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Posts Tagged ‘Retailing’

Time For Fair Wages?

In behavior, business, cities, journalism, Media, news, politics, urban life on May 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm
NYC: City Hall

New York's City Hall. Image by wallyg via Flickr

I’m not a political person. I can’t vote in the U.S. where I’ve lived since 1988, nor in Canada, my country of origin.

As a career journalist, a classic news reporter, my role is to observe and listen and relate the facts, not to jump into the fray and publicly express a strong opinion, taking a stand on the record on a hot political issue.

On May 12, I finally did.

A bill called the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act has been proposed; it would require developers taking government subsidy to develop stadiums, conference centers and malls — all engines of economic development and jobs — to require tenants to pay $10/hour with health insurance, $11.50/hour without it.

That means a full-time worker would take home a munificent $20,000 or so per year — $10,000 less than has been calculated as the bare minimum in a place as costly as New York to survive, let alone thrive.

Because my new book “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” focuses on the daily reality of low-wage work in retail, I was invited to speak out, and given three minutes to read my testimony to New York’s City Council.

The place was packed!

While a huge protest milled on the streets 14 stories below, some 80 people sat for long hours in a hearing room listening to alternating panels of those for the bill and those against it.

What a revelation it was…The power struggles! The threats! The pleas! The battle of the statistics!

No better theater could be found, even on Broadway.

Three men in costly suits argued against the bill — mercilessly hogging a huge chunk of time away from the rest of us — from the Economic Development Corporation. Their dire predictions of doom were relentless: thousands of jobs would be lost; angry developers would only take their projects to — gasp! — New Jersey or elsewhere; passing the bill would mean, they kept repeating, “a Faustian bargain” in which low-skilled workers would lose jobs to higher-skilled ones.

And all those lost construction jobs! Never mind the deliberately careless mixing of jobs that are union-protected and pay well (construction) with those that are not and do not (retail, typically $7-10 hour with no benefits.)

The hearings lasted from 1:00 p.m. to the evening. I finally got my two minutes (not three) at the mike at 6:00 p.m. — a wall clock with huge red numbers ticking away every second, a noisy blast ringing out twice to signal my time was up.

I argued in favor of the bill. Retail work is one of the few remaining with no emoluments to soften it: taxi drivers, waiters, deliverymen and chambermaids do receive tips. Not associates! Few receive raises or promotions and very few are unionized.

And consider this, from the Gotham Gazette:

In New York City, there are about 34,500 households, representing about 90,000 people, in the top 1 percent. On average, these households have annual incomes of $3.7 million. At the same time, about 900,000 people in New York City — about 10.5 percent of city residents — live in deep poverty. Deep poverty is half of the federal poverty line; for a four-person family, that means an income of $10,500. An annual income of $3.7 million translates into a daily level of $10,137 — more than the average annual family income of those living in deep poverty. According to state tax data, half of the households in New York City have annual incomes below $30,000, an amount that the top 1 percent receives over the course of a holiday weekend.

If New York City were a nation, its level of income concentration would rank 15th worst among 134 countries, between Chile and Honduras. Wall Street, with its stratospheric profits and bonuses, sits within 15 miles of the Bronx — the nation’s poorest urban county.

It was an amazing experience, and an exhausting one, to hear everyone from academics to clergymen arguing for and against this plan. I felt sorry for the politicians, weary and worn out yet hanging in hour after hour trying to make sense of it all.

In Australia — I learned recently — the minimum wage is $15 hour for those under 20; $20 an hour for those older. It’s hard to imagine American legislators ever imposing such high standards. Yes, costs would rise…They already are, and workers still struggle in poverty as corporate bosses keep raking in millions in compensation.

Have you spoken out publicly in favor or or against legislation? How did that feel? What was the result?

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow (Up)?

In behavior, blogging, business, education, film, journalism, life, Media, Money, movies, work on February 10, 2011 at 3:38 am
Disc Jockey in Training

Image by Photography By Shaeree via Flickr

Did you know?

Do you know now?

