Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sometimes I'm a Corporate Whore

If you are in sales, sometimes you do some weird, scandalous or just plain fucked up shit to make your sales. Here are some things that I have done to make sales happen in the past.  Not proud of most of them, but at least they can be good for a giggle :)

"Oh, uh, yeah, I also liked that movie Crossroads with Brittney Spears..."

One time I really had to pee, but they were spending $1100 on pictures... Sooo... Yeah... My sale kinda won that round...

Cleavage. Yep, just cleavage.

I was super sick, but the lady who was in the store was going to spend about $300.  I barfed in a trash can, plastered a smile on my face and spent 20 minutes finishing her transaction while trying not to throw-up again.  The second she went out the door I grabbed a plastic bag and threw up again, not realizing that she forgot her keys on the counter.  She heard me and looked over the cash wrap.  She didn't ask if I was okay, she just looked disgusted.  About a week later I got a customer service survey and she gave me all zeros.  Bitch.

Everyone buys more stuff from girls who wear pigtails on occasion. True story.

"A, B, C, D, E, F, G!  There's the smile!" I feel like an idiot when I have to sing at work to entertain small children. Once a lady made me sing the theme song to Three's Company because her one-year-old liked it. "Come and knock on our door!" 

When I first went out into the world looking for work, it was the summer that I was 15 years old.  I really was willing to work pretty much anywhere, but my mom wasn't too keen on me getting a job, so she said that I'd have to walk around and see if anyone would hire me because she wasn't going to give me a ride.  So I walked around in the heat, in the middle of summer, in the Central Valley.  (That means it was really fucking hot!)  I went to practically every shop in a four-mile radius.  But in all the excitement of looking for a job, I only remembered to bring one bottle of water, which lasted for about 30 minutes.  I remember walking in to Video City and filling out the application--and that was about it.  The next thing I know there was an EMT shining a light in my face and a very scared lady saying "Oh thank God! I thought she was... Uh... I'm glad she's awake!"  Apparently heat stroke is an equal opportunity offender and I passed out as I was walking out the door.  They called an ambulance and my mom and the police and it was a whole big thing.  Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

Then there are things that I have seen other people do to get a sale and I don't feel so bad :)

"Hey go clean the windows!  Yes, now!"  As they see a customer walking to my register with a giant pile of merchandise.

Hardcore whale tail!  (And if you are unfamiliar with this term it is that great piece of fabric that shows when your thong is hanging out.)  I seriously had to tell a girl that we were trying to sell pictures at work and not give the dads a show.

"If I don't make this sale, my boss is going to fire me."  While I'm standing less than fifteen feet away!

"I know this is expensive, but if you buy it from me outside I can give you a better price."  Didn't realize I was right behind them until after they said it.  "Hahaha... I mean, come on, now... Totally just kidding.  You can see the value in the product!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

That's Not Stolen Merchandise, That's My Baby!

People will claim that a lot of stuff sets off the sensor gate in retail stores, but I had a few that were pretty crazy when I worked at Hollywood.

"What are you talking about?  I am wearing a suit for Christ's sake!  A suit!  Do you think that a man wearing a suit would have to steal a DVD?"  Um... Yeah?  'Cause by the looks of you and your demeanor I would hazard to guess you stole the suit too.

This lady walks around the whole store for about twenty minutes and is carrying a swaddled baby with her the whole time.  She never lets us help her with anything and avoids eye contact.  She walks through the sensor gates to leave and it goes off.  One trick that we used to use was if we saw them eyeing a particular title we would ask if they needed us to find it for them. So when this lady tells us that she didn't have anything on her but her baby, my smart-ass associate asks her "Oh. Well did you need us to help you find a copy of Men in Black 2 for your baby?  I'm sure she'd love that one!"  The lady says she wanted to check that out and she goes over to the shelf where the movie was being kept, comes up to the front about a minute later and says she changed her mind about wanting to rent a movie.  She walks out the door and the alarm doesn't sound, but we went over to the "M" section and there was a fat stack of about fifteen movies that she put away!

