Retail Hell

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to work in retail.  I lived in New Orleans and was engaged to my husband when I got the job.  I was the Assistant Manager at a women’s clothing store in Lake Forest Mall in New Orleans East.  The mall no longer exists (since Katrina), heck New Orleans East barely exists anymore.  The clothing store chain I worked for went defunct many years ago.  After seeing the way their “management” worked, it doesn’t surprise me.

I got to thinking about this when I was writing my post on Ron from Vent since he works in retail and he’s so busy during the holiday season.  My worst Christmas ever was all because of this clothing store.

First off, the woman (thinking back, she was barely more than a girl herself) was probably in her mid twenties who was the manager.  She was quite possibly one of the laziest managers I have ever met in any industry.  She would come in most mornings barely on time if she was the only person opening and usually late if I was the opener.

After coming in and clocking in she would leave and go to the record store next door and play video games most of the day.  The manager there was one of her best friends.  She flitted in and out most of the day unless the district manager was going to be there and then she’d stay while the district manager (also a fairly young woman) would check out the store and the books and then they would usually leave together to go somewhere they could “discuss the business” in private but in actuality they were just going to lunch or out for a few drinks.

One of the first things she and I had a major disagreement on was on closing the register out at the end of the night.  She was very adamant about the register and deposits always being TO THE PENNY.  I understand the importance of making sure your employees aren’t stealing and that they are trained to give the correct change back, etc. but it is just not possible when handling that kind of cash every day to always be TO THE PENNY every single day!

She would tell me that if the register was short, I was supposed to take my own money to make it balance.  WTH?  I’m sorry but I had a job because I needed my money not because I loved working in retail and just had a lot of time on my hands.  She would also tell me that if the register was over that I was just supposed to pocket the difference.  She said it all eventually evened out.  Excuse me??? I’m sorry but I did NOT feel comfortable with either of those scenarios.  I ended up putting an envelope in the safe with the extra money and if it was short I’d use what was in there until the envelope just disappeared.  Hmmmnnnn…. Wonder what happened to that since she and the district manager were the only other people with the combination!

Anyway, I started running the report as the money actually was which pissed her off to no end because she said it made her look bad.  Actually it made ME look bad because she blamed the fact that it was never off until I started working there on ME.  She would call me sometimes less than an hour before opening time when she was supposed to open, hungover, and tell me that I’d need to open. She even would call in “sick” on my days off and I’d have to go in and cover for her.  Once we had an ice storm in New Orleans and she called saying that since she had to go over “the highrise bridge” (the highest road surface in New Orleans at the time) that she couldn’t come in because she couldn’t get there…. Excuse me??? Have you never heard of Chef Highway or several other back roads you could have taken?  But I went in anyway.

The absolute worst experience there was Christmas Eve of that year.  It was 1981.  I was a newlywed.  I had been married all of maybe 3 weeks (btw…she only gave me 3 days off for my wedding, the day before, the day of and the day after) and I had already had the “company” Christmas party at my apartment because she said hers wasn’t big enough.  So the day before Christmas Eve she informs me that she is going out of town for Christmas and will be leaving early so I will have to close by myself on Christmas Eve.

Not a big deal except that the company had sent out a memo explicitly stating that ALL EMPLOYEES had to work Christmas Eve with no exceptions and anyone caught taking off early would be terminated.  So she leaves at like noon on Christmas Eve telling me I have to cover for her and that if there were any problems (which there shouldn’t have been) that I was to call one of the other managers in town (I believe there were 3 of those stores in New Orleans) as the district manager was also going to be “sneaking out” early to travel to her parents for the holidays. Not a problem, right?

Everything was going great, no problems at all.  We made it through the entire day and 6 o’clock came and time to close as the mall was closing early since it was Christmas Eve.  We hurried all the last minute shoppers out with their loaded bags and prepared for closing.  It was myself and all the regular employees sans the manager.  The store, being in a mall, had those HUGE floor to ceiling glass doors that folded back sort of like an accordion into the recess of the walls on either side.  You pulled each door, one on each side, and they met in the middle where they locked together.  Each panel was probably 3 or 4 feet wide by about 10 to 12 feet high.

