As many of you know this page is dedicated to crafting and making things at home that you can resell, hopefully, at a profit. You don’t get any smaller than that! They used to call it “cottage industry” for obvious reasons. Now as a crafter I need supplies to make things and there are two main options – the internet or local shops; and unfortunately the local specialty shop, where the clerk is the owner and knows your name and everything they carry in the shop and what it’s used for, is disappearing from just about every town in America. The internet is fine but it’s also full of many unknowns and then there’s the pesky problem of paying for shipping. Who wants to pay four dollars for quilling papers that will cost five dollars more to be shipped?
Perhaps you’ve encountered a situation similar to the one I’m about to relate. You have a small list of things that you need and your local big box craft store claims to be THE place for ALL of your needs so, against your better judgment, you trot off to one of these stores with high hopes that your visit will be short, sweet and painless. Upon arriving at the craft store you are immediately confronted with hundreds of products that are definitively not crafts. No matter, you’re looking for something simple, something you’ve seen online that everyone says you can find “anywhere” and so you bypass all of the strangely un-craft store stuff and go in search of whatever it is you’re looking for. Now you begin to roam up and down long aisles crammed with all sorts of stuff. You begin whistling a
bit to yourself to keep up a cheerful mood while you embark on your 5K walk.
Eventually, after a great deal of wandering about, you find the aisle where logic tells you the thing you’re looking for should be found. Now begin the callisthenic exercises – you bend, you stretch, you crane your neck. You squint, first through your glasses then over them. “It must be here,” you think optimistically. But it’s not. You try to concentrate as you look at a mass of products of seemingly every shape and size. “I know it’s right here under my nose,” you persist and then finally you give up the ghost and decide to ask someone.
Now here’s where the fun really begins.
Finding an employee in one of these places is a bit like fresh water fishing. It requires a great deal of patience, an almost intuitive sense of where to look, and you must be as quiet as possible and sneak up on your prey lest it realizes it’s being stalked and swims off to hide in the reeds.
Up and down the aisles you go and then, your heart skips and you suddenly quicken your step. You’ve spotted one! An employee! Hallelujah! But in your excitement you were too friendly, too open. You were spotted. The employee suddenly seems very engrossed in a task at the moment. She doesn’t bother to look up when you say, “Can you help me?” The face that turns to you finally is not of helpfulness, no indeed not. In fact you’re immediately made to feel a little embarrassed as though you’ve just interrupted a surgeon who was transplanting a heart.
Despite the warning signs you proceed. “Can you tell me where to find…” Fill in the blank with anything you like. No, really. Anything. What follows next fits into one of three main categories: boredom, confusion, or disgust with often a delightful combination of all three.
“Glue? What kind of glue? We have a lot of different glues.”
Oh dear. This is going to be fun. “It’s called d_ (again fill in the blank).” Then you go into a very in depth description of its function, size, color and where you, the customer, believe it should be located.
“Did you look in _?”
“Yes I did and it wasn’t there.”
“Well did you look where the _ is?” Now apparently, although you’re the paying customer, these people believe that even though you can’t find what it is you’re looking for that you know the whereabouts of every other product in the store.
“Yes, I was there too and didn’t see it.” By now you’ve begun to realize that you’d rather have stayed at home and done all of this yourself via Google and paid the extra thirty percent in shipping and upcharges.
Now if you get someone who actually does decide to be “helpful” you really wish you’d kept your mouth shut. Your initial question is answered with a very serious, “Well if we have it, it should be over here…” You’re not invited to go along but as the person starts off before finishing the sentence you get the idea you’re to be shown something and that you should follow with all due haste. So off you go and suddenly you realize that this is an exploratory expedition. The person didn’t really know where it was or even if the store had it but you now accompany them, at a brisk pace, all over the entire 100,000 square feet of store, stopping in aisles where the salesperson (I use that term lightly) looks about with many hmmms and pursing of the lips before finally turning to you and saying “what is it for again?”
They should have a bar in these places. They’d do a bang up business. I went to Borders once and asked a young lady in which aisle I might find Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. I got the signal to follow (they don't actually tell you to - that would require too much oxygen) and after winding up and down the maze of books she brought me to a computer and said, “who was the author again – how do you spell it?”
So what exactly is so great about these places anyway? They tend to be overpriced, the staff is either non-existent or when you do find someone they’ve either just arrived from Pluto or haven’t decided yet whether or not talking to people in life is a worthwhile occupation. The big box craft stores are as much an affront to crafters as most big box book stores are to avid readers. It seems as though they go out and search for people who have no idea what any of the stuff in the store is for. They sell myriad junk and other crap that has nothing to do with what the store is advertised to be and what’s worse is that these stores are so big and so full of stuff that you’d have to be an expert in just about everything to be helpful even if you wanted to.
I hope that the 21st century will be looked back on as a Renaissance of Small; small banks, small grocers, small cars, just plain small. Bigger is not better. It never has been. Look at the dinosaurs. We as consumers must do our part to see to it that retailers like Joann’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and the like either step up and fulfill the role they seemingly promise to or go the way of Mr. Brontosaurus and his neighbors.