November 1 2006


(I was going to post this towards the end of Halloween night, but I got wound up in the 6-hour Ghost Hunters Live event…oops!)

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Halloween my entire life. On the one hand I love a holiday where we can embrace our darker, more macabre sides. (If you haven’t gathered over my 100’s of blog entries yet that I tend to lean towards the darker side of things, you don’t catch on very well) I’ve always loved the ghost stories, the traditions, all of the usual aspects. However there was a side I hated most of my life…costuming.

My paternal grandmother was the daughter of a Polish immigrant and through some reason that was never explained to me, she opened a costume business in Phoenix,AZ that grew to be the largest costume house in the Southwest, outside of Hollywood studio firms. When I was 8 years old, my mother opened her own costume shop in Kirksville,MO in…our living room. Yes, our living room. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like sitting in the kitchen eating your dinner listening to people ask “How much for this pint of blood?” It was an odd arrangement, but it allowed us to start for a very small investment and it brought us some notoriety. We were scheduled to be on Good Morning America once as “The Smallest Costume Shop In America” until some major news story broke…darn it.

So it’s easy to say costuming was in my blood from the day I was born. By the age of 11 I had my own make-up kit and was learning how to make bullet holes in people’s foreheads from Hollywood make-up artists. I was darn good at “chopped off fingers”. By the age of 14 I was told by Don Post Jr., son of the legendary Don Post who made the original King Kong, that I should finish high school and then see him about a job. Which I obviously didn’t, but who knew I would open my own business a year later?

So, with all these good aspects, where does the “hate” part come from? Try working in a costume shop on Halloween. You will be hard pressed to find another time where you get called names, cursed at, things thrown at you, and just generally treated like a whipping boy as you do during that time. It got so bad we had to hire an off-duty sheriff’s deputy to come in each year for a couple days, and yes, we did have to have him remove people. My favorite had to be the guy who tried shop lifting a 3 foot long metal sword…by shoving it down his pants. Yeah, we weren’t going to notice the limp.

Sadly it sucked my love of the holiday out of me, and though it has been 13 years since I had to do that, I am just now getting my love of the holiday back. What an odd time to get it though considering I’m 35…and I don’t have a costume shop in my living room anymore.

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  • One of the problems with any job that revolves around something you enjoy is that it will almost always suck the pleasure out of the experience for you, no matter how much you initially enjoyed it. All businesses have customers who lose it during the busiest times and abuse the help (as it were).

    Part of the reason is that, once someone else calls the shots, you have to start doing things in a way you may not like and that often kills the joy of the creative experience.

  • I thin my current job is NOT sucking my joy of Anime out of me mainly because I have very little face-to-face interaction with my customers. My comic shop totally killed my love of comics after doing it for 15 years. I could barely stand to look at a comic any more.

    Of course, I have now cursed myself and will probably never watch an Anime again.

  • Roy

    Why were they abusive to you? What kinds of things happened?

  • – Costume didn’t fit the woman, it was obviously too small for her, we told her we recommended the next size up, she insisted on the smaller, it didn’t fit, she threw the costume at my head and screamed “Your costumes are crap!” and stormed out.

    – Girl rented a Little Bo Peep costume, went to a frat party, it came back in…let’s say “an unsanitary” condition….oh fine, it was obvious she had had sex in it. We told her she wouldn’t be getting her security deposit back, as our rental agreement stated, and that she had signed. She cursed us a blue streak you wouldn’t believe.

    – Guy started yelling at my mother because he hadn’t been waited on yet, there were still 4 people in line before him, called her the “c word” that sounds like “punt” when she said he had to wait his turn. We had him removed.

    – Had a fist fight break out over a mask, those guys were removed.

    – Had people show up after we closed, we were about to leave, they pounded on the door and told us “Open this f***** door or we’ll bust it down!”, couple minutes later “Open this f***** door! I have a knife and I will cut you as soon as I see your sorry asses!” We called the cops.

    Just your basic customer/employee abuse, and I have another couple dozen stories easily. As to the “why”? Who knows. We were always polite, they would just treat us like slaves and be generally abusive to us.

  • Don’t you think that that sort of attitude is pretty pervasive among customers in the U.S.? They think they own you because they are considering giving you money.

    I’m sure people in other parts of the world are the same as well but I think people in the U.S. act out on it more because of the way money and entitlement are viewed there.

  • Shari – I totally agree with you. It never ceases to amaze me that workers in clothing stores are amazed when I put clothes back…WHERE I FOUND THEM! And I even refold. Yes, there is very much the attitude here of “I am going to give you money, kiss my ass.” It’s sad.

  • Roy

    Interesting. I guess I’ve been away from western “civilization” for too long.

  • Roy – Yeah, for all the problems with Japan, I think this makes it a bit clearer why I think the country is SO polite in comparison.