Sean Aiken, a young Canadian man and recent college graduate in 2007, didn’t know what he wanted to do for a living — so he worked 52 jobs in one year to find out.

The recent premiere of the documentary about him, shown in Vancouver, Canada, where he lives, sold out. I can see why.

I love the idea of testing out 52 jobs to find the one that might fit!

Maybe because I never doubted what I wanted to do, and knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a writer. (My dreams of being a radio disc jockey were dashed after one visit to CHUM-FM, then Toronto’s number one rock station, when I realized DJs at commercial stations don’t just play their favorite music all day.)

I grew up in a family of professional communicators — all freelance — who wrote television series, directed feature films and documentaries, wrote and edited magazine articles, so it seemed perfectly normal and logical to:

1) not have a “real” job but sit around the house and negotiate with agents and work when necessary;

2) have a ton of creative ideas all the time, knowing full well that some of them would never sell or find favor;

3) fight hard for the ideas I truly believe in and find supportive partners to pay for them, because someone will always say no — but someone will also, quite possibly say Yes!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but their behavior and experiences strongly shaped my notion of what “work” means. It includes a lot of travel, whenever possible, meeting lots of new people all the time, creating your own concepts — whether articles, films, shows or books, having the self-confidence and stamina to hang in there when times (as they certainly have) get tough. (It also means living within your means because a fantastic year can easily be followed by a leaner one and you need cash in the bank and a low overhead and no debt, all good lessons to learn.)

In 2007, I took a part-time job as a retail sales associate at a mall. Eye-opener! I was 20 to 30 years older than all my co-workers and had never had a job requiring me to stand up for five or six hours at a time, let alone deal with the public in a service role.

I stayed two years and three months — and wrote a book about it: “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” is out April 14, 2011.

In it, I talk honestly about what it felt like to go from being a newspaper reporter at the U.S.’s 6th.-largest daily to wearing a plastic badge, folding T-shirts for $11/hour. I also talk to many others about what our jobs means to our identities and sense of self-worth.

What we do at work, at its best, is who we are, not just something we do to earn a living.

I recently took an amazing test designed to ferret out our work-related motivations, administered on-line. In 15 minutes, it tactfully and succinctly forces you to face your deepest values….

Why do you work? What do most want, and enjoy, from your work emotionally?

James Sale, a British executive who created this system, is offering it FREE to anyone who emails him before February 28 and says, in their subject line, “friend of Caitlin Kelly.”

Email him at

And be prepared to learn a lot, some of it perhaps even a little painful. I did. I learned a great deal about myself and suspect you will too.

The test measures nine key indicators of what truly, even unconsciously, motivates us in our work, whether you are a Director (likes to be in charge), Defender (very attached to security), Creator (yup, me), Searcher (me, too), Spirit (that was me.) You might most powerfully wish to be a Friend, A Star or a Builder.

But if your current work is not allowing you to express your deepest self, it can feel like a straitjacket, no matter how much status, income or lifestyle it provides.


Do you love your current work?

If so, why?

How did you discover this was the right fit for you?

Happy July 4th! How My Great-Grandfather Louis Brought Me To The U.S.

In History on July 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

There are families who lovingly and carefully preserve not only their memories, but all the artifacts of their ancestors. Not ours. I had seen a few photos and never got to meet either grandfather.

The very little I knew of my great grandfather, Louis M. Stumer, was a brochure for an office building in Chicago, the North American Building, in which he was an investor at the turn of the century.

With the Fourth of July coming up, and the recent renewal of my green card after 22 years of living in the U.S., I Googled him recently. I wanted to learn some more about the man, and found an eerie set of coincidences. I’m a journalist — he published two successful literary magazines, The Red Book and the Blue Book. I just finished writing a book about the retail industry and discovered that he owned or co-owned one of several prominent Chicago stores of the era.

I even found a photo of his mausoleum, the one to which my mom holds the key.

A photo of his wife, swooning in a theatrical tableau, from a 1907 image in the Chicago Daily News, may explain my occasional penchant for drama.

As I was growing up, Louis was only an initial, S, the middle of my grandmother’s monograms. The man was a total mystery. He was Jewish and Republican; I’m neither.

