Pretty is as pretty does

For a variety of reasons and as an experiment of sorts, I recently took a very part time retail job for the holidays. For the most part it has been interesting, helpful, and illuminating. This weekend was Black Friday, and even though the store where I work is at the “good mall” so it’s not a madhouse (Saks and Tiffany’s don’t run door buster sales at 4am, go figure) I did work more this weekend than I normally do.  As I was in the store for so long I had occasion to make a few observations, which I offer to you here for your edification and amusement and to satisfy those who have privately told me they are tired of me only blogging book reviews.  Ahem.

1) Some people are very nice. Actually, I would say most shoppers are very kind.  Lots of people let me help them pick out gifts and outfits and thank me profusely for my advice.  One lady congratulated me for being “just so pretty, and such a doll” and told me I was “obviously going places in life.”  It doesn’t take much to smile and thank the people working in stores where you shop, and it makes a big difference.

2) Some people are really not nice at all. This weekend when I told a lady we were out of the size 8 black pants she wanted, she acted like the shortage was the direct result of a flaw in my character.  Another lady glared at me as though it was all my fault that the store is not carrying any truly camel colored trousers this season.  Lots of people get annoyed when I have to tell them the store specials or ask them if they would like to make a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  The fact is, I do not ask these questions for my health; I have to ask because it is the policy.  Since I’m such a doll and everything (see above) I smile sympathetically and apologize for taking up their time, wishing I could trot into the back room and quickly sew up a pair of size eights while dying raw wool the perfect shade of camel.  Bless their hearts, I’m sure these ladies were just having bad days.  But working retail has made me mindful of how easy it is to misdirect frustration onto people who aren’t in authority over the situation.  Being polite can be hard after a long day, but it’s worth it.

3) Some people are pretty clueless. Since the store where I work caters to women, men often loiter about waiting for their wives/moms/girlfriends/whoever to shop.  I guess they get bored because they usually just stand around chatting to the girls who work at the store.  I’ve had several men advise me that what the store really needs is a flat screen TV and a few recliners tucked in among the high heels and cocktail dresses.  I smile and tell them that I’ll pass their suggestions along to Corporate.  Anyway, one time I even had a guy ask me out to dinner whilst he waited for his woman to try on clothes.  I wanted to say, “Sir, you’re not going to believe this, but those louvered doors are not sound-proof as they might seem, and your girl in there can hear every word you’re saying and you are sketchy to the max.”  Instead I politely declined the invitation and hastened to the far opposite corner of the store and refolded some cashmere until they were gone.  Sheesh.

4) “Santa Baby” is the world’s most annoying Christmas song. The store plays a mix of Christmas and non-holiday songs and it’s streamed rather than being a static playlist, which is a blessing of variety and dilution.  Back in high school I worked at a store that had one continuous loop of 10 Christmas songs playing from October through January.  One of them was “Santa Baby.”  Sadly, the store where I’m working now also has this song in the mix.  It takes everything I’ve got to avoid having a seizure when I hear that pouty, flouncy, whiny voice, “Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing – a ring (I don’t mean on the phone), so huuuuuuuurrrrrrry down the chimney toooooniiiiiight.”  Gag me with a spoon.  That said, I think the runner up for most annoying Christmas song is “Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus?  I hope he won’t forget to clack his castinet! On Pancho!  On Vixen!  On Pedro!  On Blitzen!  Ole!  Cha cha cha!”  Whoo boy, has it ever been a weekend.

However you spent your Thanksgiving weekend I hope it was fun and a good time for reflection on your many blessings, whether or not those blessings included streamed retail music playlists or being told you are a doll.  In any case, if you find yourself in the malls this month, please be nice!  🙂

16 thoughts on “Pretty is as pretty does

      1. April, I am working one evening and 1-2 short shifts on weekends per week, when my husband is home with the kids. Since taking care of little ones is a full time job (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, nearly 5 years…) and I’ve never been in the financial situation to have a babysitter or helper I’m actually quite enjoying the little breaks in my week. I’ll write more on this topic later.

  1. I don’t feel bad for wanting more of your non-book-review posts–this was worth the wait! And I guess my punishment for complaining is that I will have “Santa Baby” stuck in my head for the remainder of the day.

  2. Great commentary! I look forward to more hilariousness….the man asking you out took the cake! Can’t say I’ve ever heard the song sung half in Spanish, not that I think I am missing out.

  3. Well I love your book reviews so no complaints from me no matter how many of them you post.

    I definitely agree with you on all four points. I worked as a bartender for a couple of years and had them all emphasized to me again and again. I never had a guy ask me out in earshot of his wife/girlfriend/date, but I lost count of how many would when she’d gone off to the bathroom, and often times they would also slip me their number on a cocktail napkin when her head was turned, so she still was right there. Sheesh. Really? What on earth is supposed to appeal to me about a guy like that? Invariably, they were terrible tippers as well. Go figure.

  4. It’s great to have a dose of your witty humor again!

    I heard a new low in the Christmas repetoire this weekend: a version of “Let it Snow” in which the singer thought the lyrics were “When we finally kiss good-night, how I hate going out in the SNOW / But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I’ll be WARM.”

    Let’s see: what rhymes with “warm”, something to do with winter weather, something I would hate to go out in…hmmm… nope, I’m stumped. I’ll just go with snow.

  5. I actually worked at JoAnn Fabrics over the holidays one year (I was between jobs). It wasn’t the best paying job, but I learned a whole lot about materials and projects.

    After I stopped working there I went back one day with my project binder to get some material. As I was at the cutting counter, in plain clothes with no name tag, trying to figure up how much I needed, a customer very impatiently asked me “Excuse me, but where do I find XX?” Apparently they thought I worked there and were annoyed because there was no one up front to help them. I pointed them where they needed to go, with a smile, and chuckled to myself the rest of the day. Oh, the joys of retail.

  6. Hilarious, Catherine! I don’t mind the book reviews, but I really enjoyed this as well! I’m sorry (again) that we haven’t gotten together, but things have been busy since Esther arrived. Hopefully after the holidays?

  7. I’ll agree that Santa Baby is just about the worst Christmas song ever. Although that one that goes, “Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away. This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special….” has an extremely high annoyance factor as well.

    As much as you love them, isn’t it nice to have a little time away from home/kids once in a while? For me (although such breaks are few and far between, especially with a nursing baby), it’s a whole lot easier to be come home and be “happy mama” and not “grumpy mama” after say, a trip to the library, or Starbucks, all by myself.

  8. I’m SO glad “Santa Baby” was in this post! I remember you complaining about your previous holiday retail experiences years ago 🙂

  9. Catherine:
    I love the way you write, and I’ve also worked retail. So I especially enjoyed this post. Sometime, we can exchange war stories -like this one. I worked in a high-end show store. One day, a guy walked in, had me get him a pair of shoes to try on. Then, when he thought I wasn’t looking, he put his old shoes in the box, put the box back in the stacks and started to walk out of the store.

    “Sir,” I said, “Wait. You are walking out of the store with the new shoes on.” “No, I’m not. These are the ones I wore in here,” he said indignantly. “No sir, those are in the shoe box on the wall. Here, let me show you.”

    I pull the old shoes, and he looks at them and say, “Now who would do something like that? You are certainly not suggesting that I did it!”

    Good thing my boss came by just then because I was only 18 and had NO CLUE where to go from there.

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