Tales From Retail: Why I Stick Around

I know I tend to make y’all laugh and shake your head at my stories every week. And I bet a question sits in the back of your heads:

“Why does Char even stay?”

Well, for one: paycheck. Eating and having an apartment is a good thing. But that’s not the sole reason or I’d probably be fired by now.

For every horrid customer, I have at least 20 nice ones. It’s just that the bad customers do things so egregious I can’t help but share them with y’all. So, to help balance out the foolery (and kick off my birthday week), let me share a story of a really sweet customer I had.

Picture it, NYC 2012. The rush hour is starting to calm down and I’m cleaning up and restocking products, and this lovely woman walks up to me to ask for mascara advice.

I’m giving her some suggestions, but I notice she looks really sad. Even though it isn’t my business, I still ask: “Is everything ok?”

Her: “No. I just got some troubling news, and I figured spending money would fix it. Well, not really, but I needed a distraction? I don’t know.”

I understand the idea of shopping it away. In the end, it really only brings credit card debt, but sometimes it helps you feel better for just a while. So, I went and got her a basket, and we did some shopping.

We went over great skincare, all of the eyeshadow, let me get you some brushes, all types of stuff. We’re just tossing things in the cart and chatting about everything and nothing. I see her mood start to improve.

Sidebar: more often than not, when you work retail, you get to be people’s counselor. You get to listen to their relationship issues, and they want some help with the solutions. I never mind that part so much because I’ll talk your ear off if you let me.

So, once we’ve filled the cart with all type of stuff (including the mascara she came for) I take her to the register, dump everything on the counter, and say “Ok, what are we keeping?”

She’s stunned. “You wouldn’t be upset if I put some of this back?”

Me: “Nope. Sometimes you just have fun throwing it in the cart. I know you wanted the mascara. What else did you want to get?”

Her: “All of it. Ring it up. Doesn’t matter what it costs; I got the husband’s card today!”

She whips out her Black AmEx.

Well, damn.

“Are you sure? Because, really–”

“Seriously! You’ve been so kind to me, and I love all the things you helped me pick out. I’ll take all of it!”

Y’all, that was a $500 purchase.

And she gave me a huge hug before she left and emailed my boss how well I did.

*warm fuzzies*

See, this is why I do what I do. Even though the hours are long, and it can be tiring, and some customers make me want to high five them in the forehead, when I get customers like this–ones who are kind, who are happy with my help and are happy to be helped–it makes the headache worth it. It really does. A woman who had tears in her eyes when she came in left with a smile on her face, and even had she left with nothing I would have felt like I’d done my job.

πŸ˜€ Happy Monday!

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Stories

Tales From Retail: Classism

Picture it, Dallas, 2008. I’ve just started my first retail job, and I’m running the registers like a boss.

So far, all of my customers have been pleasant, and while I made a couple of mistakes, everything is running smoothly.

While walking the floor, I run into this very pleasant lady and her daughter. The little girl is around 10, and she’s doing a little homework while her mom shops. I hear her trying to figure out if the word “everyone” is singular or plural. I had a brand new shiny degree in English I wasn’t using, so I went over to help.

“Sounds like you’re having a bit of trouble there, hon. Anything I can help with?”

“Yes! I have to pick the right verb, but I don’t know if “everyone” is one person or more than one person.”

Common question, since the word makes you think of more than one person. If you’re reading this and feel a bit rusty: everyone/everything and anyone/anything are singular, as they refer to a single group (one unit.)

So, I answer the little girl, and help her with her work so her mom can shop in peace. When the mother is ready to ring up, I go to the front to check her out.

Her: “Honey, you are so intelligent! Thanks so much for helping my daughter out.”

Me: “Thank you so much, and you’re quite welcome. I used to tutor for a spell.”

I keep scanning items.

Her: “You know, you’re so bright. Way too intelligent to be working here. Why don’t you go to school and get your degree? Then you could quit working here!”

*record scratch*

Y’all. Y’ALL. I cannot stand when people do this. College degrees are not indicative of high intelligence. Do not assume the person working in the service industry is unintelligent and retail is their penance. At the time of this incident, the economy took a nosedive, and I had just graduated college. I didn’t get into law school, and I wasn’t into the idea of teaching (I feel as though your heart has to be in teaching, otherwise you won’t give the students your all. And I knew then as now that I just don’t have that passion.) I work retail because I enjoy eating, keeping a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. Also, oddly enough, IΒ enjoyΒ it, even when customers get out of pocket.

So, I’m staring at her as I put her purchases in a bag. I felt like this:

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IRRITATED!

