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Bell Bottom Blues

To the nice uber-famous rock star I waited on last week who makes more money in 20 minutes than I do in a year, and who brought the jeans that he didn't want (size 32 x 32 neatly folded) out of the fitting room: THANK YOU.

To the women occupying the two rooms next to him with their obnoxious teenage sons, and who left no less than 27 button down shirts PLUS sweaters, tee shirts and pants (all unbuttoned and inside out) for the common shop girls to take care of for you: A POX ON YOU AND YOUR SPAWN.  And please, go back from where you came.


Retail is deemed the second oldest profession in the world.  I'm convinced that the first was taken by women who didn't want to pick up other people's clothes. And after the past couple of weeks with the back to school shoppers, I'm thinking that the oldest profession ain't lookin' half bad...

I cut my teeth in retail, back in a time when women wore matching sweater sets and men wore suits to work.  A time when there were Blue Laws so you didn't work on Sundays. EVER.  A time when every day the managers took morning and afternoon coffee breaks together in the "smoking lounge".  A time when there were fitting room checkers who only allowed you to take four pieces into the room, and gave you the evil eye if you mistreated the product. I flip-flopped between retail and wholesale for almost 20 years before trying my hand at other types of businesses.

I got back into retail five years ago when our oldest son wanted to hone his Mandarin Chinese and study International Business in China. Wingman flipped out, saying we couldn't afford to send him (middle and youngest were also in college) so I offered to get a second job if it would give him the opportunity.  I was going to apply to the local Hallmark store, until my sister-in-law said to apply where she works.  "Works" is an understatement-she's the VP of Human Resources.  I believe I was hired reluctantly by my store manager, with him thinking that I was a "mole" reporting any infractions back to corporate.

What he discovered was that my sister-in-law was far too busy to hear from me whether we were wearing the right third article of clothing with our dark wash jeans. He discovered I can fold. And there are days that I've re-folded so many articles of clothing that I've come home and kissed my slob sons.  Before this job, I thought they were failures in tidiness. Grading them on a curve with some of the people who are shoppers makes them straight A.

The fitting room pigs, I mean patrons, are the worst.  As I pass them on their way out, I want to call them back and ask them if they're planning to try on more, or can I remove the piles of clothes they stood on? Did they have to blot their lipstick on the white silk blouse? And because their fat butts didn't fit in the size 00 jeans (which were size 2 back in the day, but have been re-sized down to make you think you're still the same size you were in high school) did they have to leave dirty shoe prints on them? Aretha Franklin sang about "Respect" but she sure wasn't referring to people in the fitting rooms.

The people who assume we can give discounts amaze me.  I mean, people, we just work there.  We don't set the prices-that's done by gurus who analyze the style and color of every item before they say to mark it down. We can't give you a discount because it's Tuesday, because it was on sale last week, because you're a friend of the owner.  If it's on sale, there will be a sign, or we will tell you.   Do not repeat this scenario:

Me: "Welcome to (Store Name). Today jewelry, shoes and boots are 25% off. Oh, and we have an additional 30% off of clearance. Let me know if I can answer any of your questions."

Customer: (After trying on two dozen items and leaving them inside out on the floor) "Is this skirt on sale?"

Me: "No, just all
jewelry, shoes and boots. But there are some skirts in clearance an additional 30%"

Customer: "Those skirts are ugly. How about this pair of pants? Can you give me something off? There's dirt on them."


Me: "Sorry, No. I can clean them for you and they'll be good as new."

Customer: "Ummmmm, no. How about this shirt? Is this on sale?"

Me: (Sigh) "JUST
jewelry, shoes and boots. And we have lots of items in clearance an additional 30% off."

Customer: "My friend was in here last week and got some stunning sweaters 25% off. I'm a good customer here.  Can you give me the sale price?"

Me: "Sorry, my last name isn't (Store last name). If it was, I'd be HAPPY to adjust the price. But since it's not...NO."

Customer: "Then forget it, I'm not paying full price."


I must let a half-dozen adults use our bathroom every time I work.  What is it with bathrooms??? And these aren't even ones that have been to the coffee shop down the way yet.  They pull up in front of the store, come right to the register and ask to use the bathrooms. Did they drive straight through from Chicago?  Don't they have bathrooms at home?? Is everyone on water pills these days??? And if I ever meet the man again who said he had to "make" instead of "pee" I'm going to ask him what make is.  I make dinner. Reservations.  Hair appointments.  I don't make pee.  At least I don't say I do.  I also don't sweat and pass gas, but that's another blog.

Customers assume we have no lives because we work.  The store closes at 5:00 on Sunday.  Every Sunday.  The day when there were Blue Laws that use to prohibit you from working. Yet the same people show up every Sunday at 4:45 to start shopping.  At 5:15, with the doors locked, the return queens bang on the door because they want to return boxes of things they bought on a whim and had no intention of ever keeping.

Speaking of return queens, there is a special class of people who are gold medalists in buying and returning.  Then re-buying. And getting price adjustments. I think the store uses almost as much register tape accommodating these customers as we use toilet paper for the ones who have to use the bathrooms. Let's not forget the ones who wear a tee shirt for a season, say they didn't wear well and want a refund (or try to return them from years before like a man from Brooklyn-no lie-the inside sticker was Spring 2010).

I'm going to work now.  I put on my dark jeans, woven shirt, blazer and ballet flats, to look the part of the polished sales professional that I am.  And I look forward to following the woman around who has to pick up my perfectly folded sweaters from every pile on the tables and leave them in a jumbled heap.

Because, after all, her mess is my job security.




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