Retail or Circus Act?

I work a fairly decent job at one of the local department stores and though it’s proven better than some of the jobs I’ve had in the very distant past, it can be a NIGHTMARE!

I’m not using that word lightly. And as if it isn’t enough during the day, I have terrible dreams about it at night. (Yep, even the weird, show-up-to-work-naked ones that make ZERO sense because you could swear you were wearing clothes two seconds ago.) Maybe I allow too much stress to seep in during each shift or I don’t take a breath quite enough in between the hustle and bustle but some days I am ready to pull all my hair out and roll around on the floor singing Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel” within the first two hours of my shift.

While I’m thankful for the very TEMPORARY job that’s keeping me busy until I go back to school for an actual career, after days like today I grow more and more impatient for that “something better.”My shift started with a sudden panic. To better understand why I dealt with this momentary trepidation here’s a small backstory. Monday (yesterday), there was a huge fiasco surrounding my bank. An unknown charge went through and I had a sob fest in my car when the funds I had saved for that specific bill, and then some, that I TRIPLE checked on my lunch break to make sure were still there, were mostly gone. The bank was closing in 15 minutes and the insurance company in 30. Major traffic and no time to fix everything. I called my mom, nervous and upset. We worked it out so that I would go to the insurance office and explain what happened, bring them the measly $76 that I had left, and my mom would pay the last half for me tomorrow while running errands. Well, I went to the office and told them what happened, they worked with us on the issue and were very understanding.

Now back to present day. Tuesday. Almost a whole 24 hours later I opened my employee locker and stuffed my oversized handbag inside and a sickening realization washed over me. Sure, I told them what was going on but I failed to carry out the paramount part of my mission; PAY THE $76! I frantically thought of ways to do that before they closed, knowing mom would be frustrated with me and things would come crashing down if I didn’t. I thought about telling my boss I had a situation and would be right back in 30 minutes but after having to bail two days ago due to being sick, I knew that wouldn’t fly. Back to the drawing board. After figuring out I could use my measly half-hour break to skip lunch and run this errand at 3pm, I relaxed a little. I let my mom know what was going on and how I was handling it and all seemed fine… Until the fear of another possible charge being put on my account ate at my insides. I had to pray and ignore it and begin my day.  (Ps. That was way easier said than done.)

Thanks to that itty bitty episode, I clocked in late. So I rushed to the register still reeling from the stress I put on myself and the underlying stress I still had. My department was flocked with customers and I’d hardly stepped a foot on the sales floor before a customer threw her armful of merchandise in front of me with an exasperated sigh and 2o,000 questions about her coupons. The manager had to pull an employee from Men’s department to help us tackle the checkout line. (Please…don’t take that word choice literally.)  Clothes flooded the fitting rooms, most of them left behind by lazy customers lacking the character and good morals required to PUT THEIR UNWANTED STUFF ON THE RACK THEY LITERALLY HAVE TO WALK BY UPON LEAVING THE DRESSING ROOM. (PLEASE. Don’t be that person.) Both the “Go-Back” rack by the fitting room and the one by the register were crammed with clothes that were practically taunting us, waiting to be put back in their proper places. Those racks then overflowed into not one, but TWO shopping carts in a matter of minutes. There were two of us working and a line that just wouldn’t quit. Go-Backs were not our top priority but it frustrated me to no end having so much cluttering our workspace. And it only got worse.

All day long it was just the two of us; me and my coworker. We’ll call her Jane for identity conservation purposes. Jane told me when I got there that she’d barely left the register since 8:30. My manager, who was now standing with us, agreed and forced a smiled. It was now 12pm. Ouch. I grabbed a couple of shirts and tried to put them away before the next rush while our fellow sales associate from Men’s dept., we’ll call him Tarrence, was still sorting out an issue with a customer’s check after trying for several minutes to process the transaction. Though I’d had several clues in the first 5 minutes, I knew for sure at that moment, it was going to be one heck of a day.

