Archive | April, 2012

Good News Monday

30 Apr

I love Mondays.

Wait, scratch that.  I love *this* Monday.  Most Mondays I feel like this:

That's the same look I have when I wake up one minute before my alarm goes off... and again 2 seconds after the alarm goes off.

Why do I love this Monday, you ask?  Well, it’s because I have lots of good news to share.

First, because of the completely overwhelming reaction to Thursday’s Things Video Game Customers Say, I’ve started a Tumblr to share more of the gems I hear each day at work.  You can follow it at http://videogamecustomers.tumblr.com/.  Go share it with your friends.  Be glad you don’t have my job.

Second, and in a wonderful juxtaposition of timing, I’m getting a raise!  That’s right- I am going to be paid more money for each hour of work, effective May 5th.  This is because the aforementioned video game store thinks that I do a pretty good job. No word yet on exactly how much the raise will be, or if they’ve figured out that I’m the one behind that viral post, but until reality sets in I’m going to enjoy the glow of potentially increased income levels.

Third, I’ve got two new books in my hands.  Well, not at this exact moment, since that would make typing difficult, but they are sitting right next to me right now.  I’ve spent the last two weekends babysitting for various adorable children, and the proceeds have been put to good use.  I picked up Insurgent by Veronica Roth, and City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare.  Insurgent was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more.  City of Lost Souls is staring at me, waiting for the work day to end so that we can curl up together.  Both are long-awaited sequels to two excellent dystopian YA series, and my favorite series (serieses? seriesi?) since Harry Potter.

Third part B, some of you out there may be up on book release dates.  Let’s play it cool that I have both books before their official release dates, ok?  (Insurgent comes out tomorrow, and City of Lost Souls releases May 8th.)  My local bookstore doesn’t seem to understand/care about street dates, and I kind of love that about them.  I paid full price for the books, I just did so a bit early…I call it a bonus for being a loyal reader (and preordering both books months ago).

Finally on the financial front, my budget for May looks pretty good.  After a long month of trying to track down late paychecks, everything has arrived safe and sound.  I did very well in April, earning about $2,700 between my five jobs.  (For reference, my January income was just under $2,000.  This is a very nice improvement.)  An increase in hours at several jobs, while super stress-inducing at times, has certainly paid off.  It’s also taught me quite a bit about time management and priorities.  I’m no where near perfect on either of those, and I still have days where I just want to get in my car and drive away from it all, but it is getting better.

So there you have why I love this Monday.  The sun is out, the birds are singing, the woodpecker that is courting my chimney is nowhere to be found, there is money in my pocket, and the city workers with chainsaws have finally finished their work.  All is quiet and calm, for now.

Let’s see how long it lasts.

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If you have good news this Monday, why not share it?  Leave me a comment below and let’s all celebrate together!

Things Video Game Store Customers Say

26 Apr

I love hearing about the questions that customers ask bookstore employees, especially ones like “I read a book when I was 8, and it has a blue cover with a flower.  Do you have that book in stock?”  You know, the kind of questions that the phrase *headdesk* was invented for.  Sadly, I have found that this phenomenon is not limited to bookstores.

I’ve been working in a video game store for about 10 months now, and over that time I have heard/witnessed some awe-inspiring displays of… shall we say, less-than-intelligent behavior from my customers.  Today, I’d like to share some of my favorites with you. (In order to stay with the Penny Story Thursday theme, we’re going to consider these One Cent Comments.)

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1. What a Charming Child.

Me: Welcome to [store name redacted].  How can I help you today?

Customer: We’re looking for Wii games.

Me: OK, they’re over here.  Any particular game in mind?

Customer: Well, what do you recommend for a boy my son’s age?

Me: Mario is always a best-seller, and there’s a new Mario Galaxy game out now.

Customer’s son (a charming boy about 9): Mario is a f****** f*****.

Me: *speechless*

Customer: So what else do you recommend?

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2. I’m Not Tech Support.

Me: *answers phone* Thank you for calling [store name].  How can I help you?

Customer: Yeah, I’m trying to set up my Xbox, and it says there’s not enough… Ns?

Me: That’s a network overload issue.  Are you on wireless?

