Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Times

There are people in this world who are good. There are people who are great. There are people who are simply amazing. There are people who are just so fantastic you just want to give a big hug to, and say, "Wow. You're great. Amazing. Just so fantastic." And there are people who leave something to be desired. There are people who are bad. There are people who are simply jerks. There are people so jerky, you just want to kick in the neck and say, "Wow. You leave something to be desired. You're bad. A jerk. Just so jerky. Stand still while I kick you in the neck."

Either way, people are truly fascinating. And this is never more apparent than when you spend time at The Happiest Place in the Mall. These are... Happy Times.

"The Mom-down Throwdown"
There's a young lady who comes into The Happiest Place in the Mall with her daughter. I recognized them both quickly, chatted with them for a minute, and went about dispensing magic to other guests.

I went backstage for a few minutes, probably checking for a XS Stitch shirt or something of that nature, and when I returned to the stage, I noticed Daughter in tears, with Mom squatting next to her, consoling her. The Happiest Place in the Mall is no place for tears, so I walked over and kneeled down, asking if everything was okay. Mom assured me it was with a weak smile, glancing over my shoulder with a scowl.

I left Mom and Daughter to their own, went back to the box office register, dealt with other guests. Mom finally came up with bag of magic, ready to purchase, when I inquired what was wrong. She then whispered to me to look at the three little children--two boys and a girl--running amok in the back while the parentals were not paying a lick of attention. "See that little blond girl? For no reason at all, she came up, pushed Daughter down, started teasing and poking at her. Daughter is shy, but she's very polite and there was no reason for this. I almost went crazy on that little girl, and her parents? Nowhere to be seen. They are on the other side of the store doing their own thing, not watching their children. I even saw one of the little boys rolling all over the plush mountain back there, climbing up, tossing plush everywhere... " Mom growled a bit, "there's no need for this. If parents would watch their children..." she trailed off, still gritting her teeth.

She was right about Daughter. The times I've seen the pair in our store, Daughter has been very behaved, a "yes sir" and "no ma'am" kind of kid, even at 3 years of age. Wish all the kids that came in were as well adjusted. Mom was brewing and steaming. She had a right to be. I ended up walking back to the back where the trinity of romper room was engaged in chaos and destruction, and had to get one of them off of the plush mountain. Their parents were truly around the other side of the store, not a care in the world. Happy times.

"The Confusing Bag Math"
In The Happiest Place in the Mall, we do sell re-usable shopping bags. Its a direction the entire company is taking, that of the "Green" persuasion, and while I'm not adverse to helping the environment, I personally don't seek out ways to earn carbon credits. As it stands, though, this is my job, and I have no problem getting a $2.50 big Mickey bag into someones hands, especially when we sell 300+ of them in a given week... which we did a few weeks ago during our bag promotion.

It worked like this... you buy a bag for $2.50. When you buy this bag, anything you put into this bag is automatically 40% off, whether its on sale or not. (was this hard to understand? Those two sentences were what I said to guests, and it really did seem like it was easy to get...)

If you were coming in to just buy a $4.50 Buzz Lightyear soft baseball, or perhaps a $5.50 Princess lip gloss ring set, this promotion wouldn't do you any good, unless of course, you wanted a bag anyway, which many people did. But if your purchases went up to $7.50 or more, you essentially got the bag for free... follow the math... $7.50 for whatever, plus $2.50 for the bag, equals $10. Take off the 25%, and that leaves you... $7.50. Right? Right.

Now, for anyone who's been at The Happiest Place in the Mall lately, you'll probably understand that 87% of our products probably top $7.50. This means you can save yourself some great money... but I can understand why people are so reluctant. Every time you check your email, there's some spam asking you to "click here" and get a whatever. Turn on the tv, you can see a great offer for something that looks cool, but there's tiny, tiny print at the bottom that reads something like, "Everything this commercial just said is a lie, we won't do any of this as promised, we'll just bilk you dry." Actually, that might have been an Obama ad...

Anyway, its rare to have an offer be simply cut and dry, so even though ours was simply buy this and save, I can get how people would be resistant. They wouldn't take the bag when offered on the floor, but when they got to the register and were informed their $47 purchase can become $35 and some change by simply spending $2.50 more, nearly everyone did it.