"What set off the alarm?  This set off the alarm!"  *pulls back his jacket to show a gun*  "You got a problem with that kid?"  Poor kid just says, "No, sir! Have a nice night, sir!" and has to call the cops.  The guy got away with about $500 in merch. A few months later the same guy comes into the store with his girlfriend and my shift leader recognizes him when he walks in, so he runs to the back and calls the cops.  A few minutes later the cops show up and surround the whole building and literally tell him to "Come out with his hands up" because apparently he had several warrants out for his arrest.  Justice for the win!

The town where my Hollywood Video was located was basically the white trash central of the Bay Area.  This morbidly obese, white lady comes in one afternoon with a huge saddlebag--literally a saddlebag--and is sauntering through the store.  She is in the store for almost forty minutes and she pretty much ignores us the whole time she's there. Apparently the whole time she had been stuffing movies in her bag and when the alarm goes off as she walks through the gate she pretends that she doesn't hear us and keeps waddling out the door to her car.  She was stupid enough to park right up front, so I wrote down her plate number and called the cops.  The cops come and get a report and usually that's the last you hear about it, because, ya know, who gives a fuck about some stolen movies?  Surprisingly, I get a call about an hour later saying "Ma'am we have apprehended your suspect and she wants to come down to the store and apologize."  I was basically floored at this point because this had never happened.  So he drives this lady down to the store in the cop car and they come into the shop and I notice that she is empty handed.  I ask where the movies are and he says (no joke) "Well, ma'am, apparently the suspect sold the videos after leaving the store and used it to purchase some low-quality methamphetamines. We have the drugs but I'm afraid that all we can offer you is her apology and the opportunity to press charges."  Super awkward!

One time this hella skinny black dude comes in and he is wearing an incredibly baggy sweatshirt and pants.  He is super nice and asking us all how we are doing and being quite pleasant to try to break the "quiet thief stereotype."  And after browsing our new movie selection the shelves are practically empty and he goes to leave the store a lot chunkier than he came in!  Of course the alarm goes off and I make a stupid decision.  I run out the door after him.  It had been a pretty rough month at work and at home.  I had just broken up with my boyfriend and I had been promoted to store manager but wasn't getting any respect from my employees.  I don't know what I was thinking when I ran after him, but one thing was for sure--this guy was very surprised!  I was a chunky white girl with glasses and pigtails and I ran after this guy with a ton of adrenaline coursing through my veins.  I caught up to him behind 7-11 and we were both in shock.  I didn't really know what to say, and this guy started to placate me as soon as he figured that out.  "Damn little lady, just calm yourself.  Just a misunderstanding.  Calm yourself." And I could hear him mutter under his breath, "Crazy-ass white bitch."  I was in panic mode and all I could do was scream "Give me the movies, dammit!"  He gave me a raised eyebrow and said "Okay, okay. Gimmie a minute here."  He starts pulling all these movies out from under his clothes, some from places that I wouldn't have even thought to hide a movie.  Soon enough there is a huge pile of movies on the ground that came up to about my waist. I am still huffing and puffing from being out of breath and when he says he's done I remember trying to be tough and I yell "I see Scooby Doo in your sock! Give me Scooby Doo!"  And this super confused guy bends down, gives me the Scooby Doo DVD and runs down the street because his getaway vehicle finally pulled up. "Yeah!" I shout after him and pick up the giant stack of movies.  We were really busy inside when all of this went down, so everyone else was helping customers when I went out after this guy.  I still don't know what made me go after him and I know that there was a chance that I could have been shot or stabbed or something horrible like that, but coming back into the store with all that recovered product to cheering customers and awestruck employees is something that I will never forget. [KIDS PLEASE DON'T EVER TRY THAT AT A JOB EVER!  EVER!]

These are just some of the ones that I can remember that were total outside theft situations.  I have lots more involving employees, but that's a whole other post!

Worst Boss Ever

We have all had experiences working with the boss from hell, but I had one in particular that just wins the award.

I had worked at "Happy Time Pictures" for about a year before I met my district manager's boss, the regional manager.  Everyone told me how mean she was and how horrible it was going to be and I was scared shitless to meet her for the first time.  I had everything all triple checked and made sure my store was spotless before she came and I made it out alive.  Her name was "Cher" and she was so picky that she literally walked in the door and looked through everything and when she couldn't find anything wrong the bitch got on a chair and looked at the top of my door frames so she could say, "Ah ha! See? You need to make sure things like this are clean."  But despite the crazy that came out, she did seem to know her stuff and she was nice to me as a relatively new manager and I learned a few things from her visit.  I even went so far as to tell people that she wasn't so bad and that I respected her.  At first.

