Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Awkward New Year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, I'm going to a New Year's Eve party. My sweet friend invited me. I probably could have taken the initiative to make plans with a little more specificity, but that would require me to be, like, social, and stuff.

Hi. I'm awkward.

There are people in this world who seem to meld seamlessly into other people's lives. Friends, relatives, co-workers - they have a stable network of people who do stuff together and stick around for years. Platonic and romantic relationships move at a comfortable and natural pace.

Those people are like unicorns.

I have friends and relatives and co-workers who love me. They have stuck around for years. I know this. But melding seamlessly? Don't make me laugh. I was born with a giant shoehorn attached to my body. Doctors were baffled.

So I'm going to this New Year's Eve party with a very good friend. And I know many of the people who will be there. I have known them for years. YEARS. I like them very much! I'm 63 percent certain they like me, too!

It doesn't matter. I guarantee I will spend a measurable amount of time casting about for things to say and worrying about what to do with my hands. Hello, everyone, get out your inhalers! I am here to mess up your pleasant social encounter and make everyone feel like they're 14 and talking to their high school crush.


Wish me luck. And happy new year, everyone! I hope all your unicorn dreams come true!

Monday, December 22, 2014

I fail at Christmas, but my mom wins at life

Monday, December 22, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, with Emerson being sick for two weeks straight, plus commencement and a host of other events, as well, I'm really behind on my shopping. I call my mother for some guidance.

"Mom, are dad's clubs hybrids, or does he have wood?" I blurt.


"I don't know. I would guess the traditional kind," she answered.

"Okay. Apparently that matters when sizing covers for the head," I reply.


"Oh, lord," she said. "Well, if they don't fit, we can always exchange it later if you buy it somewhere kind of universal?"

"I was going to run by Academy Sports. Or do you have Dick's up there?"

At that, I couldn't take it anymore and I burst into wide-mouthed, hysterical cackles.

"What's so funny?" my mother asked.

"I just ... I just asked if you had Dick's up there!" I half-shrieked, and put my head down on my desk, convulsed with choking, sobbing laughter. I could just about hear my mother's lips purse.

"Well... I haven't seen one in a while," my mother replied.


That was the sound of my head exploding.

My mother wins at life.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dear Wal-Mart - oh, nevermind.

Friday, December 19, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone on planet Earth that I had a less-than-stellar experience at Wal-Mart. But I'm not writing about it because I'm angry. It wasn't a big deal. I'm writing because it looks like a customer service success, but it's actually a failure of philosophy.

The scenario

I went into Wal-Mart to buy approximately 18 bajillion eggs for holiday baking - and another $3 charging cable for my phone, because I keep breaking them. I've been through four of them in six months. I got mad skillz, y'all.

Coincidentally, I had a coupon for a free package of Chicken of the Sea flavored salmon. Now, one of the last things I need is for someone else to prepare $1.15 worth of salmon, shred it, throw some lemon pepper on it, slather it with preservatives and give it to me in a foil packet. Minus the preservatives, I could have made my own salmon at home, for the same price, using less time and frustration than it took me to go to Wal-Mart to get a package of it.

But.... I had a coupon. For FREE.

So I scanned it and my other items at the number 44 self-checkout register and then scanned the coupon. The cost of the item came off, I dropped the receipt into the receipt slot, and pressed "pay now." I swiped my card, put in my PIN number, and waited for my receipt.


And then it charged my card, printed the receipt, and didn't return my coupon.

First of all, the item totally matched the coupon. Second of all, what if I didn't want the item unless the coupon was valid? What if the item I picked up was a mistake that I no longer wanted?

Now, this was only $1.15. I'm not about to pitch a fit over that. So I turned with a smile and caught the eye of the lone CSR manning the self-checkout. I can only imagine what a special hell that job is.

She did not smile back. Before I could even ask her for help, she snapped, without looking me in the eye: "If it's something that has to be taken off the receipt, I can't do that."

My smile tensed. "May I explain the issue?"