I was busy at the register trying to close out and I had a full time employee and a part time employee in charge of closing the doors.  The full time employee had already pulled her side of the doors to the middle and the part time girl in her hurry to close slammed her side of the door into the left side that was already fully extended and BAM!  I looked up just in time to see the entire panel of glass shatter to the floor.  ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????

For once in my life I was speechless.  The poor part time girl looked at me with terror in her eyes like I was going to shoot her or something.  I threw the cash drawer closed and ran over to assess the situation. Thankfully no one was hurt but there was glass everywhere.  It was out in the mall, actually it had scattered across the entire hallway of the mall and halfway through the store.  I sent an employee to borrow a couple of extra brooms and dustpans from the mall maintenance and started the clean up.  It was by this time well after 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve when it occurred to me that we were going to need someone to come and replace the glass.  Try finding a glass company open on Christmas Eve after 6 p.m.

I of course first tried to call my manager but of course she had been gone for hours and this was before cell phones and she had not left me any number of where she could be reached.  Same thing with the district manager.  She was gone too.  I tried calling the other stores in the area only to find out that their managers had snuck out early too!  I even tried calling stores out of our district and other district managers and NO ONE was answering their phones at home or the stores.  When it hit 6 p.m. they all must have run out of there in a hurry.

I finally out of desperation called hubby and asked him what I should do and he said, I guess the only thing you CAN do is hire a security guard to stay in the store for the night and see if you can’t get a glass company to come out on Christmas morning to fix it.  I called every glass company in the phone book and no one answered so I left messages on all their answering machines with the store phone number and my home phone number.  I called a security guard to come out and sit in the store all night at double and a half time but what else could I do.  We had a glass company call (I think he called me at home on Christmas morning) who was willing to come out Christmas day to fix the glass at an astronomical charge but it had to be done.

I ended up (with hubby) going in to work on Christmas day to first off relieve the security guard so that we weren’t charged any more than necessary and then when the glass company finished I took the money from the deposit to cover both costs and left a detailed explanation in the register to explain what had happened.  It was one of the worst experiences, work wise, that I have ever had to go through.

I think the worst part about all of it was that when the manager came back in town not only was she NOT appreciative of the initiative to handle the problem when NO ONE could be reached she never even said THANK YOU.  Instead she wrote me up for the deposit being short…. Even though I had all the receipts to prove where the money was.  She thought that first off, I should have stayed in the store myself all night instead of “wasting” money by hiring a security guard and secondly that I should have paid for the security guard and glass out of my own pocket and then been reimbursed IF she deemed it appropriate since it happened on my watch!  Are you freaking kidding me?

Needless to say, I didn’t work there much longer after that and the company actually went under a few years later.  I thankfully haven’t run into any of those people since then either.


About pegbur7

South of the Mason/Dixon Line
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6 Responses to Retail Hell

  1. Angelia Sims says:

    What a horrific experience! My gosh. I really can’t believe the responsibility she put on you. She should have been available by phone. That’s ridiculous. At least the store didn’t get robbed thanks to you. 🙂

    • pegbur7 says:

      It was before cell phones and I guess she figured by the time she got where she was going we’d be closed…. I’m really trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes even idiots deserve that! LOL

  2. Ron says:

    HOLY COW…what a horrible experience!

    “She would tell me that if the register was short, I was supposed to take my own money to make it balance.

    She would also tell me that if the register was over that I was just supposed to pocket the difference. She said it all eventually evened out.”

    OMG…you’re kidding me?!?!?! That woman sounded like a total idiot!

    And like Angelia said, “She should have been available by phone.” That’s the thing about being a manager – whether it’s your day off or not, the manager is responsible for EVERYTHING and should be ON CALL for any emergencies. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not keen on being a manager, because it’s a never-ending job.

    She was very lucky have you as her assistant because no one else would have handled that the way you did.

    And I’m not at all surprised that the company eventually went under.

    Great post, Peg!

    Have a FAB Monday!


    • pegbur7 says:

      I tell you Ron, she was one of the absolute worst bosses I ever had. Many a time I really really wanted to smack her. She was lazy and incompetent. I guess I’ll have to tell “the rest of the story” some other post!

  3. Katie says:

    OMG! That is the story from Hell. I have worked for some doozeys in my time, but nothing even close to that and I worked in banking so yes we had to balance. but that was just bad bookeeping.

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