Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that Saturday was my friend Luzanne’s party where we began with pizza, salad and a vintage candy buffet with old time treats like Ice Cubes, Good & Plenty, candy cigarettes, Caramel Cremes, Slo-pokes, licorice, Razzles, Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Daddies, Dots, Swedish Fish, Necco wafers, and dozens more. Current goodies like M&Ms and Snickers were also included.

There was quite a collection of Christmas sweaters, headwear, and jewelry. One guest wore this suit (or something very close) which had electric colored lights blazing from under the material. The two hostesses wore blue dresses like those worn in White Christmas. They also had the blue gloves and fans.

After people had their fill of candy, we moved on to the Music Box Theater for their 35th Annual Christmas Sing-Along showing of White Christmas. Before the film started the Southport Carolers led the audience in song accompanied on the organ. Then Santa arrived and led us in more songs including one the organist wrote.

Then the movie starts but the singing doesn’t stop. The audience sang along with Crosby, Kaye, Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Also there were plenty of funny comments during the film including hissing at the nosey housekeeper. I’m glad we got jingle bells at the party because they came in handy throughout the evening.

Sunday I visited St. John Cassius church in Chicago. Built in 1893, it’s listed as one of the “11 Churches You should See in Chicago.”

It’s a magnificent building which would fit in in Europe. Lots of gold, art, and majesty. I went to the 11 am Latin mass. It was the first time I attended a mass in Latin done in the Pre-Vatican II method. The priest didn’t face the public, but the altar. This mass differed from what I’m used to. While I studied Latin in college, it’s rusty. They had a small choir of people who sang the responses so there was more response than a few mumbles from people who’d forgotten their Latin.

The rest of the week was mainly slaving away at the department store, which I have quit, and helping a friend with some work problems.

Thanks to Eclectic Alli for hosting this Weekend Coffee Share.

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Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m excited that advent’s started. Yesterday I went mass at Northwestern University’s Catholic center where I heard an exceptional homily.

The job is not going well. I’m counting the days. Last Monday, I learned that a colleague was taken away in handcuffs. It’s all very hush hush. Obviously she was caught stealing in one way or another. So we’re extremely short on help. I’ve volunteered to work extra. I immediately regretted that since I don’t like this store much and the woman who asked didn’t even say “thank you.”

The library’s reading challenge has begun. I haven’t been reading novels as much as I’d like so I’ve resumed. I’m reading Zola’s L’Argent (in English).

We’ve started to decorate the house for Christmas. Like last year, we’re doing so gradually. I’ve come to like that better than getting everything out in early December. I think this way there’s more anticipation.

Thanks to Eclectic Alli for hosting this Weekend Coffee Share.

Dear Retailers

Dear Retailers,

When you hire staff, remember the following:

  • You can’t expect workers, to do you favors by working extra, and then never reciprocate and allow people time off that’s requested weeks in advance. You need to show some respect and appreciation.
  • When employees ask you a question, realize that they should get a reasonable reply and can schuss out a bogus one easily. If someone asks, “How’s the shopping center doing; I see that two neighboring stores and a busy restaurant have left?” Understand that saying “We’re up 101%,” is an obvious side-step and people realize that 101% isn’t good if the previous year was disappointing. Also, note that the data on falling sales is available with a few keystrokes. Some of us even know that the US government collects this data through their Business Census.
  • Realize that whispers and gossip is not a good way to manage. “Sunshine is the best antiseptic.”
  • It’s not a good idea to leave a new worker on their own to do everything on a Saturday before Chanukah and Christmas. Don’t run people ragged. If your recruiting efforts aren’t getting applicants, you should raise the pay.
  • Know that people won’t buy that you can’t do XYZ, because of the computer. Nonsense. Management can’t hide behind a computer program. We all know there’s a override option. Always.
  • Understand that it’s a tight labor market and people will move on to find a better job. Stagnant wages won’t be endured.

Sincerely,

A Good Worker Who’s About to Quit

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that we had quite a bit of snow last night. Our newspaper is somewhere mixed in one of the little banks. I can’t recall ever having snow like this in November. Usually, we don’t even have the proverbial White Christmas.

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I started a new part time job at a department store. After I quit, I’ll give you the name. After college I worked at a very well-run store. My sister worked there, a family friend and her two daughters, some of my sisters’ friends, two other family friends. So it was a very congenial setting from day one. Training was thorough and scheduling was fair With this new job, the store has rather unreal expectations – especially for part timers. I’ll leave it at that for now. I am wondering why we only have 4 people in my department and three of us are relatively new. The manager’s only been there for 3 weeks. Of the four of us who began training last Monday, three of us decided by lunch time Monday that we’d keep our eyes open for other jobs. I do find the customers gracious, so that’s a plus.

We had a lovely, though smaller Thanksgiving. My parents went out to my sister’s in Utah. My other sister stayed out East. I went to my brother and sister-in-law’s where I was treated to a feast and got a generous doggy bag.

Though the website had some issues, I managed to upload and submit 3 scripts and TV show ideas to the Upfront event for Act One, the Christian Screenwriters and Producers. This event allows aspiring screenwriters or producers to present their ideas to companies that have reviewed summaries. It’s so hard to get noticed so I’m so appreciative of this writing program that looks after its alumni so well. Act One is now taking applications for the 2019 program.

I’ve gotten about half my Christmas shopping done! One problem is that for two of my nephew’s I ordered something from eBay and its earliest delivery date is Dec. 24th. It’s coming from England. I may wrap a photo of the item since they aren’t toddler’s and can wait.

I got another job offer and will begin working at the Winnetka/Northfield Public Library December 17th. Alas, it’s just part time, but it’s a foot in the door. I could have started today, but I didn’t want the department store to be in the lurch. What was I thinking? They’re paying less and are quite unappreciative and inflexible.

