"She's fifteen, so it matters."

Disclaimer: I try really hard not to give parenting advice on this blog, because I am not a parent. But this one was just too much.

Old Navy had a sale on compression pants a couple of weekends ago. They were $12, which is a really great price because they’re in the $30 range normally.

A woman came through my line with four or five of them, and she was understandably very excited about the sale. She was saying how great they are and how the quality is actually surprisingly great too, and I was agreeing with her.

Then she told me about how she “had” to buy some *insert very popular, incredibly expensive yoga pants brand here* yoga pants for her daughter a few weeks ago, and she had spent about $250 for two pairs of those pants.

I reacted in the way you might expect me to react to the concept of spending $250 for two pairs of yoga pants. I said something like, “Oh my gosh, I cannot imagine ever spending that much on yoga pants. Wow.”

She agreed, saying “Yeah, it kind of blew my mind a little.”

I didn’t want to press too hard but I was very curious, so I said something like, “It surprises me that you would buy the expensive ones since you’re obviously into deals like this one!”

Her answer made me so mad. She said, “Yeah, I would never ever spend that much on myself, but she’s fifteen, so, you know, it matters.”

Guys, I almost died right there at the cash register.

Let’s talk about what you do and don’t have to do with your money.

Yes, you are required to clothe your child.

You are absolutely, positively not required to clothe them with designer freaking yoga pants that cost more than $100 each. 

And the sigh of resignation that went along with her account of why she bought the yoga pants was so infuriating. Despite how you’re acting, your hands are not tied here. You are absolutely allowed to tell your daughter no. Tell her she can work for the money the yoga pants cost, tell her to use her allowance that I’m sure she gets to buy the yoga pants, maybe even offer to split the cost with her.

But no, you are absolutely not required to buy her whatever she asks for or whatever her friends dictate she has to have. 

You simply do not have to give your child everything they want.

And this is where it gets into murky parenting advice territory, so I’m only going to dip my toe in, but like, maybe try passing on some of your money values to her. I obviously understand that teenagers just don’t get it sometimes, no matter how much you might try to teach them, so I’m not saying having a bratty teenager is a parenting flaw. 

I am, though, saying this could have been an opportunity for a serious life lesson, but instead this mom gave in and spent as much on two pairs of yoga pants as I would have spent on groceries for an entire month.

And that makes me sound like I'm against spending your money however you want, which I'm not. I'm against her spending her money in a way she didn't want to just because her kid is “fifteen, so, you know, it matters.”


Here are some pennies, I taped them up for you and everything.

This happened in January of 2015, but I never blogged about it and I still had the picture, so here we go.

A customer paid for a purchase with cash and included these pennies.

She had taped them into groups of ten. With tape!

And of course, because she was cheap enough to do this in the first place, she was also using the cheapest tape possible, which meant it was actually quite difficult to get the tape undone.

Like, just count it there, right? That would be fine. I will even help you count it. Peeling tape off of four columns of pennies is just not a thing I want to do with my time.


Come work at my event for free!

Matt is freelancing, so we spend a lot of time on Craigslist these days. Craigslist is a really great way to get legitimate jobs. At the same time, Craigslist is also a flaming crap pile full of jobs promising “no pay, but a great set experience” and “IMDB/copy/meals” as if that is actual compensation.

Working for free is a tricky thing. If you know your craft but have zero set experience, it can be helpful to go ahead and work for free once or twice to get credits. Of course, if nobody was willing to work for free, nobody would have to work for free, but there’s always going to be someone willing to do so for the experience and to get contacts and exposure, so there are always going to be jobs offered without any compensation.

Whether or not things like this are okay, it’s only tangentially related to the topic at hand, but serves as a necessary introduction to the concept. The topic at hand is this: When people try to get staff for free for things that don't actually help anyone's career.

During these past few months, we have seen several posts including and similar to the following:

Yes, they are trying to get event staff for free.

Guys. Excuse me. The only reason anyone ever works for free is to get experience in a field that is hard to break into or to gain contacts within a field that is hard to break into.

Event staff is not a field that is hard to break into because it’s not generally something people aspire to. (Event planning is, obviously, but that’s different.) Working events is something people do for money while they’re otherwise un- or under-employed.

But like, only for money.

Asking for event staff who will work for free is like asking for restaurant or retail workers who will work for free. It is simply not a thing.

The only situation where this would be okay is if the event was for a nonprofit and the nonprofit was using its own regular volunteers for the event staff.

