As the knitting industry has changed, so has the nature of the Local Yarn Shop. Countless threads on discussion boards allow customers to rhapsodize or vent. How a LYS handles a particular moment or customer can be crucial to its success, especially in a community where technology has removed all geographic boundaries that might have once “kept it local.” And so begins a new periodic feature here, Tales from a LYS. You’ll find lovely moments and sad ones, too. Examples of the challenges, victories and failures out there in microcosm.
A few months ago, I stopped into a LYS to pick up some needles and browse. A second person came in and asked the clerk if the shop carried “Number Four yarn.”
The clerk was flummoxed.
“What are you talking about? ‘Number Four yarn?'”
“I’m new at knitting and I have a pattern from the Internet and it called for Number Four yarn,” said the woman tentatively.
“Oh, well if it’s a pattern from the Internet you’d have to bring it in here. You probably want to go to a craft store like Michael’s for that.”
“Ummm, I think she means the Craft Yarn Council of America yarn weight standards. A Number Four yarn would be a worsted weight,” I murmured to the clerk, trying to be helpful with full precognition as to where this was going.
Mind you, said clerk was standing in front of a computer that had Internet access. It would have taken precisely 8 seconds to pull up this information, as I just did did. Said LYS has a vast array of worsted-weight yarn at wide-ranging price points.
“How much do you need?” the clerk asked.
“The pattern said eight balls,” said the would-be customer.
“But what’s the yardage?” the clerk pressed.
“Eight balls was all it said. I left it at home,” said the woman.
“I really can’t help you if you don’t have the pattern,” said the clerk.
“Oh,” said the woman disappointedly. “I’ll have to go home then.”
The woman left with empty hands. I wish the story ended here. Within a couple of minutes, the shop owner came onto the floor. The clerk related to her boss what had just happened with much snarkiness, making fun of the would-be customer.
I was still in the store. Clearly within earshot.
Bad manners is an understatement.
The clerk was standing in front of a computer with full Internet access. Internet access that the shop routinely uses to look up pattern information for customers. In a store devoid of customers other than me, she chose to not help. And she recounted the encounter with relish, never for a second acknowledging the impact of her (in)action. Nor did the LYS owner.
A new knitter who came in with enthusiasm but little knowledge was sent away. I hope she went to another LYS where someone showed her the basic kindness she deserved.
In retrospect, I wish I had listened to my inner voice telling me to jump in and try to help. If it had been at my then-LYS, I would have done so in a heartbeat (an academic point, as this would never have happened there). It wasn’t my shop, and the clerk didn’t seem exactly receptive. I still wish I had.