Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'm NOT Laughing.

I strolled through a Chicago area knit shop recently. I'm not going to name it, but I will say that, regardless of their name, they didn't make me laugh.

I am an accomplished knitter. I, like many of my sisters and brothers in yarn, like to buy yarn. I like to go to yarn shops and touch it and see how the light plays off it and examine the twist and chat with the yarn shop staff about yarn. I am not a naive consumer -- I know there are less expensive ways of obtaining quality fiber -- but there are intangibles associated with yarn shops which are worth the extra cost. Or maybe not.

To get back to my most recent visit to the Shop Which Must Not Be Named. I had just selected a button for my current WIP at Tender Buttons to mark the half-way point in the project, and I thought I would give myself the incentive to get the second piece started by picking out the yarn for my next piece. I think I have mentioned in this space my desire to undertake the Adventure of Socks next.

I walked in the door to Che Hoity-Palloity. There are six women in the store, including the owner and two employees. I look around the walls for sock yarn, but this place is really, really crammed full of stuff. So I asked the owner, "Lettie", who was knitting at a table, where I might find the sock yarn. Instead of rising from her seat, she told me to look at the bottom row of bins behind the cash register. As I walked in the direction she indicated, she called after me "Leave your bag on the counter before you go back there."

Now this was not my first time at this particular shop, and I have spent a considerable amount of money there -- it being the closest yarn shop to my office. Did she really think I was going to steal sock yarn? It isn't like "Lettie" didn't know me -- I stick out. How many heavy-set Jewish men buy yarn from her? I swapped brisket recipes with her friends one day, for Pete's sake. I'm a known entity. I couldn't believe the insult.

I don't know why I was surprised -- I've never been treated with much regard at this shop. My design judgments are always questioned, my opinions always dismissed. Immediately upon entering the store I always feel like they want me to leave as fast as humanly possible. I quickly placed my bag on the counter where she could see it and fell to my knees to look at the selection.

Then comes the next indignity. I had to ask for the price. Nothing -- and I do mean NOTHING -- is marked with the price. You must ask how much something is. And all prices are arbitrary. I have paid two different prices for the same yarn in the same week. I really think the price is very much dependant on if the owner likes you or not. And I don't think she likes me.

The price she quoted me was a full 17% higher per ball than another, newer, friendlier, customer-centered shop adjacent to Downtown Chicago called Loopy Yarns. I know the price difference because this second, friendlier store prices all of their merchandise. Oh -- and, though I have only been a customer for a couple of months, they encourage me to come in, sit, knit, and enjoy the store. They remember me -- when they received a shipment which included a type of cable needle I had been looking for, they called me at home to ask if I was still in the market for them. THEY know how to attract and keep customers!

I left the Shop Which Must Not Be Named vowing -- not for the first time, but hopefully the last -- that I would never again darken their doorstep. My money is neither wanted nor appreciated there. I will gladly spend my yarn allowance at Loopy.

Sorry for this long, negative rant today. Maybe I'll be more upbeat tomorrow. You know what might make me feel better? Maybe a couple of balls of sock yarn!


the fiddlin' fool said...

I absolutely love Loopy Yarns. They have some of the best selection of sock yarns in the city, and it's no wonder because Vicki (the owner) is a sock knitter.

You'll have to e-mail me privately to name the Yarn Shop Which Must Not Be Named (or at least give me an address) so that I don't make the mistake of going there.

Mia said...

Whoa.. the store from hell! I DO hope you gave them a few words of farewell on your way out!

Tallguy said...

Just before Christmas, I heard there was a new yarn shop that had opened, near me. I went out walking one cold day to look for it; it was on a side street, but I finally found it! I was the only person in the store, other than the owner, I took her to be. Nice store, clean, looking expensive. And they were! Lots of nice yarns, but priced quite a bit too high.

I looked around at some -- she wanted to know if I was Christmas shopping! No, just looking. I looked at some felted bags she had, she jumped up to explain that THESE yarns were used. Thanks. Then she floored me by asking "Does she like to felt?" Who? I have no idea -- maybe the one I was supposed to be shopping for!! But she didn't put herself on my good list in my book!

I did find a magazine that I wanted -- Knit1, the Men's issue -- and left with that. I had decided I wasn't going to be shopping THERE, that is for sure. I did spot some really great feeling wooden needles as I was leaving, but for $40, maybe not! No, I won't be shopping there, I don't imagine.

Brenda said...

Oh, go on. Name and shame them! These prickly, anti-social yarn shop owners of a certain age are need of a reality check, and I've a feeling you're just the guy to give it to 'em.

Aidan said...

OK -- Brenda said to name 'em and shame 'em, but only if I can say something else bad about them, too!

So the shop -- "We'll Keep You In Stitches", located on Chicago's vedy vedy expensive Oak Street -- has hours which are only convenient for the vedy, vedy rich or the very, very old. The hours are something like 10:00 to 4:30. I mentioned the odd hours and was told the owner (Betty) needed to get home for dinner. Like she's never heard of hiring staff? Another lady in the store said she didn't think anyone would come after 4:30 because they'd be getting ready for cocktails or dinner. It was like a twilight zone scene -- and I was the only person on the planet not filthy rich. I expected Noel Coward to step out from the stock room and mock me in song!

Anyway -- don't shop there. Go someplace where they want you. There are so many new shops in Chicago, why bother. As a great philosopher once said, "Mean people suck!"

Anonymous said...

We must work in the same area! I too made the mistake of venturing into this store on my lunch hour and was greeted just like you were - a bunch of women around the table and no one so much as glanced at me. I asked for a particular type and colorway of yarn and the owner (? I'm assuming) told me it was in the back and she'd only go get it if I was sure I wanted it. I have NEVER felt more unwelcome in any retail establishment! Like you, I vowed to myself as I was (practially) running away that I would never be back.

Now, I just have to work in a stop at Loopy Yarns - although they're not really along the way on my commute from north Mich. Ave. to Union Station.

The crazy cat lady said...

Thank you for naming names! As a neophyte knitter in Chicago, I appreciate it.

And kudos for your all-guy group...tho' I mean, guys are welcome at SnB...

I just wanted to say that I stumbled upon your blog while I am at home sick with ebola, and really enjoy it.

Aidan said...

Crazy Cat Lady: I just re-read your comment, and couldn't help but laugh out loud. "I stumbled upon your blog while I am at home sick with ebola, and really enjoy it." You must be a remarkably positive person. I've never known anyone who enjoyed ebola.

I'd love to know how you contracted ebola. My beloved Myfanwe loves communicable diseases.