But I had to keep it cool, because I needed that job.

Me: “Oh, I have a degree in English, actually. But I could use an extra job. Is your company hiring?” *bright smile*

Her: *shifts her gaze from me as her face reddens*

I hand her the bag. “Have a great day!”

She walks out quickly, and I wave goodbye to her daughter.

My manager: “Welcome to retail!”

Me: *deep sigh*

That night, I understood the concept of happy hour. I enjoyed that rum and coke!

Happy Monday!

Stories

Tales From Retail: Naturally Brown

Picture it: Dallas, Texas, 2008. I’m applying makeup to a young client; she’s competing in a pageant and needed a test run of some of the products her mom was purchasing.

She had to have been about four or five, but she knew what she did (“I love the glittery lip gloss!”) and didn’t like (“No smoky eye, please!”)

*blank stare* Well, ok then.

She was better than a lot of my pageant girls, because you could really tell who competed because they loved it and who competed because their mamas enjoyed it for them. She loved it though.

At any rate, she was a pleasant little girl, and we had a great time putting together some looks while her mom shopped.

Once I got done with a look both I and my little client could agree on, I called her mom over to see how she felt.

“This is perfect! Ok, we’ll take those three glosses, that bronzer, and those two eye shadow palettes.”

Now, I’m geeked, right? Because selling is ultimately the name of the game in retail.

“Awesome! Would you like to check out now, or would you like a basket so you can continue browsing?”

“I’ll take the basket, thanks. Also, could you show me some foundation for myself?”

So, we keep shopping, and the basket gets more and more full.

“Ok, I have one more question for you.”

“Sure, what can I help you with?”

“I need a good self tanner. Which one do you use? That brown is the absolute perfect color!”

Pause.

In case any of y’all had no idea: I’m Black. This isn’t to say that Black folk don’t tan or wear bronzer, but anyone who’s seen self tanner on knows its a self tanner. But I gave this kind woman the benefit of the doubt and said, “Oh, I don’t use self tanner; this is my natural skin color. But I’d be happy to help you pick out a product.”

She pauses. “Oh, really? Are you sure?”

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Am I sure I’m Black or…

I had to have that internal dialogue many retail workers have when ignorant foolery comes out of someone’s mouth: you NEED this job. Breathe. Have a drink or two later. BREATHE.

So I’m just looking at this customer after her last statement, and she’s actually waiting for an answer. So I say “Yes, I’ve been this color for quite some time. Would you like me to help you find something that works for you?”

She scoffs. “I suppose not. I thought you were tanned, not Black. We’ll just take these things.”

…sigh.

She ended up spending about $500, but I was mentally drained after from holding my tongue.

I had a couple of glasses of wine after work that day. I needed it.

Happy Monday, y’all! πŸ™‚

Stories

Tales From Retail: Five Finger Discount

I’m coming back from lunch, and I’m headed to the office to get clocked back in and get some paperwork done.

As I’m walking across the store, I notice a commotion in the beer aisle.

Really, it wasn’t hard to notice the commotion because it was pretty loud, but I digress.

I see one of the managers asking for a man to pull the beer out of his pants and give it back to him.

Yes, y’all. Folks steal beer, socks, makeup testers–anything that’s not nailed down. Even if stores have security, they can’t be in all places at once, so it falls on us as staff to keep an eye on the goods.

Anyway.

As the manager is asking for this beer back, the thief is getting louder and more belligerent, which eventually scales to him threatening to jump on the manager.

The manager, naturally, was NOT here for that foolery and was ready for that fight. At this point, the stock guys are out there trying to calm everyone down. The cashiers are calling the police, customers are horrified, it’s borderline bananas at this point.

As one stock guy is holding back the manager, the other stock guy is pushing the thief out of the door (sans beer; he handed it to the stock guy when he put his hands up to fight.)

It’s at this point I walk into the thief’s line of sight.

It’s important to reiterate: at this juncture I have little clue about what’s going on since I’m coming back from lunch, and I see one of the cashiers on the phone calling the police. I’ve said before that in retail, you see everything, so I was pretty unaffected by the commotion. I just wanted to clock back in and finish my paperwork so I could go home.

The thief sees me walking past. I stop to make sure the cashiers are good and to tell the customers everything’s cool. And do you know what this thief says to me, y’all?

“Oh, what bitch? You want some of this?! What you wanna do?!”