By my lunch break, I was STARVING. But, I had no time to eat. Running the insurance errand, successfully might I add, to cover up my stupidity took all of my 30 minutes just as I’d anticipated and before I knew it, I was back on the floor, “hangry” and not at all in the mood to deal with any more “I can’t find my coupon. I just had it!” junk backing the line up to Timbuktu. But, in the game of Customer Service, a good and reputable employee forces a smile if she wants to remain employed with a clean record. And that’s just what I did. I had to fight with the computer to get a coupon to go through. I lost and my manager had to take care of it with her super, magnificent, managerial “powers.” I had to make three different phone calls for different credit card issues and item inquiry issues and the phone wouldn’t work for several tries. And the line kept getting longer and longer and LONGER. But I still kept a smile and replied, “I’m doing well” to every “I’m great! How are you?” I didn’t let the go-backs overwhelm me because I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I was doing all I could and I wasn’t about to add unnecessary stress into my life (on top of what I already had.) It worked and I’m quite proud of myself for taking action to remain calm because I am NEVER calm. Ask anyone who knows me. I’m a big mess and may the Lord bless them abundantly for putting up with me so graciously. I love y’all. Seriously.

So, I pushed through until 5pm when Jane’s shift was over and I was stuck ALL. BY. MYSELF. until 6pm when the night crew was scheduled to show up. That was mega stressful. One customer needed help ordering something online, another couldn’t find shoes in her size and needed me to check in the back and while bouncing back and forth between the “online order” customer in Misses and the “shoe size” customer in the shoe dept. a line of impatient customers developed at the register. No… more like SPAWNED. Right there. Just *POOF* HUGE LINE. Like someone dropping a villager spawn egg in Minecraft, these customers just appeared out of nowhere. I SWEAR. I just stood there, frozen, in the isle that connected both departments, all eyes on me like I was about to perform a knife-juggling act while hula hooping. I felt like my brain was on fire and my body no longer knew how to human. I must’ve looked like an idiot. I radioed for backup and two customers, upon hearing that I was the sole commander of the register, took their money-spending selves to the checkout in Men’s. I was slightly relieved yet offended. “What? You don’t think I can handle this myself? I can get this line moving quicker than you think!!” But really… I was mostly relieved. Less work for me. It was finally 6pm and I was finishing up with my last customer, EAGERLY waiting for my replacements to show up. This lady was PRECIOUS but she stood there for five minutes sorting through her email to retrieve her $10 OFF coupon. “It’s here. I know it. They just disappear sometimes.” *chuckles*

Yep. You’re so sweet. And I totally understand. But I really want to go home. Oh. Perfect. Three more customers have now lined up behind you, it’s 6:10, night crew still isn’t here. *Smiles*

I finally finish her transaction and hand her a coupon she received for making a purchase. This then reminds her of another coupon she wanted to use today. She moves to the back of the line and waits. NIGHT CREW SHOWS THEIR SWEET, SWEET FACES. The angelic choir couldn’t sing louder. We get through the other customers and lucky me gets the sweet, older lady from 10 minutes ago who then wanted to return all 15+ items and RE-purchase them, this time using the original coupon and the one she forgot about. Yay. 

She was super sweet and apologetic and grateful. I was thankful she was nice and patient… and NICE. But it was now 6:20. I hadn’t eaten all day. My sciatic was KILLING me. And I really, REALLY wanted to go home. I smiled, wished her a pleasant evening, saluted my manager who was now standing beside me, and I RAN like freaking Seabiscuit, ripping off my nametag to prevent getting stopped by a typical “I-just-read-your-nametag-and-noticed-your-walkie-and-I-also-see-that-you’re-in-a-hurry-but-let-me-ask-if-you-work-here-and-then-ask-another-very-obvious-question-while-you’re-trying-to-leave” type of customer. I had two things on my mind when I clocked out; Starbucks hot chocolate because I won a gift card at work the other day (yay stockroom perks!) and DINNER.

The day wasn’t so bad now that I look back on it. But holy freaking moly was it tiring! I was spread way too thin and I’m very glad I work in the stockroom tomorrow so I don’t have to handle people and numbers and clothes thrown across the room with the hangers M.I.A. I think everyone should work retail once in their life to gain experience and a better understanding of what Sales associates go through on a daily basis. But for those who don’t, you can just read my retail blunders and gain some helpful insight. Maybe even laugh a little and thank your lucky stars you never had to be apart of this.

Whatever your reason for reading this, thank you and you’re welcome.

I’m clocking out for the night.

Oh, and Tuesday? Well, it will be referred to as “Monday Jr.” from here on out…

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