Friday, September 26, 2008

Going to Hell in a Dozen Handbags

I don't understand women.

Check that. NO men understand women.

Well, maybe Hugh Hefner, but that's a different story. (How the devil does that fossil have that many hot young women crawling around his bed? Wait... they're plastic, so it doesn't count.... But I digress.)

One young man at my store today started getting his education on women's OTHER side... And it ain't the sexy one.

An older lady and what was obviously her son came to the store today and were shopping around. They made their selections and placed them on my counter. As I started ringing the purchase, the mother went over and started checking out the handbags. That's when the fun began.

"You don't need another purse!" the young man said.

His mother's jaw hit the floor. I don't know if she was in shock that he would talk to her in public that way, or that he committed the sacrilege of telling a woman she doesn't need another handbag.

"What do you mean?" she replied.

"You already have 13 of 'em" he complained.

She grabbed the one she was looking at and put it with her purchase.

At this point, I had to get involved.

"Can I ask you a personal question?" I inquired.


"How old are you?" I asked, smiling and knowing he couldn't be more than half my age.

"17. Why?" he asked.

"You will learn!" I replied.

His mother started laughing.

"Learn what?"

"That women never have too many handbags or shoes. Trust me. Just accept this fact now and your life will be a lot easier, specially when you get serious with someone someday. Just accept the fact that the closet is for her, and it gets a LOT easier!"

His mother just grinned.

Monday, September 22, 2008


People are the best part of retail, as well as the worst. Sometimes, they are both at the same time.

I received an email from a friend and former co-worker of mine back in Kansas City today. This friend is in a serious quandary with a job she loves, and it's messing with me being 1800 miles away and not able to help.

SR started in my department just after I got my first promotion into "legitimate" management over 10 years ago. She was one of my first hires, and one of the first people for me to interview. Guess I did all right, as she is still working there and loving it.

SR has always had a very twisted and fun sense of humor. She literally could find the humor in any situation, and knew just when to make everyone laugh. Even better, she knew when not to do that as well, and when to be the supportive friend, to hell with ranks and such at work.

When I left KC, she and I traded contact information, and through the years have maintained contact. When I go back to KC and visit friends, she is one I go out of my way to see. One trip, she and I piled into her car and drove to St. Louis for a day. It was a highlight of that trip. I can also remember her throwing a surprise party for me at my favorite bar (Johnny's Tavern in Overland Park, KS) when I flew out one time, though I don't recall leaving that party, and I deny all her stories about said exit...

Today I got an email from her asking about a touchy situation at work. She has had some health issues, and it appears that the DM has taken away one of the key accommodations that allows her to continue her job. The reason, she told me, was that it was aesthetically unappealing. She was understandably upset when she went to her boss and was told to deal with it (though that boss did use much more polite language than that!).

SR wanted to know what she should do. Yes, I would like your input.

What was cool about this was that SR is still seeking me out for advice, even 10 years after I stopped being her boss.

I know her manager. In fact, I was very surprised to find that the manager she is talking about is the very same one I was an assistant to when I worked in that same store! And it's even more shocking to me that this same manager is taking such a hard line on this, since I knew her to be a very fair person.

Retail Drama. Gotta love it.

My advice to SR was to have her sit down off the sales floor with her boss and talk. Explain why this decision is such a problem to her, and seek pro-active solutions. Maybe they can come to an understanding and therefore a reasonable solution that makes everyone happy and healthy. Maybe they could try a couple of solutions to see if something is possible without just saying NO.

Here's hoping that I helped for once.

Things like this are the best part of retail to me. I made a positive impact on SR, and she never lets me forget it (or the birthday party I had at Johnny's that one time...). And what's more, she still trusts my judgement after all this time knowing me. Wow.

I can honestly say that I still maintain contact with at least one person from every retail job I have had, save one (at Ames, in Woodbridge, VA, when I was in high school). Some still come to me for advice, or just a different perspective on something (Like, what in the hell is management thinking? Make this make sense to me!). Sometimes, it's just to rant. Others, it's because we just bonded well as a team and made good friends. Sometimes, I just follow up on them because that's what I do. It's a people business, but you can't forget the people making it happen.

I hope that SR comes to a positive solution. I would hate to see her leave a job she loves over something stupid, ten years after she learned to love that job.

Besides, if she's still there ten years after I hired her, I got her into this mess. I don't want to be held responsible!