"Go ahead."

I did.

"Well, if you want a refund, you have to go to customer service."

"No, I don't really care about a $1 refund. I was just hoping someone might take note of the issue the machine is experiencing and perhaps put in a repair ticket."

She glared at me: "Well, I can't do that."

I kept smiling and kept my voice even and calm: "Well... who can?"

She sighed and motioned over another employee. I explained again.

"You have to go to customer service," the new employee said.

"THAT'S what I TOLD her," the original CSR snapped, angrily making change for another customer.

The customer eyed me as though I was causing a problem. Y'all, I really wasn't. I wasn't angry, or even irritated. I was just like, "Oh, oopsy, someone might want to fix that." But after being treated like a boil on her ass, I was beginning to get pissed off. I am not entirely certain that my attempt to continue smiling and remaining calm didn't look terrifyingly like a serial killer's expression. But I tried.

"So they can fix the machine? And how will they be able to scan the coupon?" I asked.

The new rep side-stepped, "Oh, they'll send someone over to get it out of the machine."

"Okay, thank you. Have a nice day," I said, and resisted giving the side-eye to the original CSR.

I walked to customer service, where there was - miraculously - no line. I explained again that the register was malfunctioning, and the very sweet CSR asked to see my receipt. I showed her, she punched a few buttons, the register popped open, and she handed me $1.15. Which I never asked for.

"There you go. Have a nice day," she said. "We're sorry you had a problem today."

"Um, well, thank you. But the register...? Is someone going to fix it? It might keep charging people incorrectly."

She stared at me blankly.

Mentally, I gave up. I smiled and gathered my things.

"Thank you. Happy holidays," I said.

"You, too," she smiled back.

So, that's a long story. But I wanted to illustrate some failures of customer service in this scenario.

No. 1: Don't 'anticipate the customer's needs' so much that you ignore what they say.

Yes, many of the issues you respond to will be repeats. But not every customer is the same. Listen to them as though you have never before heard what they are saying. Three people in this scenario failed to respond to my attempt to solve a customer service problem. All of them assumed I was just really intent on getting $1.15. I can assure you that salmon was going to get eaten. It was fine. I just wanted to make sure that the issue with the register was noted for future customers.

No. 2: The answer is never "I can't do that."

Customers understand that people's responsibilities are often compartmentalized. But saying "I can't do that" or "I don't know" should never be the terminal response from a customer service representative. A correct response is, "I'm not authorized to do that, but let me get/point you to/give you the number for/transfer you to the person who is." Or, "I don't know, but I'll find out. Just a moment."

No. 3: Treat people with courtesy.

I don't expect to make a new best friend in the checkout line. And it's okay if you're not delighted to see me. Really. Truth be told, I'm not always delighted to see people, in general. People are where the problems are. But for the love of all that is holy, don't treat me like I am the bane of your existence, and an idiot to boot.

No. 4: The CSR is not always right.

Now, I was not a jerk, but I have Resting Bitch Face that can look like I'm irritated if I'm not actively smiling. Generally speaking, I'm an intelligent, polite, functional adult (well... an intelligence-adjacent, well-mannered-but-sometimes-clueless, and fooling-people-most-of-the-time adult). But it's possible I'm in the midst of a gross misunderstanding. Like most people, I will take responsibility for my mistake and you can make fun of me in the break room later - probably while I'm simultaneously texting my sister to lament about what an ass I just made of myself.

No. 4: The customer is not always right.

The original CSR I dealt with had a clear grasp of this. The customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is an entitled asshole. But assuming the worst about someone, being snappy, and failing to engage in basic interpersonal communication signals - like eye contact - only makes those people worse and the rest of  us hurt and confused. If you focus on the problem, and how to fix it, you can depersonalize the issue and calm down the jerk in front of you. I worked in food and beverage for many years, and I know that sometimes people are just looking for any slight - no matter how small - to get discounts or free food. But most people are good and kind and want to do the right thing and have a good experience. Don't overlook us.

