Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Employment History Part 2 - Talents and Trade Secrets Revealed

In my last post I wrote about my first job out of high school working in the cash office at Gold Circle. I really liked that job and totally lucked out because it didn't require me to sell anything, deal with the public or talk to anyone at all really unless I felt like it. I could pretty much go in, get my shit done and go home. It was part time and I was done by noon most days and that totally rocked.

On the other hand though the job had 2 major drawbacks:

1. It cramped my party lifestyle. I had to be there 6 days a week at 7am and getting up, dressed and forcing myself to be alert enough to concentrate on doing my job that early in the morning at age 18 when most nights I was out partying, drinking and doing god only knows what until scant hours before my shift started was extremely difficult. There were many days when I suffered through that job (or perhaps the job suffered through me) hung over or still drunk.

2. I already mentioned other major drawback to this job in my previous post, my cash office mate Missy, who found a way to suck every atom of joy from the air of the very tiny room we were forced to live in together for 5 hours each day but Sunday. Then again upon further reflection and after re-reading the last sentence of #1 listed above a couple of times over it has occurred to me that perhaps being trapped in a small airless, windowless room with a hung over or possibly still drunk teenage baboon like me may not have been exactly pleasant for her.

3. I know I said there were only going to be 2 drawbacks but upon even further reflection I am now wondering about the validity of #1 in total. I mean if I was going work hung over or possibly still drunk from the previous nights partying or god knows what then that probably negates the job cramping my style doesn't it? Sounds more like neither one had any effect whatsoever on the other. The job didn't seem to stop me from partying and the partying never seemed to prevent me from showing up and doing my job.

4. Fuck it then. The only drawback to my job at Gold Circle was Missy and frankly she may have had a point being nasty to me and giving me a hard time because I was a hung over, smelly drunk so who could blame her really? I mean, that room was pretty small.

I suddenly realize that I have abused my numbered bullet point privileges and at this point I'm rambling so it's time for an anyhoo...

Anyhoo... what I really wanted to tell you about was the job that I had after the cash office which I referred to as "the greatest job in the world". Are you still reading this?

I quit the cash office gig because I was going to start attending college and I needed a job with more flexible hours. I applied at several different retail shops, but the job I had my heart set on and didn't think I had a chance in hell to get because it was ranked pretty high on the coolness scale and I lived in a college town so there was always lots of competition for crappy paying jobs in cool stores was at a smaller but national chain that rhymes with Beer Ton Pimports*. Do you know of it?

It's a much different kind of store now. Back then it was only just morphing into the brand image it has now and many people (like my cousin J and his stoner buddies) thought it was a fancy head shop and sometimes when I told people (like my cousin J and his stoner buddies) that I worked there (oh, yes - in case you hadn't figured it out on your own - I got the coveted job) they would make bong and rolling paper jokes.

Beer Ton Pimports didn't sell bongs or rolling papers or any other smoking accessory except for Italian marble ashtrays and sandalwood incense. No. They sold the most beautiful and wondrous things. They sold rattan furniture made in Thailand, Japanese paper lanterns and jasmine scented potpourri. They sold cut glass Romanian stemware, bamboo fans from China and carved boxes made of teak wood from Brazilian rain forests. They sold English tea pots, Scottish shortbread cookies and itchy cable knit wool "fisherman" sweaters from Ireland.

For a young woman who yearned for travel, and didn't really see much chance of it happening anytime soon, it was a wonderland.

I started off as a cashier, but within a year was promoted to Assistant Store Manager. I love, love, loved that job. I got to be around all that cool stuff and between the shipments of new merchandise that needed to be unloaded from the delivery trucks, displays that needed to be built and the various trials and tribulations associated with working with the public, every day was new and different.

It's the only job I've ever had where I actually left smelling better than when I came in.

It was at this job that I discovered my uncanny ability to solidly and successfully assemble cheap furniture armed with only Taiwanese instructions, an allen wrench and wood glue without ever once bursting into tears. I would often return from having taken a few days off to find heaps of furniture left for me to make sense of by my frustrated and distraught co-workers who had tried in vain to assemble them in my absence. I was (and still am by the way) a furniture assembly goddess.

It was also at this job where I learned that working with the public is not for me. I continued to do it for quite awhile but eventually lost the ability to control my facial expressions enough to hide the disgust I was feeling behind a big shiny grin when confronted with:

  • The woman screaming at me at full volume because I would not allow her to return a dress with filthy yellowed armpit stains and no receipt. She threw a ball point pen at my head.

  • The children allowed to run loose all over the store and smash bath oil beads onto the floor I had just finished mopping while their parents argued over the fabric quality of $12 toss pillows.

