Wednesday, November 7, 2007

cool and not so cool

Have any of you guys heard of the cool new gas stations that they've built in a major international city near you? I know that this sounds a little odd (cool. new. gas station.) but work with me here. I've been dying to take photos of it myself (architecturally speaking it's pretty amazing).

Photos from Treehugger

They're calling it Helios House and it's the prettiest gas station that I've ever seen. I realize that gas stations aren't meant to represent beauty for this little hippy and her world view. But this little hippy lives in Los Angeles and has a job where she needs to have a car at her disposal. Sigh. I try to think of it as evil-lite. Sorta like taking coke to get off of heroin (did I get that reference right? It's been a while since I've seen Trainspotting).

Some of my favorite parts include:
  • The biodegradeable handiwipes that they offer in dispensers above the windshield cleaning squeegees (I'm a sucker for cleaning products, what can I say?). They smell like herbs and I think they have a mild disenfectant in them. And did I mention that they are biodegradeable?
  • There is a little card holder with some marketing materials (postcards mostly) printed (with soy inks, no doubt) with information about sustainability, environmental friendliness and all that other mother earth embracing jazz. And you can take that postcard when you're done reading up on how you too can contribute to sustainability and throw it in your yard because the paper is made with seeds embedded in it. So when the paper from the card deteriorates, the seeds germinate in the soil and in a few weeks, you have wildflowers. (I'm oversimplifying a lot of this, of course.)
  • They have the fanciest gas station loo's I've ever "rested" in. There are little plaques everywhere that tell you how each component of the facility contributes to sustainability. Recycled what-have-you's with reclaimed whatnots that make up the sink pedestal, countertop, glass tiles, etc. My one bone to pick with this (and I could be wrong) is that there is an audio system installed in the restroom and you can select which track you'd like to have playing while you do your business. Seems like a bit of ambience overkill (well, I'm torn. It's a step up for a gas station restroom, but do all gas station restroom need to be so gross?) and I think an unnecessary use of energy. It's a fun touch, but doesn't coincide with their overal message.
  • Oh and I guess around 7pm there's a light show. You heard me, a light show. They have these LED lights that light up with fun colors and they are set to fade on and off in what appears to be a light show. But it's just their creative way of lighting the facility when it gets dark.
  • Another favorite part is their monument sign that displays the gas rates. None of the photos above show it, so I'm going to have to photograph it for myself. I just love their logo treatment is all.
Read BP's press release article about it here. Treehugger also has some thoughts about it here.

Not So Cool
I don't care to shop at Paper Source. Let me back up a little. I love their store. I think the layout and selection of products are grand. I can spend hours browsing their paper selection, looking over their quirky selection of books, amusing myself with the unusual products (ceramic pear bud-vase anyone?), drooling over their proprietary letterpress stuff, wishing they offered more in the way of greeting cards, I could go on. But it's always a mess. I've noticed that there always seem to be more employees working at a time than can comfortably fit in the square footage of the store. They seem distracted. They are often stationed at the big table in the center of the wrapping paper section near an unused cashier's stand. They open boxes, they set up displays, they frown over inventory lists. They rarely look at the customers. I don't think I've seen any of them crack a smile. Okay, once there was a guy maybe about my age who looked up when I walked into the store, sorta smiled and greeted me. It was cursory, but it was acknowledgement at least.

I take it back. A few other times, I was trailed by a store associate as I was browsing who asked me if I needed help with anything in a tone that was anything but helpful sounding. And the cashiers are usually friendly. Sorta. It's hit or miss.

What's the deal? I can only imagine that they must be poorly treated retail employees with a passion for paper products, a passion that dims every day that they clock out of that retail horror. And it's not even full swing holiday shopping season yet poor dears. Then again, this store is located in Beverly Hills where some of the patrons can be a bit trying (to put it mildly) to service. That's too bad. It makes me not want to shop there. I only go when I have a paper emergencies (yes, this really does happen. similar to yarn emergencies or knitting deadlines. welcome to my world).

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