Thursday, April 29, 2010

Travails in Retail

I can sum up in two words the reason behind the death of my ad mail career: Newfoundland Winters.

I soon grew weary of Vostok, Antarctica-style wind chill, hip-deep snowfalls, and aeronautically-prone plastic sleds. The territorial, rabid beagles also soon gave way to packs of roaming wolverines.

Okay, that last bit was complete bulls#!* but I stand by the rest.

I managed to score a new, hypothetically less hazardous gig at "Zellers" as re-enforcements for the Christmas season. In my small town, snagging this job was like hitting the big time!

Here's a summary of what I remember:

* My assumption of improved safety proved erroneous since within a week I managed to nearly brain myself with a Fisher Price plastic piano when I attempted to retrieve it down from a high shelf for a diminutive customer. The reason those "PLEASE LET A STAFF MEMBER HELP" signs are put up all around high shelves in department stores is because people who agreed to be paid and risk the remote possibly of being hit in the head with a Fisher Price plastic piano are less likely to litigate on a subconscious level. Or an unconscious level, I always get those mixed up. Anyhoo, that's my theory.

* I soon refused to eat in the staff room, often leaving the building to drive home for lunch. It's a practice I've maintained to this very day. I've always been W-A-A-A-A-Y too empathic when it comes to negativity, gossip, venom, vitriol and overall back-bitery leveled against someone just as soon as they've quit the room. It's always sickened me that as soon as two people who hate each others guts when they weren't around one another act like old war buddies when forced to be in the same room together. It's a nauseating life-long lesson learned early, I suppose.

* I dreaded working on cash and my paralyzing shyness, fear of screwing up and anal retentiveness made sure I'd never be comfortable doing it. Seems kinda silly since nowadays you just scan everything, swipe a payment method and you're off to the retail races. Back then you had to key in individual item price, quantity, taxes, coupons, credit card info, discounts, cosine, and square root, all the while remaining cognizant of infinitesimals. Often I remember during the worst days of the Christmas season ten or twelve people backed up at the cash and me standing shell-shocked like Tom Hanks on the beaches of Normandy.

* Manual inventory = Hell

* I really couldn't fathom the popularity of "Ghostbusters" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" toys. Man, it all seemed so juvenile. Not like "Star Wars", "G.I. Joe" or "Transformers". Now, that s#!& was PIMP, yo.

* I remember a shoplifter running out of the store and my supervisor promptly admonished me for not grabbing, stalling or tripping him up. Who the f#@& did he think I was, "Spider-Man"? Dude, I'm pretty sure the slogan isn't "With a great red vest with a 'Zeddy Bear' pin on it comes great responsibility". Yeah, f#@% you, buddy. If the store wants to prevent theft they can hire the "Iron Sheik" to stand by the doors and dispense with the "humbling".

* I worked on Christmas Eve and a little bit of my childhood died then. It was snowing to beat the band that day, snowing in that epic way it never seems to do anymore. I remember it felt so fundamentally wrong to keep us there as late as they did with not a soul in the store besides staff. I'm trying to resist the temptation of "old fartism" but back then it didn't seem like a bunch of organ donor yahoos were bragging about crap like: "Oh, yeah, man, I do all my Christmas shopping on Christmas EVE, dude! It's such a RUSH!" Man, if that's the modern man's idea of a rush we're seriously in trouble. All you've really accomplished is justified retailer's greed by staying open on days when staff would be better off with their family and friends.

But it wasn't all that bad. I enjoyed working with, like, two of my co-workers. I sincerely liked helping customers find stuff. It seemed to make them inordinately happy.

But having said that I didn't cry a river when I was laid off as seasonal staff when it slowed down to a crawl after the Holidays.

As I've said before, when I graduated from High-School no career path laid out for me seemed attractive. But after working these odd jobs for a few short months I finally had the greatest incentive to act...

The incentive to do anything but what I had been doing.

FAIL: Prepare to lose a lot of respect for a former legend. Next time someone pisses you off, threaten to "humble" them, Iron Sheik style.

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