My greatest caper came when I was 15 and brilliantly stole a car stereo from Wal-Mart in Branson, Mo. Back then, the greeter put a green sticker on anything you brought in, so I purchased a cheap Roadmaster stereo, brought it back and clandestinely put the green sticker on a fancy Sony stereo (with auto-reverse cassette!) and walked out the front door. They stopped me in the parking lot, but I showed them the green sticker, and they let me go. Ocean’s 11, anyone? That’s right, people, I am that slick.

Since then, though, I have not done a lot of stealing. While I do have some trouble periodically with “laws,” and authority (and sometimes I drive too fast), shoplifting just isn’t my thing.

So it was with great surprise to be confronted at Sportsman’s Warehouse a while back right in the middle of the store by an employee accusing me of stealing 99-cent flies.

Here’s what happened: My friend Andrew and I were looking over the flies, and he was putting some in the plastic cups the store provides. We were discussing the merits of the black ant vs. the Woolly Bugger, dries vs. nymphs, the color chartreuse.

At some point, a Santa-Claus-looking worker steps up and says: Hey, guys, when you’re getting flies, go ahead and put them in these plastic cups and not in your pocket.

I looked over at Andrew’s cup, which had a half-dozen or so flies in it, then it occurred to me: My pocket? Wait, are you accusing me of putting flies in my pocket? Of stealing? Really?

Santa said that, yes, “someone” said they saw me put flies in my pocket, and he motioned to the observation deck surrounding the store. “Someone.” Is that someone a manager? Because it’s a crowded Saturday afternoon and this guy’s just publicly shamed me and accused me of stealing 99-cent flies. I’m going to need to talk to someone about this. I might have suggested he put his hands in my pockets to see what might be in there. I might have also told him that if I were to steal anything from this store, it would be big and expensive and I would get away with it. I might have caused a small scene.

Couple things here. You have a pretty irate customer on your hands asking to talk to a manager who’s upstairs, don’t just hand him the phone. If you’re a manager and you just called someone out wrongly, you take the time to march your ass downstairs and apologize in person.

Eventually, of course, the manager finds the time to come downstairs. He explained to me that they were using what’s called “enhanced customer service,” a loss-prevention strategy wherein a worker approaches a shoplifter and offers exaggerated service. This lets the shoplifter know he’s caught, and what will likely happen in most cases is the thief will go to another part of the store and dump the goods. Enhanced customer service would have looked something like this: Hey, guys, I see you’re considering the Blue-Wing Olive. Nice choice. You might also consider the Elk-Hair Caddis or the Parachute Adams. Can I tell you about our San Juan Worms?

Instead, Santa offered “hey, don’t put shit in your pockets” as his “enhanced customer service.” The manager explained that, yes, they really blew it on implementing that tactic. He explained, too, that they’ve been having a lot of trouble with people stealing flies and that they might be overly suspicious. So I got caught up in a botched-up loss-prevention maneuver because they can’t protect their inventory properly.

I wrote a letter to district manager Mike Murray out in Utah, because I had some suggestions.

A couple of ideas for what seem to be some serious problems in the Colorado Springs store:

  • If the “enhanced customer service” strategy is a proven theft deterrent, workers should be trained to use it properly. Simply accusing someone (wrongly) just creates tension.
  • If I’m a manager of a store, and this mistake had been made, I’d be on the floor before the customer even asked for me. I’d be there in person to apologize personally and in earnest. I would not have my employee hand the customer a phone. I would certainly not blame the fiasco on an overreaction because we’re unable to prevent theft.
  • If enough of your inventory is being lost to theft, it’s probably time to look at alternative display methods. Or perhaps it would be worthwhile to redistribute staffing from an area of the store that sells harder-to-steal items (boats?) to the fishing area.

A few weeks later, Mr. Murray wrote back: A tepid, one-sentence “thanks, I’ll look into it” email. “Enhanced” customer service? I’d settle for regular customer service at this point.

Everybody be cool this is a robbery, Sportsman's Warehouse, Colorado Springs

Everybody be cool, this is a robbery! I'm going to walk around with this bag, and I want you to put all your fly fishing gear in there: flies, snips, strike indicators, floatant. Don't be a hero.

Sportsman's Warehouse Colorado Springs

Sportsman's Warehouse's new fly-fishing display (proposed).

Sportsman's Warehouse, Colorado Springs

The elusive and highly prized Black Woolly Bugger.


Century Chem-Dry Colorado Springs

I really don’t like having to say bad things about locally owned small businesses. But sometimes, when the service is really really awful, I have to. That’s what happened with Century Chem-Dry on Betty and Academy.

I have a pretty needlepoint area rug that needed cleaning.

The guy I talked to when I dropped it off on Sept. 1 said they usually say it will take a week but he’d probably have it ready in just a few days and it would cost $90. A week went by and I called and it wasn’t ready. Three weeks went by, still not ready. A month went by and finally it was ready.

I went to  pick it up today (October 6) and it was barely clean- it still looked very shabby and not vibrant. The back side wasn’t clean at all. I mean, not. at. all.

I told the lady in the office that it wasn’t acceptable and she told me to keep it there another day so she could talk to the manager. No, you’re not keeping it another day after having it for over a month already.

She offered to charge me “only” $90 and not charge me for the “extra chemicals”. The original quote I got did not include any extra chemicals, so as far as I was concerned I would only be responsible for $90 and if she wanted to give me a discount it would have to be off the $90.

Of course she had to argue with me.

I told her I’d take the rug home and the manager could call me. Why he wasn’t available during business hours to be reached I have no idea.

She then threatened to charge my credit card (I didn’t remember if I had given it to them as a deposit or what) if I took the rug. That was it for me. I told her I was leaving and took my rug to the car. I told her if she charged my credit card I would call my bank and have it charged back.

