I’ll Get You, My Pretty—And Your Minimum-Wage Job, Too!

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ImageRetail is tough work.  You are supposed to help customers, keep an eye out for shoplifters, sell credit cards (which I loathe), act as a fashion consultant, build clientele, bring out new and old merchandise, execute display changes, do math…it’s exhausting, really.

Most days I bite my tongue, smile broadly and carry on.  It is a second job I have to supplement my income while I get out of debt to pay off my car.  I like the store I work at, the fun challenges I get and I especially like the girls I work with.  But lately it has been a little hairy because we are supposed to have about 12 on staff and right now we only have about 8.  We have all been pulling some crazy hours and are still not quite making it work.

I have been pulling a number of 13+ hour days.  I put in 8 at my “day job” and drive across town to the mall.  Usually it’s fine.  It’s quite a contrast to a desk job—I get to shut my brain off, work with my hands and just do something different.  While I usually only do it once a week, I have been doing it quite a bit lately, and I’d reach the end of my strength.

We had a big sale at the store and the two of us working were running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  Of course corporate is too cheap to give us more payroll for the weekend or for sales.  The store was a wreck, we had a mountain of clothes to put away.  We had screaming toddlers, difficult/picky customers and people who tried on boatloads of things without spending a dime.  Fine.  But 5 minutes before closing a woman, her husband and kids walked in.  I didn’t serve them but I gathered she needed something formal—a wedding or graduation?  My manager showed her a seven or eight options and Woman kept saying, “No…no…that’s not my style…that’s not me….”  I kept flying around, folding clothes and putting things away.  Ten minutes passed and she had nothing to try on. 

Now, the store policy (which I’ve never seen in writing but has always been adhered to) is that customers stay in the store as long as they like after closing without being hounded or chased out.  Many other national stores shoo their customers out at closing, which I get.  But for some reason, we don’t.  Even if the customer doesn’t buy anything, we let them be.

Well, I’m sorry!  It was 5 minutes after closing and the woman clearly wasn’t making any decisions.  I was exhausted and just wanted to go home.  I went up to Woman and said quite politely, “I’m sorry but the mall did close 5 minutes ago.  Is there anything I can help you find?”

“We’re leaving!” Woman snarled, marching out with her husband and teens.  Manager shut the gate and only then did I find out Woman was looking for something for a funeral.  I didn’t know that and I was truly sorry—I hate funerals—but again, I was so tired.  I just wanted to go home.

Ten minutes later Woman’s teenage daughter appeared at the gate, asked my manager for our names, informed us it was for Woman’s mother’s funeral the very next morning.  She cussed out me and my manager and Woman would speak to corporate about my unspeakable rudeness.

Really?  Bear in mind  I am sorry for a family loss.  Of course if I’d known what had happened I would have kept quiet and let the grieving Woman be.  But I didn’t know and I politely asked if I could help.  So we got snarled at, cursed at and my job is threatened all because of the ONE customer I have ever asked to leave 5 minutes after the store closed.  If I lost someone close to me, I have other things on my mind that what to wear to the funeral.  And I certainly am not trying to make people lose their jobs.

As I started the blog post with, retail is tough.  I will let you know if Woman does get me canned, but looking back I don’t think I would have acted any differently.  Was I wrong for wanting to go home on time?  What would you have done if you’d been working almost 14 hours and you had customers so late in the store?

Well, thanks for letting me post.  It helps to get my thoughts out in writing.  I have to get ready to go to work now!  Be nice to sales clerks! 

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