Can I get fired for this?

True Confession Time: The reason I have failed in keeping my blog up to date, besides the ever-present procrastination and downright laziness excuses, is a nagging concern that my attempts at anonymity would fail and my retail employer would fire me. Silly, I know. But I guess I have an irrational phobia of being fired from a retail job. What would I tell people? I was fired for exposing the lunacy that is retail in an online blog that hardly anyone reads? Who would believe that?
 
But recently I began taking a local writing class. This is the actually the first writing class I have ever taken (hard to believe all this raw talent just comes naturally, huh?). I was lucky enough to get an awesome instructor (we don’t get marked in this class so my praise is genuine and not a sad attempt to be teacher’s pet).
 
 
When asking what we have written in the past, I her told about my blog and my concerns about getting fired for it. She then directed me to www.waiterrant.net and told me she would like to see my blog. I was just going to send her the link, before I realized how long it had been since I updated it. So, conscience and conscientiousness be damned, this one’s for you, Jen! (Just don’t tell anyone who I am or where I work!)
 
While I may have an irrational phobia of being fired from retail, others may not feel quite so strongly about it. Or, they may just not think about it at all. Hence the occasionally less-than-stellar performers that are sometimes hired within our retail organization.
 
Recently a new supervisor was hired at my store. Usually our supervisors are promoted from within, but every so often I suppose the need arises to look outside and bring in some new blood. Too bad sometimes the devil you don’t know is worse than the devil you do. Our new supervisor was from day one, quite simply, a Boob. Not even a nice, full, perky Boob. But rather a falsely inflated, skin-beginning to sag from the unnatural weight of it, Boob.
 
 
Luckily, I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the Boob. I work part-time, minimal hours, usually in the evening. But I had enough interaction with the Boob to fully come to appreciate his Boob-ness.

I guess early on in his tenure he must have been instructed to ‘be more visible’ to the staff. I am sure I am not the only one who has had to resist the urge to find the person who told him that and choke the life out of them because what it led to was the Boob sauntering around the store, in a neon orange golf shirt, loudly proclaiming to any and all staff who couldn’t outrun him “I’m being visible! See me? I’m visible!” Well if we couldn’t see you in that shirt, we wouldn’t miss hearing you.

I think he also liked to make sure customers knew he was the boss. ‘Mr. In-Charge Boob‘. Often, with a line-up at the cash register, he would swagger over, do some weird snap and point thing that was reminiscent of a bad imitation of The Fonz and loudly proclaim to the hard-working, bedraggled cashier; “Emily! Doing an awesome job!”, to which Emily would glance up in thinly veiled disgust before continuing to ring through the line-up of customers who now looked at the cashier with a pitying “you have to work for this boob?” look.

The Boob would then glance past the cashier, see me trying to hide my head in a plastic bag full of hangers, do his ‘Fonz move’ again and yell even louder “RetailWriter! You’re doing an awesome job, too!” Just in case I felt left out from his condescending praise.

 
 
But my troubles paled in comparison to the staff-members whose department he ‘managed’ and who had to report to him. The Boob didn’t like to be told or taught how to do things properly. He wanted to be ‘in charge’ of how things were done, even if he didn‘t have a clue what he was doing. Even if, every time he tried to do something he screwed it up so that one of his staff would then have to go in and fix his screw up. He immediately knew more than they did. And that didn’t go over well.
 
The Boob is gone now, fired, for undisclosed reasons, and I can only assume HR doesn’t have a ‘for being a boob’ reason or they would have used it. The staff from his old department smile more now, and even if they are still trying to fix his screw ups, at least he isn’t there to screw it up again.
 
Part of me feels bad for the guy. He has a family. Hopefully someone told him he was a boob, and what it was he did that made him a boob (I’m guessing if you’re a boob, you don’t know you’re a boob, right?) so that he can grow and learn from the experience, and not go on to torment the staff at some other unsuspecting retail store.
 