Then she came to my studio a year later during our busiest time of year.  I was panicking because my DM already told me that she wasn't in a very good mood and I knew that at this time of the year there were a few things that I hadn't completed because of all the customers coming in the door.  Two minutes before she comes in, one of the seasonal ladies that I hired shows up to work in jeans which is totally out of the dress code.  I freak out and before I can send her home Cher walks in the door.  She asks my employee why she is wearing jeans to work and the lady didn't know what to say, so she threw me under the bus and said "Because my manager lets me wear them all the time."  Before I know what is happening I am being escorted out to the food court with Cher and my DM and she asks me if I let my employees dress like that.  When I tell her that I don't the first thing out of her mouth is "Well, that's obviously a lie."  I was in shock.  I had heard that she did things like this, but this was not the same person that I had met the first time.  I brushed it off but she kept digging into me and wouldn't let up saying things like "Maybe we just have the wrong person for the job here" and "Why are you crying?  I haven't raised my voice to you at all."  She was classy.  By the time I was done I was a puffy, red mess and I got sent on my way home.  After the fact my DM told me that Cher was impressed by the job that I was doing but just wanted to see how dedicated I was to the company.  She also said Cher made her cry too.  I hate crying in front of people period, let alone someone that I work for.  This was going to suck ass.

Eventually my store started doing really well; well enough, in fact, that I was promoted to District Trainer.  I didn't get paid any more for it, but it meant that someday I would be in line for the DM position. A few months later I moved into the DM in Training spot, which meant that I was not only working closely with my DM, but that I had to work with Cher whenever my DM went on vacation or leave.  That was a blast.  My DM at the time had decided to step down because Cher had been so cruel to her that she had started having high blood pressure and literally had a panic attack.  I never thought I'd have to ask my DM if she needed me to go to her house and drive her to the hospital because a phone call with her boss was so bad.

One day Cher decided that it would be a super fantastic idea to do a workshop for the DMs and DMITs and I got to spend the better part of a week with her and a handful of other people.  When I get there only two other people "could make it" and one of them was my DM who was there for a few hours when there was very suddenly a family emergency and she had to leave.  The other DM was local, so she got to go home every night which meant that Cher and I were the only ones staying at a hotel.  And then it got awkward.  I was technically off the clock, but it sure felt like work after the workshop was over.  When your boss's boss asks if you will go out to dinner with them it's kind of hard to say no when you can't find an excuse to leave.  And I really, really wanted a shot at a DM position coming up, so I rolled with the punches.

I had only ever seen this tiny, bulldog of an older lady wearing slacks and a blazer and when she comes to meet me at my room she is wearing shorts, flip-flops and a sleeveless shirt.  It was crazy.  We just walked around the hotel looking for a place to have dinner.  I was about a foot taller than her and someone at the front desk asked if she was my grandma.  So it was awkward.  It didn't help that she found herself to be the most amusing person that she knew and had a cough that only a veteran smoker could produce.  She told me all about how she quit smoking a few years back, and all I could do when she spoke was look at the scary wrinkles on her upper lip from thirty plus years of sucking on a cigarette that made her look like an extra from Planet of the Apes.   I thought that after dinner I would be off the hook, but then we had to walk around and find somewhere they sold candy bars because she had a sweet tooth.  The night just kept getting better and better.  Two Milky Way bars later, we ended up in the hotel lobby where she basically did an impromptu interview for the job that I wanted.  We talked for over an hour and then finally she said she was tired and I got to go to bed thinking that she was impressed with me and that I had got the job.

I could go on into several dramatic things that she pulled over the next few months, but suffice it to say she had been stringing me and another gal along the whole time about the position I wanted.  She had actually filled the position with someone else, but by some freak chance they couldn't take it and she grudgingly offered me the position.  When she asked me about it I was all too eager to say yes and I probably screwed myself in pay, but I knew my window with her was small, so I jumped the fuck in and I didn't look back!

