Thursday, May 29, 2008

Substitution for Common Sense

My wife shops at a local grocery store in town called WinCo. It's a chain where the non-union employees are the owners. I can't stand the place and avoid going at all costs. The customers are really unpleasant and there's just a general dingy feeling to the place.

No, no fancy ahm-bee-yahnz here, they're known for one thing and they do it well - low prices. So my wonderful wife, stretching our meager budget goes where I dare not tread, a place I consider beneath me, a place I hold with a mixture of fear and dread when forced to confront.

A few months back I found myself in line in their customer service area. Long story short, my mother-in-law's purse had been stolen and dumped there by the thieves who proceeded inside to attempt to get money off of her ATM card. The car keys weren't still in the purse, so I had gone in to find out if they had been possibly turned in to lost and found.

As I waited for all the people in front of me to give their various reasons for returning groceries, I regarded my surroundings. The main wall behind the customer service reps was filled with signs. You know the type, putty-colored rectangles with white letters engraved in plastic. Each rectangle a different size, obviously ordered at different times. New signs that had not yet graduated to that level of permanence were printed or scrawled onto 8-1/2x11" sheets of paper.

The signs held various instructions, warnings and caveats to consider when taking advantages of their offerings... Warnings of bounced check fees, hours of operation for check-cashing, requirements for successful winning lottery ticket prize money redemption.

In every case, someone got tired of having to explain themselves or repeatledly confront someone trying to work over the system and thought 'we should have a sign.'. But after awhile, this piecemeal approach gets out of control. It looks tacky. And taken as a whole, it makes the WinCo customer look like someone who is ignorant and in many cases, prone to fraud and theft.

It's an interesting phenomenon. I mention it now because I feel like I'm starting to slip into 'sign mode' - if such a thing exists.

In order to combat a never re-filled Brita, Lori asked me to come up with something that indicates a minimum level at which point if the water is below, you need to refill it before putting it back in the fridge. Common sense or common courtesy, but it wasn't happening.

Tired of dirty dishes everywhere, I bought a large plastic tub last week to put dishes in if the dishwasher isn't accepting dirty dishes. We went away for memorial day and came back to find all the dishes washed and the tub in the dining room. After replacing it, I've seen dishes set next to it repeatedly. Which suggests either an attitude problem or one of ignorance. I finally had to put a note on it last night which directs the reader to put dishes in the tub or dishwasher.

I'm getting close to putting one on Rachel's stool in her bathroom so she can safely get to the sink - it keeps moving to the other side of the bathroom no matter how many times we put it back. Or the vacuum cleaner that's never in the same place. Or how to avoid breaking the belt on the vacuum. Or about how leaving hot things like curling irons or clothes irons on low, kid-accessible surfaces to cool is a bad idea. Or how to snap the broom to the dustpan handle correctly. Or that forks go on the left. Or to let someone know (or add to shopping list) if you use up all of the detergent or softener sheets or my instant coffee mix, instead of throwing away (actually they should go in the recycling bin) the containers and letting us hunt all over for them until we find the empty containers and realize we won't be doing any laundry or drinking coffee until we go to the store..

Or how to fold clothes. I would much rather start with clothes from the dryer than have to reflod everything. Don't even get me started (too late)... on what planet does it make sense to fold towels in such a way that you must re-fold them before you can hang them on a towel rack? This one isn't preference. It's common sense.

And yet I fear I need a sign.
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