I did say "nearly".

Me: Hi there. Find everything you needed this afternoon? (picking up Eeyore and Pooh plush)
Guest: Yep. (he nods his head. He's wearing a Junior hat, cigs in the front pocket of his faded sleeveless shirt)
Me: Alrighty... well, the plush are 2 for $15 plus tax, but if you get this bag for $2.50, you'll save 25% on everything...
Guest: (blank stare... blank stare... brain computing...) Naw thanks.
Me: Seriously (not wanting to harp on this, but am positive he doesn't get it). Its' $16.35 total. However... with the bag, you're only going to pay $14.30 total.
Guest: (blank stare... computing... blank stare... computing...) No thanks.
Me: Okay, well, since, uh, you don't want the bag (I smile) you'll pay me two bucks more! That's $16.35
Guest: (blank stare... computing... hamster on wheel is getting tired... computing) Thanks.

Lest you think I'm picking on the country boy...

Heather: Hi, is this going to be it for you today?
Guest: Yep. This is all I need (hands over the black bag full of stuff. She's probably in her 40s, dressed in her best business casual, looks a little hurried.)
Heather: Will you be getting to bag today and saving 25% on everything?
Guest: No, I don't want the bag.
Heather: Okay, well, your total is going to be $61... but I have to tell you, if you spend $2.50 on this bag, you'll save 25% on everything
Guest: I don't need that bag.
Me: Ma'am, you would save about $15. No kidding. (not trying to be rude, but making sure she understands that she will be giving us FIFTEEN DOLLARS LESS by taking this black bag off of our hands)
Guest: Fine. (sighs) Give me the stupid bag.
Heather: Okay, with the bag, minus the 25%, you're new total is $47.34
Guest: Fine (pays for the magical merchandise, takes the bag, hurries out)
Heather: Wow (looks at me) She didn't seem happy about that, did she?

Out of nowhere comes Ol' Joe, who has been at the front greeting the guests. He's holding a crumpled black bag. "She came up to me, pulled all of her stuff out and then shoved this bag in my hands. Said she didn't want this bag." I looked at Heather, she looked at me, and I sighed, "You know, maybe we should just toss the bag on there anyway, and then when they come back and ask us to take it off the receipt, we'll tell them they owe us what they saved."


Me: Hello! Is this snowglobe going to be it for you today?
Guest: Yes, thanks. (she's young, maybe 18, maybe a year or two less or more. She's short, she pulls out all of her cash, piecing together 1s and 5s to try and pay for it)
Me: Alright, well your total is going to be $26.88, but if you let me put it in this black bag, your total would be $19.58.
Guest: How much is the bag?
Me: Well, its only $2.50, and you'll save 25% on all your purchases, which would be this snowglobe. You'll pay me about 6 or 7 dollars.
Guest: Nah. No bag.
Me: Okay, well then, your total is not $19.58, its actually $26.88. (I look up, and a 30-something mom is standing behind this current guest. She locks eyes with me and rolls them. I smile, and in my smile, I say, "I dunno. Sometimes I don't think people listen to what I'm trying to tell them, they just assume its a rip off, and really, all we are doing is trying to get rid of these black Mickey bags")

30-Something Mom smiles back at me, seemingly understanding my one second smile and glance, and then, standing behind this young lady who is paying me $6 more than she should have to, Mom says, loudly, "You know, I just don't get how some people don't want to save money."

I put all my focus back on the guest in front of me, who clearly heard this, and is awkwardly squirming. I gave her back her change, smiled, wished her a happy day and she took off. Inwardly, though, I found a rock and hid under it. Happy times.

"Kodak Moments"
Ah, the picture taking. Yes, yes, you love to lay your little newborn onto the mountain of plush and snap pics... or perhaps you are your 14 year old girl friends all want to hold Mickey and take a picture with your $400 iPhone your mom and dad bought you... or maybe you and your beloved just want to hold up Donald and Daisy together, snap a pic for the scrapbook, since while you were dating, people called you Donald and Daisy, and since today is your 10th wedding anniversary, what better way to remember the afternoon? This is all magical stuff, and I think its great. This is why The Happiest Place in the Mall is truly the happiest place in the mall.

