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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

So. It was almost my last day in the Lingerie Department. I'd originally been scheduled to be in training ("Selling is service!") half the day and on the sales floor the other half. However, I'd traded shifts with my manager's permission, and wasn't going to the training (why bother since I was almost at the end of the job?).

As I was heading down one of the maze-like staircases in the back halls of the store, I passed the HR manager, a petite gay Asian man who had been all smiles and compliments when I was hired. He wouldn't even make eye contact with me when I put my resignation in.

"Hi!" I said cheerfully (I was, after all, going on my break, the House had passed the health care bill, and all was pretty darn good in my world).

"Hi," he said. Then he realized whom he was talking to. His smile deadened.

"How are you?" I said politely.

"Great," he replied, then mumbled under his breath, "fuck you very much."

Nice! I love the attitude, actually. Score one for the bitchy HR guy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Colors of the Biblical Rainbow

I got back from my hasty, microwaved-in-the-breakroom dinner this evening only to find I had missed the most story-worthy customer of all time. She had come in using a walker for no apparent reason, asking my co-workers to help her in her quest to obtain bras in "all the colors of the Biblical rainbow" for her upcoming wedding.

She needed tan, white, and red. She'd already found the rest (using exactly which chapters and verses as her guide I do not know). While trying on bras, she confided to my co-worker that she and her husband (she referred to him thusly despite that their wedding had not yet occurred) were healers. "We take pain from good people and cast it into bad people." She was using a walker, she explained, because it was her turn to carry the pain (she and her husband alternate which of them carries the pain that day), and it was unbearable.

She then made a point of saying she was a personal friend of the N_______ family, owners of the department store, and that my co-workers shouldn't worry, because they'd "get theirs" when she died. She was, she said, a millionaire in her own right since her parents had died when she was a child.

As it turns out, she bought $600 worth of Biblical underwear, and we learned even more about her from the department next door.

She'd come in a few days ago to buy truffles to give her husband, because she wanted him to "carry the pain" that day and was trying to sweeten the deal. She informed the saleswoman that thus and such bigwig and that and such celebrity would be attending her upcoming nuptials. "Gee," said the saleswoman, "sounds like you'll have at least five or six hundred guests at your wedding. The woman corrected her: "Actually, there will be five thousand. Plus Hannah Montana, so I don't know how that's going to work out."

I almost forgot the best--and most romantic--part. This customer had met her husband twenty-five years earlier. Using her miraculous will, she told him (and I quote), "Disappear." He disappeared into thin air. When she was ready to will him into being again, she said, "Re-appear," and he did, in the house right next door to her own.

Isn't it a beautiful story? At least her credit is still good.

What Happens in Vegas...

A group of five flabby-lipped, huge titted tweens came in today. They were dressed like reformed Mormans who wanted to be sexy but hadn't quite mastered the concept yet. Weird hats, too much black eyeliner, camoflauge gauze scarves. And they all had oddly-shaped bodies, out of proportion and veiny, pimply, or just plain strange. They were loud.

One of them, at the cash register with her mother's credit card, began complaining about said mother's behavior to her friends. "Did I tell you she is already dating someone else? That makes four men. And she's still married. God. She wonders why I'm so messed up about men."

Yeah. It has nothing to do with the fact that you are a size 6 on top and a size 20 on the bottom and are wearing a strapless seersucker romper that shows off how you have varicose veins at age 13. (Ok, she was probably 20.)

I walked over to my co-worker who'd been ringing her up. "Vegas!" She whispered.

That explained it all. These girls were from the most hellacious city on earth.  They really should change the slogan to "Who lives in Vegas stays in Vegas...for your protection."

Selling Ice to an Eskimo

My "pre-sale" goal for the Fit America event is $1500. The event is tomorrow. So far, I have "pre-sold" exactly $0 worth of merchandise. Believe me, it's not for lack of trying.

Here's an example of an average attempt on my part.

Huge woman buying socks: "Are these the biggest socks you have?"
Me: "They're all the same size. But yes, those do look slightly larger than the others. By the way, do you know we do bra fittings here? And if you buy bras during the Fit America event, we donate $2 per bra to a breast cancer research organization."
Her: "I did hear on Oprah this is the place to come for bra fittings."
Me: "Great! I'll get you fitted and then I'll show you Oprah's favorite bra."
Her: (eyes glittering with excitement) "That sounds perfect!"

I get her in the fitting room, measure her at a 42 DD, and grab fifty or so bras for her to try.

Her: "Oh, I can't wear any with an underwire." That narrowed the choice to two, which I put her in.

Her: "No, no, even these are uncomfortable. They're burning! I hate them! You know what? I just cannot do this. I'm a nudist. I barely ever wear clothes, let alone bras. Can I just make a donation to the breast cancer research organization?"
Me: "Ummm...I don't know. Let me find my manager."

Which is indicative of my life in the Lingerie Department. I get maybe three customers a day. One will be a nudist, another will be a hundred-year-old woman who doesn't understand the concept of the "pre-sale," and the third will be a tourist who is leaving before the event.

