Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Apologies to Thumper

There are some yarn shops where you feel welcome the moment you walk in the door and where you always look forward to returning. And then there are others where you will never walk in the door again.

I love a shop with a varied and tasteful selection from which to browse but the most important thing, that which will bring me back again and again, is the atmosphere created by the staff. The best shops are warm and welcoming without becoming oppressive. These are places where you can wander to your heart’s content, have questions answered thoughtfully and with kindness, and ultimately be left to browse and pet as you please.

This post, however, is not about one of those shops (although I will end with a shameless pitch for my absolute favorite yarn shop in Chicago); rather, this is about a shop to which I will never return and why.

There is one yarn shop in the city that I have found slightly off-putting but always came back to from time to time, until last Thursday. This particular shop is conveniently located, offers frequent sales, and, most importantly, is the only place within city limits (and accessible via public transportation, no less) that carries Fleece Artist, which I adore.

Now here comes the part where I would make Thumper sad. I have always tried to follow that childhood advice (“If you don’t have something nice to say . . . “) but here I think it worthwhile to examine the difference between shops to which I will joyfully return time and time again and those to which I will never come back.

This particular shop (and no, I won’t tell you its name) sent out an email last Thursday announcing a Mother’s Day sale where everything in the store was 25% off. I have been displeased there in the past but not so much as would turn me away from a quarter drop in the price of my beloved Fleece Artist.

On previous occasions I have found the staff there at best condescending and at worst overbearing. The women who work there have usually been perfectly nice but all seem to assume that every customer who walked in the door needed some hand-holding when choosing yarn and starting a project. I consider myself to be an accomplished knitter and a progressing spinner (accomplished will take a while yet) and do not walk into yarn stores to be coddled. It is just not my cup of tea. However, for Fleece Artist and a sale, I can put up with a bit of condescension.

Unfortunately, that was not what I got last Thursday. I had managed to catch a ride home that evening with my husband (I try to avoid the CTA at rush hour if at all possible) and off we went to the shop, visions of fiber braids dancing in my head. After making my selections (all in very predictable-for-me shades of green) we headed to the check-out counter. The woman at the register greeted us not with the kindness one usually expects at a yarn shop, or even politeness, but actually borderline rudeness. I had brushed this off as just a symptom of someone having a busy day – the shop had, after all, just sent out an email promising 25% off and it could not have been a quiet day. However, she then looked over my shoulder at my husband standing behind me, saw that he was male and thus presumably not a knitter (for the record, he is quite a proficient knitter and I proudly wear his works) and proceeded to ignore him for the rest of the transaction.

One of the most important things for me when I go to a yarn shop is how the employees treat my companions, who may or may not be knitters but who nevertheless have been known to return to a shop to secretly fetch some item over which I had fawned in their presence. At the very least, it seems good business sense to acknowledge the person who pulls out the credit card.

It was this disrespect for my husband, on top of less than stellar experiences in the past, that made Thursday evening the last time that I will ever set foot in that store.

And the funny thing about the whole experience was that on that very same day I had received an email letting me know that I had won two skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn from Creatively Dyed for commenting on her blog about all of the wonderful things about my absolute favorite yarn shop in Chicago: My Sister’s Knits.

Now for my shameless plug: My Sister’s Knits is just that sort of wonderfully welcoming shop that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. The owner is kind and gracious and a pleasure to know (plus she has a beautiful selection of yarns). And you know what? My husband likes it too!

Since one cannot have a blog post without at least a picture or two, here is what I picked up last Thursday.

I got this:

And two of these:

Which I pre-drafted into this:

In other news, the Baby Surprise Jacket is done!

(Yes, it still needs buttons)

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