These Craigslist posters try to get away with it by saying things like, “The event is from 6:30 to 10 but you’ll only need to work from 6-8 and you can mingle afterward.” Oh, really? Thanks. So I get to attend the event for the last two hours in my event staff uniform after everyone has seen me working for the first hour and a half? Cool!

But I even saw one listing that said, “Note: This is not an event where networking will be an option.” So like, please tell me, what’s in it for me? At all? Why would I not just sit at home? Because there is nothing about this listing that is going to benefit me whatsoever, even monetarily, which is the only reason I would be interested in the first place.

Just, as a general rule, people need to get it together and realize what people are and aren’t willing to do for free. If you can’t afford to hire event staff, you can’t afford to host an event. Sorry!


A smattering of problems with chip cards

Chip cards are a thing and they are a constant struggle and people have a hard time even when you walk them through it step by excruciating step. I honestly thought about doing a whole week on chip cards but there would have been a lot of minutiae involved and I didn’t want to bore anyone.

At Old Navy right now, if you’re using a credit card or running a debit card as credit, you use the chip, but if you’re using a debit card as debit, you swipe the card. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this, but it’s how it is, and because it’s a little complicated, I’m very specific with people throughout the transaction.

Because there are different protocols for debit and credit now, we have to select which one it is on our end before the swiping / inserting step. So if I see that a person is using a card, I ask, “Is that debit or credit?”

If they say debit, I tap the debit button and say “Okay, you can go ahead and swipe it.”

They inevitably say, “Oh, but it has a chip!” And I say, “Yeah, you can just swipe it, we’re only using the chip for credit right now for some reason.” And that’s usually good enough.

But if they say credit, I say, “Okay, if it has a chip, insert it at the bottom where the blue light is.”

And at this point, several months in, that is usually good enough. People have started to understand. But it’s taken quite awhile to get to this point.

When people do it wrong, the most common reaction is to just swipe it anyway. Then they ask, “Did it not work?” I ask in return, “Did you use the chip?” “No, I swiped it.” “Oh, right, it wants you to use the chip.”

Like, we were having a conversation and I told you to use the chip. Did you think you were special and could choose not to? I’m sorry, not the case. Or were you just not listening? Also not cool.

There are also awkward exchanges sometimes when they ask me “Chip or swipe?” before I have asked them “Debit or credit?” 

I have had this conversation many times:

“Chip or swipe?”

“Is it debit or credit?”

“I asked you first.”

“... Sure, but my answer is dependent on yours.”

Also, probably eight or nine times a day, I have to lean all the way over the counter and teach someone how the chip card works. 

My favorite people are the ones who childishly hate using the chip and complain about it the entire transaction. Like, please grow up. It’s going to be fine. You’ll get used to it. Or you could start using cash all the time.

But finally, the worst offender ever and what finally tipped the scales for writing this post, was a guy I had last weekend. 

I said, “Debit or credit?”

And his answer was, “Whichever one makes me not have to use the chip.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll run it as debit then.”

He answered, seriously, “Oh, but it’s a credit card.”

… Okay, so not whichever then, right? If you're using a credit card, you have to run it as credit, and I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to use the chip.


But wait, I seriously want a prenup.

I had a couple come through my line at Old Navy last weekend and they were obviously in a fight but trying not to fight loudly in front of me, so it was on a soft pause, which I appreciate. I say the fight was obvious because they had been doing that quiet but angry talk while they were walking up, but once they got to me, they both stopped talking for a minute.

Quick side note to say: I understand that some conversations are important, but they can almost always wait until after your interaction with another human is done. It is nearly always awkward when you try to either have a conversation during a transaction, because it forces me to interrupt you, or involve me in a conversation, because there is usually quite a bit of backstory that I would need to be brought up to speed, and generally not enough time to cover everything. This is any conversation. Multiply the effects by about three when it's an argument.

Okay, back to this fight. The pause didn't last very long at all, unfortunately. For awhile I couldn’t tell what it was about, but I figured it out eventually because they awkwardly involved me (see above).

I’m going to spare you the details of exactly how our conversation played out so that I eventually gained all this information, because it was very piecemeal.

Here is the gist. The couple are engaged, and she wants a prenup, but he doesn’t. This is something they have been fighting about already, but the fight at the register was something more specific.

I’m assuming he has already laid out all the reasons he doesn’t want a prenup and she has detailed all the reasons she wants one, and now they’re at the point where they’re arguing to make a decision.

So here’s what she was mad about: He said something along the lines of, “It’s weird that you’re the one who wants a prenup since I’m going to be the higher wage earner.”