The horrible people don't just make your job harder; they make EVERYONE'S jobs harder. We're all in this together. Us against the entitled assholes. Let's win this.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Conversation with IT Services

Thursday, December 11, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I had been experiencing computer issues for a week. I was at my wits' end. Not only was my tower down in IT being repaired because the wackadoodle broke and rendered the doohickey TOTALLY useless (those wackadoodles... geez), but the loaner computer they gave me couldn't maintain a network connection. Not great when everything we do is web-based. I called IT services, which has been outsourced to a company that is not local.

Some background: We have to log into a network profile, which then allows us to access our hard drive. (Or something. Don't make me get specific and technical, or I will force you to write a press release, which I will then edit with a red Sharpie.)

IT: "How may I help you?"

Me: "Yes, I'm having trouble maintaining a connection to the network. I can't consistently get emails, send emails, check voice mails, or anything. Can you help me?"

IT: "Let me get your name and location, and I'll see if I can get in touch with the network guys." 

Me: "Okay." (I relay my information.)

IT: "Alright, I'll call you back."

Me: "Thank you."

Some time passes, during which I try to pull my voice mails, and can't. 

Then the phone rings again.

Me: "This is Stacey."

IT: "Yes, it's IT again. I've just talked to the network guys, and they confirm that there is a network issue on campus."

Me: "...."

IT: "..."

Me: "Okay, so... yeah, that's kind of why I called. Did they relay any other information to you?"

IT: "They confirm that there is a network issue on campus, and you may have trouble maintaining a stable connection to the network."

Me: "... Um... yeah, I... was kind of hoping there would be a fix...? Or... a timeline? Or... some kind of guidance on alternatives so that I can complete my work...?"

IT: "Well, did you save your work to your personal network drive?"

Me: "No. I saved it to my hard drive, but I can't log into my profile to access it."

IT: "Well, that could be a problem. If you save your files to your personal network drive, they will always be available, even if your hard drive crashes."

Me: "Isn't my personal network drive on... like... the network?"

IT: "Correct."

Me: "The network that I can't access right now?"

IT: "Yes."

Me: "..."

IT: "..."

Me: "Okay, thanks."

IT: "Have a great day."

Me: "You, too."

That conversation was going to go nowhere fast. I'll just go have lunch and hope things get better in the next hour.

Monday, December 08, 2014

He's bathed in the spirit

Monday, December 08, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I sent out an email to all members of my organization about our holiday service project for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. I got an email back from someone complaining that they don't celebrate Christmas, and couldn't participate.

That's okay, I said, because it's for any holiday in the winter. New Year's is secular and perfectly valid. Why not start the year off with good karma? Long story short, he/she Grinched out on me. That's cool. Whatever floats your boat. But even though the email only said "holiday," and not "Christmas," I clarified the situation for some others. That prompted another round of emails.

M.M.: I don’t celebrate Christmas!  How dare you not know the affiliation of everyone on your e-mail list!! GAWD!

Me: Many members of the organizational family do not celebrate Christmas, which is one of the reasons that it's not a "Christmas" service project. It's just for the winter holidays. There are about 25 holidays from various faiths and traditions in the next 30 days, so we get to pick the one we celebrate and make the service project about that one! I might decide to celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish new year, just because it sounds like fun. They do some kind of "fireball swinging." Not enough swinging fireballs around here, in my opinion. :-D

M.M.: I do not believe in the winter season or the word “holiday.”  Or fire. Still offended, M.M.

Me: Well, then, I apologize, and hope you have a happy new year - which is technically not a holiday, but a simple changing of the calendar.

M.M.: I refuse to acknowledge anything but the Mayan calendar.  #offended

Hahahaha! I love this place. :-)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014 By

R.H.: "Is it bad that I'm looking forward to the new Jurassic Park because of the carnage?"

Me: "Yes, you're weird. I'm excited about it, too, though... but I'm mad that the dinosaurs are wrong. They're supposed to have feathers."

R.H.: "They designed them with the information they had from known science."

