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Starting Sparks - November

Starting Sparks in a monthly writing prompt which is hosted by Emily @ Ink, Inc and Ashley G. @ [insert title here].  Basically, at the beginning of each month we're given a writing prompt that we can do whatever we want with it - create a short story, a scene, a poem, etc., that somehow ties in with the prompt.  Spark your imagination, if you will.  We then have until the end of that month to link up with the hosting blogs.

Here is this month's prompt:

I've been trying to think of something interesting to go with this prompt since the beginning of the month, but then today I saw something that really reminded me of this topic.  The following is my take on the scene:

I don't know if any of you go Black Friday shopping.  I'm not one to go out on Thanksgiving night or line up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning, but sometimes I'll head out in the afternoon to see if I can get any deals, especially when it comes to local stores.  Of course, I had to check out the local bookstore (they know me there!) and later made my way out to a Barnes & Noble where I was armed with my membership and coupons.  Finally, I decided to stop by the mall to visit a couple of the main shops where sales were going on all day.  It's always busy, but not nearly as crazy at that time in the afternoon so you don't have to deal with all of the nonsense.  The last store I set foot in was Sears and the situation was the stuff of nightmares, especially for the staff.

Now, as it turned out, the entire store system was down.  Not just at that particular location, but stores nationwide.  That meant that every single item purchased had to be entered manually because nothing would scan.  That also meant that every single discount and coupon had to be manually calculated for each purchase, and you can't forget to include the sales tax either.  Around each cash register was a group of employees prepared to write down the UPCs of each customer's purchase.  Then, if there were any discounts on that item they had to locate it in the store and get the percentages or exact amounts off.  While I was looking around at the shelves, I had one eye on all of this so I could be mildly prepared if I decided to make a purchase.  I could clearly see that the cashiers and those assisting them were living in a nightmare and walking through a minefield.  It's a crappy situation whenever something like that happens, but for it to have gone down today of all days - you can't get much worse than that.  I take that back, it could have gone down right when they opened and the hordes were pouring through the store, so it is lucky that it happened after the worst of the rush.

While I'm taking all of this in, a couple approaches the line to the register with a cart loaded down with lots of clothes.  Before they can get in line, one the of the store associates approaches them, pen and paper in hand, and begins to explain the current situation to them.  As soon as the words "our system is down" passed the associates lips, but before she could explain that they could still make their purchase, I could clearly see the couple's expressions darken like a switch being flipped off behind their eyes.

If you have retail experience, like me, you will know that this can be very dangerous.  Sometimes if you can't save the situation quickly enough, you'll swear the person you're just trying to help forgets to be human, or how to pretend to be human in some cases.  As soon as I noticed they began to react that way, I couldn't help but think of the ways that entire situation could have gone.  Everything from inhuman, upset, or willing to work with the associates, to everything in between.  Happily for the associate, she was able to save the situation and once the customers understood the situation in full they were willing to work with her and get the information needed to check out.

As soon as I witnessed that short interaction today, I immediately thought of this month's writing prompt.  I simply couldn't help myself.  I seriously considered dramatizing it or adding some fantastical elements, but for some reason I like how it turned out.


  1. Very awesome! I love how you used a real life experience. And Black Friday is, like, the most perfect example ever. I've worked in grocery before as a cashier and when our system was half down, people could get a little crazy. Or just when you make a mistake, you try to explain, so that you can fix the mistake, sometimes people just forget to act humane in the situation. They forget that your not against them, you actually trying to help them.

    Thanks so much for linking up! :D

    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

      People can go kind of crazy when the system goes down in a home improvement store, too...I could probably write an entire book just on those kinds of situations. :)

  2. Thank you for linking! I was beginning to wonder that no one ever would ... I was so excited when, scrolling through my feed, I spotted the award picture!

    I love your take on the prompt. I've never gone shopping on Black Friday -- it's not as a big a deal in the UK -- but it sounds terrifying, and there is lots of Youtube footage of violence over items! I always think it's ironic that it comes the day after Thanksgiving. "We're so thankful for our families and our lives .... and tomorrow, we're going to go out and buy heaps of stuff!"

    Great little piece, anyway. I like how you drew on your experiences and showed us the scene from your observer's POV.

    1. Thanks for creating the link up wish Ashley G. I'm really looking forward to next month's. :)

      I doesn't make much sense does it - let's give thanks for what we have and then immediately afterward you're willing to do whatever just to get that deal - whether it's trampling people or taking toys from little kids. I love getting good deals - but I won't go out on Thanksgiving night (many are starting to open at 6pm on Thursday night now...) or really early on Friday. Usually by the time you get into the afternoon, it's more like a very busy Saturday afternoon than anything else luckily. Either way, I was so glad to find out that I didn't have to work this Black Friday - the store I'm at isn't on the same level as say Walmart or Best Buy, but it can still be hectic!


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