Today was a very, very close call. For a few minutes— actually a few hours— I didn’t hate my job. I found myself thinking, “Well now, this isn’t so bad. I can handle retail for another few months.” Fortunately, a Problem Customer entered my wake not soon thereafter, thereby providing the proverbial smack upside the head I needed to reignite my wrath towards the retail industry. But still, it was a close call. Too close for comfort.
What happened is this: as a Sales Associate promoted to Front End Specialist and Cash Office Nazi, I’ve been reprieved of my duties on the sales floor. Sure, I still have to deal with Problem Customers at my register and Problem Customers at other registers, and, thanks to my new supervisor status, Problem Associates who somehow manage to get “lost” on their lunch breaks and wait until I have a line of six customers demanding refunds to inform me that they’ve run out of singles… but aside from all of that, I’m living the good life now.
In The Good Life, you don’t have to put away returns. You just have to sort them into bins and leave them for the evening cashiers. Also in The Good Life you don’t have to deal with Stupid Sally types insulting your intelligence, insisting to speak to a manager who has “been to the shoorah” and muttering under their breath about the fact that you’ve probably never even stepped foot inside an airport.
If pint-sized hooligans decide to create their own spin art in Kid’s Crafts (while their mothers, no doubt, are off in Scrapbooking) you don’t have to deal with it. And if a ghettofabulous bridal party decides to sample the candy melts they might give as favors at their ghettofabulous wedding (helping themselves to cake sprinkles and icing along the way), its Someone Else’s Problem.
Best of all, in The Good Life, you get to come in two mornings a week at 7:00am.
I know this might sound crazy but I’ve been stuck working Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings since January. Suffice it to say, my social life has not exactly blossomed since my return to Philadelphia. For a while, I took comfort in the fact that I’m a writer and everyone knows that writers are solitary, sulky, semi-suicidal types. But I’m not suicidal. Not even semi-suicidal. Occasionally, I like to have fun—so much so, that when a friend invited me bowling a few weekends ago, I jumped at the chance to trudge fifteen blocks, catch the subway, wander the bowels of South Philadelphia in search of the St. Agnes Lanes and lace myself into a pair of tragically ugly, germ-infested bowling shoes.
I spent the entire afternoon flirting with a married man (which is a story I’ll save for another time because, in my defense, I didn’t realize he was married). As I wandered back to the subway, however, caught the Broad Street Line and trudged home again (having finally broken double digits in the fifth frame of our second game), I realized something. That afternoon was the most fun I’ve had since January. An afternoon of bowling and accidentally flirting with a married man. Clearly, something had to change.
When Head Boss called me last Wednesday to ask if I could come in at 7:00am the next morning to “do the cash office” I couldn’t believe my luck. The 7:00-3:00 shift? A Thursday night off? Thursday is practically the weekend! It was a dream come true. Of course, having drank a few too many Cinco de Mayo margaritas the night before, I didn’t do anything particularly exciting with my first Thursday night off but that’s not the point. I could have, if I had wanted to, and I’ll be able to for however much longer I work at The Shop. In fact, I’m considering staying on a while longer just for the thrill of having Thursday nights off.
Actually, I’m not. Not really. But when I was promoted to the 7:00-3:00 shift for Saturdays as well, the thought did cross my mind. As I sat in the cash office, zipping through the nine drawer reconciliations and chatting with Head Boss about online dating, I realized was almost— dare I say it?—enjoying my job.
“So I met this guy on Match,” she confessed, suddenly going all… all human on me.
“Oh yeah?” I asked, remembering that “Match” is how those in-the-know refer to match.com.
She regaled me her battle stories, and I regaled her with mine. “I used to read personal ads on Craigslist for their entertainment value,” I challenged. (It’s true. In London, I read them aloud to my Belgian flat mate while she baked chocolate cakes in the common room, and it was highly entertaining. Granted, my definition of “entertainment” may have been a bit skewed at the time, seeing as I was spending approximately 22 out of every 24 hours in the library working on my MA dissertation, but still: I would highly recommend the reading of Craigslist personals, even if you have no intention of answering any of them).
“Did you ever respond to one of them?” Head Boss asked, pausing on her way to the photocopier.
“Yeah. I started reading them just for fun, but there was this one guy… a photographer. A ‘deviant’ photographer, actually. He took me to a burlesque show.” (Oops. I hadn’t meant to let that last bit slip. When I told my parents I was going out with a man I met on Craigslist, I didn’t want them to worry so I was intentionally fuzzy on the details of his profession and our first date, which was— surprise, surprise— our first and last).
By the time we finished chatting (I mean, “processing paperwork”) it was 10:00am. Time for my first break! As I sat in the break room, holding my nose and reading a new Marian Keyes novel, I found myself thinking, “I could get used to this.”
By noon, I had only spent an hour and half dealing with customers thanks to my work in the cash office. I was in such a good mood, in fact, that when the afternoon cashiers rolled in, I yelled, “Yay for the three o’clock crew!”
“Actually, we’re the 1:30 crew,” one of them informed me.
“Oh,” I replied, glancing at the monitor. She was right. It was only 1:30. This meant I still had an hour and a half left to go but I was okay with that because I was in the zone: running change back and forth to the other registers, processing competitor’s coupons, manually adjusting all the stupid clearance items that are supposed to be… “Yes ma’am, I know the sign says an additional 50% off. We’re just having a bit of trouble with the system so bear with me… Yes, the manager is talking to Corporate as we speak… Yes, it’s a computer glitch. But don’t worry. I’ll take care of it for you.”
I was on the top of my game until 2:30. That’s when I encountered my first Problem Customer of the day. She was a Rude Rita, an Indecisive Irene and a Destructive Dolores rolled into one. By this I mean she threw a fit when her flip flops didn’t ring up at 25% (“The signs SAYS!”), decided she no longer wanted them when I offered to override the price (“They not even the right size anyway…”) and hurled her cart into a display of potted plants as she left the shop.
Thank goodness for Problem Customers, because until then, I was almost having a good day.
(PS: The “May I have your zip code?” competition ends Sunday night at midnight, Eastern Standard Time, so if you have yet to submit your response (and if you don’t want to flunk your first exam at the Kat Richter Institute of Distance Learning for Problem Customers) reply now!