Oh, retail. If you’ve never had a job where your objective it to straighten, re-straighten, fold, put item in its rightful place, straighten, direct customers, or perform cashier tasks for the masses, then you don’t know what you’re missing.
There’s the baby who accidentally spits up on a $40 shirt. The child who runs throughout the racks destroying as much as he can. The child who takes a nasty fall (post-destruction) that you have to pretend to be sorry for. There’s the older woman who finds the tiniest snag in a sweater, probably made by herself in the confines of the dressing room. The woman who swears your color-blind because you cannot see the slight discoloring she deserves 20% off for. There’s the people who hand you $100’s on $1.75, and the ones who give you bad checks, declined credit cards, and five dollars worth in nickles, dimes, and pennies. You see it all.
Almost every single one of my part-time jobs have been in retail. I often ask myself why I’m such a masochist. For the better part of two and a half years I worked at Plato’s Closet in Roswell, possibly the closest thing to a hell-mouth. Plato’s Closet is a “gently” used clothing store that will buy your slightly worn teen, young adult, guys and girl clothing. We give you cash (if it’s under $50) on the spot for your stuff and all our merchandise is sold at 75% off the original price–whether you wore it seven times 2 years ago, or it still has it’s tags. Great idea, huh? Yeah. Well offering upfront cash for already used goods brings around some of the worst examples of humanity….
Gently used, NOT Goodwill
The most frequent sellers are druggies. You can always tell because they look fresh out of a dark basement, opium den, trailer, or their car that functions as a home. These people never have anything Plato’s would actually buy–burn marks, holes, stains, etc–but it doesn’t stop them from arguing that their stuff looks better than the rest of the crap we have hanging up for sale. They usually try throwing offers around, too, like “If you give me $3, I’ll let you keep the whole bag,” or “This is a designer blouse and I’ll take it to (insert fake name here) at the other Plato’s because she always loves my stuff.” It usually ends in anger, yelling, curse words, or personal attacks–and one time a girl kicked over a three mannequins on her way out the door.
Then there are the people who are just poor and/or hurting for cash. On a daily basis I must have heard thirty-some-odd sob stories about gas money, rent money, food money, or child support money. It’s sad really. Sometimes you know they’re telling the truth, but most of the time you can tell they’ve recited the same story a thousand times. Maybe even to the same sales attendant. But, you can’t just give money away to anybody. Personally, I don’t care if you’ve actually got a booze habit but you tell me your kid hasn’t eaten today. I’m pretty guillible. I want to help. But I can’t put my name on the barcode of your 1983 pair of bleach-stained jeans. I just can’t.
Besides the people that sell their clothes to Plato’s (and they aren’t always poor, broken, or drug dealers), there are the people that shop there. Again, there are some exceptions, but there are a lot of generalizations that fit far too well. Despite the fact that most shirts cost under $5 anyway, people always want to make you a deal. They always want to get another dollar knocked off. People rip the tags off an item, put them on and leave their old, ratty, dirty clothing in the dressing rooms. Or they bring the tagless item to the counter hoping you’ll tell them a better price. People are crafty. They are devious. It’s unfortunate. Retail made me cynical. It made me distrusting.
One of my most horrifying realizations about certain sectors of humanity came one day when we found a pile of clothing in a fitting room that had been pissed on. The whole pile…soaking wet, because some lady was mad we wouldn’t allow her to use our private bathroom. We knew exactly who it was, too.
Bathroom “accidents” were not, unfortunately, a rare occasion. Perhaps it was our clientele, but my fellow employees and I found ourselves undertaking janitorial duties more often than we would have liked. And for $7/hour it was pretty damned hard to do it with a smile. Babies diapers came loose…kids peed in their pants.It was all in a day’s work–that and all our other hundred responsibilities of running a decently sized store overflowing with customers and goods. But that was until Angel and Angie.
One very, very memorable night a pair of regualr customer Hispanic women who worked at the Chick-fil-a down the street came into our store. They picked up far more than the designated 6 items per dressing room and snuck into a fitting room recently vacated by another shopper. I saw their two pairs of feet amongst the pile of clothing under the rooms and went to knock on their door. I told them one person per dressing room and that they had too many items, but they didn’t speak a word of English, so it was hopeless. Eventually they bought a few items and left. We all looked back at the fitting room they’d been in and could see that they made no effort to remove the clothes they hadn’t wanted, and so I shuffled angrily back there to rehang them on the “return rack.” Well clothes weren’t the only thing Angel and Angie had left behind.
On the middle of the floor in the fitting room was a pile of shit. It had not been there before. One of them, in front of the other, had chosen our floor as a bathroom. And all there was to do was clean it up.
It was appauling. Grown women. Grown adults. How could someone be so blatently disgusting? What has this world come to that humanity overtly, no longer metaphorically, shits on each other?