And then there are those who decide that the picture is worth it, no matter what.

I walked toward the backroom, probably to get more Tinkerbell collapsible totes for the shelf, and notice two little boys sitting in front of the Beanie Plush wall. The beanies are smaller versions of the big plush, and at a much cheaper price. They came into phase when everyone was doing beanies, following the lead of the Ty Company and Beanie Babies, and for Disney, they've been around since then.

Little Boy 1 and Little Boy 2 were sitting, Indian style, facing each other, and had an entire shelf--probably 20 or more beanies--of Pooh and Tigger beanies raked into their laps. The shelf was empty. Some of the Piglet and Eeyore from the shelf above and a few of the McQueen and Bullseye from the shelf below had also made it into the pile, all which rested on and around our two little preciouses. For a second, I asked myself, "Really? Where's mom?" but honestly, I knew the answer to that question.

I stepped past the sale rack that was blocking my immediate view of the beanie shelves, and there was their mothers. Each had their own mom, smiling, holding up cameras, taking pictures and cheering them on... "okay, hold up Pooh!"... "That's so sweet!"... "Give Piglet a kiss, come on, come on, that's so cute!" Its as if the beanie-parazzi had made it to our store. I rolled my eyes, sighed and went on to fetch my Tinkerbell tote supply.

When I came back out later, the moms were gone, as were the boys. Yeah, they picked up... well, in a manner of speaking. Imagine if you raked an entire shelf of small stuffed animals into the floor, then picked them up in big handfuls and shoved them back onto the shelf, and the disorganization and messy appearance it would display. Yes, this is what they had done. Happy times.

"Plush Mountain Life Lessons"
There's a few specific reasons we do our best to keep the younglings from climbing the summit of our plush mountain. When you come into The Happiest Place in the Mall, you'll find Plush Mountain in the back. Its the seemingly random big pile of stuffed animals, and when its completely full, it looks just like that--a pile of stuffed animals. Beware, young climbers.... its actually a pyramid of hardwood shelves with "trenches" built in to hold the overflow stacks of Lucky and Lumpy and Rabbit and Wall*E and Buzz and Lady and Tramp and Mickey and Daisy and so on and so forth.

Its tempting, isn't it? But resist. You must resist.

Climbing in the mountain is dangerous, first of all. Your kid moves wrong, he tumbles out and though rolling down a pile of foam, fur and fluff might seem entertaining, those shelves have hard ledges that will be hit on every roll. Secondly, we have actually had guests who have broken things like mugs or snowglobes and the like, and instead of telling someone, or even leaving it on a shelf, they shove it under the plush to hide it.

Third, and this goes to tossing the plush as well, the screen is fragile. And a ripped projection screen is bad times indeed. Finally, its just a nightmare picking up all the plush that gets kicked and strewn everywhere due to Lil One kicking Donald and Goofy halfway across the mall. No bueno.

There are many things I've learned just in life that I hope to pass down to Lorelei Addison Dollar and Campbell Isaiah Dollar, once they enter this world, mostly just from common sense. However, there are many more things I would have never dreamed I'd need to tell my kids that I learned just from working at The Happiest Place in the Mall. Let's be real here... kids are kids. They will throw things, they will drool on things, they will touch stuff that has been clearly pointed out as "don't touch!"able, they will climb on things that are supposedly unclimbable, I get it... its the parents that I take issue with.

Why, for instance, do you stand there and smile as little Johnny takes a Dalmatian by the leg, little Sally takes Bambi by the head and then they both start beating each other with the plush? You have no intention of buying these animals, in which case they aren't yours. Please stop before Johnny, Sally or both rip and damage these animals and either you leave them in the mountain (this has happened) ripped and torn, or you buy them, complaining about the high prices of plush that you are now forced to by, as if its my fault you allowed your offspring to go MMA on our toys (this has also happened).

And why, for example, do you not wipe off little Mary's mouth, cleaning off the dark blue residue left from the cotton candy she just finished? And while your at it, please wipe off her fingers before you allow her to pick up, cuddle, hold and love on Marie the Aristocat who, by the way, is solid white except for those blue fingerprints Mary has left on her back. And because you are so generous, you allowed Marie to just be tossed back into the mountain, now white AND blue. This has happened.

