Thursday, July 19, 2012

the fashion heist

I don't know what triggered the memory since it has no significance to anything even marginally interesting, but this afternoon I was reminded of something that happened at my first real job. The summer after my sixteenth birthday I'd been hired as a part-time sales clerk at a large department store in Toronto. Back then this was a big deal for me as it meant I wouldn't be spending another July and August changing diapers, breaking up fights between toddlers, or slinging ice cream cones. To say I was delighted to have a job where I could wear nice clothes would have been putting it mildly. I was a shallow teenager.

The store was one of those giant places that took up a full block - the upscale ladies dress department where I worked was on the third of seven floors. Besides me, there were half a dozen other girls, all of us charged with the duties of encouraging customers to try on clothes and provide sufficient flattery to make them want to buy. Sometimes we rang up the sales ourselves but more often than not, when a purchase seemed imminent, one or more of the ladies of the senior sales staff would swoop in from nowhere and lead the bemused customer away. We didn't blame them because they worked on commission but we did call them the sharks behind their backs. In fact when we gathered at lunch or after work the double-crossing behavior among the well dressed, perfectly coiffed and bejeweled sharks gave us much to laugh about.

One afternoon a pair of young women arrived in the department and began the usual process of choosing clothes from the racks. Since I was closest to them, I carried the dresses, skirts, blouses, jackets, etc. into the dressing room where I hung them on the provided hooks and told them I'd be nearby if they needed different sizes. Over the course of the next hour I ferried in many more clothes, a great pile of clothes, while my friends went off to our favorite lunch spot without me. Eventually, the two women said they didn't need any more help.

Imagine my surprise a short while later when my two customers waddled out of the dressing room looking as though they'd each gained 100 pounds, only to tell me in passing they weren't interested in buying anything that day. I smiled as I said, 'Thank you and please come again'. Then I strolled back into the dressing room and peeked inside just long enough to see that every single hanger was empty and there wasn't a shred of clothing anywhere.

I thought about carrying all that stuff.
I thought about missing the fun we always had at lunch.
I thought about those two women treating me like an idiot.
I picked up the phone and told Security to meet them at the door.


Rob-bear said...

Oh, the joys of having a "real job."

You did an amazing bit of handling yourself well, and calling security.

Sounds like you were working for Eaton's. Or Simpson-Sears. Lord, talk about ancient history!

marja-leena said...

Fantastic story! I too thought of Eaton's or Simpsons-Sears. I hope they gave you a bonus, raise or promotion for your quick action.

linda said...

having a "real" job just ain't what it's cracked up to be according to my distant memories of much the same thing. women's wear of some department store ... i hope you got something out of that since you missed all the fun.

and i adore the two fat women you've drawn... they really brought a grin and i think i saw the end before i read it. of course i saw those hangers in every conceivable place too so...:) i do wonder how much longer you lasted at this job betting not long!!

Randal Graves said...

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for 100 lbs of clothing today.

jams o donnell said...

I would lke to have seen the loo on their faces at the door. THey must have thought they had fooled the young assistant!

susan said...

'Real jobs' are never as interesting as they're advertised to be.

It was the Robert Simpson Co. - very ancient history :-)

susan said...

I still think it's a silly story but thanks for saying you enjoyed it. I'm certain no reward came from my action other than a tale for my friends.

susan said...

That was the one and only time I ever worked in retail sales. I provided amusement for the girls later.

Scratch pad art can be fun too :-)

susan said...

That was about the size of it.

susan said...

I enjoyed imagining the looks on their faces.

TheCunningRunt said...

Good for you! It's one thing to be nice, and another to be taken for a fool, which you obviously weren't.

Service jobs like this aren't easy, and ought to be remunerated more generously. You saved your employer a LOT of money by paying attention.

susan said...

Absolutely. They mistook courtesy for brainlessness.

Lisa Golden said...

I laughed out loud at this. The nerve of them.

Thieves amaze me with their bold behavior. Once I stood open-mouthed, completely stunned as one man backed a car up to the glass double doors of the Sears where I worked. Another man got out, ran to the door, opened it, dashed to the nearest rack of coats (the ones NOT chained to the rack), grabbed an armload, ran back to the door using his hip to push it open, stuffed the coats into the trunk and jumped back into the car.

As they drove off, I regained my wits and called security. Thankfullly, they watched the incident on the security tape and told me that I did the right thing. I wasn't to confront the thief or try to stop him.

As if I had the wherewithall to do that.

Lydia said...

Same as Lisa, I laughed out loud. I love your stories and drawings and how they make me chuckle with sheer enjoyment. This memory is such a great one. The drawings for this story are perfect. What a sharpy you were to confirm the empty dressing room and then to call Security. I hope they were busted big time and I hope you were rewarded with, at the very least, sincere praise.

Your post is very timely for me, as the Nordstrom sale is on and I have some Rewards certificates to shop with, in addition to $45 in gift cards from my orthodontist's office (we were given chips each visit for arriving on time, having clean teeth, being good boys and girls...and the chips were cashed in the final day--yippee!). I will use caution in selecting something not faddish and that I will appreciate as much in two years as this year, and I will not fall for false flattery that might alter my good judgement. If my judgement in shopping could ever be called good. Wish you were here so we could get this over with together!

susan said...

That's a great story too. Thieves as bold and determined as that are best not messed with. Goodness knows, they might have got the idea of taking you along with them - although I can just imagine the scolding they would have got along the way.

susan said...

It was a bizarre incident but I was already old enough to have seen worse examples of misbehavior.

Ah yes, the Nordstrom's half yearly sale that I wish I could attend with you. The last time I was there I fell in love with a Burberry raincoat I couldn't convince myself to buy even at a discount. Now I wish I had because I haven't found another I like as much AND it does rain here too. It's hard to shop without a friend.

Gina Duarte said...

That's funny! I would rather buy six items from a catalog and send what I don't like back, than to visit a shopping mall and the boutique stuff is often overpriced.

Instead of a cosmetics counter in a large department store, I've always thought it would be nice to sit at a beautiful bar for cocktails. I think they would sell more that way!

I love the sketches, especially the last one with all the hangers on the floor and you peering down at the floor. Priceless!

susan said...

I feel the same way. I am going to have to make a trip to LLBean though because even though they do free delivery here the tax and duties raise the prices more than 30%.

Hah! If they served free cocktails I'm sure they'd see a lot more cosmetics.

That one was my favorite too :-)

Spadoman said...

Might this experience have something to do with you shedding your frocks and modeling nude a short time later? Just wondering.
Lovely story and drawings dear friend, so was the "other" one.


susan said...

Well, I definitely made more money as an artist's model :-)