From a newsletter of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society:

While mail order remains Rosenthal’s chief claim to fame, he was also active in other enterprises. Together with his partners, Eckstein and Stumer, he was involved in such ventures as clothing and millinery establishments, restaurants, and drugstores. Emporium World Millinery was one of their largestventures. The partners also owned and managed real estate properties, and even had success as magazine publishers (The Red Book and The Blue Book).

(The Red Book sold a fairly astonishing 338,5000 copies in 1906 — according to a piece about Chicago publishing I found in the American Journal of Sociology from 1906. Much to Easterners’ annoyance, these upstart Midwestern publishers gave New Yorkers a run for their money.)

The real estate group built on and owned by the Chicago Board of Education, on 99-year leases dating from 1890. The flagship property was the North American Building at 36-44 South State Street, a 19-story office building with many tenants, most of them wholesalers. Benjamin Rosenthal’s office was located in this building. The seven-story Emporium Building at 26-28 South State was occupied for many years by the Miller-Wohl Company, retailers of ladies’ ready-to-wear. The Mercantile Building at 10-14 South State was leased by the S.S. Kresge Company for its own use.

I wish I could have met him. He was clearly a driven, shrewd businessman, and learning these details helps better explain why my maternal grandmother was such a grande dame.

Born and raised in Canada, I always found my American relatives — and their astonishing self-confidence (Canadians hate that!)  — intriguing. I always wondered who they were and what shaped them and how they affected, or didn’t, their own communities of the era.

My new green card arrived this week. It is now really green, with a Statue of Liberty and my photo, this time not in color but sort of a ghostly black and white. My signature is on it below my photo, and my birth date floats above my head in an odd, receding wave. It’s also got my thumb-print. It’s good for another ten years.

Thanks to Louis’s grand-daughter, my mother, who passed on her American citizenship to me to acquire the green card, I get to live in the U.S. — and celebrate the 4th. in his country.

What have you learned about your grand or great-grandparents that took you by surprise?

Hey, Rich Kids! Work Retail, Learn The Value Of A Dollar. Not.

In behavior, business, parenting on May 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm
A Range Rover car is pictured in central Londo...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

This is the sort of story that makes me want to throw a chair. From today’s New York Times:

Steven D. Hayworth, chief executive of Gibraltar Private Bank and Trust, is thrilled that his daughter will be working this summer at a women’s clothing store before heading to college in the fall. It is not the particular job that pleases Mr. Hayworth. Rather, he is hoping his daughter will make the connection between how much she earns each day and what that will buy.

“As a parent who has worked his whole life and has had a little bit of success in my career, one of the huge life lessons I learned early on is the value of a dollar,” said Mr. Hayworth, whose bank is based in Coral Gables, Fla. “Particularly for children of upper-middle-class and affluent families, there’s no perspective on value. When the new Range Rover pulls into the driveway, there’s no concept of how many hours of hard work went into owning that vehicle.”]

Unlike many collegebound children today, Mr. Hayworth’s daughter would have had no worries if she had not been able to find a job. She could have spent the summer by the pool knowing her parents had the money to put her through college.

I’m finishing my book this month, a memoir of working retail in a national chain of stores for two years and three months, part-time, for $11/hour. However much little Miss Hayworth learns from slumming it for a while on the sales floor, I doubt she’s going to learn “the value of a dollar” from crossing over to the dark side of the cash wrap

She doesn’t need the money. She’s taking work away from someone — maybe one of the millions of workers over 40 or 50 or 55 who can’t even get a job interview in their field or industry, even with decades of experience — who does.

Yeah, a little rich kid showing up to please Daddy is going to fit in just great with a group of co-workers who know the value of a dollar because they count every single one they earn. They may have many kids or be single moms or be putting themselves through college or, as were three of my colleagues, be working retail despite a prior criminal record, making it really tough to get any job.

Rich kids think work is sorta cute. Something to do before they head off the Hamptons for the weekend or start Harvard med school or head off on Mummy’s yacht.