Me: "Pretty sure the known science is that dinosaurs had feathers."

R.H.: "Well, no one would be scared by 'Chickensaurus' running around!"

Fair enough. I'm still excited about it. But besides feathers, it needs more Judy Greer.

"Bok-bok, mothereffer."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Attack of the Giant Metal Chickens

Wednesday, December 03, 2014 By

DISCLAIMER: No one show my mother this post!

AUGUSTA, GA. - My mother has a thing for chickens. She grew up with them while spending summers on her grandmother's farm, and has a fondness that has lead her to decorate her house with them.

It's flocked up. She has folksy rattan chickens, and chicken serving platters, and chicken hand towels, and chicken pot holders. Once I bought her a very expensive hand-blown glass chicken at a museum gift shop just so I could say, "This here is a fine art chicken." It sits on top of her refrigerator.

Y'all, we are all full up on chickens.

BUT... recently I remembered this hilarious post from The Bloggess, and tried to find a similar giant metal chicken for my mother's yard. I don't think I can properly capture my inevitable glee at witnessing my mother waking up Christmas morning to a giant metal chicken staring menacingly into the sliding glass door from the back patio. I would crow about it for years.

Side story: Once, my sister and I decided it would be a great idea to steal a giant fiberglass Mayfield Dairy cow that was on display at a new grocery store in Monroe, Ga.


It was very late at night, and we were on our way back to Conyers from Athens... where we had been reading classic literature to elderly blind nursing home residents, of course. Anyway, the cow was already on a trailer, and we thought we could just hook it up to the car and drive off with it - just to see our mother's face in the morning when she went to get the paper and BAM!! Big-ass cow for the win!

It's okay. They have extras.

That experience didn't work out so well. And while I have tried not to brood about it, I have spent nearly two decades disappointed that I don't have a plucky "you should have seen the look on her face" story about my mother finding an enormous stolen fiberglass cow hooked up to her old Cadillac in the driveway one random Sunday morning.

I really am terribly disappointed.

My Christmas wish is that a giant metal chicken will appear in my mother's yard one day. I am thinking of starting a GoFundMe campaign to buy one. Let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sorry to crush your dreams, but.... no

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 By

Emerson: Mom, can I take some of your makeup?

Me: Where?

Emerson: To Atlanta.

Me: Why?

Emerson: Because I don't even hardly have any makeup.

Me: That's because you're nine years old, Emerson. No, you can't take my makeup.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I am undermining my child's teachers... maybe

Monday, November 24, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA - Emerson's social studies teacher is probably exasperated by her at this point in the school year. Every time she comes home with a new event to share with me, it's like I just HAVE to tell her it's a big lie. I don't know what my freaking problem is.

It started in preschool, when she came home and cheerfully told me all about George Washington and the cherry tree.

"You know he probably didn't actually chop down a cherry tree, right, Emerson?" I asked.

Judging by the look on her face, she clearly did not.

We had a discussion about myths and legends, and then after much precocious logic from her 4-year-old brain, I conceded that it was possible that George Washington had, in fact, chopped down the cherry tree and told the truth about it. I am not trying to back her into an existential crisis. I just want her to think critically about things, and she did. So I conceded her point.

But I planted a seed of doubt. So over the years, she has sometimes asked, "Do you think that's true, or a myth?" And I would give her an honest answer. We struck down the Disney princesses pretty darn quickly, for example. Ha. Take that, patriarchy. But sometimes she tries to reason through things and comes to some questionable conclusions, like the idea that Einstein was somehow an evil scientist.

"Mom, we have homework about Columbus Day," she told me. "We have to write a poem, and answer these questions."

"Hmm," I thought. "What rhymes with 'genocide?'"

We got through the poem, but I decided that it was a perfect time to introduce to her the idea that what she's taught comes from a certain perspective.

"Em, you realize that Columbus didn't actually discover America, right?"

"I know," she sighed, sensing a lecture. "He discovered the Minican Public."

