Friday, June 29, 2007

Life in retail has its ups-and-downs. I work in a women's clothing store (which shall be called hereafter The Store, in order to protect the innocent) at the Branson Landing, an upscale outdoor shopping center on the lake. Tonight we were 40 minutes from closing and we still needed to sell $69 to meet our sales goals. It was looking iffy. Earlier, I had waited on a pastor's wife I knew from Oklahoma. She had a $175 gift card, but couldn't find anything to suit. (I wouldn't have had that problem!)

Our customers had slowed to a trickle, and I had begun my cleaning routine. At 9:30, several women came in, one found an armload of items to try on, so I put her in one fitting room while I wiped down the mirrors in the other room.

We got to visiting, and my manager who was eager to facilitate a sale, came over and joined the conversation. This went on for ten minutes, and other customers were flooding through the doors. I left my customer in the fitting room, and went to wait on other guests.

At a quarter till ten, I looked out the heavy glass doors to see a man gesturing wildly, pointing to the right of the store, and mouthing the words, "Help her!" I saw a woman in the dress department examining a sundress, and approached her, with a glance back at the jovial man at the door. He nodded and gave me a wink.

"Is there something I can help you find?" I inquired.

The woman turned to me, bright-eyed, and eager. I caught a whiff of liquor on her breath.

"This is going to be fun," I thought, as out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the man who had pointed me in her direction.

"Yeah, I'm looking for a sundress that flattering and comfortable. Since I've quit smoking, I've started gaining weight, and it's just so hot, I want something to make me look and feel good."

"Okay, let's see what we can find. Black is flattering. What do you think of this?"

She moved over to another display. "I need a 10, and you don't have one."

"Well, here's a 12," I said, pulling the dress off the rack and holding it up to check the fit. "How's that?"

"Sure, I'll try it," she agreed.

"Why don't we take this 14 as well, just in case," I added. (Had my tact utterly departed? The woman was not large. I wear a 14 in this store's sizing, but she wasn't as full-figured as I! I can't say what I was thinking!)

"No, no," she said adamantly. "If I wear a 14, I'll go out and shoot myself!!"

"Okay," I replied, "Are you ready to try this on, or would you like me to hold it while you continue to browse?"

She thought she would look for some black capris, so I led her to our display of casual capris and city shorts, and she grabbed a pair, then snatched up a couple of blouses on the way to the fitting room.

"Here you are," I said, unlocking the door, and hanging her selections inside. Her escort sat leering on the folding chair around the corner from the dressing room, a diamond stud twinkling in his ear. He reeked of cigarette smoke and alcohol, but he was still his jovial self, and winked at me again.

I left the woman to fend for herself, and went to assist another customer who had decided to buy the blouse I'd fetched from the upper level display for a price check, and afterwards returned because she didn't think she'd get it tonight.

By this time it was ten minutes until closing, and the I'll-Shoot-Myself lady had emerged from the dressing room with several selections. My manager was ringing her up. (I didn't check back with her to see if she got the size 12 dress.) Another customer whom I hadn't been able to assist in all the drama approached.

"Are you finding everything all right?" I inquired.

"Yes, oh yes! We've been here 20 mintues and I've found several things I will have to get, but we will be back tomorrow," the woman's manner was gracious, and I immediately felt at ease speaking with her.

"I have to tell you, though, I nearly died when I heard the dialogue between you and the woman about the size 14 dress!" she continued, laughing. "You were so pleasant about it, but when she said she would shoot herself, it was just too funny. It was great, I'll be back."

After a slow day in The Office, and a slow night of sales, the drama was a welcome diversion. Plus, we met and exceeded our goal for the day.

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