Customer: Yeah.

Me: Ok, try resetting the router.  That might fix it.

Customer: The router?  I don’t think one of those came with the room.

Me: Oh… um, are you at a hotel?

Customer: Yeah.

Me: Ok, then you’ll have to call the front desk for help, sir.

Customer: I can’t do that.  They don’t know I’m here.

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3. Silly Rabbit, Girls Don’t Play Video Games.

Me: *answers phone* Thanks for calling [store name].  How can I help you?

Customer: Yeah, can I speak to someone about Call of Duty: Black Ops?

Me: Are you looking for a price on the game?

Customer: No, I need some help.  Is there someone there who has played the game?

Me: I have played the game.

Customer: *long pause* But, you’re a girl, right?

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4. Bad Connection.

Me: *answers phone* Thanks for calling [store name]. How can I help you? (You’d think I’d learn to stop answering the phone.)

Customer: Yeah, I was trying to see how much you’d give me for my DS Lite?

Me: Ok, we have to see the system in person before we can give a quote.

Customer: Yeah, but how much is it worth?

Me: That depends a lot on the condition of the system. We have to make sure it turns on, loads games, doesn’t have scratches, that sort of thing.

Customer: Yeah, I want cash for it.  How much?

Me: Well, you have to be over 18 to get cash, and we still would have to see the system in person before I could give you a value.

Customer: I’ll send my momma. (No joke- the kid said “momma”.)  Ok, how much would you give me for Call of Duty?

Me: I’d have to see the game in person too.  Trade-in values are all about the condition of the game or the system.

Customer: Have you heard of the game?

Me: *patience wearing very thin* Yes, I have heard of Call of Duty.

Customer: Ok, how much for it then?

Me: I. Have. To. See. The. Game. First.

Customer: Ok, fine. I’ll call back later and talk to someone else.

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5. Burning Down The House.

Me: *Answers phone* (we all know where this is going.)

Customer: Yeah, I just bought a Wii game there and it doesn’t work.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.  If you bring it back with your receipt, we’ll be glad to replace it.

Customer: Here’s the thing.  I’ve bought pre-owned games from you in the past, and they never work.

Me: I’m very sorry to hear that.

Customer: *cuts me off* Yeah.  So, I’m going to bring this game back and you’re going to replace it.  And if I get home and it doesn’t work, I’m going to burn your house down.

Me: *hangs up, turns to manager* I’m going to go take my break now, ok?

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6. In Which I Finally Get To Use A Sweet Home Alabama Line.

Customer: *storms in, slams game on the counter*  I bought this here last Saturday and it doesn’t work.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.  I can replace it for you.  Do you have your receipt?

Customer: *stares coldly* No.

Me: That’s ok.  Do you have a membership card with us?

Customer: *still seething* No.

Me: Oh.  Well, I can’t return the game without a receipt or a membership card.  Would you like to tra-

Customer: *slams hands on counter and leans into my face* Are you s****** me?

Me: You know, I’ve never understood that phrase, but no, I am not s****** you.

Customer: *grabs game, storms out of store*  I’m never coming back here again!

My manager: We’re going to really miss having him around.

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7. Just Pull A Bit Harder.

Customer (note- a fully-grown man): *walks up to counter, hands me a Wii remote box, still hanging on the magnetic locked display rack.*

Me: Um, what happened?

Customer: *shrugs* I couldn’t get it off the rack.

Me: *glances across the store at the new large hole in the wall* Oh, ok.  *Grabs magnet, unlocks rack*

Customer: Oh, so that’s how those work.

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8. The Kinect Is Not For Everyone.

Customer: Can I get the controller for the Xbox?  I have my Driver’s License. (An ID is required for getting the display controller.)

Me: Oh, we have the Kinect on today.  You don’t need the controller.

Customer: No, but I want to play the golf game you have on today.

Me: Yes, it’s a Kinect game.  You just stand in front of the TV and swing like you really had a golf club in your hands.

Customer: *look of deep distrust*  Can I just get the controller, please?

Me: I promise you, you don’t need the controller.  Just stand on the mat in front of the TV and wave your hand.