But in our case we can thankfully say, good riddance to bad boobs!
 
Published in: on October 2, 2010 at 2:45 am  Comments (1)  

Everybody’s Working for the Weekend

Even in the 80‘s, Mike Reno knew that looking forward to the weekend was what it was all about. On social networks like Facebook and Twitter today, it seems just about everybody is looking forward to the weekend. Comments like: “Jessica can’t wait for the weekend!”, “Arthur is TGIF” or “Drew is counting down to Friday to get out of this hellhole for two whole days.” are everywhere. You bump into someone you know, ask them how they are and get an answer like “Well, it’s Tuesday.” with a roll of the eyes and a knowing laugh. Uhm, yeah, I asked how you were, not what day it is.

Retail works a little differently than the ordinary office job however. In retail, it’s highly unlikely you are looking forward to the weekend. Why? Because weekends are hell on earth in retail. Hoards of people cram in, destroy displays, and get all bitchy with you because it’s hot and crowded and obviously it must be your fault that all these other people decided to come in at exactly the same time they did.

 

You think it sucks to shop it? Try working it.

There is nothing worse in retail than working weekends. Well, ok, I guess it’s worse when someone takes a crap in your fitting rooms, but besides that…

I’m fortunate enough that I don’t get a lot of a Saturday shifts. In return I work almost every Sunday. Sunday’s are only marginally better than Saturday’s. You don’t have to start until 11am, and it doesn’t really get too busy until around 1pm. That’s when people get out of church, have had their lunch and come to practice all the godly lessons they just learned by treating you like something stuck on the bottom of their shoe.

 

I guess the sermon about slovenliness is what provokes them to dump the clothes on the fitting room floor. Or maybe it was the sermon about kindness that prompted the crusty old man to come after me (when I was actually on my way to the washroom for a much needed pee break), finger wagging, and chastise me for not smiling enough. Are you kidding me, old man?

Sunday’s are the only days I don’t look forward to going into work. I don’t dread it like I did every day of my old office job, but I don’t relish the thought of being run ragged, with very few thank you’s, all for minimum wage. It’s probably the only day of the week that I wish away. But I wouldn’t trade it to go back to a week of wishing away every day from Monday to Friday. And to those, albeit few, people who give me that look of pity as I hang up yet another eight dresses that some teenaged girl’s mother told her it was okay to throw in a crumpled heap on the fitting room floor, I say; ‘It’s ok.’ Because tomorrow morning, while you’re slamming your snooze button and groaning that it’s Monday, I’m getting out of bed, making lunches, sending everyone off to school and work, and then sitting down at my computer to savour every moment of doing what I love. And when I look at the clock and see it’s time to pick up the kids from school, I say to myself ‘Where did that day go?’.

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 10:12 am  Comments (1)  
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Undercover Boss

Lately I’ve accidentally stumbled across yet another reality show that has sucked me into its mindless web. But this time, I’m calling it ‘research’. That’s right folks, when I turn off my brain and watch the president of Roto Rooter stick his hand down a bathtub drain and pull out out a disgusting blackened lump of goo that is identified as a washcloth, I am actually doing research in order that I may bring you today’s blog post.

 

The premise of the show is that every week the president and/or CEO of a major U.S. corporation goes undercover at entry level positions within his company and is made to perform the same tasks as these people. As a result we get to watch his supposedly amusing antics as he attempts to perform the same mundane tasks that his unsuspecting employees do daily, with far more competence. We also get to watch the executive as he talks to his lowly employees and learns about their (often difficult) lives. I’ve only seen two episodes and so far we’ve had no less than the recovering alcoholic, the single mother of an autistic child, and the guy who transports 16 inner city kids to and from the basketball games that he coaches in his spare time.