A Range Rover costs $78,425 to $94,275. At a median national retail wage of about $8, she’d be working full-time for five years if she didn’t, like people who really need her job, have pesky stuff like rent, food, car  payments, insurance or student debt.

In the world of investment banking, $78,425 is pocket money.

You want to teach kids what a Prada/Range Rover/pair of Manolos really costs? Send ‘em far away from home, so they’re paying the real cost of housing and commuting to that job. Make sure it’s the only job they can get. Make ‘em stay in it for a full year, including the holidays.

They’ll still have no idea — because they’ll be too tired to shop and too intimidated to go into a store full of expensive shit they can’t afford. Many of our customers drove Range Rovers. They were some of the most spoiled, nasty, entitled people you could imagine.

I worked retail with two kids, both in their early 20s, one of whom stayed barely  three months who was clearly from a well-off family. Not an unpleasant guy, but his sole raison ‘detre was scooping up as much of our product at the healthy employee discount as possible. The money, as anyone working retail knows, is low and the work both physically and emotionally grueling.

Playing poor is an insult to those who really are. Playing poor is no joke to those earning poverty-level wages selling overpriced crap to the rich.

She won’t last a month — because she won’t have to.

Five (Fun) Ways To Save Money

In Money on May 12, 2010 at 10:53 am
Photo of a RBC Visa taken under a UV light to ...

Image via Wikipedia

We recently cleared out our storage locker — and cashed in $350 for 16 boxes of books we’d been paying a fortune to store. Score!

As someone whose income fell by 50 percent after losing my newspaper job four years ago — and still working in a struggling industry — I’ve gotten better at shaving costs to the bone. Turns out I’m not alone.

Today’s New York Post reports that nearly half of young women, 18 to 39, are saving and investing more than they did a year ago. More than 60 percent are also planning to reduce their debt within six months. The study interviewed 2,002 women.

Compared to guys, women, regardless of age group, are more conservative about future spending. Women — 72 percent — are more likely than men — 65 percent — to say if they come into extra dough, they would save it or put it toward bills, the survey found….

But young women feel they have to be more self-reliant in these dire economic times, said financial planner Eleanore Szymanski.

“They used to be planning for immediate things and retirement is far away for them, but this recent downturn has been a good wakeup call. They are scared they are not going to be taken care of,” said Szymanski of EKS Associates in Princeton, NJ.

Szymanski said she’s seen a 50 percent increase in young women attending her financial planning classes.

“I have seen more college people in this class than ever before. It’s a general feeling, ‘It’s up to me, I am going to take care of myself in this recession,’ ” she told The Post.

1) Barter. Not everyone will go for it, but you never know until you ask. Maybe you’re a great cook and can teach a new grad in return for tech skills or — as I have — trade writing/editing skills with my massage therapist.

2) Ask for price breaks when possible. Don’t be a nasty jerk about it — “So, what can you do for me?” —  as many are now demanding at major retail outlets. But there are times and places there is some wiggle room. I finally bit the bullet and asked my local YMCA if they had reduced fee for their services. I had to show my tax return, which made me cringe, but it allowed me to stay healthy and not break the bank. When I needed major dental work, I paid my dentist every month (on time), without interest.

3) Review every credit card’s APR and ask for a lower rate. Ideally, you should have only one, maybe two, and, ideally, pay off the balance every month in full. American Express has been my card of choice for decades but last year jacked my rate from 9.9% fixed to 15% variable. I recently got that rate down by 1 percent — because I asked. (An excellent FICO score is your leverage.)

4) Consignment shops. It gets really boring never buying anything fun or stylish. Seriously. It doesn’t have to be brand-new, just new to you; if a fab pair of shoes or a jacket is $20 or $40 — not two or three times that — a splurge is manageable. I have several secret sources where I’ve scored triple-ply Neiman-Marcus cashmere and never-worn Prada and Sigerson-Morrison sandals for $60. My wardrobe contains Clergerie and Ferragamo shoes, but I didn’t cough up the $400+ per pair at retail. Decide you don’t love it? Sell it to another consignment shop.

