Tales From Retail: They Don’t Pay Me Enough For This…

Picture it, NYC, 2012. It’s a fairly warm afternoon, right around that elusive time we used to call “spring”, but now is just that week of “not snow” and “not hell” outdoors.

The lunchtime rush is starting to ramp up, and I’m busily recording some sales in the notebook when I notice a gentleman walking in the front doors. Nothing too unusual, but it was, again, fairly warm and this man has on a puffer jacket like it’s 30 below out.

Meh, to each his own, so I go back to work as the man darts downstairs.

I then hear the elevator doors open, and I see the man coming out. He looks around. I stop and look up, thinking he may need help. Before I can ask, he turns to beeline for the door, and some formula drops out the back of his coat.

Sigh.

Listen, y’all. I’ll be the first to admit times have been hard for everybody as of late. Folks do come into the store to steal makeup and, like, 5 hour energy and such (that’s a story for another day), but you do have those folks who have to steal food to survive. I don’t blame the folks put in that position. I blame the system that puts the folks in that position. What makes me feel doubly bad is if I see them taking food, I’m supposed to stop them.

Even if it’s obvious they’re hungry. Even if they’re just grabbing a $1 bag of chips. I’m supposed to stop them. It’s heartbreaking, and more often than not, I’ll just buy the item for them, cause folks have to eat, right? For the most part, I don’t see it as much anymore. I don’t know if it’s a sign that things are getting better economically or that the thieves are getting savvier, but I try not to think about it too much.

Anyway.

I see this formula drop out the back of his coat and immediately think this man is likely taking this for his child at home. Because I’m big-hearted like that.

He drops this formula and instead of leaving it (because there are cameras that may see him), he picks it up and decides to try and take it out of the store (in full view!) in his hands. Now, I have to stop him.

Me: “You, in the coat! Put it down.”

Customers are now staring at him, and since they don’t have the same vantage point I do, they don’t notice the canister in his hand. One woman goes: “Why is she screaming at him? He doesn’t have anything!”

Him: *stares* *puts formula in basket near door*

As he turns to walk out, another canister drops out of his coat. Well, damn.

Listen. You’re a parent, and you have a hungry baby that needs food that you are unable to afford? You steal ONE canister of formula. I shake my head. Now I know he’s likely got the whole shelf in that coat, and…

I walk up to the front door. “Give me the rest of it. Now.”

Him: “That’s all I got, man.”

He tries to walk out the store again, and TWO MORE canisters drop out. If you’ve been counting, we’re up to four now.

Me: “One more time, give me all of it. Now.”

At this point, one of the (HUGE) stock guys comes out and stands next to me. “Did you hear her? Give it back!”

He’s scared now. “I don’t have any more, man!” And tries to run.

At which point THREE more canisters drop out the coat. Passerby on the street brought them in to me (one guy had been watching the whole thing from outside, and he told me he was ready to tackle if the thief had tried to come at me. That made me smile, cause most folks don’t care.)

So, grand total of formula the guy tried to swipe? Seven canisters at about $27 a pop. Sigh.

Moral of the story? If you MUST steal…be wise about it.

Happy Monday, y’all!

Stories

Tales From Retail: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble….

Picture it: NYC, 2011. Late Night.

I’m finishing up my closing duties, and I’m on my way back from the bathroom when two men streak past me. One of them has a full garbage bag slung over his shoulder.

I already know what this means, so I head upstairs as quickly as I can to alert the loss prevention (LP) on duty so they can file a report.

Didn’t seem to be a need, because by the time I made it up the stairs, there was a standoff.

There was a third man involved, who upon seeing things were getting just a little bit too hot for comfort just kind of strolled out of the door.

The second man, who had nothing in his hands, was pleading with LP to let his friend go. His friend had the full garbage bag of all manner of medicines, whitening strips, you name it.

Yes, people steal these things. They also steal makeup testers, because they’re gross. They’ll steal YOU if they could figure out how to do it so you won’t know. It’s that hard out in these streets.

Anyway.

The thing is, we can really only hold the person who has the product, so second dude is pleading with LP to let first dude go.

“Man, you got your stuff back. Let him go,” he said.

LP wasn’t having it. “I advise you to go ’bout your business before I have you arrested, too.”

And the argument was starting to escalate.