*record scratch*

Most folks have a part of their brain that keeps them from doing stupid shit on a whim. I’m missing that part of my brain, because after I took a moment to do this:

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I then pulled out my box cutter (ain’t just for cutting boxes, y’all!) and said “Sir, we can handle this right here.” He pauses in shock, and that was just enough for the stock guy to shove him out the door finally.

I sheath my box cutter. And walk to the office to do my paperwork. Like a boss, as the young’uns say.

Sigh.

I’m glad I didn’t have to use it, and I was equally glad I had it. But know I would have.

Yep, retail can be dangerous, y’all.

Also? This same thief came BACK to the store, right? And stared daggers at me across the store. I suppose he wanted to intimidate me, but I don’t scare easily.

I just went back to collapsing boxes. πŸ˜€

Stories

Tales From Retail: Racial Scents

Picture it: NYC, mid-morning, 2012. I’m approached by a male customer wanting to purchase fragrance for his sister and niece before he flies home to India.

So, I grab the fragrance keys and pull out some of the fine fragrance we have to keep locked away because thieves. He’s not happy with the prices, and wants to know what I have around the $40 mark.

I pull out some Amarige. I have that scent, and I love it. It can be strong, so a dab will do, and it’s priced at $39.99. He wants a bigger bottle at the same price.

Sir. This is not a flea market where you can haggle. Corporate sets the prices; I enforce them. That’s it. But there was no point in going to all of that as I only carried the smaller bottle.

“Oh, fine. What other scents do you have?”

I walk this man through the store, showing him different items and spraying all manner of different fragrance, and he had complaints about every.single.thing!

I tried to narrow it down: what are the ages of your family members? (old, and young, said he.) Ok. What type of things do they like? (What do all women like? said he.) Ok. I sigh. Now what?

I’m trying to keep the veneer of helpful employee up, but he’s slowly starting to piss me off. I’ve known customers to do this so that they can get what they want, but that doesn’t fly with me.

He finally decides he wants the fine fragrance again. Ok, I think. I’ve smelled almost all of these, so this should hopefully go quickly. He initially picks Pink Sugar for his niece, which leads me to ask exactly how young is she? Because this smells like cotton candy. Most popular with teenagers.

“Ah, she’s about 25. Never mind, I won’t get her a fragrance. What about my sister? She’s in her 40s.”

I’m thinking, 40s is old? But I pull out the Amarige again for him and describe it to him. Since it’s one I own, I know how good it is.

“You wear it?”

Didn’t I just say…”Yes, I do. It’s one of my favorites.”

“So people…buy it?”

…”Yes, they do.”

“Do White people buy it?”

Family, this man was not white. He was Indian and the same shade of brown as me. I could only assume his family would be around the same color so…what in all of the hell was he trying to say? At this point, the veneer cracked, y’all. The look I laid on him said:

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I didn’t say it out loud, but I wanted to…

If looks could kill it would have been some slow singing and flower bringing, you hear me?

I think he realized then that a) whatever patience I had was gone and b) he done fucked up and had better remedy that quickly.

“Oh, well, you know, other people like different things, so…”

I’m still leveling my death stare at him.

“Yes, sir. White people buy it. Were you interested in this fragrance, or did you want to look elsewhere? I’ve shown you all I have.”

What I wanted to ask him was if he would like me to get someone White to give their opinion. Providing him with customer service is fine for a Black woman, but her opinion means nothing. Mhm. Got it.

An hour later, this man left my store with only one piece of fragrance and left me with a headache.

Bonus: he came back in my store two days later looking specifically for me. Why? Because he “liked the service I gave him.”

*blank face* -_-

Y’all, if you ever come across a salty customer service clerk it’s probably because they had a similar customer to mine. Please don’t hate them. It’s just trauma.

Come back next week for a new Tale from Retail!

Stories

Fatshion Friday: Vacation Prep (And Bonus Story Time!)

I go on vacation in two weeks, and I am so excited! So excited that I am already piecing together outfits.

I’m not even going to be gone for long, but since I’m going somewhere warm (Myrtle Beach) I’m trying to fit in all of the skin baring outfits I can on this trip.

At least, until NYC can make up it’s mind to be one temperature.

Sigh.

Anyway.

I plan for this trip to be full of maxi dresses, sandals, and maybe only one or two new pieces (if I keep telling myself this, maybe I’ll stick to it!)

(No I won’t.)

Like, Eloquii dropped these shorts and I want them with this top:

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And I want to wear this dress from ASOS with some cute sneakers and a denim jacket:

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And since I’ll be at the beach, I already scooped this beautiful bikini from GabiFresh’s Swimsuits For All collection:

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Bonus for this: you can get two different sizes for top and bottom. So if you’re more bottom heavy (that’s me), you can go up a size there and get a different sized top. It’s super comfy, by the way. This will be the first time I’ve ever done a bikini, so I’m petrified. But I’m gonna rock it anyway!