Ok, here’s the thing: I’m not insensitive to the plights of the Roto Rooter workers or the 1-800-FLOWERS staff. But I can see a ratings grab/marketing promo when it’s slapping me in the face. And while I’m sure these CEOs are genuinely touched by the lessons they learn from their staff, I think its fairly obvious that the employees are previously screened to find the ones with the best ‘stories’ for tv. Because really, would it be quite as interesting if 1-800 FLOWERS President Chris McCann went undercover to one of his neighborhood shops and the floral designer simply made up the pre-designed arrangements, with no creativity, no aspirations to someday design her own arrangements, and checked her watch repeatedly for 5:00pm so she could go home and write the next 25 pages of the crime novel she has been working on for the past 19 months?

 

Sure, it’s great for those few employees who come out of the deal with a month‘s mortgage paid, a new van capable of transporting 16 kids at a time, or a floral arrangement named after them, but really, where is the long term? I’m not that gullible, and my warm and fuzzies dried up long ago working for large corporations. Let’s face it, Mr. President really doesn’t give a rat’s patootey about the front line entry level worker that is face to face with their customers daily. If they did, they wouldn’t cut hours to compensate for the increase of minimum wage. And when the Senior VP of Retail Stores comes to our store for his quarterly visit, he would do more than sit in my store manager’s office and make phone calls.

I’d like to see Undercover Boss come to my work. I’d like to see the President and CEO of the retail store chain I work for spend a day working in ladies wear. Explain to bitchy women why our sale signs aren’t more specific than ‘knit tops’, and why a sweater (that arguably is knit, even if its by a machine and not my aunt Martha) isn’t actually considered a ‘knit top’ and is not on sale. Or explain why there are only two cashiers open in the entire store, and yes, you do have to walk ‘all the way to the other side of the store’ in order to pay for your non-knit sweater that isn‘t on sale. Maybe even do a couple of bra fittings for overweight women who don’t wear deodorant. But Mr. CEO, let’s not make it about a network tv ratings grab, or a marketing ploy for the company to show how progressive and sensitive you are. Let’s skip the tv cameras, let’s skip the crocodile tears and bring it for real.

 

Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 1:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Mystery Stains Aren’t Cool & No, your fitting room doesn’t double as a bathroom stall

Not too hard to figure out what this installment is going to be about, is it kids?

While most people usually associate retail with a lot of horrific things, disgusting bodily functions usually isn’t one of them. Yet, sadly, it is a somewhat regular occurrence in the life of the minimum wage retail worker. I’m not saying every day is gross, but some are definitely grosser than others. Take yesterday’s not one, not two, but three clothing articles sporting mystery stains.

“There is some sort of stain on the front of these pants.” the concerned customer pointed out, carefully spreading the tan colored pants out so we could all take a look. “See, its outlined in white…”

Ok, probably best we not think about that too much. I’m going to go wash my hands now, and since you, dear customer, tried these pants on, might I suggest going home for a shower? With bleach.

Not Cool.

Unfortunately, the mystery stain lost much of its mystery as I filled out the paperwork to send them away to the mysterious land of mysteriously stained clothing and I caught a whiff of something vaguely familiar, as did my co-worker. Mystery solved! Excuse me, I feel the need to wash my hands, yet again.

The other two mystery stains thankfully remained mysteries, although we suspect someone confused the faux pashmina scarf for a handkerchief. More hand washing ensued.
Again, not cool.

Speaking of confusing things, unfortunately some people need to have this pointed out to them.

The fitting room stall.


The bathroom stall.

While similar, there is one very distinct difference.


If the stall that you find yourself in does not have one of these, then it is not cool to pretend it does.

Yes, it happens far more than any of us would like to think.

And while this should be a general point taken year-round, it is especially imperative during the hot humid summer months, when the store air-conditioner is broken down, and our carpeted fitting-rooms are already rank with the odor of stinky feet and sweat.

In summary, the fewer bodily functions that come into contact with store clothing, carpeting, and any other soft surfaces, the happier your retail worker.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 2:44 am  Comments (3)  
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I’m Back

No sooner do I make the commitment to blog regularly than my laptop crashes and dies. The best of intentions, they say… Anyway, $130 later and my laptop is back and virus-free.