It went from pleas to cursing, until I saw the first punch thrown. I ran to call 911 (not knowing they’d already been called) and did my best to calm down the customers in line. I remember there was a family of French tourists, mom, dad, and little boy. The little boy, who had to have been about 11, was so thoroughly enjoying what was going on. He looked like most folks do when they’re watching an action movie: eyes so big you could see the whites all around. His mom was petrified (rightly so), and kept trying to drag him towards the back of the store as he (and his dad) kept trying to inch towards the front to get a better look.

Meanwhile, LP and first dude are still going at it: LP trying to hold him till the cops got there, and dude trying to break free. LP is continually saying: “Dude, you’re going to jail. Stop fighting me,” until..

HulkGIF

Seriously, before any of us knew what was happening, LP had flipped this dude on his back in the floor. “Now STAY DOWN, I said!”

Whoa.

My reaction:

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It was dead silent for a few seconds as we all processed what we’d just saw.

Dude was too shocked to keep fighting, and about 5 minutes later, the police walked in and arrested him.

I keep telling y’all: retail is dangerous. I was really trying my best to keep the customers out of the way. Let’s be real: this could have gone south real quick, and when you have customers more involved in trying to see what’s happening rather than getting out of the way ( *side eye emoji*) it makes life more difficult for us to make sure folks stay safe.

Hope y’all’s week is going well so far! See you next week for another installment of Tales from Retail. πŸ˜€

Stories

Tales From Retail: *Facepalm*

Y’all, sometimes the stuff I deal with at work doesn’t even warrant a full post of its own, just because it’s short and full of “what the actual hell?!” moments.

So, I decided to compile the best of the best here.

A lot of this is something that retail workers both former and current will deal with and recognize. Now, don’t think that if you’ve asked these questions, we employees are judging you. It all depends on your nature. If you’re nice, we’re nice. If you’re not nice, we’re still nice, but we talk about you when you leave. Standard operating procedure.

1.”How do I get out?”

How did you get in? I always have to wonder about this type of thing. Like…were you just not paying attention or…?

2. “Why don’t you have this cream/yogurt/shampoo I like? Why do you take away the things I love?!”

This one doesn’t bother me so much because I am a consumer too. You fall in love with a product and it disappears. But please know that WE don’t control that. It’s the people above us. Yelling at us does not make it magically appear. Yelling at corporate might, though, so email them your concerns! They’ll listen to y’all before they will us.

3. *yells in language I don’t speak*

This will never make me understand your native tongue. It just won’t. Now, if you have a picture of what you want, ok. But I keep Google Translate (problematic as it is, it helps) on my phone for just such a reason. We’ll work this out. But please, don’t yell at me.

4. “But you can get this in Canada!”

Canada is not America. They have better healthcare.

5. “You’re really pretty.” *leery stare*

Eww. Don’t be that person. It’s gross. We’re never going to give you our number. Never.

6. *flings money on counter*

Y’all. Y’ALL. Don’t do this. Please, hand me the money. Flinging it on the counter is rude as all the hell.

7. “So, I’m bringing this back because it didn’t work for me. It broke me out.”

*looks at unopened product* “Oh, I see. I’m so sorry, let me get you a refund.”

You don’t have to lie, y’all. You don’t have to lie! The majority of retailers will require us to take it back. We’re asking the issue so that we can do two things: 1. tell the company so they can be aware and 2. figure out if we can sell it or damage it out. That’s all.

8. “Why y’all prices so high?!”

*long sigh* We don’t set the prices at store level, y’all. Corporate does.

9. “Oh, well *insert retailer here* has it for cheaper.”

What we want to say is: “Then go to said retailer.” But that’s rude, so I’ll just say see the answer to number 8.

10. “Do you work here?”

This question irks my nerve. 9 times out of 10, I’m in the middle of a task, in uniform with a pen and notebook/pricing gun/duster in my hand and wearing a name badge. You reckon folks come off the street and do that for free? What in heaven’s name? Now, I could see if I’m standing with say, my cell phone in my hand and no other indicator of working there (that’s when I’m on break. And somehow EVERYONE knows I work there) then I understand asking the question. But otherwise? Yes. Yes, I do. One day I fear I’ll be having a bad day and say I don’t just to see the reaction.

Starting off your week with a smile! I have tons of fashion to show you this week. See you tomorrow!

 

Stories

Tales From Retail: Harassment

Picture it: NYC, 2011. It’s the beginning of rush hour, and I’m just finishing up a display. A man approaches me and asks me for some Clearasil.

I think this is a normal, run of the mill customer with a normal, run of the mill question.