Customer: *stares*  Whatever. *walks away*

Me: I swear, I’m not messing with you!

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9. We’re Not Babysitters.

Customer: *opens door, shoves child inside*  Stay here.  I’ll be back in an hour. *leaves*

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10.  We’re Still Not Babysitters, Unless You’re Willing To Pay.

Customer: *opens door, shoves child inside.  Looks around and spies employees at the counter*  Hello!  I’m just going to be a few doors down, ok?  I’ll be back in twenty minutes!

Coworker: That’s fine.  Childcare is $20 an hour.

Customer: *stern look at child* Don’t you break nothing while I’m gone. *leaves*

(Sadly, the child immediately went after his mom, and my coworker and I never got our $20.)

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Finally we have my all-time favorite customer interaction.   It’s been implied so many times before, but last week I finally had a customer come right out and say it.

11. You’ll End Up Like Those People

Child: *brings his mother two video games*

Child’s mother: No, you get one.

Child: But I just traded in one game.

Mother: Yes, and you’re only allowed to have two video games at a time.

Child: C’mon, mom, please?

Mother: No!  Too many video games will rot your brain, and you’ll end up working here like those people. *points to me and my coworker.*

Me: *represses urge to smack her with my Master’s degree*  (also, I should add that half the store has Master’s degrees, and the rest are either in college or hold Bachelor’s degrees.  We’re also all gainfully employed.   I can totally understand why someone wouldn’t want their child to end up like us.)

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And there you have it.  That is the kind of stuff I deal with for six to eight hours, two to three times a week.  Don’t get me wrong- I do really enjoy my job.  I get paid to talk about video games, and it gets me out of the house and among people two to three times a week.  But sometimes, I just have to wonder if common sense is really so common after all.

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For those of you who have shared the horror of working in retail, what are your favorite customer interactions?  Leave me a comment and we can commiserate together.  Also, if enough people like this post, next week I’ll tell you about the time I worked at a skating ring and a customer threatened me with a knife over the price of a Slushie.

On Obama’s Student Loan Reform

25 Apr

President Obama said something awesome yesterday.  No, I’m not talking about his slow jamming the news on Jimmy Fallon last night, although if you haven’t seen it, click that link and watch.  Whether you like Obama or not- that is a funny video.

I am referring to the fact that President Obama, while speaking to university students yesterday, said “…check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States—[I] only finished paying off [my] student loans about eight years ago.”

Let’s pause for a moment and do some quick math.

President Obama graduated with his J.D. in 1991 (thanks, Wikipedia).  That’s twenty-one years ago.  He says that he finished paying off his loans eight years ago.  That means our President, who spent 7 years as a State Senator and 3 as a US Senator (and I think we can all agree those are not minimum-wage type jobs), took THIRTEEN YEARS to pay off his student loans.

Thirteen years, people.  That’s a long time to be stuck owing someone money, especially when that someone is a faceless company with an army of lawyers and form letters at their disposal.

Anyway, after I heard President Obama’s speech, I wanted to know how much his student loans had totaled.  As that’s not a sum that Google easily spits out, I did some quick research and came up with some numbers of my own.

  • President Obama spent two years at Harvard Law School.  At roughly $14,500 per semester in 1990, President Obama would have paid $58,000 in tuition.  Add in standard university fees, and President Obama’s Law degree from Harvard in 1991 likely cost about the same as my Public Health degree from Emory in 2011- $60,000.
  • Before that, President Obama spent four years at Columbia University.  In the 1980s, the average yearly tuition at a four-year private school was just over $8,100 (thanks again, Wikipedia).  Since we’re talking about Columbia here, let’s bump that up to an even $9,000 per year.  That’s $36,000 over four years.
  • If President Obama only used loans to pay his tuition and fees at both schools, he would have graduated with a debt total close to $100,000.  Stretched out over 13 years and assuming an average fixed interest rate of 9% (this number comes from here) equals a monthly payment of about $1,089, or a grand total of $169,884.

You know what?  I’m starting to see why President Obama has spent so much time talking about student loan reform.  I’ve only spent two years paying on my student loans, and I talk about them and the need for reform all the time too. (The difference here is that only a few hundred people listen to me.  The similarity is that Congress doesn’t listen to me either.)

