“It’s the last one!”
“I found it first!
My days at Phipp’s are nothing more than a vehicle for entertainment, filled with oddities that might seem outlandish for the ordinary folk, but to us retail employees, it’s all part and parcel of the job. Though I desperately need to find employment elsewhere (a job with regular hours and benefits), at least my shifts are filled with enough fodder to fill a blog entry…or three thousand. Not all of it’s funny. There’s drama, too, as well as the constant level of confusion and humiliation. But think about it – any good story worth reading is filled with this stuff.
Actually, right now, I’m draining my cup of coffee and shortly, my day at Phipp’s will begin anew. All of our hours have been cut to the bone. So instead of my job paying a marginal living wage, I’m flirting with poverty. It’s not unusual for reduced hours in early spring, but sales have dropped and this trend’s been continuing since the new year. While I see this as the gift of time for writing more and searching for work, it still rankles me. It’d be great to have more hours.
Alas, some things aren’t meant to be. But I digress…
Typically my day starts by stocking shelves. Pretty much anyone in retail who works the floor can look forward to this quasi-Christmas-like arrangement. You have all these boxes and you’re not quite sure what might be in them. With knife blade in hand, you slice through the tape and rip out the protective packaging. Then you slip the item out of the box and gaze at it. Ooh! Isn’t it lovely? Then you find its designated shelf location by using a device to zap the bar code. Up pops the location and you go to set it there. Except when you hold the huge, unwieldy item in your hands, you notice the spot is now occupied by a dirty diaper.
Yes, you read it correctly. A dirty diaper.
There are people who really can’t distinguish the difference between a family-friendly bathroom and a retail shelf. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to stop women from changing their children on the sales floor. They look at me as if I’m the enemy. I tell them it’s a health code violation but even more, I’m a mother and it wouldn’t even occur to me to change a diaper in the middle of a public place. And it wouldn’t. But they would. And do.
Once I’ve followed the rules for cleaning up that mess (it’s considered a hazardous waste removal), I continue my tasks. There’s a man in one of the aisles pacing, grasping a towel in his hand and waving it back and forth, as if to punctuate his points. He’s knocking stuff off shelves. I approach him with caution. His conversation makes no sense to me, since I’m only hearing half of it. I first pick up the towels off the floor, folding them and placing them neatly in their spots, hoping he’ll get the hint. He doesn’t. He doesn’t notice me. But now I’m clued in that he’s in very deep trouble, especially when he shouts, Well, what the f*** am I supposed to do NOW? AND WHAT THE F*** ARE YOU GOING TO DO!!”
Sometimes, it’s best to walk away. I contact the floor manager and security person. Let them handle it.
Not far away, two women shop for kid’s shoes. They’ve brought all of their kids with them. As I head into the main aisle, I notice it’s littered with sneakers, sandals, pumps, slippers – a wide selection of whatever we sell. The kids are happily tossing them about, trying them on and entertaining themselves while the two mothers absorb their attention elsewhere. I have no idea what they’re saying since I can’t hear them, but the last thing they’re doing is watching their kids.
A situation like this is dangerous. Unattended kids get lost and hurt. Bratty children have the potential to injure customers. We have a sizable elderly clientele who shop during the day. Imagine a senior citizen entering the shoe department, only to be whapped in the face by a stiletto heel. I approach the women who all but ignore me. I don’t even resort to politeness. Your children are a danger to our customers. You are a danger to your children. It is your responsibility to watch them. Both you and your children are creating a dangerous situation here by scattering shoes and throwing them, as well as ignoring what they’re doing. You will clear up their mess and you will attend to your children. If not, I will have to ask you to leave the store.
The women look at me as if I’m insane and continue their conversation. I repeat myself and pull my walkie out of my pocket. I alert security. She comes over, glad to help. Suddenly, it’s serous. The kids are instructed to pick up their mess and the women help. Then they leave. But it’s not without protest and barely-disguised name calling.
Two well-dressed women, obvious spouses of high-earning husbands, stroll the food aisles with a fashion accessory drop-kick dog. It’s one of those stringy-haired yippers, nosing the floor and pawing the lower shelves. I approach the women and tell them dogs aren’t allowed in the store unless it’s a service dog (those usually wear a collar or a harness indicating that). They ignore me. I repeat myself. They ignore me. This goes on for several tries until I pull out my walkie and alert someone. I do this more for the satisfaction of it because management frequently uses me as the bad cop to get say things to customers they’re not allowed to. But I’m never rude, just firm.
Finally, my presence is acknowledged by Dog Lady. She gives me a cursory sneer, scoffs at my Phipp’s badge and uniform, then announces she’s only here for a few moments. She exchanges glances with her friend. They laugh at me. Apparently, this action is meant to confirm my lower stratus in the food chain. Anyone doing retail is a loser and I’m the poster child. I repeat myself: leave. The dog’s not allowed. Once again, I’m ignored. They laugh. I guess I’m supposed to be humiliated but trust me, I don’t get paid enough for that. Suit yourself, I say, but one of you has to leave with the dog.
Are these people in league with the Women of the Diaper Droppers? Is this some kind of plot to desanitize retail operations?
Finally, security and a manager show up, repeating my words. The women laugh at them, too. But our new security guy is firm. I love him; we’re friends. He blocks their path. Says I’ve given them multiple warnings and now they’re going to be escorted from the store. They ask to speak to the store manager. He’s standing next to the security person. He repeats what I’ve said. Somehow, the women get the message, but pick up bananas or something and state they’re only here for a few minutes and don’t understand what the big deal is.
It’s Saturday night. I happen to pass by the children’s furnishings. An impromptu ice cream party broke out. Six college-age kids pulled out sling chairs, arranged them in a circle and commenced snacking on Ben & Jerry’s pints. Natch, nothing is paid for. So I say, “What? The movie let out and you don’t have any place to go? So you’re having ice cream here? And you haven’t paid for it yet?”
They all laugh as if I’m their friend. One girl says, “Yeah, definitely.”
“So, here’s what’s going to happen,” I say, clasping my hands. “You’re going to put this stuff back exactly the way you found it. Then you’re going to go up front and pay for everything. And you’re going to do it now. Otherwise, you’re shoplifting and I’m going to have to have you arrested. Get it?”
Within seconds, the children’s furnishings department is restored to military-grade neatness. The party kids head towards the registers immediately after, digging cash out of their pockets and pay for their half-eaten, somewhat melted ice cream. And leave.
Fortunately, a short time later, so do I.