Holiday shopping at the Holyoke Mall in W. Mass. Sure, it looks peaceful, but just wait…sooner or later someone will collapse in a fit of shopping induced psychosis. (courtesy of masslive.com)
Laughed like crazy when I read 11 Nightmarish Tales of Working Retail During the Holidays over at Buzzfeed. . . not just because the stories are hysterical, but because I worked retail for about 5 years, for the top 2 lingerie retailers in the country. All I can say is I understand the people who come off the mountain–usually some mountain way up in Vermont or New Hampshire–and wandered, shopping-shell-shocked, into Frederick’s of Hollywood wondering where the packaged Haines underwear were, but some people I will never, ever, totally understand. Other than perhaps the stress of creating the perfect holiday and getting the perfect gift just sends them into some sort of psychotic behavioral aberration. Here are the top 5 crazy things that customers did or said, and the often abysmal state of scheduling, when I worked in retail….
1. “I’m from out-of-town and want to make sure this will fit my girlfriend. Could you meet me back at my hotel and model it for me?” Yes, this was an actual customer request. We got at least one of these per year. When it happened to me, I just looked at the guy and said “um, no…that’s not in my job description.” Being the senior saleswoman–usually in seniority and age–I told the younger girls that if it happened to them while I was there to just send the guy over to me. I could protect the virtue of my salesperson and put the perv in his place with merely a raised eyebrow….
(41/365) Dutch Courage! (Photo credit: I dream of Nici)
2. Roving packs of drunken husbands. Usually, sometime on a Friday or Saturday, The Husbands would have had enough servings of Dutch Courage to walk into the store without passing out from embarrassment (but maybe from Wild Turkey.) Then we’d go through a delicate verbal dance around figuring out the wife’s size– “yeah! she’s about your size!” Um, usually not..
3. That crazy lady who wanted the strapless bra that was discontinued 10 years ago. She keeps coming in once a week, up until New Year’s Eve, giving each and every girl in the store her sob story about the perfect strapless bra that our company used to make but doesn’t anymore and she can’t understand why they took such a great product off the market. Of course, if the two of you who were working had heard her before, she’d just blame you for not carrying the bra, or withholding one that somebody returned that we still have in our stockroom….
4. Children with messy hands and faces who need to wipe them off on something because they don’t want Mom to get mad. I guess that means you can use that $50 silk chemise or $40 maribou feather trimmed babydoll to wipe your hands and face. Thanks, kid.
5. Chronic under-staffing Whether the Manger is making up the schedule by hand, or you have one of those nasty-assed computer programs that figures out when you are most likely to need staff based on last year’s traffic numbers, you will never EVER have enough staff on those one or two nights when the last-minute shoppers and bored teenagers decide to descend on your store. Why? Because there is not one single thing that is a guaranteed predictor of how traffic will flow in a store from year to year. Sure, you can prognosticate like Wolf Blitzer, perhaps forecast with the pinpoint accuracy of a Jim Cantore, but human nature and corporate pay periods vary from year to year. The only thing that can be predicted is that staff is going to get run-down, and after the 26th there will be a rash of colds, coughs, strep, flu, pneumonia, and maybe even chickenpox. You never know….
So, while you’re shopping, keep in mind that the people who are there to help you would really appreciate if you cut them a little slack and left the holiday psychosis somewhere in the mall parking lot where it belongs.