Y’all, I can’t even begin to explain how not normal this interaction was about to get.

So, I take him to the Clearasil, and he asks me a few more questions about skin care, and I answer them. He tells me that I’m pretty, and smiles at me.

Aww, I think. How nice of him! I say thank you, and ask if there’s anything else I can assist him with.

Y’all, I should have learned my lesson the LAST time I asked that question, but customer service. *side eye emoji*

Anyway. He says no, so I’m assuming we’re done here, and I head back to my center and I start looking for something in my desk. While I’m rummaging through the drawers, I feel…a hand.

It ain’t MY hand.

But it’s a hand.

And…it’s around my waist…

And my back is to the person trying to feel me up on the sales floor…

And I turn around…

And y’all? It was that damned customer I’d just been helping.

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Y’all…before I’d realized it, I’d said “What the actual fuck?! Don’t put your hands on me, I don’t know you!”

I don’t normally snap, y’all. I tend to be calm, cool, and collected even in the most ridiculous of moments, but when I tell y’all he almost caught my left and my box cutter? Woo, lawd, have mercy. And I was so loud. Loud enough that one of the assistant managers came running over to see what was going on.

The manager comes around the corner to me standing with my fists balled up looking like I’m about to drag dude all through the store (oh, and please believe I was. Cameras be damned.) and puts two and two together.

“Sir, I spoke to you downstairs about harassing the women in the store. You will NOT come up here and harass my staff!”

I’m still ready to pounce. I hear the manager, but I’m still ready.

“He comes any closer to me, I’m flipping him over the banister,” I say. I really was, too. The manager steps in front of me. Not to shield me, but to protect dude.

Dude: “Well, I just wanted to let the young lady know I was interested…”

Manager: “Out. Now. Before I move out the way.”

I have my box cutter in my hand now. Please move, boss. PLEASE.

The guy finally gets the hint and walks out of the store.

Manager looks at me. I look back.

“You know, if you would have swung at him, you could have been fired.”

I hear everyone’s jaw dropping. Mine did too. And yes, you read that right. Retailers are so worried about being sued, had I swung at him I could have been fired. Honestly, subconsciously, Β that’s probably why I yelled as opposed to throwing hands. Sigh.

I never saw him again. But that day is when I decided it would be best to keep a box cutter on me at all times.

Safety first. πŸ™‚

Stories

Tales From Retail: Anatomy

Picture it: NYC, 2011. I’m going about my duties at work, when I’m approached by the (very confused and flustered) assistant manager. He has a woman with him, and she’s carrying two boxes with her. I can tell by how he’s looking around he needs ME to help him sort this out, and I immediately get nervous.

I step from around the corner to see how I can be of service.

“Yes, um, this young lady needs some council on this, and she doesn’t want to speak to the pharmacist about it.”

I’m confused by this, until I see the two boxes she’s carrying: the Today Sponge, and the Instead cup. Ok then, I think. The pharmacist is a guy, so she wanted a woman’s opinion. No problem, I can oblige.

“Sure, I got it. How can I help you, ma’am?”

“So, I am seeing a handsome man tonight, and we want to get into…activities. {I snickered. Couldn’t help it.} How do I use these things? I am on my menstrual.”

Hmm. Having never used either of the items she was holding, I did a quick read of the box.

“Well, the sponge here you wet it, lather it, stick it in there, and leave it for up to 48 hours, and the cup you put in there and leave it for up to 12 hours. You’ll have to take it out, dump it, rinse it, and put it back in periodically.”

Her: *blank stare* “So, I just put everything in there? I can do that.”

Me: *headshake* “No, you can’t put both of them in there. It’s either or, and unfortunately, you can’t use the Today sponge when you’re menstruating.”

Her: “But I need both.”

Me: “Ma’am, please forgive my bluntness, but how much room do you think is in there? If you put both in, there won’t be enough room for activities.”

We look at each other.

Her: “And you’re certain about this?”

I nod.

I see her face drop. Aww. I felt bad, so I decided to offer her an alternative.

“I’d do the Instead cup and have him use a condom. That’s gonna be your best bet.”

“Well, I hate condoms, but if that’s the best option…Do you have a favorite?”

“I have some suggestions. Let’s have a look.”

And I went and helped her pick out some condoms so she could enjoy her evening with her handsome man.

If this isn’t a PSA for proper sexual education and anatomy, I don’t know what is. But I hope her evening had a happy ending! πŸ˜€

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