Preparing For Stupid [life in retail]

It may seem harsh to call other people stupid, and even politically incorrect (if that is still a thing), but I am heading into the devil’s den of dumbness today as I prepare for another workday in the crazy world of retail.

With Christmas approaching fast, the Electronics Department has been busy selling lots of expensive items, such as TVs, gaming systems, and, of course, phones.

Sales make the retail world spin pretty fast and make CEOs awfully giddy with joy. So why would an assistant manager want to take customer service away from that department and have them fluffing towels, rearranging pens and pencils, and stacking cans of pet food, instead of helping the customers still shopping for the latest electronics gadget and its accessories?

It doesn’t make sense, which has me shaking my head and wondering why a manager would try sabotaging sales at a store that gives her a fairly decent paycheck.

It has my coworkers in that department up in arms. And since I am in their neighboring department, I get to witness their conflict. It’s an uneccessary stituation that only adds stress to an already stressful time of year.

To them I say, Hang in there, care for your customers first and foremost, and perhaps this hiccup of stupidity will pass soon.

New World Slavery

A woman from a fishing village
slaves in a sweatshop,
making shirts for retail stores,
selling them at low prices
to help save shoppers money to spend at McDonald’s
after the Little League game tonight.

She makes barely enough money
to pay the rent of her shared one-bedroom apartment in the city
where hucksters scramble
day and night
to sell away her corner of the world
to anyone wanting a piece of the New World Dream.

She doesn’t dream asleep tonight,
but works to make enough money
to buy one of her nine daughters
a new dress this month,
to wear at the new school
Christian missionaries built last year
down the road from her home.
They convinced her government
to make school education mandatory
for everyone’s future welfare.

Now she sews and goes without eating
so her daughters are not left behind
when the corporate and political tsunami
crushes her world,
her life,
her heart.

Working With People [fiction]

Overall, Sarah is a bit introverted. She is happiest when she is by herself. Office jobs are ideal.

One of the first part-time jobs Sarah worked at was in an accounting office at a large department store, holed-up out of sight from the rest of her coworkers and customers. Whenever she finished her work early, she volunteered to assist her coworkers on the sales floor.

One particular day, things began okay. She helped stock shelves with new toys, kitchen appliances, and fragrant candles. Then she assisted the photo department. They were busy and shorthanded. She knew enough about photography, digital media, cameras, tablets, and phones to help.

Trouble began when a portly man in need of a bath and a change of soiled undershirt and blue jeans came to the counter and wanted her to show him how to scan his Olan Mills portrait photos of his dead wife.

“These are professionally photographed photos,” she said. “Do you have the copyright release from the photographer that allows you to make copies?”

The man sniffed and stared blankly at her, so she explained that his photos were copyrighted, and if he wanted them reproduced, he would need to have a release form signed by the photographer saying it was okay. Otherwise, it was against the law.

He sniffed again, tossed the photos on the counter, and said, “Just make the damn copies.”

“Once again, sir, I will need a copyright release form signed by either the photographer or a legal representative from the studio.”

“Quit the legal bullshit and make me copies. They’re my fucking photos.”

“Yes sir, but—”

The man snatched his photos. “This store sucks. You suck. I want to see your manager right now.”

“Of course.” Sarah went to the phone and called the assistant managers’ office. She spoke to a manager named Darla and explained the situation. Darla came out and repeated almost verbatim what Sarah had told him already.

He cursed, grew very red in the face, and stormed away. Darla returned to her office and Sarah returned to packaging and pricing photos that the busy high-tech printer spat out from the eight kiosks outside the photo department. The kiosks were several yards away. A puffed up display of batteries partially hid them, so Sarah did not see the man return and use the next kiosk that became available. Nor did she see the white-haired woman next to him show him how to use the kiosk’s scanner.

When the high-tech printer printed the man’s photos, Sarah recognized them immediately.

The white-haired woman came for her pictures and Sarah took them to the register. Before she could put her security code into the register to activate it, the smug man came to her counter.

“I want my pictures.”

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” Sarah said.

The old woman smiled. “You take care of him.” She lifted her large, black purse. “I can’t find my debit card.”

Sarah took the photos to the man and explained again how she could not sell to him the copies of the professionally made pictures without a release form signed by the photographer.

Again, he whined and swore at her and even stomped his fat feet to the point where Sarah wondered if he had Asperger Syndrome. When he fired off a litany of profanities at her, she figured it was Tourette Syndrome. He waved his fleshy arms and fists at her and called her names she had not heard since elementary school. And then he snatched the photos from her hands and barreled away.

As she came out of her shock of disbelief, the old woman said, “If he can leave without paying for his pictures, I can too. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” And to prove it, she shoved her packaged photos into her big-ass pigskin purse, then pivoted, and walked away with her nose in the air.

Sarah called Darla, who immediately called security, who quickly called the police, who rushed over and arrested the two shoplifters in the parking lot.

Later that day, after she returned to her office cubby and found solace behind her closed door, Sarah vowed never to help in the photo department again. Life was nicer and safer to her when she was holed-up from the rest of the world, just the way she liked it.

Mundane Job Blues

I’m writing this before I leave for work. I have a 1-10pm shift today. Next month I celebrate 16 years at the store I work at. Celebrate is the wrong word. I don’t celebrate anything about my job. Well, maybe the paycheck. But that isn’t much to party over.

To say my job is depressing is an understatement. I wonder how high the suicide rate is in retail work. Probably high. Really high.

The worst part of my job is interacting with people. It’s important that I smile, be friendly, and make my customers feel relaxed and welcomed. I do that, pushing my depression down, deep inside me. It resides there with the anger I have from the little recognition I have received from my managers. 16 years of rarely getting a thank you or a job well done.

So I dip in the kindness still alive in my soul and make my customers feel welcomed and cared for … just to listen to them gripe about how awful the weather is, how awful the service is in other departments of the store, and how awful technology is. The last one is usually from people who don’t understand how their smartphones work. You see, I work in a photo center and many of today’s customers print pictures from their phones. The worst customers are the ones with iPhones. Apple thought it a good idea to make storing photos in clouds a default setting on their phones. And I get customers who have no idea what a cloud is, other than what sits in the sky when they gaze out their windows. Since I get a lot of these customers, and since I work alone because the company is skimping on hours to its employees to save a buck, I have little time to service all of my customers. Some of them complain to my managers, and I get to hear how I need to be a better employee.

Working in retail sucks.

Now, it’s time for me to push down my anger and put on my “happy” game face.

Until next time, this is Steve saying, “Is it too early in the year to take vacation?”