During my DM training I had to go with Cher and another DM to do a studio visit.  This other DM was bombing her visit and made the mistake of telling Cher that we were going to "her best store" that had her "best store manager" who was also her DMIT.  You never tell a boss that something, somewhere or someone is your best anything because if there is anything wrong with it then all of your other people, places or things are automatically crap.  I learned that lesson here.  The store was a mess, the employees were improperly trained and the store manager was ill-prepared to tangle with Cher.  Cher first starts asking the store manager questions that she already knew the answer to, then doing the same thing with the district manager, just to show them that they had fucked up. But I will never forget what happened next.  The DM is trying her best to hold back tears and I can see them welling up in her eyes, but the store manager couldn't hold her shit anymore and lost it.  She went to go excuse herself because she didn't want to cry in front of everyone and this crazy bitch follows her into the ladies' restroom yelling after her "We weren't finished talking!  Where do you think you're going?"  And then after that had the audacity to come out and say that we are all invited to lunch.  Her treat.  I had to keep telling myself what a good opportunity this was and that I just had to stick it out to get some experience and if I couldn't deal with her anymore then I'd quit.  It was a very long experience.

Cher lived a few states away, so when she came into town I was basically her personal chauffeur.  And being in a car with her was not the most pleasant of experiences either.  I was the youngest DM in the company and she was the oldest RM and she always made me painfully aware of it.  She was always calling me "kiddo" and "sweetie" and saying things about my "lack of experience" and starting or ending sentences with "for someone of your age."  It got old really fast but I tried to make the best of it.  Thankfully, I have a musical upbringing that included listening to a lot of oldies radio stations, so when we were in the car together I could talk with her about Smoky Robinson and Gladys Knight and made sure that I had all kinds of the music she liked loaded on my iPod.  I always tried to steer the conversation towards music, but sometimes the lady wanted to criticize me while I was driving.  Not exactly the brightest person ever.

It took me a while to figure out that Cher wasn't just a "mean boss."  Even now I don't consider her to be mean, but after a few one-on-one outings with her, I realized that she wasn't all there.  One of my favorite crazy Cher stories was going out to lunch at Cheesecake Factory.  I don't know if you have ever been, but their menu is like twenty pages long.  She sat there for like thirty minutes just reading the damn menu.  She snapped at the waitress for "pestering" her to order and then when she left made some off-colored comment about "the help."  When she finally was ready to order it was a sight to see.  "Ma'am!  Ma'am!  Yes, I know what I want now, so I hope you have your pencil ready!  Okay, I have decided to select the following menu item:  I would like the All-American Hamburger and I would like the sesame seed bun, the burger cooked well-done--no pink at all. Do you understand?  Alright.  I want four pickles, two tomato slices--and they better be red, not green--and please make sure they aren't sliced too thick--maybe about a quarter of an inch--and lettuce--but the leafy kind, not the shredded.  Do you understand?"  The waitress and I were both floored and I was pretty red in the face after that.  When the waitress asked her if she wanted fries or a salad you would have thought she asked Cher if she could crap on the table.  It was insane. But when her food came to the table that was when she got all Howard Hughes on me.

She picks up the burger and looks it all over to see if it meets with her specifications.  Seemingly satisfied she takes a large bite and gets this look on her face like she smells something terrible.  What the fuck is wrong now?  "This burger is somehow off," she tells me and then proceeds to flag down the waitress. "Is there anything in this burger that I didn't ask for?"  The waitress tells her there isn't and then walks away because apparently she is tired of her shenanigans now.  I sit there and watch her pick apart the whole damn burger.  I have never seen anyone do this in my entire life.  She picks off a piece of the bun and nibbles it, "Well, the bun is okay..."  Then she does the same with the lettuce and tomato and every other damn thing on the burger, talking the whole thing out as she goes.  I am looking around uncomfortably and just keep nervously sipping water while people pass us by and give me looks of pity.  Finally she nibbles a piece of the burger patty and says "Oh!  Here it is!" rather loudly. "There is seasoning on this meat!  I did not ask for any seasoning."  That was the moment that I realized that she was bat-shit crazy.

After the Cheesecake Factory debacle her crazy just kept peeking out more and more.  She was being completely irrational and asking for things on conference calls that she had never had us prepare for and we would just have to pull a random number out of our asses to appease her, she would call you up throughout the day "just to see what you were doing" and you could see she was losing it.  One thing that we had to do as district managers for "Happy Time Pictures" was to review our studios' photography online each day.  She would tell us every day that she was looking at our pictures and that it was clear that we weren't doing our jobs properly.  She would make announcements on our calls and send us emails that she saw what was going on out in the field and that she did not approve of it.  She made it seem like a huge deal to her and even said on a national call that she didn't like the quality of photography in her region and that it could be so much better.  One day I got an email and all it said was "I need you to send me instructions on how to view photography online immediately."  I couldn't stop laughing about it for almost a month.  She had some nerve. 

