An Unexpected Christmas Detour..

Last Sunday we went shopping with my parents. This is quite a rare event in many ways because usually we go with my Mum, but this time my Dad decided he would like to go along. Unknown to us at the time, he had quite a plan for us. We live about an hour’s drive from the major shopping centres so an expedition like this is usually quite a long day out.

Dad had been driving back from Sydney earlier that week and he had spotted a sign at Albion Park – Christmas Warehouse, 50% off. He wanted to buy new Christmas decorations for his shop, because the old owner had taken his decorations with him when he left, and he wasn’t happy with the decorations which had been purchased to replace them.

When it comes to Christmas decorations, my Dad had high expectations. There are people who make Christmas decorations for commercial shops for a living, ya’all. And those decorations don’t come cheap. At the previous store my Dad owned, he had paid $1,000 for two decorations that hung from the ceiling. They were pine garlands with Christmas lights wound through them and a wreath in the middle and they looked stunning. Unfortunately they were still at the old store.

So my Dad had this idea in his head which he did not choose to share with us. The idea was that we could make our own versions of these things. When we got to Albion Park, we found ourselves parked in the carpark of the Christmas warehouse as a surprise. Thinking it was just to have a look – and secretly thinking that my Dad had secretly been wanting to put Christmas lights all over his house for a good couple of years now and that he wanted to buy a bunch of lights – we went inside.

What you need to know about me is that I LOVE sparkly things, I love Christmas lights, I love tinsel, I love decorations. Walking into this warehouse was wonderful for me. Most of the warehouse was very dark to enable the lights to show off. I went all deer in the headlights wow look at all the lights and sparkly things. It is like disconnecting a circuit in my brain so the only thing I can think is wow.. pretty!

The four of us went our separate ways, me to look at the pretty lights up close, my Dad to look at the pine garlands, The Other Half to look at the moving reindeers, and my Mum to look at the Christmas trees. By the time The Other Half found me I had a set of Christmas lights in my hands, the ones I had been wanting since I had seen them in Kmart *last* year. These were actually cheaper than I had seen them anywhere else.

When we managed to find each other again, my Dad chose to inform us of our looming date with decorations. My Mum did what she always does, which is look for the negative. “It’s a fire risk to have lights in those pine garland things”. Dad got annoyed and went outside for a cigarette while The Other Half explained to Mum that the lights they were looking at were LED’s and they did not create any heat, so there was no fire risk. She went out to speak to Dad and give her permission for the decorating to go ahead while we bought my Christmas lights.

We went out to put my lights in the car, and then Dad explained his vision which I completely got – the other two did not quite understand it. Then we went back in and the shopping was ON, ya’all. Four 2.7 metre long pine garlands. Two pine wreaths. 80 large Christmas baubles. 30 small Christmas baubles. 5 sets of LED lights. We lined up in the now very long queue with arms full.

After about 10 minutes, we noticed that the line did not seem to be moving anymore. The Other Half went to investigate. It seemed their computers and their EFTpos was down and all of a sudden the store was going cash only. We pooled our money and tried to work out how much cash we needed. When we added up the LED lights alone we didn’t have enough cash on us to pay for them, let alone all the other stuff. So we waited, while the staff ran around like headless chooks and the manager was on the phone to their help desk.

The queue was growing by the minute. Nobody was telling the customers what was going on. Another 20 minutes went by. I said “Let’s get them to scan all the stuff, we can find out how much cash we need, and then bring it back on our way home.”

So we spoke to one of the staff members and the first thing he said in response to our question was “I don’t have anywhere to store what you have. You can put it all down over there but I can’t guarantee it will be there when you get back”. When he said this, he was standing in front of a large curtained off area that ran the entire length of the warehouse where he could easily have put all the stuff we wanted. We pointed this out. “Oh, I can’t put stuff back there.” Why not, we asked? “I just can’t.”

