Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Retail Woes Part IV

I’ve had some people ask me, "is this account for real?" I have to clarify, the answer would be YES. Anyone who has ever worked retail around the holidays knows how desperate and crazy things can get. So, onward we press

I’ve been paged to the Lingerie department. I glance at my watch and see that it is now 4pm. I avoid looking at the racks of bras as I pass by them, remembering with pain how this morning the racks were even and sorted, the bras hanging neatly, and the panty tables stocked with the panties in neat rows, by size.
Now the bra racks look more like colorful lumps in a sea of disarray, and the panty tables each have just one big pile of panties on them. There is almost as much merchandise on the floor as there is on the racks, and I wince as I see the absolutely enormous line of frazzled-looking customers standing at the wrapstand. One of my best employees (we’ll call her “Frances”) is in tears behind the counter because her cash register has literally blown up and eaten all the gift receipts for a man who has just bought about 12 pieces of lingerie. He is yelling at how ridiculous “this all is” and how he has a plane to catch and how she’d better fix this quick.
Her counterpart, Lilly, is trying to ring up customers as fast as she can on the other working register, but the line keeps growing. As I walk up Lilly is waiting on a lady making a large return; she can't seem to find her receipts for anything and as she rummages s-l-o-w-l-y in her purse I note that the looks on the faces of the customers behind her are becoming nothing short of murderous.
I attempt to fix the journal tape, then tell Bernice to take him to a register at the other end of the department and call the Ops Manager. As I’m hanging up with him I hear more sniffling coming from the fitting rooms. I go inside and there is my other trusted employee, (let’s call her Bernice) sitting atop a large pile of assorted bras, girdles, panties, camisoles and other unmentionables. All of them are inside out and off their hangers, and she is frantically trying to put them back on hangers (which by the way, needs to be done in a very specific, time-consuming way when you are hanging bras) and hang them on a double-hanging rack, that is starting to bulge precariously.
“We need to get these back out on the floor,” I comment nervously, looking at the rack with alarm.
“Oh, that’s just part of it,” she hiccups, and motions to the Fire Exit, which I reluctantly walk towards with my eyes half shut and discover SEVEN racks just like the one she’s working on, fairly bursting with hangbacks. I make a call and soon “CODE 99 TO THE LINGERIE DEPARTMENT” sounds over the store intercom.
An hour later I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve put back two of the racks myself, made a side-trip to Housewares and dealt with a screwed-up Caphalon order the size of a small principality in France, asked eight associates to stay to closing (even though they’ve been there since 6am) and performed surgery on three display mannequins because they were wearing the only remaining size the customers absolutely had to have.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been a few good points to my day so far, one lady hugged me because I found the truly, truly last pair of the only slippers in the store that would fit her husband’s feet, and another lady told me that she was going to write the store manager a nice note about me because I climbed up onto a display ledge in housewares and whacked down the last dust-bunny-covered box of Exclusive Penguin-tipped Cheese Spreaders. The complements are few and far between...but dang it, I’ll take ‘em.

At 5pm I get a frantic call from the store manager, asking me to come directly to her office. I hurry there as fast as I can, and by the time I arrive all the other managers are crowded inside, and my manager, voice shaking, announces gravely to us that “Mr. So-and-so” (CEO of the company) has been sighted shopping with his wife at the sister store ten miles down the road, and that means he could be here any minute. We all clasp our mouths in horror and a collective gasp of cardiac arrest travels through the room.
To be continued

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