Solid state

Hey, guess where you are? Upstate California! It’s kind of like upstate New York, but in California. Not Northern California, please. San Francisco is SoCal to us. We’re Upstate California.

OK, so I’m making fun, but seriously, the “Upstate California” idea is an intriguing campaign several economic-development agencies thought up to market the state’s 20 northernmost counties, from Sutter to Siskiyou and coast to border, as a place for affordable (read: cheap labor) business expansion and growth.

The campaign kicked off Sept. 10, and the catch phrase is “Above It All.”

Me, I’m from Yreka, just a few miles from the Oregon border, and when I go home, people refer to Chico as “down there.” It’s all relative. State of Jefferson, baby.

Best bull

I get cynical when a big chain comes to town and acts like it’s not just another blip on the screen at corporate headquarters. Take, for example, the Best Buy opening soon at the corner of East 20th Street and Forest Avenue. The company’s got these commercials running where a guy in a Best Buy suit runs all over “Chico” saying he’s new to town.

Only if that footage is of Chico, I’ve been missing a lot of Victorian row houses, leaf piles and African-American men in prissy tennis outfits. At least they got the narrator to do a whole new voiceover and not just fill in the blanks with the word “Chico.”

That’s my cynicism; here’s their P.R.: “Best Buy commits 1.5 percent of pre-tax earnings to nonprofit programs that develop ‘life skills’ in young people.” And if you go to the grand opening Sept. 15, you might get a CD sampler, a mascot beanie and Spiderman’s autograph. And here’s something cool: Unlike most chain stores, Best Buy’s “media policy” allows local employees to be interviewed for technology-related stories, if we call the P.R. folks in Minneapolis first.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll be standing in line with all the other clones when Old Navy opens.

Retail rant

Indulge me, if you will, as I share one of my retail-consumer beefs. It’s when employees talk trash about the store or reveal trade secrets while a customer is standing right there. I can’t believe how often this happens. I feel guilty for listening, but they know I’m there, and I could very well be a snoopy reporter, not the mild-mannered consumer drone I appear to be.

For example, I know what stores aren’t reaching their sales goals, who’s mad at Chico Mall management for having to move, and who thinks their boss is the devil’s tool. The other day, I was in the drugstore, and a manager was laying into a clerk for talking about something—a credit card denial, I gathered—in front of a customer. He really gave her what for about how she should never talk about the store’s workings in front of customers, as I stood there and listened. I found it quite ironic. I hope he reads this and realizes what a hypocrite he was being.