"The Dominican Republic?"

"Yeah, that," she glared at me. "But, mom, he might not have discovered America, but we still didn't even know the DOminican REpublic was there before he found it."

"Well... who's we?" I asked.

"America!" she snapped, exasperated. And then stopped, eyes widening. "Wait a minute! If he discovered America, then there weren't any Americans yet."

"Exactly," I said. "So, who's 'we?'"

"I don't know," she frowned.

"So you know where Europe is, right?" I asked. She frowned, so I explained, using language she knows. "It's like where England is, and Harry Potter, and your Aunt Natalya in Germany, and Paris, France, with the Eiffel Tower - and a bunch of other countries that make up the whole continent called Europe."

She brightened. "Oh! Yes! And Spain, where they speak Spanish! And... the country that has the trees that make the wine lids...?"

LOL! I had told her about the cork industry in Portugal after watching a segment about it on "CBS Sunday Morning."

"Perfect, yes. Okay, so you know what the word 'centric' means? It means like the focus of things. So, when you say 'we didn't know where it was,' you meant people from Europe. But we're not from Europe. So that's what's called a 'Eurocentric' point of view."

"But... so... wait... what else would the focus be on? We all came from Europe."

"But we didn't all come from Europe, did we? Is your friend, Rachel, from Europe? No. Is your friend, Eduardo, from Europe? Nope. And, the thing is, Emerson, is that we're not from Europe."

Her eyebrows went up. "Yeah, we're from America! But... wait, didn't our old family come from Europe?"

"Well, that depends. How far back do you want to go when you're talking about family?"

"A hundred years!" she crossed her arms at me, smugly.

"America. And some members of our family were Native Americans, who definitely were not from Europe."

"Okay, two hundred years."

"Still America."

This sent her reeling.

Two hundred years is an awful long time to a fourth grader. She mused for a moment.

"Five hundred years?"

"Some of our family is in Europe - in Ireland, to be precise, on my side. I don't know about your dad's side. But if we keep going all the way back to the beginning, where would we be?"

"Uh... I don't know."

"Well, if we keep following back and back and back, through all the families throughout human time, where do we start?" I asked.

"Uh... Europe?"



"Yep. The oldest human remains have been found in Africa. Right now, science thinks that is where humans started, millions of years ago. But let's back up a little bit. We already know there were people here when Columbus arrived, right?"


"So... how did he discover it, when it was already known?"

"But he discovered it for Europe."

"Ehhhh... there's actually some debate over that. Turns out that the Vikings may have been here first. And they're from Europe."

"The Vikings were super duper a long time ago! That's awesome!"

"Right? It is. They were master sailors, the Vikings. But... imagine this: Do you think there were explorers in other places? Like, maybe Asia?"

"Yeah! I bet there were! And maybe Africa, too! And maybe even the North Pole!"

Side note: My 9-year-old totally still believes in Santa Claus.

"Right. So... where are their stories?"

She frowned. "I don't know."

"So, the thing is, they all had their explorers and adventurers. But we don't hear about them. Because we focus on stories from Europe. But there are lots of other stories, from lots of other people. In fact, scientists think that a Chinese explorer might have actually been the first one to sail around the whole world."

"From China?! Oh my gosh! That's so freaking cool!"

"It is! Think about how many stories there are out there that you don't even know. And everyone has a story. Every country, every city, every person."

"So... wait. If Christopher Columbus didn't discover America, why do we say that he did?" she asked.

It's a great question. And it's where things could have gone off the rails. Well... further off the rails. I had a very tenuous control of this conversation.

"So, a couple of reasons. First, this is what people were told for a long time, before science knew it was different. And it takes a really long time to change textbooks," I said. "Second, we talked about how myths are powerful, and people believe them and pass them on. Everyone agrees to it. And changing everyone's mind at once is almost impossible."

She laughed. "I can't even get you to change dinner!"

LOL! She had not enjoyed my experimental dish the night before. Lesson learned.

