It was the moment every Sales Associate dreads.
I was up at Reggie 2 (which is what us happenin’ and gangsta-inclined associates call the second cash register), just minding my own business when an ominous voice boomed over the loud speaker. It was Head Boss.
“Kat to the office please,” she commanded. “Kat to the office.”
All eyes were on me. It was like that scene at the end of The Man of La Mancha when Don Quixote gets hauled out of the dungeon and sent to meet his fate (which, as a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, you know is going to be bad). And don’t let the “please” fool you. Store policy for announcements over the loud speakers is “say it nice, say it twice.” Therefore, Head Boss has to say “please,” even if she’s about to fire someone.
Humming the Man of La Mancha theme for courage, I made my way to the office. “I am I, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha—”
“Excuse me!” a little girl shouted. “Where’s ya’ll’s ribbons?”
So much for my dignified exit. Pointing her in the right direction I resumed my solemn sojourn.
I should pause, perhaps, to explain that I wasn’t really afraid of getting fired— aside from that time when I dropped a ceramic Valentines Day heart onto the tile floor (and no, it did not survive the landing), I have a pretty decent record— but I was afraid of getting another Write Up.
Yes, I have a Write Up. Three actually, which qualifies me as something of an outlaw. When Bad Cop presented me with the Write Ups back in February (all three on the same day, mind you), I was totally thrown. At the time, I was getting ready to ask for a week off so I could return to London for my graduation ceremony. I had been preparing all sorts of arguments for Head Boss: I’m always on time! I’ve never shown up for work wearing jeans! And (get ready for the heavy artillery) my register is always DEAD ON!
It’s true. At least it was. As a result of having worked in the same London shopping complex as my old boyfriend, I quickly learned that giving the correct change made for a lightening-speed cash reconciliation at the end of the day, and the time that I saved on cash reconciliation could be better spent, well… you know. Anyway, I have been fastidious in counting change ever since, so take that Head Boss!
But Write Up #1 was for a drawer variance. Five dollars. I was short five stupid dollars. So much for my unblemished record.
Write Up #2 was for failing to adjust the sales tax on an out-of-state return (which is almost as bad as giving your neighbor your employee discount number, and that is REALLY BAD).
Write Up #3 was for neglecting to sign the Cash Drawer Log at the end of my shift.
“I didn’t know there was a Cash Drawer Log!” I had cried in defense. Surely Bad Cop couldn’t give me a Write Up for something I didn’t know.
But he could. “It’s right on top of the Cash Drawer,” he replied. “But don’t worry too much about the Write Ups. They’re just warnings.”
The Shop has a rather enigmatic policy in which you have to get three Verbal Warnings before you get a Written, and three Writtens before you get fired. Despite my three Write Ups (which I’ve since come to embrace; they give me street cred) I wasn’t worried about getting fired. Your Write Ups have to be in the same category before you’re in trouble so as long as I maintained a diversified portfolio of offences (tax adjustment, logbook signatures and drawer variances), I would be fine.
At least, that is what I told myself as I punched in the office door code and braced myself to face Head Boss.
“Hey,” she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”
Oh no. This was not good. Already I knew this was going to be worse than a Write Up.
Had she found out about the Scrapbook Paper Pile?
The Pile is a Sales Associates secret. Top secret, actually, so please don’t tell anybody. The way it works is this: every hour, every day, dozens of well meaning but untalented individuals sweep into The Shop determined to make their sister/aunt/boyfriend/cousin/hairdresser/parole officer a scrapbook. And for these customers, we stock thousands (and I do mean thousands) of scrapbook papers in every possible size, color and texture. When faced with such a dizzying array of glittery possibilities, the customers lose their minds. They load their carts with papers by the fistful, which is good, I suppose, if you’re running an arts and crafts shop and concerned with such things as sales and the bottom line. But I am not running an arts and crafts shop— I am only running Reggie 2.
When those well-meaning scrapbookers get up to the register and realize they’ve gone a bit nuts (as indicated by the Hapless Husband trailing in their wake, saying “Baby, do you really need 87 sheets of paper for your cousin’s niece’s travel agent’s baby shower?), or, when they ignore the Hapless Husband but return a week later with their receipt and a bag of crumpled returns, it’s us lowly Sales Associates who have to deal with them.
We’ve developed a system: the system of the Scrapbook Paper Pile. It is literally impossible to sort and the restock all of the returned pages properly, especially given that the majority of our shoppers consider Wrecking The Shop a treasured pastime, so we’ve started a secret pile. None of the MODs knows about it. We keep it hidden in one of the rolling scrapbook suitcases, and it’s growing. In fact, we’re going to have to transfer the Pile to a larger hiding space (it’s nearly a foot high now), because putting it away is just not an option. Was Head Boss onto us?
“What’s up?” I asked, trying to sound casual. Between the possibility of another Write Up and the discovery of our beloved Scrapbook Paper Pile, I was getting nervous.
“Well,” she intoned, “it’s just that we’ve noticed…”
I knew it! I had been telling the other girls that we need to split The Pile in half and stash it in two separate locations!
But Head Boss wasn’t concerned about the scrapbook paper. “You’ve been doing really well,” she concluded, “and we really like you.”
“Oh,” I stammered. “Thank you.”
Flipping through her clipboard, she continued. “There are a few positions opening up soon: Custom Framing, Front End Specialist, MOD, that sort of thing. I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’re interested in a career in retail, long term.”
“Yeah,” I replied, trying to summon up some enthusiasm. “Sure!”
“Good,” she replied, “I can give you details next week. In the meantime, I just wanted to make sure that you were interested in retail, as a career. We get a lot of people here who are, you know, just here ‘til something ‘better’ comes along.”
I shook my head, unable to formulate an actual, verbal response because I was afraid it might sound something like, “Are you kidding me? A career in retail??? I am one of those people who are just here ‘til something better comes along!”
But that would have been rude. Head Boss has a career in retail, and evidently she enjoys it; she even has an award on her desk to prove it. So I just smiled and mumbled, “Okay, see you next week.”
Making my way back to Reggie 2, however, my relief gave way to anxiety. The secret Pile was safe, and I didn’t get fired, but the offer of a promotion to Front End Specialist seemed somehow much, much worse.