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: 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

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™‚

 

Stories