"True," I sighed. "Sorry about dinner. But let's think about this for a minute. What was he trying to do?"

"Discover a way to India to get more spices."

"Okay. Did he do that?"


"What did he find?"

"Land? But not gold. His crew was upset they didn't find gold."

"And what did he take back to Europe with him?"

Her eyes widened. "Slaves."


"That's horrible. You can't own people. We don't even own Sweetiebelle, and she's just a cat."

I guffaw. Sweetiebelle has definitely trained us, and not the other way around.

"So, how could we celebrate a man who stole people and sold them as slaves? We couldn't, could we?"

"No," she said, sadly.

"Unless we made him out to be an amazingly great man. Like an explorer. Who discovered a whole new world."

She looked at me, with total seriousness. "So we... lie?"

"I wouldn't say they're lies. I'd say they're not the whole story. At the time he did it, they really did think he had discovered a new world. And many people really did think it was okay to own slaves. The important thing, though, isn't even whether or not he discovered America. The important thing is that you think about what you're learning. Just think about it. And ask questions."

"Okay... but mom?"


"I don't think I can put all that on my homework sheet. The question says: Who discovered America? What do I put? The Chinese guy?"

I put my head down on the table and laughed until I almost threw up. I may have taken her question too seriously. By a lot.

"Just put Christopher Columbus, Em. Respect what the teacher is telling you, and respect the teacher. But know that there's always more to the story."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

His wardrobe consists almost entirely of T-shirts and smarty pants

Thursday, November 20, 2014 By


Me: "Okay, I gotta run. I have a meeting in ten minutes."

R.H.: "Okay, then."

Me: "Ten minutes? No, 14 minutes. But I still gotta run."

R.H.: "Just not quite as fast."

Me: "... Dork. Bye."

R.H.: [too busy laughing to respond]

Monday, November 17, 2014

One boyfriend for sale

Monday, November 17, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - R.H. was coming over after work, so I cooked dinner. But I didn't have time to defrost and blah blah some fancyness, so I overcompensated for the lack of fancy by making a salad, Zatarain's jamabalaya, and a big pot of Greek lemon-chicken soup. The soup involved parboiling a chicken and making homemade stock, deboning that chicken, chopping vegetables,

"Mmm, this is good," he said. And I glowed with pride.

"It tastes like Campbell's chicken and stars."

Awesome. Three and a half hours of careful cooking, and I could have just opened a can.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I called looking for a doll and you'll never guess what happened next... actually, you probably will

Thursday, November 13, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA - My daughter has a very intense best-friendship. I love her little friend almost like my own child, and I'm glad the two of them have such a beautiful relationship. They're very caring and polite to one another, have a lot of fun, and make a lot of messes that they both help clean up. K recently turned 11, and I didn't have enough warning to order her gift online and have it arrive in time for her party.

I was desperate to find the doll she wanted. But I didn't realize it was a fool's errand. K latched onto Bratzilla dolls at a time when the company is apparently pulling them from the shelves, since they never did very well against Monster High dolls. I tried to find her the one she wanted, and couldn't. They're pretty much only on eBay. So I made a last-ditch effort to call around town to see if anyone had it.

A quick summary: Know what kind of customer service you can expect when you visit a retailer. For today's purposes, Target wins customer service, Walmart is pretty much what you expect. Toys R Us was a surprise. But if my experiences are indicative of the status quo, how the heck is Kmart even still in business?

Toys R Us, Wrightsboro Road

Number of rings before someone picks up: 4

TRU: "Thank you for calling Toys R Us. My name is L, how may I help you?"

Me: "Hi, L. My name is Stacey. My daughter's best friend is having a birthday, and I'm having trouble finding the doll she wants. I wonder if you might have it in stock."

TRU: "Sure, just a second and I'll look for you." [puts me on hold.]

Me [talking to no one, since I'm now on hold]: "But... I didn't tell you what the toy was..."

Total running call time: 5 minutes 27 seconds.