 

Lessons learned from this experience:
1) Always back up your files
2) Make sure your virus scanner is running regularly.
Duh.

But, I’m back now.

Back from blue screen of death hiatus. Back from March break madness. And back-at-it now that the kids are back at school. My house is clean, I can blog again, and I can get back to some writing projects I had on the go before all heck broke loose. It feels good.

Speaking of back, and feeling good, let me introduce you to one of my store’s more famous customers who was back last night. We like to call him, Underwear Dude.

 

Yep, he’s the guy – the very manly guy – who likes to come into my store about once a month and spend HOURS browsing through our ladies’ lingerie department. Initially, we gave Underwear Dude the benefit of the doubt: maybe he’s buying for his wife or girlfriend. But then how do you explain the bra & panty set in size petite small, and the granny panties in size 2XL he purchased at the same time? Yeah, we try not to think about it too much either. Except that we keep having to deal with him acting all shifty, rummaging through our racks of underwear, and refusing to accept assistance (ok, we‘re not really too broken up about that last part).

Last night he spent close to two hours shopping in our women’s underwear department, and ladies clothing department. I’m pleased to inform you he purchased several spring themed satiny bra & panty sets, and an ugly women’s tshirt with beading detail in size XL. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But it just seems to me that if you’re into women’s underwear, there has to be better places to shop for it than a small town department store.

You can all thank me for the image of Underwear Guy doing lord knows what with his treasures.

And on that note, I’ll be back.

Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 4:37 am  Comments (3)  

Writing is my Dream, Retail is my Nightmare…

Several years ago I left my high-paying, high stress, soul sucking corporate job.  My reason for doing this was primarily to stay home with my kids.  That said, I was miserable and couldn’t face even one  more pointless meeting where terms like ‘part and parcel’ and ‘think outside the box’ were tossed around more than Paris Hilton’s new line of push up bras at a tween girls’ slumber party.   I fantasized about all the time I would have to write enough best-selling novels to  rival Nora Roberts.   After an eye-opening year of unemployment, I realized that I am a terrible procrastinator very busy and attentive mother/housekeeper, and had little creative output to show for my time, never mind any income resulting from it, and came to the conclusion that it was time to contribute to the family finances and find a part time job.  I knew there was no way I could go back to a 9-5 office job; it just wasn’t me.  I wish I could waitress; the tips would be a bonus.  But I think at this stage in my life I know my limitations well enough to know I would be fired within the first week for dumping a drink over some jerk’s head. 

Enter: The Dreaded Retail Job

I have been working at a major national department store chain for about two and a half years now and I have a few things to say about working retail.  First, it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked for the least amount of pay.  I’m on my feet for long hours, I have to schlep heavy boxes of clothing around, and I get to deal with bitchy customers who think you were put on this earth to be their personal doormat. 

Secondly, I wouldn’t trade it to go back to my (much) higher paying corporate job, although I would happily trade it for a winning lottery ticket  best-selling first novel.  Truth be told, I sort of like my retail job.  I work with some really cool people that I consider myself enriched to have met.  That said, I also work with some really weird quirky interesting people who, on a daily basis, provide me with an abundance of great writing ideas.  Then of course there are the many more interesting people in the form of customers who come in and out of my life and leave behind a wealth of material to get my creative juices flowing!

Most nights I come home with stories that my family are forced to listen to, whether they want to or not.   So one day it occured to me;  maybe I should start blogging about it.  At best, someone else would find these stories amusing, but more than likely I will just find a creative outlet to vent some frustration at the end of a particularly taxing shift.  Unlike my family, you are not a captive audience and can feel free to tune me out at any point.  I promise I won’t be offended.  As for my family; don’t get any ideas,  this doesn’t apply to you.  You’re stuck with me and my boring stories.

Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 3:51 am  Comments (5)