Thanks to Eclectic Alli for hosting this Weekend Coffee Share.

Marshall Fields: The Store that Helped Build Chicago

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I thought I knew most of what there was to know about Marshall Field’s the still beloved department store that started in Chicago, but I learned a lot more about how the business started, who Field’s partners were, how big their whole sale business was and how subsequent CEO’s like John G. Shedd, of aquarium fame, behaved at the helm. Seems every descendant of a Chicagoan knows that “the customer is always right” and “give the lady what she wants’ were first said by Marshall Field and we know the various explanations for the naming of Frango mints, but there’s still a lot we don’t know and  Gayle Soucek enlightens readers on all aspects of Fields in a pleasant breezy style. It’s a quick read and pleasant till we come to the end when evil Macy’s takes over the store and changes the name.

Field was a good man, and something of a straight arrow. He held true to his credit terms — even after the Chicago Fire in 1871 when creditors wrote him offering to change the terms. He came from Puritan roots and stayed true to them. (His son did not and I for one believe Junior was shot at the Everleigh Club, another interesting Chicago establishment.)  The man was a genius with incredible foresight and respect for people. I wish I could have been in the store when it had a library, offered information (to provide tourist information, ship times, railway routes, etc.)  and accommodation bureaus (which booked theater tickets,made sleeping car arrangements,  checked bags, offered stenographer services, and more). Services didn’t stop there. One anecdote tells how a man told a clerk he was “mourning the accidental estrangement of his brother, who had traveled to Europe and lost contact. The word went out to Field’s foreign buying offices, and in a short amount of time the wayward sibling was located.”

The book mentions Harry Selfridge, the brash man, who worked his way up to partner, a position Field’s was surprise Selfridge had the audacity to ask for (Field’s planned to offer it and was just a more reserved man). It mentions Selfridge as originating the bargain basement and later buying his own store, where he always kept a portrait of Marshall Field in his office. So much of Selfridge’s store is an homage to Field, which is why the book connects with the PBS program.

The book ends with an appendix of famous Field’s recipes.

I still can’t stomach that and haven’t made a purchase in Macy’s since they took over. Marshall Field’s, State Street, was a store you could love in a way current stores just aren’t. We’ve got smart phones so we can make our own travel arrangements or notes on the fly and we can shop online or in person in countless stores, but this personal touch is largely gone or on the way out.

 

Selfridge Background: Window Displays

mr.-selfridges window

Here’s some information I got from Gale Virtual Reference on window displays in the 18th – early 20th centuries. Interesting that L. Frank Baum was involved in this business:

WINDOW DISPLAYS

The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw an evolution in shopping spurred by a faster turnover of manufactured “fashionable” goods and an increase in department stores selling them. These shops pioneered new techniques of window display. Rather than piling their stock up—as had been common in markets and bazaars—they sold goods in mannered and self-conscious window displays, intended to sell nonessential goods.

In cities, where competition was strongest, stores had larger windows and more frequently changing displays. A visitor to London in 1786 wrote of “A cunning device for showing women’s materials whether they are silks, chintzes, or muslins, they hang down in folds behind the fine high windows so that the effect of this and that material, as it would be in the ordinary folds of a woman’s dress, can be studied” (Adburgham, p. 6). This comment suggests that there was an awareness of sophisticated marketing techniques and a developing vocabulary for display in the late eighteenth century, which would be developed but not improved upon by later generations.

By the nineteenth century the small store with glass windows and some form of gas lighting dominated the main street. The arrival of department stores in the 1850s—multistoried buildings that utilized plate glass in long, uninterrupted window displays—would herald a new display aesthetic. Fashion goods began to be displayed in lifelike room settings, with mannequins. Known as “open displays,” these windows relied on themes and narratives, rather than sheer quantity of goods, for visual impact. The window display was now contextualizing goods, giving them precise domestic or cultural settings and imparting qualities other than practicality and price. In these displays the fixtures, stands, and mannequins, came into their own. Unfashionable stock goods continued to be displayed as though they were on a market stall—piled high or stacked in rows in the windows in “massed displays.”

Professionalization of Display Trade

These open displays were developed first in America, where the professionalization of the display trade had begun in the late nineteenth century. The display technocrat L. Frank Baum (who would later write The Wizard of Oz) began the first journal aimed at the display trade— The Show Window in 1897—and founded the National Association of Window Trimmers in 1898, which did much to raise the status of window trimmer to that of display manager. America had a large number of colleges teaching commercial design based upon the work of pioneering consumer psychologist Walter Dill-Scott, author of Psychology of Advertising in 1908. His theories for appealing to hidden desires of customers using particular colors, images, and formations in advertising layouts were applied to window display though numerous handbooks and journals detailing the creation of the “selling shop window.”

This approach was brought over to England by Gordon Selfridge (a friend of L. Frank Baum) and his dis-play manager, Ernst Goldsman. Both men had worked at Marshall Fields department store in Chicago in the 1890s, where Selfridge had introduced radical and innovative methods of display and marketing, starting the first window displays and display department. Selfridge’s department store in London opened in 1909 with the longest window facade ever seen in Britain. The store achieved instant fame for its window displays: “They gaped in amazement at the American-style window-dressing with its life-like scenes and with wax models arranged in realistic poses” (Honeycombe p. 205). Goldsman was integral to the professionalization of the British display trade, founding the National Association of British Display Men in 1919. Such display organizations disseminated new ideas via lectures, display fairs, and their journals.

Works Cited

Audas, Jane. “Window Displays.” Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Ed. Valerie Steele. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005. 434-436. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.