper (or as we say in my family, the Ball Buster): It is not merely that she is of a disciminating taste; she also feels that her purchase entitles her to at least 2.67 hours of a staff member catering to her every whim with undivided attention. Don’t try the old “I need to use the ladies’ room” dodge: she wants you to hold it in. While telling her how cute this sweater would look on her (or her sister, or her daughter, or her husband), and discussing in excruciating detail the merits of butternut marl vs. loden mist. P.S. She will purchase one ball of Encore and a tapestry needle.

— Carol S.

0 comments on “

  1. You’ve managed to accurately describe most of the customers that come into my store.

    Of course, you missed the Whiner or the Illiterate. The whiner is the one who whines about all of her knitting. The Illiterate is the one who can’t read or understand the simpliest of written instructions and demands that you help her through each stitch.

  2. Or my favorite…the “But I Can’t Do XYZ”.

    I can’t knit on the bias. Ok, so here’s a written pattern…can you cast on (yes). Can you make a knit stitch (yes). Can you increase (yes) Can you K2tog (yes). Can you bind off (yes).

    But I don’t know how to knit a bias scarf!

    You’re right…’re too stupid to be holding pointy stiff things in your hands and working with potentially harmful materials that may end up around your neck as a choking hazard.


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