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I worked the floor for nine months before being promoted to assistant manager. On average, our turnover is about three months. Some people quit after a few weeks. Then there are people who hold on a little longer, just because they have to have a job. But around six months, they get fed up and quit.
On the floor you make just over minimum wage. And it's strange, because we are pretty upscale for a chain clothing store, but I know other places are paying their employees more. Most of our employees don't have health benefits. At six months and then at a year, you might get a raise, but there is a pay cap for salespeople. This is a second job for a lot of employees. Some are single moms or married with kids. We also have some college students and young singles, but there are no teen-agers. We don't work on commission, but we can get bonuses for selling store credit cards. I'm not really pushy because an extra fifty cents isn't a big deal to me. But as a manager, I have to at least look like I care.
We'll have customers who come out of the fitting room smelling like B.O. If the clothes are really bad, we put them somewhere to air out or spray them with perfume. And we have customers who will just walk around the store, picking up everything and throwing it back on the table. Yesterday I was putting something up, and this customer, moved some hangers right in front of me and something dropped to the floor. I had my hands full, and she just looked at it and walked away. She could have at least tossed it on the rack.
The most annoying thing is that everyone tries to bargain with you. They'll be like, "This isn't worth that much, do you have coupons or an extra sale?" And I'll say, "No, that's the price." If there's a hole or something, we could budge a little, but a perfectly fine piece of clothing? This generally tends to be people from another country, which makes more sense.
About once a week someone tries to return something that's obviously worn. And sometimes someone brings back something that's not worn, but it reeks of cigarette smoke just from hanging in their closet. One customer threw a sweater at an employee because she wouldn't take it back. The sweater was three years old, and they had no receipt. There were holes in it, and they weren't fashion holes.
We're supposed to greet people when they come in, but a lot of people act annoyed or they won't even respond, and you know that they heard you. You'll be like, "How's it going, can I help you find anything?" And they'll just walk past you. If I'm having a bad day, I'll hound them a little, like, "I'm sorry ma'am, did you say that you did need help or are you OK?" I mean, are you serious, are you that rude? You could just say, "Oh, I'm good." Most of those people have probably never worked retail or just a minimum-wage type job where you get treated like crap sometimes, and you don't realize that this person who is just asking if you need help isn't making that much money, and their boss is going to yell at them if they don't. It's also important that people get greeted because it helps you watch out for the merchandise. People who are going to steal stuff, they don't want to talk to you because they don't want to be noted. If people get really upset with you just for greeting them, if they acted offended, that's a big tip off.
Guys are probably the nicest customers, because they want help, especially if they don't have their girlfriend or wife with them. They'll just put on whatever you suggest. Gay guys come in, and they just want you to compliment them and to talk with you about fashion. Ladies tend to be either really needy, or they just ignore you. The needy ones want your opinion on everything, and I can't tell if it's that they have low self-esteem and just want compliments, or what. A lot of ladies think that they have a weight problem, and some of them don't at all. It's funny, it's so stereotypical. They'll be like, "My butt is so big," and you'll be like, "But you're a size zero." It's harder when someone is actually big. There are ladies that want to try on clothes that are way too small, and you don't want to insult them, but this one lady was trying on a $400 dress and she wanted me to keep zipping. It was obviously way too small, and I had to say, "I'm sorry ma'am, I don't think I'm going to be able to unzip it if I go up further." That was the nicest way I could think to say it. I didn't want to be like, oh the zipper's going to bust, you know. She wasn't that big, but we only carry up to 12, and she was probably just a 14 or 16 — just above what most of our clothes would fit.
I don't tell people things look great on them when they don't. If someone's wearing something that's too tight, I'll say, "We might be able to find something that will flatter your body a little more." And if they really look bad, like if it's a bad color or something, I'll just grab it in another color or grab something else and suggest it. I've actually had a lot of people be like, "Whoa, I can't believe you didn't just tell me you liked it because you wanted me to buy it." But if they buy it and you don't like it, they're either going to return it or just not come back. It's better to develop a relationship and gain a return customer.
Thankfully, I've never caught anyone having sex in the dressing room, but I've heard stories. Another manager caught a couple. She knew this couple had been in there too long, and they had gone in without many clothes to try on. So she knocked on the door and said, "You guys are going to need to get out of there." At least twice, small children have had bathroom accidents on the floor, and another manager had to clean it up. The second time, it was really bad, because it was in a carpeted area. And twice, the same man has asked me to watch his children while he shopped. I'm not sure, maybe he's used to people doing this in other stores. But I just said, "I'm not a babysitter, sorry."
As told to Cheree Franco.
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