The big issue right now is the student loan interest program.  If it expires in July, the average student will pay $1,000 more on their loans in pure interest.  For those who are struggling just to make the minimum payment each month, this could put them dangerously close to defaulting on their loans.  President Obama is urging Congress to not let this program expire.  This is one of those times when even through my congressman can be an elitist … (well, it rhymes with stick), I’m still going to pick up the phone and send an email asking him to vote to extend the program.

Perhaps you could do the same? (Call your congressperson, I mean.  Don’t call mine unless you have to- he’s not a very nice person.)

If you want to know more about the issue, here are some links:

While you all read and discuss, or do whatever it is you do on the internet, I’m going to set a new goal for myself: pay off my student loans faster than the President.

Two years down, eleven to go.

Part 1

23 Apr

This week, you get two (count ’em) TWO Monday blog posts.  This first part is to brag about my guest post on the Masquerade Crew’s blog.  The Masquerade Crew (@masqcrew on Twitter) does promotion for independent and self-published authors, and also writes a fantastic blog.  They are taking part in the A to Z Challenge this month, and I got to write the T post:

T is for Tyops

“I typed fish instead of fist and the scene just went downhill from there.”

That’s a real quote from my housemate. She was merrily typing along when one character slammed his fish into another character’s jaw. The second character wondered aloud where the first character had gotten such a large salmon, especially since they were standing in the bowels of a castle in the middle of a land-locked nation. The first character replied that their story’s plot no longer held water. More aquatic puns ensued, and the writing project never really recovered.

I bet we can all cite at least one moment where our eyes came to a screeching halt on the page and the spell of the story was broken. For me, it was when Dumbledore…

Read the rest at: http://masqueradecrew.blogspot.com/

Part 2!

23 Apr

For the second Monday post this week, I offer an update on my loan progress.

First off, I beat Amanda in March at the Amazing Loan Race.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, click the link above, or just know that I’m trying to beat my friend in a student loan payoff contest.  I paid $948 on my loans in March.  Amanda paid $100.  In her defense, she had a feline-related emergency.  The adorable animal in question is doing much better, and Amanda has vowed to destroy me this month, loan-wise.

That’s unlikely to happen. You see, as soon as my long-overdue paycheck arrives (accio paycheck*), I will be paying $1,296 on my loans this month.  For those of you keeping track at home, that’s just $39 under my ideal monthly payment of $1,335.

You guys, this is the closest I’ve come to hitting my ideal monthly payment yet! (cue: cheers and wild applause).  And it only took me four months to do it (cue: slow clap).  A third of the year gone by, and I’m finally almost on track.

 

Second, I mentioned last week (and the week before that) that I needed to get my work priorities back in order.  I’m pleased to say that I’m definitely on the right track.  I’ve talked with my bosses at two of my part-time jobs and made arrangements to remove some of my responsibilities at those jobs.  At one job, I won’t have to work before 2 pm on weekdays, making my schedule much more predictable each week.  At another job, we’re looking for someone to help take some of the workload each week so that things stop falling through the cracks.

It took a lot of courage for me to finally cry uncle, since I had it in my head that to do so was the same as failing.  I knew that I couldn’t do it all, but I felt like I should be able to anyway.  When I finally realized that it was OK to ask for help or for changes to be made, it was a huge relief.  The conversations with my bosses went much easier than I expected, and I came out of both meetings feeling much less stressed (and a bit more like a real adult.)  I also learned that people may be willing to help you, but you have to be the one to ask for it (or conversely: help will always be given to those who ask for it**).

 

Third, I’m thinking of trying out a new feature here: Rerun Saturdays.  I follow a lot of blogs on here (something like 40 at the moment), and I keep seeing great posts each week.  So, I’m planning on reposting my favorite entry from someone else’s blog each week on Saturday.  These entries won’t always be about loans and finances, and there really won’t be a theme to them.  It’ll just be whatever struck my funny bone, or made me go “hmm,” or otherwise captivated me during the week.  If you find something that you think I’ll like, please drop me an email (or an owl***) and let me know.