  • The wild-eyed man who banged on the door after closing time and tearfully demanded to be let inside. He shouted, "I can see you in there! I just need to buy a papasan!". Allrighty nut bag. Key indicator of nuttiness not so much the wild-eyes, door banging or tears but the word "need" used with "papasan" in the same sentence. Who in the hell has an urgent need for a papasan chair? He was out of his fucking mind and I called the cops.**

Mostly though it was a great job. I worked there for almost 3 years and made a lot of great friends. Here are some of my more fond memories:

  • The morning my co-worker Jay broke all the jars in a spice rack and we used the jar labels instead of our name tags. I immediately snagged Rosemary and Jay grabbed Basil. As the day wore on some of our other co-workers including the store manager got into the act and we had Sage, Paprika, Nutmeg and Thyme all working at the cash wrap stand. I'm not sure why this was so funny. But trust me, it was. Epecially when you'd get one of those eye contact customers that make a point of reading your name tag and using your name when they pay. Thank you Nutmeg!

  • After I moved out of my parents house I didn't need to buy groceries because I was able to live off of the free fortune cookies we gave away at the cash wrap.

  • The time that I had excruciating pains in my abdomen and thought I was having appendicitis. My co-worker had just picked up the phone and started to dial 911 at the point in which I realized it was just some push pins that I had forgotten in my apron pocket stabbing me in the gut every time I leaned into the counter.

  • Being in charge of the clearance book which gave me an inside edge into knowing all the items that were on 75% clearance. You see depending on the sales of an item we didn't always mark everything down as low as we could have. But using that book I was able to legally mark it down as low as possible for store employees. Handy.

  • Our secret employee stash of full price merchandise that we all kept hidden wrapped in a tarp in the rafters over the stockroom. If we fell in love with something but couldn't afford it (and it was small, lightweight and pliable enough to be wrapped in a tarp and stored over hour heads) we would hide it in the stash and hang onto it up there until it hit 75% clearance. Brilliant.

*Perhaps some of you (who have made it this far and are for some reason still reading this post) may be wondering why I felt the need to hide the name of Beer Ton Pimports, but not Gold Circle and that would be because Gold Circle no longer exists as a corporation, but if balance is important to you may refer to Gold Circle as Cold Gircle as you continue to read this post.

**It's possibly the most useless piece of furniture known to humankind (it's a actually a tie between the papasan chair and the wicker bookshelf but for the sake of my post today papasan wins). It doesn't store anything, is flimsy as all hell, it slides all around when you even think about sitting on it and if you do finally find a way to get comfortable sitting in one for any longer than 90 seconds will give you curvature of the spine or at the very least a stiff neck.


The Vegetable Assassin said...

I would have loved a job at Beer Ton Pimports as a young'un! That store was full of treasures and things that smelled delicious, although their candles always looked and smelled beautiful, but they burned like shit. I still enjoy that store on occasion. And I too am a furniture assembly expert after the many trips to Ikea in the past. I was always the one dealing with the dumb instructions. They're like a little rubix cube of their own making. But I always reign supreme.

I managed a card store for a while in my youth and so you don't have to tell me the joys and absolutely nightmare of dealing with customers. Most people are nice and friendly and make your job pleasurable, then there are THOSE customers. Who can ruin a whole week in two minutes. You've never encountered the full spectrum of humanity till you've worked a busy card store at Christmas time. Fuck me, never again!

CDP said...

Beer Ton Pimports. Ha ha ha! That was hilarious. I loved my job at Nordstrom too, but I don't miss it one bit.

i am playing outside said...

i love that you brought up the papasan chair... literally 20 minutes ago i saw a picture on Facebook of someone sitting in one and i thought to myself 'i would seriously never even sit in one of those, let alone WANT one'


Churlita said...

I remember that back in the 80's that store sold kind of groovy clothes pretty cheap. I shopped there a lot when I lived in San Francisco.

kirby said...

I KNEW you guys hid the best stuff for yourselves.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Veg - Oh, a card store would be trying during the holidays! I worked 2 more jobs after that in retail before my face gave away my disdain. For awhile it was pretty great though.

CDP - I had aspirations to become one of their buyers too - the buyers had a quarterly newsletter that they put out describing all the exotic locales they got to travel to to buy the crap we sold in the stores. I thought that becoming a buyer was the bomb.

Player - these chairs immediately label one as a stoner I think. We used to make fun of the people who bought them. I often tried to steer customers toward more comfy and practical furnishings.

Churlita - YES! It was called the "Gypsy" collection. Practically my whole wardrobe was composed of pieces from it including a black circle skirt that I wore until it fell apart. They had some pretty rad jewelry too.

Kirby - oh we totally did. Some of that stuff was pretty rare, especially anything that was hand made, hand painted etc.. like only one or two items per store. One time the stash got too large and we had to wait until the manager's day off and take the tarp down and purge a little.

Linka72 said...

*completely dead from laughing @ the push pins incident*...haaaaaaaaaa, woo