And why, just wondering, do you allow little Billy to toss our plush high into the air, from one side of the mountain to the other, and when we ask little Billy to stop, you chide us for being rude and not plainly seeing that little Billy "is just trying to help pick up"? And grandma, next to you, says loudly, "I don't know why they have all these animals here if they won't let the kids thrown them around and play with them." Grandma, you old moron, they kids are welcome to play with them. They can hug them, carry them around the store, squeeze, kiss, love and hold... but don't throw them! You wouldn't like it if we came into your home and tossed your upper and lower dentures around the room. This has also happened (the plush, not the dentures). Happy times.

And then you have those kids who marvel. They walk in, their faces light up, they mouths fall open and the only words they can muster are... "NEMO!!" Or maybe "MICKEY!!!" or sometimes "ARIEL!!!" or even "CINDERELLA!!" as the characters from their favorite movies and their children picture books are now alive, real, larger than life on our screen, on our walls, in our boxes and packaging, on our shelves.

For all the children that go to The Happiest Place on Earth, more do not. The Happiest Place in the Mall is, to them, The Happiest Place on Earth. Our goal is to be the best 30 minutes of a child's day, to be the one store that, when they get home, they talk about us. They talk about "The Mickey Store" or "Where Snow White lives" or "I wanna go back to Disney World", even though "Disney World" is our own store because that's the only "Disney World" they've ever--and in some cases--will ever know.

And when I can ring up a Piglet and ask the question, "Would you like to hold Piglet or do you want me to put him in a bag?" and already knowing the answer, pull the tag off of the newly purchased plush and hand it back to anxious little hands who didn't want to let go in the first place, only letting go on the faith of a promise that in only a few seconds, they'll have it back... now that... that is why I love my job. That is why I like going to work. That is why The Happiest Place in the Mall is the most fun job I've ever had...

...despite the stupid parents we get sometimes...

...truly Happy Times. Indeed.

(ps... Erin the Marine Wife listed her own posting about kids, messes and unintentional vehicular manslaughter... well, not quite that bad, but still, I thought it was worth linking... its titled "Sorry Lilly"...)


  1. I've always said the toughest part of my job is the parents and not the kids. Everything I ever needed to know about how to parent, I learned from my parents. Everything I ever learned about how NOT to parent, I learned from some (definitely note all) parents at my studio. We should compare notes sometime.

  2. Dave, I think this is my most favorite of all your posts. I love it. It has brought back some wonderful, wonderful memories for me of the Happiest Place in the Mall. The first time I saw (as a teenager) the mountain of plush, the only thing I wanted to do was launch myself into it and lie there in bliss. But realizing that that would probably get me kicked out of the store and banned from ALL Happiest Places in every Mall in all of America, I picked up a plush (don't remember which one) and hugged and hugged it. I think I was 17 or so. But the idea of a giant mountain of fresh plushies was just soooo tempting.

    Even as an adult, Mike has had to pull me away from the mountain of plush. He usually gets me halfway through the store before he realizes that I have a friend hugged tightly to my chest. It's a trick I learned from my baby days at Toys R Us (not the happiest place on earth...oh goodness the crying and wailing!) - reach out and grab when you spy what you want. When mom gets to the check out, shine that beatific smile that only babies have. My mother swears it's how my over 100 plush collection grew. Why she never caught on...

    Back goes the Pooh or Eeyore or Piglet or whatever I've grabbed, as an adult, as beatific smiles don't sway husbands who are trying to keep the family budget in line.

    I miss our Happiest Place in the Mall. They took it out some time ago in favor of some boutique clothing store that I cannot afford to shop in. I guess our proximity to The Real Thing(and our overabundance of college students) made the mall people decide that a HPoM in The Oaks just wasn't suitable. *sigh*

  3. gotta love retail-world! :)
    I do remember when the Happiest Place in the mall opened. I guess I was in middle school. or maybe 4th grade-ish. It was indeed a great place, we begged mom to let us go in every time we went tot he Galleria! I'm pretty sure i still have my Tigger plush somewhere in a box, waiting for a future Baby Leveille...:)

  4. I adore this post for several different reasons which is why I shall comment here, then will probably mosey on over to my blog with some thoughts. (I will of course "hyperlink" to this article, because my friend, it is grand.)

