It’s nowhere near Christmas, I know, but bear with me on this one. I want to share with you one of the most traumatic experiences of my life in retail. What a catchy book title for my upcoming memoirs that would make! My Life in Retail: A Loser’s Story – do you think it would sell?
Working in retail at Christmas time can quickly shatter any illusions you might have about goodwill toward men existing anywhere anything is sold or bought. Retail sucks.
But, I had the alpha and omega of crappy retail jobs. I am nothing if not an idealist, so not just any mind numbing retail job will do for me. I always seek the perfect combination of boredom and tooth-gnashing anxiety that will make my work day a complete living hell.
I worked in the layaway department at K-mart during Christmas time. No really. I did. I worked there for two years. I quit only after they promoted me to manager of layaway. When they made me a retail manager I translated it to mean King of the Idiots. Uncomfortable with that title, I quit a week later.
I’m not saying everyone who works retail is stupid. Not at all. I’m just saying that most of the people I worked with in layaway were so completely and utterly devoid of any reasoning powers that I actually felt sorry for them.
As an employee, I had stupid managers working over me and stupid co-workers working alongside me. If I had kept the management job, I would have had stupid people over, under and around me. I was not prepared to deal with that.
Just so you can better understand what I did deal with, here’s an overview of how the layaway department works. You, the customer, bring your items to me, the very unhappy clerk. I smile anyway and enter your items into the system by scanning them.
I put your stuff into boxes or thick clear plastic bags. Then I decide where I have enough room to stuff your boxes or bags, since almost all the storage area is full to overflowing. Then, it’s just a matter of me labeling your containers with alpha numeric stickers I have printed out for your layaway and putting your stuff in the area that matches the label. Easy.
But, what if one of the other ASS-ociates was working when you put your stuff on layaway? Did she even put labels on any of your bags? If so, did she actually put the bags in the area that matches the labels? Chances are, she didn’t.
So, when you come in to retrieve your layaway, I can’t find it, because the twit only made two labels but put your stuff into three containers. I found two of them but can’t find the one that never got labeled. Maybe I’ll be able to find it anyway. I’ll sure try. What was it? The problem is, now my line is getting pretty long.
Also, as I said before I have stupid managers over me. So, if I do find your layaway through either sheer luck or psychic ability, and you wish to write me a check over the amount of $200 dollars, I will have to leave my line and run up to the front service desk to get a check approval.
When I get to the front service desk, I have to wait behind any customers they have. So, my customers are waiting in line for me to finish waiting in line. (Actually, I only did this a few times even though it was a rule. I’d just take your check and take my chances of getting yelled at or fired if it bounced.)
So, I’m working by myself one night very close to Christmas. My line is very long as a result of searching for several layaways which were lost due to the usual asinine reasons. “Oh, Holy Night” is being piped into the store by the “K-mart Radio Network.”
I’m searching for a porcelain doll in our “glass area.” There is an open door less than two feet from me that leads into the room where no less than twenty customers are waiting in line. They can’t see me, because I’m on the other side of the wall. But, I know they can hear me.
I climb onto a ladder to fetch this doll.
I see the label behind about fifteen other boxes on the topmost shelf. I reach for it and get it without knocking anything off. Whew. Only thing is, when I pull my arm back after grabbing the doll, I lose my balance. I fall backward into another shelf that is right behind me. I let out a surprised screech.
The shelf broke my fall to some degree. I scraped my back as I slid down it, but I was lucky I didn’t just fall to the concrete floor and crack my head.
When I look back on it, the part that kills me is this. Those people had to hear me when I crashed and squealed like a pig. They were way too close not to hear.
Do you think even one of them popped his head through the door to say, “Are you alright?” or “Should I call an ambulance?”
None of them did. So much for Christmas spirit.
So, if you are one of the bastards who was in my line that night and, for some reason, I neglected to say it then, Merry Friggin’ Christmas. Oh, and thank you for shopping at K-mart.