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.