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!