I don’t know if anyone noticed in the news, but lately there’s been a rash of announced store closings and lay-offs from a lot of retailers. It’s nothing new this time of year. Gotta clear out that deadwood. With those announcements come veiled threats to the remaining stores that if they don’t shape up, they’re going the way of the others. A specific number of stores and a time frame have been given. I call these the death row stores who have been sentenced to definite executions, date TBD.
I don’t want anyone to know that I work at a death row store. I only told my significant other (whom I swore to secrecy, because his co-workers all shop there) and no one else. Not even my parents, who expect me to tell them everything.
It’s embarrassing to even look at customers. Can’t look them in the eye. Can’t let them know that we’re on the chopping block because they’ll leave because somehow our possibly closing in the next three years makes us unshoppable. It’s like we’re radioactive. Unworthy of their business. Maybe it’s all part of their own grand plan. Who knows. If they don’t shop, we don’t make plan, and we go out of business. That means liquidation sales, which means they get to try and buy some hangers and a mannequin for themselves. Which actually might be funny to witness, because they can’t have them but they’ll try and fight you for them.
The announcements came in pieces and the layoffs were horribly botched. Some people were told they were losing their jobs, allowed to cry and stress for a couple of days about how they’re going to keep their electricity on, and then they’re told they’re not losing their jobs at all, someone else is. At least they got a few weeks’ notice though, because the next batch of people were told to get out in three days. The mess has left workers looking like frightened rabbits after the hawk has swooped on through and taken one of their companions, and now they’re cowering down, waiting for their own turn.
A lot of them aren’t gonna stay. Well let me put it this way—they’ll jump ship if their resume doesn’t sink them. And then a talent drain will begin which will make things even worse when the only “talent” we can attract is stupid high school kids who have never heard the word “work” in their lives.
Here’s a good example: we got a new employee for a pretty decent position which a lot of people would like. She was really enthusiastic and engaging, and I thought she’d be great. But I can’t even tell you how hard it was to do the store tour with her and introduce her to everyone when they’re all standing there looking at you with long faces. Hell, one woman looked like she had been crying. More likely than not it had nothing to do with the store. But it wasn’t good PR when a lot of other employees looked like that too. This new lady clearly reads the news too much and follows the company very closely. She was actually excited about working for this company. I feel bad for her. (That she’s excited, I mean. But mostly because she actually wants to work here.) I got nervous, though, when she asked me about the morale in the store and how people felt with everything going on in the news. I had to keep my happy face on—which is pretty damn hard when I’m one of the most negative people in the store, and that’s saying something—and tell her, “Oh you know, it’s always a tough time of year, we all have our ups and downs because it’s hard in retail right now—(nervous giggle) hee hee hee, you know how it is—but they feel pretty good about everything.”
She walked out the next day less than two hours after she had walked in that morning. Of course they all couldn’t have waited to tell her about all the employees who just got laid off. Oh well. She wasn’t the first to quit halfway through training. I was going to say she won’t be the last but, then again, at the rate we’re going we won’t even be training new people, except the high school kids. I guess she put two and two together about our store and the reported list of likely closures. Who could blame her, really?
Why they did this to us on such short notice, I don’t know. They don’t really care. It’s really all just for the investors. The fact that people make money off of failing companies is pretty disgusting when you think about it. I can’t explain it because I don’t know anything about stocks, and dividends, and profitability, and all that rich people shit. All I really know and can attest to is that people at the bottom are treated as completely expendable. Their lives literally do not matter. I know that isn’t an original thought at all. But it’s just sad when you see this happening to your friends, good people that don’t deserve to be laid off (particularly when the pieces of crap still remain). I know that I’ve seen people gain 50 pounds and have nervous breakdowns trying to do it all even though it’s physically impossible to.
Practically speaking, none of this helps you be a better salesperson, although we shouldn’t claim that title because none of us has personally sold anything in the last three years because you can’t walk away from the register for two freaking seconds before some moron wants to know about the difference between a rice cooker and a hand blender. You can’t help hating the customer in front of you because they’re the reason why you’re being put through all this hell. They refuse to spend money, they head right for the clearance racks and demand coupons on it too, yell at us, wear the garment and return it, and then they’re mad that we look like we’re closing. When really it’s their own fault. What’s even worse is that they think that because the store is going down the toilet, they have the right to treat us like we’re the actual shit circling down the drain. And then they get mad when we give it right back to them.
Maybe this sort of attitude is the reason why customers don’t want to shop in department stores. But I don’t care because I still hate them. And the worst part is we can’t even fight with them anymore because of the surveys!
4 thoughts on “Unlovable and Unshoppable: the plight of working at death row department stores”
I have to wonder. What is that thing which makes people treat the service staff like shit? Is it the entitlement?
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Yes, I think it is, pure entitlement and the sick enjoyment of getting to order someone around and they can’t do anything about it.
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This is exactly why I treat the helpers and workers nicely. Not only it is necessary for me to remain in their good graces, (After all, it is not like they’re used to putting up with a guy like me,) But also because of general principal of the thing.
Or you know, maybe if they became some great person in the future, they’ll remember my behavior, and try to do the same for others.
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Speaking from experience, it’s very helpful to be educated by someone who has different needs. If people have never encountered it, they won’t know what to do to help someone else in the future. I’m all for mutual understanding between people.
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