TRU: [picks up phone, puts phone back on hold again without acknowledging me]

Total running call time: 10 minutes 49 seconds

TRU: "Hi, ma'am, you were holding for the tablet, right?"

Me: "No, ma'am, I'm looking for the Bratzilla Meygana Broomstix doll."

TRU: "You're not holding for the tablet?"

Me: "No, ma'am, I never got a chance to tell the representative what I was looking for."

TRU: "So, what are you looking for?"

Me: "The Bratzilla Meygana Broomstix doll."

TRU: "What is it again?"

Me: "It's the Bratzilla Meygana M-e-y-g-a-n-a Broomstix B-r-o-o-m-s-t-i-x doll."

TRU: "Okay, let me check."

Me: "Thank you."

Total running call time: 13 minutes 54 seconds.

TRU [a new voice picks up the phone]: "Thank you for holding. What were you holding for?"

Me: "Um... The Bratzilla Meygana Broomstix doll?"

TRU: "Okay, hold please."

Total running call time: 14 minutes and 40 seconds.

TRU [first rep returns]: "Ma'am? We did check and we do not have that doll."

Me: "Thank you very much for checking. Have a nice day."

TRU: "You, too."

Total running call time: 14 minutes and 50 seconds.

Target - Evans location

Me: Number of rings before someone picks up: 4

Target: "Target Evans, may I help you find something?"

Me: "Yes, please, I'm looking for the Bratzilla Meygana Broomstix doll."

Target: "The - what? Is this a Bratz doll?"

Me: [laughing]: "Yeah, it's kind of a take-off of the Monster High dolls. It's super dumb, but my daughter really wants to get it for her friend's birthday."

Target: "Okay, let me check for you."

Total running call time: 3 minutes, 27 seconds.

Target: "Ma'am, I looked in our system, and none of the Bratz dolls are in it, so I don't think we have it."

Me: "You don't carry any Bratz dolls?" [My first indication that the dolls weren't being sold anymore.]

Target: "No, ma'am."

Me: "Wow, okay, well, thank you so much for checking."

Target: "You're very welcome."

Total running call time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

Target - Augusta Exchange location

Number of rings before someone picks up: 1

Target: "Target Evans, may I help you find something?"

Me: "Hi, thanks. I'm hoping that you might have the Bratzilla dolls."

Target: "Sure, one moment."

Target [apparently I was transferred, but the call was answered immediately]: "Toys, may I help you find something?"

Me: "Yes, ma'am, please. I'm looking for the Bratzilla Meygana Broomstix doll. Do you carry it?"

Target: "Let me check in the system. I am looking to see if we still carry the Bratz dolls, because I haven't seen any around in a while."

Me: "Thank you for checking."

Target: "Yeah, the system is showing that it is online-only. We don't carry them in the store."

Me: "Thank you for checking. Have a great day!"

Total running call time: 2 minutes 21 seconds.

Walmart - Bobby Jones Expressway

Number of rings before someone picks up: 2

Walmart: "Bobby Jones Walmart."

Me: "Hi, how are you?"

Walmart: "......"

Me: "... okay, I was hoping that someone could help me a find a particular doll. Do you have Bratzilla dolls?"

Walmart: "Toys doesn't have a phone. I'll have to transfer you to electronics. When they answer, ask them to get toys for you."

Me: "Yes, ma'am."

Number of rings before someone picks up in electronics: I lost count.

Electronics: "Electronics."

Me: "Hi, how you are?"

Electronics: ".... fine."

Me: "I was transferred, and they asked me to ask you to get toys on the phone."

Electronics: "Okay, one moment."

Total running call time: 2 minutes and 31 seconds.

Toys: "Hello?"

Me: "Hi, is this toys?"

Toys: "Yeah."

Me: "Hi, I was hoping you could help me find a toy. My daughter's friend wants a Bratzilla doll for her birthday, but I haven't been able to find any. Do you carry them?"

Toys: "Bratzilla?"

Me: "Yes, ma'am. They're a take-off of the Monster High dolls, but they're made by Bratz."