5) Eat (and entertain) at home. Zzzzzzz. Not if you know how to cook and have a basic batterie de cuisine: a few sharp knives (and sharpener), colander, saute pan. You can borrow cookbooks from the library or download recipes off the Internet. We eat so well at home, thanks to our culinary skills, it takes a lot to woo us away from our own kitchen and dining table. We use linen or cotton napkins (cheaper and prettier than nasty paper and they last for many years), and light candles and play music and enjoy conversation. I collect pretty tableware on sale and at flea markets and antique shows, so setting a lovely table is easy and fun.

Any tips you can share?

Shop On (Size 16) Sister! British Retailer Debenhams Puts Larger Mannequins Right Where They Belong — In Their Windows

In business, women on February 22, 2010 at 11:20 am
Debenhams

Image by zoonabar via Flickr

Curvy women, get out your wallets! An upscale British retailer, Debenhams, has decided to put size 16 mannequins in its windows – instead of the usual size 10 — acknowledging the reality that, as in the U.S., the average woman shopper is a size 14 or 16.

If I lived in the U.K., I’d vote with my legs and my pocketbook and head straight to Debenhams to thank them for their intelligence. I was furious to discover the other day, (having driven to the mall and already paid, as it demands, to park there), that women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor no longer stocks anything larger than a size 12 in their stores.

J. Crew. has been doing that for years, relegating the pooch-y crowd, no matter the size of their pocketbooks, to their limited catalogs and on-line options. Ann Taylor was — like Talbots — one of the few national chains who get the basic fact that women of all sizes want and need well-made clothing made of lovely, elegant fabrics like wool, silk and linen, not just disposable junior-style nylon crap from H & M.

Just because a woman is bigger than designers or retailers want — and maybe she wants — doesn’t mean she can spend her time in sweats. Retailers who sell lovely clothing to women over a size 12 earn repeat sales, no matter if the woman remains a 14 or 16, or slims down to a more “acceptable” 12, 10 or 8. “In the meantime”, for those trying to lose weight, should not add the punition of finding few attractive choices for the lives women lead right now, not six or 12 or 18 months later after they’ve gotten thin(ner.)

The two Ann Taylor skirts I liked in the store were $90 each, for simple gray or black wool. Add to the insult of being shoved to the retail margins a price-point out of reach for many women in this recession and Ann Taylor’s CEO really needs to re-think this misguided decision.

All women need elegant, flattering clothes that fit — not only when they are a size that stores find flattering to their “brand image.” Women with big(ger) bums also contribute to your bottom line.

Looking For A Flat-Screen, Shampoo Or Deodorant? Try The Guy Aisle

In business, men on February 3, 2010 at 6:00 pm
CINCINNATI - JULY 15:  (FILE PHOTO) Procter & ...

P & G headquarters. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Now it’s easier to find what you need in several branches of the Texas store, H E B:

Hector Sorola has a list of groceries to get. First, he’s out of deodorant. A new Old Spice product that promises to be streak-free catches his eye.

As do the boxing match on the flat-screen TVs and the blue floor lighting that stretches along both sides of Aisle 13, a man cave filled with toiletries — and more — for the guy who equates being well groomed with confidence and success.

The new Men’s Zone at the H-E-B in Schertz contains 534 products, many touted to de-stress skin, anti-puff eyes, repair wrinkles, soothe scalps and keep guys smelling citrusy-fresh all day.

Many men, shopping baskets in hand, find what they want and leave. But others, pushing carts filled with produce, meat and paper towels, stop to talk sports while hanging out by TVs that broadcast soccer, car racing, basketball and, soon, the Winter Olympics. The only thing missing is the beer (that’s near Aisle 2) and a recliner (the Home and Garden aisle probably has something).

These men say they have the time to linger because they no longer need to search for their pretty-boy munitions among the arsenal of women’s roll-ons, speed sticks, moisturizers, hair sprays and shavers, which are spread across multiple lanes.

It’s no secret the male grooming ritual has undergone a radical transformation, especially among aging boomers and younger men. They support an industry that generates $4 billion annually in the U.S. and $43 billion globally. The latter has averaged an annual growth rate of 8 percent during the past five years, estimates consumer-goods maker Procter & Gamble.