    #1 I used to be a Happiest Place cast member and spent the majority of my day digging broken snowglobes, cotton candy and bad parents' children out of plush mountain. And I did it with a smile, cause thats what you do at the HP.

    #2 We do not have a HP anywhere near here...well, we may have one in Raleigh, I am not sure. Anyway...I miss it. I still sing "Harmony" at the top of my lungs when the "Little Mermaid Cartoon" comes on...and my daughter is still surprised I know every word...well, I listened to it 567,891 times and loved every minute of it. She was also baffled when we went to see Beauty and the Beast on base a few months ago and her mother could almost recite every word of dialouge and lyric...whole movie. (and I could do the show choir moves to match, which she did not appreciate in public at all...children just do not get the significance of "jazz hands" anymore...)

    #3 I find myself in situations often where I can no longer keep my mouth shut about the lack of parenting skills. I will not spoil the incredible story here, but please take a mosey on over to my blog later on today for the story of "Lilly and Her Idiot Father That Doesn't Know Kids Can Be Killed if Struck By A Vehicle". My husband agrees that from now I am going to have to start opening my mouth and saying "Excuse me, maybe you don't care if your kid gets run over today, but it would really make me sad"....because when I don't say anything the rage builds up in me...and I drive him nuts. :)

    #4 You and your lovely wife need to start procreating yesterday...(yeah, yeah, we all know you practice...start popping out some kids already)...because they will be some lucky dang kids.

    #5 I love, just love that someone else adores the HP on EARTH as much as me. I could go 100,000 times and never EVER get tired of it. Not because of Splash Mountain (which I am scared of by the way). Not because of those awesome hot dogs on main street that taste better when you are listening to the guy at the white piano play. Not because I love Mickey Mouse. All those things are great... but it is because of the way the Happiest Place on Earth makes me feel. Dreams are alive and abundant there...I wish every kid on earth had a chance to experience it. Thanks for at least making those 30 minutes special...

    Many Kind Regards DDDD$$$,
    Erin the Marine Wife

  5. The crap you have to put up with is astounding.

    In reference to the people who don't get the bag discount thing: You can't fix stupid.

    The lady who bought the bag and just gave to to your greeter is a something akin to a word that rhymes with witch.

    The parents who let their kids run wild and the grandmas (I wonder if she had the decency to put out her cigarrette before she came in the store)who berate you for doing the job that the parents should be doing are absolute tools.

    Shouldn't have them out if they don't want the kids playing with them? Really? If I go to Dick's Sporting Goods to buy a new football, I am not going to throw it around the dadgum store. If I am going to buy a tennis racquet, I am not going to hit tennis balls all over the store. The arrogant attitudes of "guests" like that make me glad I am not in retail.

    You are a better man than me D$.

  6. I think all of the accolades have already been doled out, but I too am digging this post. I was tempted to think that it was merely a well-written ad for The Happiest Place in the Mall, but you could have just as easily inserted any other store name into the story (with a few minor modifications). Some people are dumb, and then there are some people who are idiots. Retail work is not for the faint of heart or spirit. I'm proud of you for not ending up in jail or on America's Most Wanted from going ape on one of these (or various other) maladjusted kids or their parents/guardians.

    Keep the hits coming D$! :)

  7. Lorelei Addison and Campbell Isaiah?
    Hmmm...anyway-you are so right! Ashlyn can't wait to come to Gigi and Grandy's house next week and she is just as excited to be able to come to the Disney Store-which they don't have in northwest Florida where she now lives...we will see you soon! She is counting the days...

  8. Yes, Lorelei Addison and Campbell Isaiah... those are the two names we've decided on for our boy and girl (well, we are both sold on the first, I'm still pushing "Isaiah" on The Lovely Steph Leann). Anyway, we use those names here in the blog and out in public so when people around us have kids, they'll know that those names are already chosen, and if they choose to use them, they'll be copying us, even though they may have had children first....


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