Toys: "Yeah, I know. But I don't think I do. Let me check."

Me: "Thank you very much."

Total running call time: 4 minutes and 27 seconds

Toys: "Ma'am? We had them at one time, but we don't anymore. Did you try online?"

Me: "Yes, ma'am, it looks like they may not be making them anymore."

Toys: "Yeah, I think the Monster High dolls kind of took over. But if you find one, you might set it aside, because it will probably be a collector's item in the future."

Me: "Okay, I'll keep that in mind, thanks!"

Toys: "You're welcome."

Total running call time: 5 minutes and 45 seconds, with a shout-out to Toys for their product knowledge and friendly advice.

Number of rings before someone picks up: 1

Walmart: "Thank you for calling Walmart. How may I direct your call?"

Me: "Hi, I was hoping to speak to someone in toys, please."

Walmart: "Just one moment please."

Total running call time: 3 minutes 7 seconds.

Walmart [picking up from hold]: "They comin', ma'am."

Me: "Oh, thank you."

Walmart [puts me back on hold]

Total running call time: 4 minutes 59 seconds

Walmart: "Electronics."

Me: "Oh, hi, sorry, I was holding for toys...?"

Walmart: "Whatcha need, I cover toys, too. And the photo lab."

Me: "Oh, gosh, that's a lot. Thanks for your help. I was looking for a Bratzilla doll. Do you happen to carry them?"

Walmart: "Bratzilla?"

Me: "Yes, ma'am. They're like Bratz and Monster High dolls put together. We're looking for Meygana Broomstix, but if you have any Bratz dolls, I'll take what I can get."

Walmart: "Okay, lemme go check."

Total running call time: 8 minutes and 5 seconds.

Walmart: "Ma'am? I only have one, it's the Switch a Witch doll, where you make your own. It's on clearance for $13."

Me: "Uhh... hold on one second, pretty please." (I do a quick Google search [total time, 15 seconds] "No, I don't think that's something she would want. But thank you very much for checking for me. I really appreciate it."

Walmart: "Alright, you have a great day. And good luck!"

Total running call time: 9 minutes 44 seconds.

Number of rings before someone picks up: 2

Kmart: "Kmart, this is S. How may I help you?"

Me: "Hi, S. My name is Stacey, and I'm looking for a doll. I was hoping Kmart might carry it. Can you help me?"

Kmart: "Sure, can you hold one second?"

Me: "Sure, thanks."

Total running call time: At an even 20 minutes, I hung up and tried again.

Number of rings before someone picks up: 11

Kmart: "Kmart, this is S. How may I help you?"

Me: "Hi, S., I called 20 minutes ago looking for a doll. I was placed on hold. No one ever picked up. Is there someone there who can help me?"

Kmart: "Sure, I can help you. What doll are you looking for?"

Me: "Thank you. I'm looking for the Bratzilla dolls? You may not have them. They seem to be out everywhere else."

Kmart: "Ooohhh.... I haven't seen any of those today, but let me go check for you."

Me: "Thank you so much."

Total running call time: 18 minutes and 33 seconds.

Kmart: "Who are you holding for?"

Me: "I long ago forgot. I was holding for someone who was looking for a particular doll."

Kmart: "And no one picked up?"

Me: "Well, I called and was put on hold for 20 minutes. Then I called back and -"

Kmart [interrupting]: "Let me get someone to help you."

Me: "I..."

Total running call time: 20 minutes 48 seconds.

Kmart: "Toys, how may I help you?"

Me: "Hi, I was hoping you might help me find a Bratzilla doll?"

Kmart: "Brat.... zilla?"

Me: "Yes, ma'am. Bratzilla."

Total running call time: 21 minutes, 23 seconds.

Kmart: "Hello, ma'am? We don't have any. We have a lot of the Monster High dolls, but no Bratzilla dolls."

Me: "Okay, thank you very much for checking. You have a great day."

Kmart: "You, too."

Total running call time: 21 minutes, 46 seconds.