The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Standing Tall

Some customers are difficult because they’re ignorant of language, products or metric conversions. Some are difficult because they “know everything”. And some are difficult because they like to see how far they can push you.

Yesterday I encountered a trio belonging to the last group. Two men and a woman. They came to the counter about an hour before I was due to close. Guy 1 argued straight off about the classic dozen (a pre-selected combination for a set price) which immediately hit a wall. He looked at my name badge (oh how I hate that thing!) and from then on, spat it out like it was a dirty word. This was going to be a challenge.

All three of them argued over the pre-selected combination we have, asking if they can change it. Even though the two guys (who bought a pack each) chose it after hearing what it contained, they still argued. While I refused, they jibed me. The woman called me names. The men complained that “the other girl” would do it (I knew this was BS but at that point, they realised I wasn’t going to budge). They argued over the cost. They complained I wouldn’t give them free doughnuts (“You get them for free and you say you haven’t eaten any today- why can’t we have them?”) They pushed each point and jibed me when I refused.

At one point, I felt myself slouch. Refusing to give in and be submissive, I deliberately pulled my shoulders back and held my head high. As the surge of confidence took over, I held the upper hand and eventually, they left. The whole encounter lasted more than ten minutes. I heard everything they bitched about as they walked out the door. I realised that everything I was thinking about them, they were thinking about me. I was shaken by the incident; it had been difficult not to give them cheek but to retain my professionalism. They had taken their doughnuts and paid for them without anyone getting hurt: I hadn’t ‘won’ but neither had they.

No matter how small you feel, had I backed down at any point, the three of them would have walked all over me. Now, I’m a big believer in You Can’t Please Everyone. Read the comments section of any news story and you’ll see exactly what I mean. With customers in retail, you’re always going to find someone complaining about price or ingredients or service (this usually means the employee didn’t give them what they wanted). In copywriting, if the client is unhappy they just won’t pay. My very first paying client didn’t like what I did; she was expecting something different and refused to pay. Imagine the excitement of a paying client only to have them turn around and tell you it looks like a child wrote it in ten minutes. (Since then, I’ve had my copywriting coach look it over, along with the detailed brief I’d done along with the client’s signature, and she’s said I’d done exactly what was asked, and done it well.)

Confidence is more than knowing you can do it. It’s knowing you did as well as anyone could have done under the circumstances. It’s keeping your cool under tough circumstances. Having difficult customers makes you a better customer in return.

Gotta love retail.


February 28, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | 1 Comment

You Buy Beer, I Buy Books

During bad days, I turn to the old comfort of reading a new book. Last week, whilst dealing with wisdom tooth dramas, I popped into the local bookshop “just to have a browse”. I should have known better: I found myself at the counter with a copy of I am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne. I couldn’t name a Black Sabbath song, let alone sing one. I saw maybe two episodes of the TV show (including the one where Sharon was diagnosed with cancer). I know Ozzy is/was a rock star who took a LOT of drugs and swears a bit too. In conclusion, I have no idea why I bought it other than I have a general love for autobiographies.

I loved the book. It was the most interesting autobiography I’ve read since Chrissy Amplett’s Pleasure and Pain. In fact, the two have similar themes of music, bad behaviour and addictions.

This morning I heard an ad for an e-book reader. I like the idea of having a bookshelf of books at my disposal should I find myself in a situation where I would suddenly like to read a book (like waiting for a plane that has been delayed), but the appeal of a real book is too strong. I like the look on people’s faces when they see I’m reading The Bride Stripped Bare or the autobiography of Marcia Brady (sorry, Maureen McCormick). I like the smell of second hand bookshops with the thousands of pre-loved books. I love the photos in autobiographies and the dog-earing of pages when I put the book down. It adds character, shows the book was loved. I love re-reading old favourites that have highlighted passages- those sentences once meant so much to me I was willing to deface the pages with bright orange. And I love that my childhood books still bear the messages my mum wrote in them; “To Renee, I’m proud of you, Love Mum.”

Sadly, I will probably end up using a digital reader. I am Ozzy was rather thick and difficult to prop up when reclining in the traditional reading position (sprawled on the lounge). Digital books are also rather less expensive than print, with the added bonus of seeing a book and having it within minutes (not that Amazon are any less amazing for taking a week to deliver a printed version…)

On a related note, I received a letter in the mail last week. It was handwritten, using a nibbed pen and a pot of ink, on real paper. The envelope was sealed with wax. She writes, “I generally find that there’s something incredibly sensual about writing on nice paper with a nice fountain pen and a pot of ink.” I couldn’t agree more. (Unfortunately she’ll be stuck with lined paper and a ballpoint pen as I have no patience for the art of calligraphy.)

