By T.J. Schwartz
I know…late again. Something about this diabetes thing, it doesn’t seem to go away. The UCLA Medical Center loves me…or rather, my insurance company. But I’m better now, TG. My advice is to put that doughnut down and grab a salad.
So, let’s get started.
First off, the 2016 holiday sales were slower than the past few years. I can’t speak for new wax as I gave that up years ago, but vintage and autographs I definitely can. Let’s (stolen from Marv Alpert) look at “the wild and wacky” of my Behind the Counter Christmas.
Ring…“Do you buy cards?” Yep, cards before 1970. “I’ve got over a thousand cards here.” Any before 1970? “I’m sure there’s plenty.” Great, can you give me a few of the bigger names? “Well, there’s Bonds and Ripken.” They played in the ’80s. “How about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig?” Sure [knowing they’re 1991 Conlon]. Are they black?
[Getting excited now] “Yeah, how’d you know? I have a bunch of them.” Because they were made in the 1990s. “Yeah, but it says 1933 right here.” They were made in the ’90s, sir, and are very affordable. “I’ll take $1,000 each.” Me too. I probably have a few hundred in a box somewhere. “Oh…CLICK.”
Multiply that by 50 and you see what I mean. If it was junk, it’s what I was offered. People were looking for holiday cash, but didn’t want to sell the “good stuff.” That is very telling in that they are hanging on to the stuff I’d normally buy: Mantle, Ruth, MJ, etc., and trying to dump the rest.
A ‘charming’ dude walks into my store. He is dressed like a homeless guy, which is a problem here in an upscale neighborhood and everywhere else in L.A. I don’t discriminate, and I ask what I can do for him. He wants to borrow a hammer. What? Now please understand that he has a very distinct odor around him that in two minutes has wafted through my entire store. But I never discriminate. Yet a hammer?
Why do you need a hammer? “I need to build a roof at my ‘house.’” I politely tell him that I don’t have one [of course I had a hammer] and say I’m sorry. “Well why the &*%$ don’t you have one?” as his mood suddenly changes. “I told you I needed one *&$%*&?” Now he is confrontational.
OK, it’s time to go pal. “Yeah, who’s gonna make me leave?” Now he is frothing and his stink is almost making me gag. Me and my two buddies, I tell him firmly, Smith and Wesson. They’re very good pals of mine. He looks at my now angry face, pauses a second and finally gets it. He tells me to *&%^ off and exits. He left the odor though. I look out the back door and see that 10-20 homeless were building a shelter in the public parking lot. Oh joy. Merry Christmas to me.
A well-dressed older guy walks in. Can I help you? “No!” Three minutes later, I ask if I can show him something? “No!” He just walks around saying “WOW” every few minutes. Do you have a favorite team or player? “NO!” Do you like baseball? “NO” After 10 quiet minutes, he asks if I have Olympic stuff. Yes, I have a certified, signed photo of Michael Phelps, the greatest gold medal winner in history. Would you like to see it? You guessed it…“NO!” He walked around for 45 minutes, said “WOW” about two dozen times and left.
A guy comes in with a vintage Clipper team signed basketball. He says, “Hey, it’s got Danny Manning on it.” The Clippers sucked peanut shells back then, when good old former owner Donald Sterling was still in charge. I politely tell him that the Clippers don’t sell very well here in Lakers country [not that the current Lakers are burning it up either]. All of a sudden the guy just snaps, “What do you mean? The Clippers are the team in L.A. and always will be.”
I gag myself to keep from laughing and ask him when was the last time they won anything? He stammers a bit and says, “But they got potential.” And then he proceeds to tell me more than I wanted to know about the Clippers as a franchise and why I should pay him a grand for the ball.
I try to ease things a bit by simply saying it’s not for me. He continues and continues and ... you get it. Now there is a store full of eager holiday shoppers and I’m stuck with Clipper boy. OK dude, I’m sorry, but I must move on.
Now the fun begins. He starts to rant that he is going to call his friends at the CIA and report me, and how they will come here and arrest me. People with credit cards in their hands are looking both perplexed and nervous. So now I tell him that his time here is up and he has to leave. I’m 6’ 7”, 280, but the Diabetes surgery I had some time ago has left me with a limp, but I don’t care. I’m a Bronx boy through and through, but
before I can do anything, one of the waiting customers, a guy I did not know, steps in and flashes a LAPD badge and says, “Move on Bud.” The guy flew out to a round of applause. I gave the cop some free stuff for his kid with glee. Merry Christmas!
So you say you want to open a store, eh?
Lastly, I had Los Angeles Lakers point guard, D’Angelo Russell signing autographs in my store. He was a great and personable signer, especially considering he is 20 years old. One woman drove from San Francisco to SoCal just to meet him. We drew a nice crowd and all had a great time. Everything actually went incident free.
Just another holiday season Behind the Counter.
Until next time, I remain ... On Your Side.