 

Finally, for those of you who like this sort of thing, my End of April tally.

End of April

$10,074.99 (End of March balance)

+ $46.83 (April interest)

– $1,296 (April payment)

————–

$8,825.82 (End of April balance)

My goal for April was to end up under $9,000.  I made it by $175 (cue: wild cheers and applause again).  My goal for May is to end up under $7,800.  That means a minimum loan payment of $1,025.  Hopefully my new work priorities will start paying off (literally) and I’ll see a rise in my monthly income.  Perhaps I’ll even get to Harry Potter World this year****.

 

 

*That’s one.  (Note- I’m taunting someone with Harry Potter references.  This is what happens when you talk smack about my blog or my mini golf skills.)

**That’s two.

***That’s three.

****That’s four.

Part 2!

23 Apr

For the second Monday post this week, I offer an update on my loan progress.

First off, I beat Amanda in March at the Amazing Loan Race.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, click the link above, or just know that I’m trying to beat my friend in a student loan payoff contest.  I paid $948 on my loans in March.  Amanda paid $100.  In her defense, she had a feline-related emergency.  The adorable animal in question is doing much better, and Amanda has vowed to destroy me this month, loan-wise.

That’s unlikely to happen. You see, as soon as my long-overdue paycheck arrives (accio paycheck*), I will be paying $1,296 on my loans this month.  For those of you keeping track at home, that’s just $39 under my ideal monthly payment of $1,335.

You guys, this is the closest I’ve come to hitting my ideal monthly payment yet! (cue: cheers and wild applause).  And it only took me four months to do it (cue: slow clap).  A third of the year gone by, and I’m finally almost on track.

 

Second, I mentioned last week (and the week before that) that I needed to get my work priorities back in order.  I’m pleased to say that I’m definitely on the right track.  I’ve talked with my bosses at two of my part-time jobs and made arrangements to remove some of my responsibilities at those jobs.  At one job, I won’t have to work before 2 pm on weekdays, making my schedule much more predictable each week.  At another job, we’re looking for someone to help take some of the workload each week so that things stop falling through the cracks.

It took a lot of courage for me to finally cry uncle, since I had it in my head that to do so was the same as failing.  I knew that I couldn’t do it all, but I felt like I should be able to anyway.  When I finally realized that it was OK to ask for help or for changes to be made, it was a huge relief.  The conversations with my bosses went much easier than I expected, and I came out of both meetings feeling much less stressed (and a bit more like a real adult.)  I also learned that people may be willing to help you, but you have to be the one to ask for it (or conversely: help will always be given to those who ask for it**).

 

Third, I’m thinking of trying out a new feature here: Rerun Saturdays.  I follow a lot of blogs on here (something like 40 at the moment), and I keep seeing great posts each week.  So, I’m planning on reposting my favorite entry from someone else’s blog each week on Saturday.  These entries won’t always be about loans and finances, and there really won’t be a theme to them.  It’ll just be whatever struck my funny bone, or made me go “hmm,” or otherwise captivated me during the week.  If you find something that you think I’ll like, please drop me an email (or an owl***) and let me know.

 

Finally, for those of you who like this sort of thing, my End of April tally.

End of April

$10,074.99 (End of March balance)

+ $46.83 (April interest)

– $1,296 (April payment)

————–

$8,825.82 (End of April balance)

My goal for April was to end up under $9,000.  I made it by $175 (cue: wild cheers and applause again).  My goal for May is to end up under $7,800.  That means a minimum loan payment of $1,025.  Hopefully my new work priorities will start paying off (literally) and I’ll see a rise in my monthly income.  Perhaps I’ll even get to Harry Potter World this year****.

 

 

*That’s one.  (Note- I’m taunting someone with Harry Potter references.  This is what happens when you talk smack about my blog or my mini golf skills.)

**That’s two.

***That’s three.

****That’s four.

The Top 5 (Fictional Characters Named) Penny List

19 Apr

The entertainment world is full of pennies, and no- I’m not referring to the size of a script writer’s check.  I’m referring to the abundance of characters named Penny.

