The holiday season has finally come to a close, which has meant much rest and recuperation from my first holiday retail job. I feel that I’ve earned it. I hadn’t really planned on taking a job at Macy’s but seeing as job offers weren’t exactly raining like manna from heaven (and gin and tonics don’t pay for themselves) I decided making minimum wage over the Christmas season could have its perks. My favorite department I got to work in was definitely Men’s. Probably because I actually knew what the hell I was talking about when a customer had a question. My favorite part of the job was helping poor, tired, run down housewives who’s husbands were too lazy to come in and pick out their own flannel shirt. It wasn’t always easy and I definitely had some tough questions thrown at me, but I thrived on a good challenge and I feel like I may have found my newest spiritual gift that isn’t parallel parking. Example: Randomn, stressed out woman walks up to me and asks me, “What kind of sweater would you buy for someone who sells Subaru’s????” Piece of cake. Showed her a nice Izod green with grey stripes sweater. SHE. LOVED. IT. I told her I felt it was “very Oregon”. Call me what you like. A Miracle Worker? Rachel Zoe? I’ll answer to both.
One of the things that first drew me to the job at Macy’s was the fact that I had just begun reading “Holidays on Ice” by David Sedaris where he details his experience working as an elf at Macy’s. Sadly Walla Walla can’t afford the price/space to house Santa’s Workshop so my dreams of following in David’s tiny elf footsteps were quickly doused. HOWEVER, I did have my fair share of rubbing elbows with Christmas Royalty. Perhaps you’ve heard of the woman they call Mrs. Clause?? I first noticed her in the Ralph Lauren section thumbing through some red x-large sweaters. She came up to me and asked me what else I had in red. She was a little perturbed that our store didn’t carry any Tommy Bahama and I neglected to tell her that it was probably a blessing in disguise. She told me she was going to a party with her husband that night and then clarified that she was actually married to Santa. I laughed. Thought she was probably kidding….she wasn’t. She looked at me and blurted, “no really, he was in the parade this year”. Now unless memory fails me, I don’t recall the chapter in “Holidays on Ice” where David Sedaris helped Mrs. Clause pick out a holiday sweater for Ol’ Saint Nick. Do you? Yep. That’s what I thought. One point Rob Sesser. Zero points David Sedaris.
One of the downsides to working retail is the fact that you hold all the customers answers, or at least you pretend to, and every so often you become the bearer of bad news. One incident that sticks out in my mind involved having to tell a man 10 minutes before we closed on Christmas Eve that the coupons he brought in didn’t apply to the shoulderless Guess shirt he was hoping to buy. I thought he would take the news well. The men usually do, however English was obviously not his primary language and I’ve become a little rusty on my Spanish. I blame it on the fact that my first Spanish teacher was more concerned about finding the soonest opportune moment to slip another shot of tequila into his coffee versus teaching me how to conjugate. Regardless, nobody likes to be told that in fact they will not be saving $50 on said purchase. After some awkward blank stares and me trying my best to speak slowly and use very large gestures he threw me a bit of a curve ball by looking me square in the eyes as he ripped to shreds all his coupons before handing them back to me to be thrown away. Feliz Navidad??
But as anyone who’s ever worked in customer service knows, the hardest part of the job is dealing with an unhappy customer. My favorite tactic for dealing with rude and self obsessed customers is to be overly friendly. Kill them with kindness, ya know I mean? It’s an old habit I picked up from my Starbucks days. So when miss sass came up to my counter and told me she needed a gift receipt for a purchase she had made yesterday I knew there would be trouble. I explained to her that the only way to get her a gift receipt would be for her to return the items and repurchase them. You could have heard a pin drop in that room the moment I laid down the news.
Crazy person: “IT”S NOT MY FAULT!!!!”, she repeatedly snapped.
Me: “Yes I realize that ma’am, but it will only take a few minutes to make the return”.
Gurrl didn’t have a few minutes. Gurl had places to go! People to see! Every moment with me was moment missed on Days of our Lives. She snatched the receipt from my sweaty palm and power walked it out to the back parking lot only to return shortly with all the items and a credit card. If looks could kill I’m not sure that I would have made it to my final 15-minute break. While making the exchange, I received nothing but constant glares, loud sighs and uncomfortable grunts. I put the items and the gift receipts inside the bag, put a big smile on my face and said, "Sooooooooo sorry about that, thanks for shopping at Macy’s, HAVE A GREAT DAY!!" That was the last thing she wanted to hear, and boy did I love saying it.
Seeing as it was the season of giving it was a lot of fun helping people find gifts for their loved ones and I just have to say that I now think that kids buying presents for their parents is the most adorable thing EVER. For one thing, they never know how much money to give you, their parents are always nearby pretending not to notice, and they buy the most random things; such as the little boy who bought his mom a popcorn maker. Not a bad choice considering I had just sold a shiny, glitter, camouflage purse to a dad who was buying it for his kids to give their mom for Christmas. It takes a special kind of woman to love a purse that ugly…I really hope that’s what she wanted cuz that gift could easily have ended that marriage. Anyways, poor little guy had a big boy wallet that was a bit snug inside his little boy skinny jeans pocket so we spent about a minute trying to get the damn thing out. Luckily there wasn’t a line behind him otherwise I may have resorted to grabbing my scissors and cutting it out. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure I make my sales goal for the day.