*record scratch*

This is the point at which I got involved in the conversation, because the woman turned to me and said, “Well maybe now that Hillary is going to be in charge we can get that pay gap sorted out and I can earn just as much, huh?”

I agreed wholeheartedly.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me give you some life advice. Unless your plan in life is that one of you is going to be a doctor and the other is going to be a stay at home parent, do not ever -- EVER -- even think about saying or implying to your significant other that you will be making more money than them. It’s a huge mistake.

And it's honestly just dumb. Even if your fields have incredibly disparate earning expectations, you really never know how your earning trajectory is going to go. You could be in the mid-range of a lucrative field and your wife could be at the higher end of a middling field and she could end up making significantly more than you. Or one or both of you might change careers a few years from now.

You just never know, and even if you're not trying to be condescending, "You're going to make less money than me long-term" just can't be taken any other way.

Toward the end of the transaction, the wife-to-be said, "Oh my god! I should start recording you so you know how rude you sound."

This was an accidental paraphrase of Emily Gilmore, who tells Richard during an argument that she is going to get a tape recorder so he can "hear how pompous and condescending" he sounds.

I wanted to mention the Gilmore Girls parallel, but it wasn't a good time.


You don't need 200 pairs of flip flops for your wedding.

Some people buy flip flops to put out for their guests near the dance floor at their wedding. When the guests' feet get tired because of their ill-advised heel choices, they can switch into flip flops instead of going barefoot or just suffering through the rest of the evening.

Having worked at Old Navy for the past eight or so years, I've seen many wedding flip flops come and go. Brides-to-be will come in, buy dozens or even hundreds of flip flops, then weeks or months later, they will return at least half of them, often with no tags and only sometimes with receipts.

They have to do this buy-and-return dance because the flip flops are not used, because they bought too many.

Let me say that one more time. If you are buying dozens or more pairs of flip flops to give to guests at your wedding, you are buying too many.

This is what gets brides into this predicament: They see the flip flop idea and think, 'Wow, that is cool. I would totally use that if my feet started to hurt at a wedding.' Then they think about how many people are going to be at their wedding. This is where the thought process breaks, because for some completely nonsensical reason, they think, 'Literally every person who comes to the wedding is going to want to use a pair of these flip flops.'

Let's be realistic here. It is very nice to provide flip flops for guests who might want to change into them at some point during the evening of your wedding. But a good number would be like 20. You're not even going to need 50. So you're definitely not going to need 200.

Realistically, the only time you're going to change into a pair of flip flops at a wedding is if you're wearing painful high heels and also don't care about the fact that the flip flops are going to ruin your outfit. Please, future brides, think about how few of your guests that's going to apply to. Really think about it.

This past Saturday, which was Dollar Flip Flop Day, a woman and her future husband came through the line with the intention of buying 200 pairs of flip flops. Seriously 200. Now, it was Dollar Flip Flop Day, which is why they were there, and there is a limit of 10 pairs of flip flops per trip through the line. This meant they had to go through the line 10 times, paying separately, in order to get 200 between the two of them. They informed me of their intent the first time through, but I didn't think about how ridiculous it was until their second or third time.

On the fourth time through, I was checking out the guy, who had made it clear that he would have rather come on a different day and paid full price so as not to wait in a crazy line and pay 10 different times. The woman was at a different register.

Trying to be nice and helpful, I asked, "You're buying 200 pairs, right? So ... how many guests do you have?"

"Like 300," he answered, in a way that clearly implied he thought it justified the 200 pairs of flip flops.

Let me pause our conversation to explain to you that there is no earthly scenario in which their 300-guest wedding will require 200 pairs of flip flops. There is simply no way that two thirds of their guests are going to change their shoes at this wedding. No matter what.

I carefully answered, "Do you think maybe you're overestimating the amount of flip flops you need to buy for that amount of guests?"

He replied, his tone of voice implying he thought this was his trump card, "Well it's a beach wedding."

" ... But your guests know it's a beach wedding, right? So won't they be wearing appropriate shoes?"

He shrugged, which indicated to me that he was not interested in being there in the first place and it was all her decision and there would be no talking her out of it.

I couldn't save them. Instead, let me save you the trouble, dear brides and grooms planning weddings and trying to be nice to your guests.

You need 20 to 30 pairs of flip flops tops. I guess if you're having more than, like, 500 people at your wedding, you could double that number.

But seriously, providing flip flops is really just a gesture. It's cute, it's thoughtful, maybe a couple of people will take you up on it. You don't have to worry about running out, though. Nobody would be mad that you didn't get enough or didn't get enough of their size. Get enough to fill one bucket, and other than that you're good.
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