Everyone loves a good Penny.  She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s pretty, she’s animated (sometimes literally), and she tends to end up saving the day (or dying in some magnificently touching way).  Penny is a character that is definitely worth more than her name implies.  When a Penny shows up on screen, you know something big is about to happen.  As such, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 favorite Pennys (or is Pennies?) from over my decades of television and movie watching.

The Top 5 (Fictional Characters Named) Penny List

5. Penny (from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)

Look, we’re all trying to save the world here. Just sign the petition, and then you can go save the children from the burning bus while I go do laundry with your arch-nemesis.

Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a woman bent on saving the world, one petition signature at a time.  She’s also a girl without a washing machine in her apartment.  Naturally, she gets caught in the crossfire between Dr. Horrible (with whom she unknowingly does laundry with each week) and Captain Hammer (who not only saves her from a runaway van, but takes the time to sign her petition.)

For being a superhero to the down-trodden, getting to do laundry with Neil Patrick Harris every week, and never giving up her hope for a better world, even when ****** misfire *** slow-motion ***** hands *** spleen **** lab coat (spoilers redacted.  Sorry.), this Penny wins fifth place.

4. Penny (from The Big Bang Theory)

This is the last time I play Pictionary with a Physicist.

The Nebraska-native Penny brings more to the table at The Big Bang Theory than female secondary sex characteristics Get it? It’s a geeky way of saying she’s more than a pretty face).  Her country-wise humor, her menial job, and her incessant need to do laundry all add up to a character that I can relate to.  Plus, the looks on her face when one of the guys says something really nerdy are the same looks I get from my friends on a daily basis.  It’s nice to see a familiar expression on TV.

For her growing knowledge of geekdom, her ability to stop Sheldon in his tracks with a single “oh, honey,” and just generally being a brilliant foil to an apartment full of genuises, this Penny earns fourth place.

3. Penny (from The Rescuers)

There’s nothing sweeter than a little girl and her teddy, especially if that bear is stuffed with a fist-sized diamond.

In 1977, Disney brought us The Rescuers.  The young orphan girl, Penny, has been kidnapped by an evil pawn shop owner and forced to dig for treasure in the bayou.  Unfortunately for her captors, Penny is a strong-willed six year old who has no problem standing up for herself.  When two talking mice show up to rescue her, it’s Penny who comes up with the ultimately successful escape plan.

For her unfailing determination to get home, her never-ending faith in her dreams, and her ability to order a crocodile around even while being carried upside-down, this Penny wins third place.

2. Penny (from The Proud Family)

I was with it right up to that Driver’s License picture. No one ever looks that cute in those pictures.

Penny Proud is a surprisingly excellent representation of a teenage girl in the early 2000’s, even if Suga Mama did steal every scene in every. single. episode.  The Proud Family managed to navigate the hard issues of racism, bullying, and negative stereotypes while still remaining funny and accessible over its four year run.  What makes this even more impressive is that the show was produced by Disney- a company notorious for its occasionally questionable stereotypes.

For being a typical teenage girl, dealing with a crazy family, crazy friends, and occasionally some hard lessons, Penny Proud earns a well-deserved second place.

1. Penny (from Inspector Gadget)

Reading is power, especially if your book is the grandfather of tablet computers.

Penny is the niece of the bumbling Inspector Gadget, a bionic police detective.  Together with her dog Brain, whose collar spouts radio antennas whenever he gets a phone call (from 1983), and a book that seems to have inspired both the iPad and Google (from 1983!), Penny is often the real reason the cases get solved by the end of each episode.

For not only using the same technology that we use today to solve police cases, but for using it 30 YEARS AGO (raise your hand if you feel old now), this Penny has earned her place on top of the list.

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So that’s the list.  I do have to give an honorable mention to Penny from Disney’s Bolt.  While the movie focuses on Bolt’s love and devotion, the few cut-away scenes that we see of Penny plastering the town with Lost Dog fliers and refusing to work until Bolt is found make it clear that Penny is just as devoted to her pet as he is to her.  Plus, that final warehouse scene still gets me every time.

Let me know what you think.  How would you have ranked the Pennys?  Am I missing your favorite Penny?  Leave me a comment below and let’s talk about it.

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