Monday, September 04, 2006

customer service so good, its bad

Many knitters have mentioned a recent rash of yarn store owners/employees with a bad attitude. I've heard many complaints of apathetic, bitchy, and just plain unhelpful staff. Last weekend i experienced a store full of friendly employees and friends, so helpful that i wanted to scream!

It started with a need for road trip knitting. I wanted sometime small (a la socks) but not too boring. I've just knit 2 pairs of plain jane stockinette socks, so i'm thinking a little more spicy. But i will get car sick if there's too much cabling or pattern reading involved. So i decided on the falling leaves pattern. Gave the pattern a quick read through, didn't see any red flags or unexpected shaping. seems like a straight forward toe-up sock with simple lace patterning. sweet. Wound my beautiful STR lightweight into a ball the morning of the trip, throw size 1 and 2 double points into the knitting bag with skein and pattern. (swatching? no time! that would require forthought. as if.)

In the car, i found out there might be a hiccup. The pattern is written for 3 sizes, but the pattern gives cast-on numbers for only 1. Curious, i thought. Then i notice that there are 3 different gauges listed. huh? It took me a few minutes of puzzling and confusion to figure out that one is to adjust the size of the sock by changing needle size and gauge. (the 12 stitch pattern repeat makes it hard to change size by changing number of stitches cast on). Perhaps this is obvious to other people, but I don't normally knit lace or patterned socks. This was NOT obvious to me, and it is not mentioned in the pattern notes at all.

but i'm a smart gal. figured it out. Unfortunately, my smallest needles (size 1) were too large and my toe was coming out huge. I started to plan a way around it in my head. ooh! there is a nice little yarn shop in the neighborhood we are visiting; we've stopped in before on previous trips to visit D's parents. Since it was a saturday afternoon, i figured i could stop by the store and see if they happened to have some size 0 needles in stock. Or maybe i'll pick up a different sock yarn that's a little thicker than STR lightweight. It would be a nice, easy solution. yay.

We walk in, say 'hello' to the ladies in the shop, and i head over to the needle corner. I notice they are having a class or group as there is about 5 ladies sitting around the table knitting.
One of them gets up to ask me if i need help (that's a great start! some yarn stores ignore you until you ask for help). I said "yes, i'm wondering if you have any size 0 needles in stock. circular or double point". This set off a cascade of responses from everyone in the store, almost simultaneously:
lady 1: oh, i don't think so. not out front. let me check the free needles in the back to be sure.
lady 2: what are you knitting on tiny toothpicks?
me: oh, socks. i'm on size 1 needles now, but the gauge is too big
lady 1: (from the back) oh, i found one size 0, but let me see if i can find the mate
lady 3: (before i can answer) no, she's knitting socks, she doesn't want straight needles.
lady 4: oh, do you need such small needles? i'm knitting these socks on 3's and they are coming out fine.
me: well, i've already got the yarn and its pretty thin (i pull sock toe and yarn out of my purse)...
lady 2 (cutting me off): oh you're knitting on double points, you know you could do that on circular needles, right?
me: oh yes, but i happen to like double points, they work for me....
Lady 3: (cutting me off) What's your gauge? have you measured it? (i'm getting the idea that she's the teacher or in charge of the group...)
me: i think i'm 7.5 stitches to the inch. i'm knitting in the car, so its a little hard to measure --
lady 3: (snatches my sock from my fingers and starts to measure the gauge).
lady 2: are you you married to that sock pattern? maybe you should just knit something else. Lady 3: you have 8 stitches to the inch. What does the pattern call for?
Me: well, its a little confusingly written.
lady 3: (snatches pattern from me.) let me see it.
[at this point its clear that she thinks i'm a newbie/idiot. i shoot Darius a glaring look.]
me: No, i'm not married to this pattern, but i'm on a road trip. And this is the one i threw into the knitting bag with me. i don't have all my needles. so that's why i thought i'd just stop in and see...
Lady 2: well we have plenty of sock patterns, i can show you another one.
me: Well yes, i could knit another pattern. In fact, i have a generic sock pattern memorized, so i don't really need one thank. I just wanted to try something knew.
Lady 3: It says 32 stitches to 4 inches. which is what you have. You must have cast on the wrong number of stitches.
me: (my patience with this crew is now frazzled. i'm trying to somehow get accross to them that i KNOW HOW TO KNIT!) Yes, i did. its a provisional cast-on, then short row toe, back up the other side, so that you have 72 stitches around. The problem is that its a 12 stitch repeat so if i remove 24 stitches from the whole sock it will be way too small.

This continues for a few more minutes while i try to get accross to these ladies that yes, i know what i'm doing. i am perfectly capable of using that stitch pattern in another sock pattern. But i simply thought i'd see if they had size 0 needles or another yarn for an easy fix. THANK YOU. They finally let it drop and let me shop in peace. Not seeing any sock yarn i wanted, i bought a book that i wanted and we left.

Now, having worked in a yarn store before, i can completely understand both sides of the coin. Customers are often confused, annoying, and stupid. Many customers don't really know how to read a pattern or are really confused. But just because you don't recognize me as a regular, don't assume i'm an idiot. PLEASE treat all customers with equal respect. I know they were trying to be helpful, which is why i still bought the book i wanted. But i was supremely annoyed and probably will not stop in there next time i'm down there. I will go out of my way to visit yarn stores in neighboring towns if i need anything.

ok, i'm done ranting now. g'day.


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