February 22, 2010 Posted by | 1 | 3 Comments


I have a group of extraordinarily talented friends. Some make their own costumes. A couple are writers. A few are arty people. Some sing. Some are amazing mothers (all the mothers I know are amazing, let me just make that clear). And some, well, I’m sure they have amazing hidden talents that belong on youtube.

Not one but two of these friends are releasing albums this month. One is a lovely young lady from the UK who has a gorgeous voice. She’s written her own songs, manifested the money to fly overseas to record with Robert Berry (one of the most sought after producers) and recorded positive, uplifting, memorable songs.

The other is polar opposite in terms of musical styles, but yet a similar outlook on life and being human. She started as a creative artist in New Zealand and is now on the brink of being the next Aussie Success Story.

I’ve listened to songs from both albums and find a raw emotion attached to their music. Both sing with meaningful lyrics poised for endless playing on my iPod when their music is finally released unto the masses.

Anna and Lix- you are amazing goddess women whom I have the pleasure of calling my friends.

February 6, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment

Whoa! That’s a job?

Last year I attended a seminar and met an amazing lady named Bernadette Schwerdt. She is a copywriter, one of the most famous in Australia and the creator of the only copywriting school in Australia. Now, we’ve all read the writing on a packet of chocolate, but who writes it? A copywriter. The writing on that awesome Matt Damon billboard I’ve been driving past for the last month? A copywriter wrote it (at least, I think there’s writing. My eyes only see Matt Damon…)

I had a “OMG that’s a job??” moment when she explained what a copywriter does. It was also the point I realised I’d been doing it for years without realising it. Seemed a logical step for me.

I also had one of those moments yesterday, when I discovered the job of wearing new clothes so someone from David Jones can look at it and decide if they’re going to stock it or not. Like a model, but less glamourous.

After seeing the movie Kenny, I began to show some appreciation for the Forgotten Employed: the ones we take for granted that clean our messes, wash the public toilets and throw our leftover McDonalds into the bin. They are the heart and soul of our community, literally doing the dirty work while we go about our lives.

I guess the point of this entry is that there’s always someone behind the scenes. Take a look at the Oscars’ red carpet and you’ll see the work of beauticians and plastic surgeons. The clothes you buy have been modelled by someone. The food you eat has been tested by someone (admittedly, possibly someone who was deaf, dumb, blind, stupid and with no tastebuds…)

Say hello to one of the Forgotten Employed today.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | 1 Comment

The Honeymoon is Over

And so we start the second month of the new year. The joys (and stresses) of Christmas have disappeared leaving us with an empty place in our hearts (and stomachs). The excitement of a brand new year is ebbing away, leaving only dread in its wake.

Yesterday was one of those days where I sat and thought about ‘stuff’. My new year’s resolutions have all but slipped my mind as I pondered the numbers on the scale, the unopened beauty products and my forlorn website. With the new month, all those resolutions pop up again. I shall start writing again- both blogging and actual working. I shall use the cross trainer, watch what I eat, use that moisturiser. I shall finish (most of) what I start, keep the house reasonably tidy, and pay my bills on time… or at least within the month in which they are due.

I wonder why I choose to write about such different topics. I wonder why I’m not blogging the innermost thoughts and experiences of a copywriter. (For this last, I tend to think my ramblings and observations make better reading than my quest to find a better word for “chocolatey goodness wrapped in caramel”).

Onto a related subject, my part time work at the doughnut place is coming along quite nicely. When I chat with people I used to work with, they always ask what I’m doing now. I’m writing, as promised, but also this doughnut gig. Apart from the obvious evils that are doughnuts, I really like being there. I find myself to be more creative after a shift there. I use the time to calculate better ways to sell the product (while trying not to think that I am contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic). Why? In the past, I’ve been overlooked. I realised this last week when my doughnut manager dropped in at the end of my shift and presented me with a certificate and a badge for achieving 100% in the mystery shop for December. Now, I’ve consistently achieved 100% in all my mystery shops over the years and never had anything other than my own satisfaction. No recognition for having the 100%, let alone achieving it several months in a row. Last week during a particularly slow afternoon, I wrote a poem and sent it off to the Big Bosses along with my nightly email. They all loved it and now there’s talk of using it in an ad campaign… all because I was bored one afternoon. It’s nice to be recognised. It’s also nice to combine one area of life with another, using existing skills to better someone else.

Next goal: work my way into the marketing dept altogether… Hmm…

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | 1 Comment