Friday, December 17, 2004

Retail Woes Part VI

It's funny, as I write this I am thinking about tomorrow, because tomorrow is the last Saturday before Christmas, which is the topic of my writing as of late. You may want to have a moment of silence for those poor souls who work retail this time of year, because their day tomorrow is going to be exactly like the one I've been describing in my last several blogs. Granted, I haven't worked retail for four years, but things I'm sure don't really change.

So I left off with all the managers standing in the executive office, mortified and panicked because the CEO might be descending upon the store at any moment. Granted, we like to tease our store manager, even under normal circumstances--we've dubbed her "Chicken Little" you see, because to her, the sky is always falling in some form or another. Today is no exception.
A hand goes up in the air, and I'm surprised to find that it's mine.
"Yes Lara?" She asks quickly.
"Well, I'm thinking that if he's just shopping with his wife, he's not going to want to "walk the store" and talk business. Not to mention the fact that he has to understand that this is one of the craziest days of the year, next to the day after Thanksgiving, and he would expect our store to be messy and in turmoil, because it's a mark of good business."
"Nice try," she smirks, and snaps into action. Reality has left her. She is one of those people who would Sink With The Ship.
"I want all of you, ALL of you, to go to your individual departments, and pull any available associates and blitz the aisles," she instructs with a fanatical glare. "Folding tables, displays, anything he can see from the aisle. If he walks through and at least the aisles are clean, he won't have much to complain about."
She has a point, I concede. It's a little trick that we employ in a pinch. I call it the "Aisles-only Illusion." Even if the rest of the department looks like a pack of dogs was let loose through it, if the aisles are straightened, it won't matter. She tells us she'll call a "Code 100" as soon as he's sighted, so that even if we are working fast, that will be our cue to jump it up to superhuman speed.
I hightail it back to my department as fast as my waddling legs will allow. I'm starting to officially get tired. To make matters worse, the baby has finally gotten some of that Cinnabon and I'm getting jabbed in the ribs. "Oohh," I gasp, and stop, as a foot connects with my liver. But I can't stop. If I do, I'd be in danger of not accomplishing the Aisles-only Illusion. So I must press on. I flip open my phone and call my department as I continue to make my way through the store.
10 minutes later, I'm on my knees again, folding an enormous Polo Boys table of polos and pants, and dressing the naked boy mannequins, while some of my associates work furiously beside me. We're nearly 50% there. I'll be damned if I don't acheive the Ultimate Illusion. The CEO will pass through this department and think he's entered the "perfect store zone" and he'll marvel at our prowess and control. I'm lassooing the tornado and riding it like a mechanical bull. Yeee Haawww!
Then my pager goes off, and it's the Shoe department. Gaw, I hate the shoe department. All those shoes and the freaky commissioned people freaking out if they don't get their sales in. But I especially hate shoes because people try to return worn shoes all the time and I actually have to put my foot down. Then there's contention, and I hate contention. I just hate Shoes, period.
Reluctantly I leave my department and walk towards Ladies Shoes, and I see Kate, the Shoe Manager, beckoning furiously at me from the aisle. I walk up to her with a questioning look and she leans in towards me, all secretive. "I need an opinion really quick," she hisses desperately "Look at all these drags. If he sees these...I'm toast."
I look around, and there are semi-formidable mountains of loose shoes (which are called "drags") and tissue and empty boxes, and I count about 20 of them. I look back at Kate, who has a look of sheer panic on her face. "I'm thinking of getting a big dumpster," she whispers. "We can pile them all into the back and he'll never see."
"But then you won't be able to sell them," I counter, growing slightly impatient and surprised at her desperation.
"Who cares!" she snaps. "They're not buying them on the floor like that anyway! Besides, if HE'S coming soon as he leaves I'll set someone to work on them."
"Do as you like," I reply, shaking my head. "But I'm telling you, he's realistic. He's going to EXPECT a mess on a day like this."
She looks at me with horror, as if I've uttered a major blasphemy. I guess in Retail Terms, I have. We must always acheive the Illusion, or die.

Retail People are Freaks of Nature, you see. I'm not talking about the gum-chewing, phone-talking teenagers who would rather be doing ANYTHING but standing behind a counter, but true-blue Retail People, (usually managers of some sort) who are devoted to overachievement and always come in on their days off and literally live at the store to make sure everything is perfect.
Kate is one of these people. Sadly, so am I. (I once re-opened a store at 1am so I could scan markdowns by myself in the dark for four hours just to get caught up.) I've done crazy, desperate things too. Retail People are Freaks of Nature. We really are.
And since we are, I nod my head at her and say "Do what you need to. Just remember you have to deal with it again tomorrow."
"Pshaw, tomorrow is Sunday, we don't open until 9am," she hmmphs. "I'll just bring in half my staff at 5am to clean everything up. It will be fine."
I head back to my department, shaking my head. "She's crazy. We're all crazy." But I stop myself there, because if I give it one more minute's thought, then I will really REALIZE that we're all crazy, hoop-jumping poodle slaves, who work 80-hour weeks and get paid for 40 hours.
I shake my head, and return to my department, continuing to frantically straighten, as I wait with baited breath to hear the dreaded page over the Store Intercom: Code 100, Code 100.

To be continued...

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