H-E-B also has Men’s Zones in Boerne and San Antonio. The concept was pitched to the supermarket chain last year as the first of its kind, said Anne Westbrook, a P&G spokeswoman in Cincinnati, where the idea was developed.

“Men are likely to purchase a product if they see how it works and if it is prominent with messages such as here’s stuff for your morning routine, your afternoon routine and your going-out routine,” Westbrook said. “Guys like a little bit of direction.” (Five small-touch screens with grooming tips and product advice are positioned at eye-level throughout the aisle.)

P&G chose the San Antonio area to debut the concept because of its large Latino population, which spends more money on general grooming than other groups, said Lisa Harbert, of the company’s local office.

Harbert says since last month’s Men’s Zone debut in Schertz, overall sales have increased by 11 percent. Body-wash sales grew by 37 percent.

The Other Side Of The Register — Spare A Prayer For Those Working Retail

In business on December 19, 2009 at 10:03 am
Pedestrians walk past a store with a holiday-t...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

With only six days left for anyone planning to offer Christmas gifts, the push — literally — is on. Stores are jammed, shelves are empty just when you wanted X in size Y, line-ups to pay are long. Customers tap their toes, click their credit cards on the counter, curse and sigh at the ineptitude of those they expect to help them. One woman, I heard this week, decided to toss a full, heavy box of shoes at someone behind the counter whose behavior annoyed her.

That’s assault, but the company — who I will name in my book — didn’t even call the police. Don’t be that person!

No matter how frustrated or tired you get, please don’t take it out on the people whose job it is to help you. As I told one furious female shopper last night,  as I worked my final night at a store in a suburban mall: “The store right now has two people to help you. I assure you they are doing the best that they can.” She harrumphed and clearly didn’t care.

It wasn’t even my place to say so, as I was not the manager, which she mistook me for. But the store was a vision of hell: dozens of shoppers facing, in New York today, a blizzard predicted to drop up to six inches of snow downstate. They were all desperate to buy gifts or warm clothes, gloves and shoes. And it was the leanest staff possible. I left at 8:00 p.m. as planned and the manager, not there last night, had budgeted for.

Today’s New York Times offers a shopping story, with the same limited perspective I’d have brought to it before I switched to the other side of the register, as a part-time sales associate for more than two years. The reporter caught every detail — but one. That of the exhausted and overwhelmed associates working there. Yesterday, fighting a bad cold, I stood ringing people up in an unbroken stream of commerce, for hours. It may be utterly inconvenient, but associates also get dehydrated and/or need to use the bathroom, none of which is possible under those circumstances.

I quit my job yesterday, with notice, and as planned. Last year I worked through Christmas Eve. Anyone who’s ever worked retail in the holidays gets it.

Smile, say thanks, wish them a happy holiday. They are doing their best.

The Hell Of Holiday Shopping: A Few Last-Minute Tips

In business on December 15, 2009 at 9:10 am
Drawing of a self-service store.

The associates have fled in fear...Image via Wikipedia

If you’re still holiday shopping, you’re almost out of time. Working retail offers a front-row seat to the annual insanity of people trying desperately to buy things for people they apparently don’t know.

Yesterday a man in his 60s came in. “I need a gift for my daughter,” he growled. Happy holidays to you, too.

I wheedled and cajoled and finally got enough details from him to show him about half a dozen items that might gladden the heart of a 17-year-old. No retail associate has the time or energy right now to do this a dozen times a day. Here is why he is sadly typical:

1) He had no idea of her size. 2) He had no idea of her taste 3) He had not asked what she might like 3) She had not told him what she might like 4) She was spoiled and fussy enough her father was too intimidated to just buy her something, trusting she’d appreciate his love, attention and thoughtfulness; at least he didn’t hand her a gift card 5) He threw his frustration and bad temper at me to solve.

Don’t be this guy.

Tips:

1) If you have no idea what size your wife/kids/husband/partner is — look in their closets and drawers! How hard is that? Or, just ask them. I found out my partner’s neck size is larger than I thought, so I could order his shirt in time.