Finally she tried to get another manager. This manager came out and was very nice as far as tone of voice and attitude. She was apologetic about how long it took.  BUT she did the worst thing a business can do which was to try and justify it all. Claimed that they always take 2 weeks minimum. Well, that’s not what your guy said when I dropped it off, so get your employee’s acts together. Furthermore, even if it was two weeks, they had my rug for over a month. And it wasn’t even clean!

She was still attempting to argue with me when I said I’d give her $40. She agreed. Too bad that had to be MY idea and after soooooo much hassle.

I really shouldn’t have had to pay anything at all due to the timeframe and the quality. The first person I talked to when I picked it up today should have offered me a discount (or no charge) or gotten someone else down there immediately. Let alone the fact that they shouldn’t have taken so long and should have done a better job to begin with.

This is why you’re going out of business. It’s not government taxes and regulations, it’s not the economy, it’s not the homeless. It’s your crap-assed customer service and your employees who don’t know their asses from their elbows.

Sandy’s: Home of the loud opinion

I’ve been known to have an opinion about a thing or two. And I’ve been known to sometimes share them. Fact is, there are a lot of things wrong with the world, and I have some solutions. Now, if only people would listen.

So while I am in the political minority at Sandy’s restaurant, I feel comfortable here because the diners are loudly solving all the world’s problems. Deadbeats (individual and corporate); religion (mainstream and otherwise); legal matters (tax laws, tort reform) — all varieties of trouble with the world were debated and being solved over enormous plates of delicious food.

We can disagree on the finer points of our “welfare state” or the “military industrial complex” or whether Obama is Swedish or eating ostrich is “wrong,” but one thing we all can agree on is deliciousness.

If you’re ever out in this part of the world, the faraway part of Colorado Springs east of town, it’s definitely worth stopping in at Sandy’s.

The good: Customer service. Fantastic. The server sensed that Adrienne didn’t want to eat an entire order of the pancakes, so she offered a single pancake at a reduced cost even though it wasn’t on the menu. Coffees were fresh and strong and refilled frequently. Genuine kindness and courtesy. Excellent portions. Affordable.

The bad: Not much. But again with a business that doesn’t take debit or credit cards. I don’t believe I will ever understand this. Crazy hours. They close at 2 p.m. or something. I suppose that’s par for the course with diners like this, so it’s really not too terrible. In my ideal world, though, everything’s open 24 hours.

Breakfast at Sandy's restaurant, Colorado Springs

I had corned-beef hash, with three eggs (over-medium) and hash browns. Wheat toast (tasted home-made). The pancake isn't mine.

Breakfast at Sandy's restaurant, Colorado Springs.

Adrienne didn't want the full order of pancakes, so the server suggested a single pancake. It rivals Maggie Mae's pancakes for best in the Springs.

Sandy's restaurant, Colorado Springs

The burger at Sandy's was very good, and so were the fries. Add Sandy's to the list of places to go for a good burger.

So go to Sandy’s. Solve the world’s problems. And also, don’t eat ostrich. What’s wrong with you?




Sandy's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

AutoZone is awesome- zone.

Mike broke my car today, sheesh.  So after a few calls to my brother the Jeep expert we decided to head over to AutoZone at 2455 E. Platte to get the battery looked at. They tested it (for free) and it was indeed dead.

I didn’t remember, but the battery was from there, from one of their L.A. stores. So the helpful employee there looked me up in the computer and despite the fact that my name was wrong in their system managed to find that I had a warranty on it- it’s 5 years old and they have some kind of crazy 7 year pro-rated warranty- and so I got a brand new one (list price $115) for only $49.

So we brought it home and hooked it up. The guy said to come back so he could test the charging system since this was such a weird thing that happened. They do that for free, too. He said it was fine but that maybe the alternator was acting up intermittantly and told us what to look for in the future.

While he was testing the system we were discussing how the things that hold the hood up were broken. I know, and Mike has been bugging me to replace them for like ever.  Anyhow, I bought some new ones ($35) so Mike could finally replace them but the guy who sold them to us said he’d replace them for free right then. Of course it only took like 2 minutes, but still, they totally don’t have to do that kind of thing and they do. I got a quote from a mechanic, along with a bunch of other quotes for other things, that was over $100 for that repair.

Anyhow, they do all these free tests for you, they help you figure out what’s wrong, they pretty much show you how to fix it, and in some cases will replace little things for you for free.

That’s awesome!

The Downtown Dentist

You’re probably looking forward to your next dentist visit. Who wouldn’t be?

Except your dentist is probably gross, and the office is scary. Outdated magazines in the lobby, unattended children terrorizing you, screams of pain coming from somewhere in the back. And also, your dentist probably smells of Old Spice and Vitalis.

Dentists have a huge PR problem.

Me, I go to The Downtown Dentist. That’s right: A dentist right downtown on Tejon. People think downtown Colorado Springs has only bars, and while it’s nice to be able to get your teeth checked then step next door or down the street for a whiskey to drown your sorrows about how many cavities you have, there’s much more to downtown than bars.

Like Dr. Julia Rohleder, the dentist. The Downtown Dentist is hip, modern, clean, and pleasant (for a dentist’s office). There’s a little upselling that will likely happen, but I’ve never visited a dentist who didn’t try to get me to do something to make my teeth better. One even said I have teeth “like a rabbit.” Whatever.

If you’re in the market for a dentist, give the Downtown Dentist a try.

The way things used to be

If this is what you need to do to have good teeth, just forget it and never smile again. Or eat.

Dr. Julia Rohleder, Downtown Dentist, Colorado Springs

I'll have you know that these teeth can chew through cinder blocks and lead pipes.