The crazy just kept coming with Cher and eventually we got a new VP of our division and he realized that when you go through eight district managers in one year that there was probably something wrong.  He realized that she didn't understand how to use computers, that she couldn't read reports correctly and that she had no discernible people skills of any kind.  Human Resources took statements from us all and finally, after her twenty year reign of terror, Cher was fired.

And yet, I still felt a little bad for her.  That's just the kind of person I am.  I'm not the kind of person that felt so bad that I couldn't sit here and type of this out, but I am the kind of person who feels a little bit bad or guilty for pretty much everything I do to some extent.  I dunno, I guess I'm broken that way.

If there was anything that I learned from the whole experience, it was that sometimes good things really do come to those who wait.  I also learned that after working for someone like that, I am pretty confident that I could work just about anywhere.  Bring it on world!

***BONUS STORY***  This one is second-hand, but I still found it amusing.  Cher took my last DM out to lunch with another manager and they were sitting their eating when all of a sudden she puts her sandwich down and covers her mouth.  Apparently all of her front teeth were fake (because she ruined them with her tobacco habit) and her partials fell out in her lunch!  They had to take her to an emergency dental office and she had to leave early to go home. Karma's a bitch.

Fun with Illegal Substances!

So right off the bat, I just want to prefix this post by saying that I don't do drugs.  It's not that I'm against doing drugs, it's just that I've tried a few and painting my whole finger with nail polish instead of just the nail and kissing that chick whose league I was way out of was not something that I really enjoyed waking up thinking about.  Plus, everyone drug tests now and taping a baggie full of someone else's piss to your leg isn't my idea of a good time either.  I am a firm believer in doing what you want to do in your free time as long as it doesn't hurt you or anyone around you, and as long as you don't bring it to work.  That being said, drugs (and some other things that aren't quite drugs) can make for some fun stories, and sometimes I'm fortunate enough to see the stupidity unfold in the workplace. So here we go.

When I worked fast food everyone used to smoke in the freezer.  (Actually a lot of shit went down in the freezer, but more on that later!)  Once the guys were being stupid about it and it set off the smoke alarm and they told everyone that someone burned a burger, but burgers don't generally smell like dank.

At Hollywood Video it seemed like everyone and their mom was using something.  One of my fellow managers ended up getting shipped out to a store in the hood when his store closed down, and when he got there on the first day his employees had hotboxed the back office. 

I had two employees at Hollywood Video that I caught using coke at work.  It was funny though, because I was so sheltered at the time that I had only accidentally found out and told my co-workers interesting things that I saw while they helped me piece it together.  "It's so weird.  Matt is always using the bathroom.  He goes back there like once an hour and he's always so jittery.  Do you think he has a bladder problem?"  One of the guys had a crack pipe in his pocket and got busted by my district manager and the other seriously came out of the bathroom with powder on his nose and had to take a drug test. Also, this one guy got drunk in the parking lot and came into work smelling like vodka and left the bottle right outside his car door. Some peoples' kids.

When I switched to the super female-friendly portrait business I figured that there would probably be a lot less of this, but nope.  As a manager I had to fire an associate for sleeping at work only to find that he was doing some kind of prescription medication that he was not prescribed before coming in for his shift.  I guess it took the edge off of dealing with all those horrible children.

I think my favorite was as a DM having to go in and fire a manager who was pretty much the worst manager I've ever seen ever.  She was fired for:

-Falsifying sales
-Stealing commission from her employees by telling them only the manager could use the register and ringing up their sales
-Hiring her friends
-Having sex in the back of the studio with employees from nearby retailers
-Smoking weed on her lunch break and smelling like it in front of customers
-Firing an employee on the spot (something you can't do in California)
-Coming to work out of dress code AND
-Trying to buy pee from a pregnant customer whose maternity pictures she was taking so that she could make her boyfriend marry her!

Sometimes retail is hardcore :P