2) Take a good look around your home: garage, kitchen, terrace, back yard. If you’re totally out of ideas, these might inspire you to refresh or replace weathered, broken or out-of-date items.

3) Give gifts of your time and talents: babysitting, dog-walking, tutoring, knitting, cooking, home repairs, snow shoveling. The best gifts are about love and attention to someone’s needs, not just their material cravings.

4) If you ask a retail associate for help, be nice! Yes, it’s their job to know their stock, but demanding “Would he like this?” when you have no idea of the recipient’s size, age or tastes is absurd.

5) Stores run out of things. Do not snap at the associates if this happens because it is management’s decisions that have created this siutation — and, just because the associates are standing before you and physically available to take the brunt of  your rage, it is not their fault. We ran out of gift boxes yesterday morning for a few hours and women in their 50s stood there, paralyzed with disappointment and disbelief, for many long minutes, sighing and moaning “What will I do without a box?” Get a grip.

6) Call ahead. Our phones are ringing off the hook as people ask for specific sizes, colors and items that we place on hold for them. This saves everyone time, energy and frustration.

I'm Working Retail Black Friday — Here's Some Shopping Tips

In business on November 24, 2009 at 7:52 am
Facade of Shoppers' Center The Gateway

Image via Wikipedia

Last year, a stampede of crazy people killed a sales associate working on Long Island on Black Friday. This year, fractured foot and all, I’ll be safely stashed behind a heavy, fixed metal sales counter working the register at The North Face, in a fancy White Plains mall called The Westchester. Come say hi!

If you’re heading out this week on a mission, a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pre-shop on-line or using our catalogue first, if possible, to determine the name, size, color and prices on items you want to find fast within a busy and crowded bricks-and-mortar store. If you wander in, as many do, asking for “that jacket, the one with the belt”, we  can’t do much for you. The more detail you can offer, the more quickly and easily we can help.

2. Build in plenty of extra time for finding a parking spot and/or standing in line to pay. Please don’t roll your eyes or sigh or curse or threaten to call corporate if things don’t run perfectly smoothly. We’re dancing as fast as we can.

3. Please, please, please bundle your requests: if you want to see something in black, brown and blue, or two different sizes, ask us once. We’d rather bring them all at once than run and schlep to the stockroom over and over. It’s only once for you, but it’s dozens of times in our long day.

4. Don’t throw tantrums over items we don’t have, whether gift boxes or a certain object you crave. Almost every retailer this year is hedging their bets with much smaller, tighter inventories.

5. Eat, drink, pee. Bring water, energy bars, aspirin, Pepto-Bismol — whatever it takes to keep you relaxed and comfortable. Stay hydrated. Take breaks and sit down. It will significantly improve your stamina and your mood. Ditto for anyone shopping with you.

6. Don’t freak out or take it personally if we’re watching you more closely. Shoplifters love Black Friday and holiday shopping — lots of crowds and, ideally for them, distracted associates. We have to keep a close eye on everyone. It’s our job.

7. Say thank you and please to the people trying to help you. Really. We know you don’t have to, but it makes the day a lot easier and so much more pleasant for everyone.

8. If at all possible, leave the kids at home, especially smaller ones who get bored, noisy and run all over the store, worrying us, if not you.

9. The store is actually not a garbage can. It’s not like going to the movies, no matter how entertaining — so do not dump your half-eaten pretzels and cookies on the floor or your loose-lidded soda cups filled with sticky fluids high on a shelf where someone is going to knock it all over the clothing/items.

10. If you are truly getting nowhere with an associate ask, nicely, to speak to the manager. Don’t abuse the help. In most instances, no matter how bad it can get, many of us are really trying our best to help you.

11. Get off your cellphone/Blackberry while we’re cashing you out or speaking to you. It’s rude, slows everyone down and makes it difficult for us to communicate with you in order to accurately and quickly fill your needs.

12. Have fun! Shopping can indeed be an exhausting and overwhelming ordeal. Remember it’s a great blessing if you still have the health, strength, mobility and income to even head into a store these days.

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