Ok, on to the next solution. The Other Half and I would stay there with the stuff, while my parents went to get the cash. This was much more acceptable to the staff member and he agreed to scan our stuff. It added up to $390. The staff member “parked” the sale and gave us the docket. We took our stuff over to the other side of the warehouse away from the queue. This was a big mistake for several reasons but at the time we didn’t know it.

We put our stuff neatly down out of everyone’s way, and began waiting for my parents to come back. I said to the other half “If I had to get stuck somewhere I’m glad it was here, it’s so pretty”. By now, the queue was enormous and people in the front of the queue had begun to give up, taking their items back. That meant people at the back of the queue thought the line was moving.

One of the staff members decided to put signs up on the tills “Cash Only” – of course this did not help those at the end of the queue who could not see the signs. The majority of the people in the queue had no idea what was going on, and they did not know they couldn’t pay with plastic. By this time we had been in the store for almost 50 minutes and many of the people in the queue had been waiting at least 30 minutes.

The same staff member then decided to put a sign on the door “Eftpos is down, cash only”. She stuck the sign at the top with sticky tape. The moment she walked away, the wind blew the sign up so that nobody could read it.

My parents returned, and we got back in the queue, this time at the end because if we’d pushed in we would have been beaten to a pulp. We should have stayed where we were in the queue! One of the staff members decided to tell the *end* of the queue that it was cash only. She neglected to tell the *front* of the queue. When she got to us we told her we had a sale parked in the system and all we needed to do was hand the cash over. Instead of taking us to the counter so we could pay, she looked blankly at us and then walked away. I could have throttled her.

Then the lack of communication chickens really came home to roost for the staff. One of the people who had been in the front of the queue finally got to the checkout and tried to pay with a card. The guy said “It’s cash only”. She said “I’ve been waiting in that queue for over half an hour, and NOW you tell me it is cash only? Forget it.” She began to walk off and the staff member tried to ask her to put the things back. She gave him a look that would have killed him on the spot, if looks could kill, and walked away leaving the items right where they were. In fact she looked like she was considering picking the items up and throwing them AT him.

The staff decided enough was enough and chose to close the doors half way. They put the girl who had stuck up the sign in the doorway to let people out and keep new people from coming in. However she soon moved out of the doorway and was letting just as many people in, not explaining to them what was going on.

We finally got to the checkout and paid for our items. I asked the guy to give me the plastic bags so we could put them in ourselves, to save everyone time. We loaded up our stuff and got the heck out of there. It had taken us an hour and 20 minutes from when we lined up in the queue. Much of our precious shopping time was now gone. We ended up shopping like crazy people until it was time to go home, hitting two of the major shopping centres – and then JB Hifi!

By the time we got home we were all exhausted but we had already agreed to put these decorations together. It took us two hours. The first and worst job was the pine garlands – you know when you unpack your fake tree and you have to pull all the branches out to make it look real? We had to pull the branches out on the almost 12 metres of pine garland.

We wanted these to last for years, so we decided to stick the baubles to the garlands with wire. We had found the perfect stuff in the gardening section. I was cutting sections of wire while Mum was feeding them through the baubles and then attaching the wire to the baubles by twisting it. We divided the baubles evenly so each garland would have the same amount. While this was going on, the men were threading the LED lights through the garland. That part on its own looked fantastic. Click the pics for a larger view.
Christmas Decorations
The end result turned out to be quite stunning even if I do say so myself. The only thing I would change is to make the wreath bigger but that was the largest ones they had there. It was worth all the time and effort we put in. And there’s still one extra set of LED lights left that we didn’t use, which I am sure Dad will choose to install on his own house somewhere.
Christmas Decorations

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7 thoughts on “An Unexpected Christmas Detour..

  1. What a day you all had! It was worth it in the end, those garlands look fantastic! Maybe a letter to the store manager would help instigate a little staff training re informing customers of eftpos problems?

  2. I’m surprised that this situation wasn’t handled better. It would have been quite easy to inform people better. Surely they had a PA system. Oh well, you and your family handled it very well and the end result was worth it.

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