And since I’m doing a bathing suit, I’ll be making an appointment for a bikini wax soon. I wonder how it will go this time…every time I go it’s a new experience.

Story Time!

So, the first time I went to get a wax, it was included as part of a massage package at a spa. What I should have done was get the massage AFTER the wax, but I had no idea what I was in for.

Once the massage therapist worked all the kinks out of my shoulders and back, I went to get my wax. The room was clean and smelled like lavender. Kind of like a friendlier OB/GYN office.

Here’s the thing: if you’re gonna get a wax, please be uninhibited. Because your waxer is going to get to know you really well. There’s no modesty; you’re about to spread for them. Now, not for nothing, my waxer was super sweet, and she never made me feel uncomfortable.

Until the actual waxing part. Listen. I’m not about to sugar coat this for y’all. This shit hurts. I don’t care the menu tells you about “no pain wax” they’re lying to you. There are waxes that don’t hurt as much (go for the chocolate wax for this), but you’re gonna feel it. What you want to do is actually speak to your waxer. They’re going to make convo, and it isn’t for the purposes of being polite (well, not the sole reason.) They’re distracting you. So speak. Cause once that first strip came off I think I cursed the earth for being round and the sky for being blue my nethers hurt so much.

Oh, and they’re gonna show you the hair they yanked off you. In case you were wondering.

So, she’s waxing and talking to me, telling me I had more hair in certain places than others, and then the line of the century came out her mouth.

“Ok, I need for you to put your leg on the wall.”

Put my leg on the wall?!

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I had contacts on in this scenario, though.

Please keep in mind this was my FIRST wax, and I wasn’t thinking that with my belly she may need some help getting to places. All I could think was the only time I hear that line it ain’t because I’m getting waxed. Then I think, well shit. Can I get a drink and some dinner first? We’re moving too fast!

But I complied, and I was nice and smooth after. Oddly enough, I end up having to contort in some shape or form every time I get a wax, too. By the way, they rub you with soothing oil after so you don’t feel so raw.

Hope you got a good laugh from today’s story! Happy weekend, y’all! πŸ˜€

Retail Therapy Shopping Stories

Tales From Retail

Picture it: early morning, NYC, 2014. I’ve just finished my cup of coffee and paperwork, and I’m headed to the sales floor.

I’m met by an older gentleman holding some boxes of lubricant in his hands, looking quite perplexed. I can tell he’d like to ask someone about it, but he’s embarrassed.

So, I offer my help. After a while of working retail, nothing shocks you anymore, you know? So, I go through the differences of all the KY products (pro tip: always the Warming liquid. ALWAYS.) and he comes across a bottle of Wet.

For the uninitiated: Wet has all types of lube, but is best known for their flavored products. This truly seems to pique his interest. He asks if I’ve tried it before, then quickly apologizes as he thinks it too forward of him to ask. Again, nothing shocks me anymore, so I answer honestly that yes, I have (try the kiwi strawberry one.)

He then asks if the other lubes would be good for oral. No, I tell him, lube in general tastes like licking a plastic container if it isn’t flavored.

He looks at the different flavors. “I wish I could test some of these out,” he says. “Thanks so much for being so open to helping me out.”

“It’s my job,” I say. “You’re very welcome to any help I can give.” This, perhaps, wasn’t the best wording because he then asks me THE question of my day:

“Can I try it on you?”

I tried my best to maintain a straight face, but I’m sure I looked like this:

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Glasses and all, y’all.

He bursts into laughter when he sees my face. “I’m only kidding my dear; I know better,” he says between laughs.

I didn’t think he was serious, but there was definitely a moment of “what in all of the fucks” flashing through my head at the time.

Working retail is like playing paintball. We know that at any time we can be hit with something (whether the customer is angry or trying to be cheeky, like this one), and we have to make it a point to continue to play through it. Some days are harder than others, but this man had the benefit of a) me having coffee and breakfast right before he pulled these shenanigans (you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry) and b) having enough grace to know that being a comedian isn’t his strong suit.

So instead of ripping him a new one, I smile and ask him if there was anything else he needed.

He told me no, thanked me again, and left (with the KY. He decided he wasn’t ready for flavored yet.)

I don’t think I was ready for him. Definitely a highlight (? lowlight?) of my day.

Happy Monday, y’all! πŸ™‚

 

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