Ladies and germs, working in the Lingerie Department is a bitch.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

London, France, Underpants

I have, in the last three weeks, seen more women's bras and underpants than I care to remember. I'm talking about the ones customers wear into the store when they are ready to buy new ones, not the pretty, untouched, unstained ones hanging brightly on the racks of the Lingerie Department. I've seen unshorn armpits, cellulite being crammed into too-small Spanx, moles and birthmarks that make me think of raspberries and cancer, and more than anything else, women who hate their boobs.

Whether those boobs are hated because they are too small, too large, too saggy, too unevenly sized, too full of mother's milk, too dark, too light, or any other reason, they are--almost universally--despised.

Ladies, let's learn to love our ta-tas, shall we?

Every one of us has heard tell of the women's consciousness-raising groups in the 1970's in which women were invited (sometimes forced kicking and screaming) to examine their pink, beige, or chocolate twats with a hand-mirror and learn not to fear their awesome power. Or whatever it was they feared about the poor little things. Now we all can have happy vulvae, have sex like men (if we want, though who--even among men--really does?), and discuss yeast infections and menstruation as loudly as we want while riding mass transit vehicles full of strangers.

It's time for a reduction in breast-hating. We see our breasts as repositories for cancer, baby food, and/or clothespins, depending on our histories and our sexual proclivities. We see them swaddled in pink ribbon by cancer foundations, squished in mammogram equipment, and being fiddled with like radio dials by our hapless male partners.We see them encased in black leather, white lace, and utilitarian beige spandex. We see them blown up like balloons on movie stars and porno queens alike. We see them being surgically reduced by women who think their giant tits mean they are fat.

I would say it is only one customer in twenty who is content with the size, shape, and general appearance of her bazooms. I can have two 34Ds back to back and while the first one thinks she is too small and will never be attractive in any of the "pretty" bras, the second one thinks she is too big and will never be attractive in any of the "pretty" bras. Women fear their true bra size, refusing to so much as try on the very large-looking yet very supportive-of-breast-health bras that will fit them and keep them high and dry. "I can't wear that. It's huge." We are instructed, as salespeople, not to tell the customer her real size until we have already put her in a few bras so she can realize how much better she feels in them before getting hit over the head with the fact that she is, in fact, a triple D cup.

Lord-a-mercy, ladies. Somehow we've got to stop viewing our tits as things that are not part of us. Our tits are part of our bodies, our selves, you know. They are just as necessary and just as worthy of tender loving care as our arms and legs. No matter the size of our tits, arms, or legs, we have to be kind to them and thank them for being with us all through our lives. Thanks Manny, thanks Moe (my right and my left), for your youthful perk, your unevenness, your maturing swell, your future sag. You help me mark my passage from one self to the next.


Monday, March 15, 2010

The Land of Milk and Honey

Ah, glorious Sun Diego, finally living up to my weather-wise expectations. Of course, I had to enjoy today's 75 degree weather from inside the Lingerie Department. No one was shopping today. Why would they? They were out enjoying the amazing sun and balmy breezes of America's Finest City, just as I would have been doing had I not been waiting to humiliate unsuspecting shoppers.

I was supposed to have a real chance at molesting a group of women this evening. I'd made an appointment for a "girlfriend party" to pre-sell bras for the big Fit America event at the end of the month. A customer was going to bring in three friends to be fitted.

I was going to put them in Mad Men-style bras to haul those giant bazooms up to chin level and then sell them each 300 dollars' worth or more of pointlessly expensive Chantelles and try to get them to buy underwear, lingerie wash, mesh laundry bags, pajamas, and robes as well. I worked all morning, then left with no lunch so I could come back in to work in the evening and party with these ridiculous people.

I got back to work at 6:30, a half-hour before my appointment, ready to wheel and deal. Actually, I was ready to whine and complain, which I did the entire time I was waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

The lousy bitch never showed. Her friends never showed. I wasted gas and perfectly good Manhattan-drinking time. So nice of the sweet girl to fuck with someone's livelihood like that.

FYI: If you're thinking about fucking with people who work in retail, don't. They're just trying to pay their rent like everyone else. And today I got screwed out of two hours' pay and who knows how much commission.

The Lingerie Department ain't all squeezin' tits and trying to get lacy panties unsnared from their plastic-toothed hangers, kids. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Getting by without a Little Help from My Friends

Weekends are as boring as any other day in the Lingerie Department, at least at my store, which has a pronouncedly lower volume than the rest in the area. Dull, drawn-out boredom rules. All one can think about is how much one would rather be at the St. Paddy's Day parade, or snoozing on a couch somewhere, or having a root canal.

Yesterday was no different. To assuage my boredom, I was helping another salesgirl who had a huge sale. I was putting UII tags on her merchandise, offering add-ons to her customer (which she took, by the way, increasing the girl's sale even more), and then I got the customer to apply for our new store debit card. At which point the other salesgirl turned to me with a look that would scare Medusa and said icily, "Hey. I got it." In other words, "Get the fuck out of here, bitch."

Who knew helping your fellow salesgirls was verboten? She obviously thought I was trying to steal her sale, which would have been moronic. However, I assured her that if she doesn't want my help, she can count on never having it again. And now that I know her basic assumption is that someone is stealing rather than helping, I'm going to be watching her like a hawk and running across the department to get to customers before her, because that whore has been stealing customers from me since I started working here. Watch out, sister. I may not be long for this job, but I plan to kick your ass while I'm here. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lady Liberty

It was mid-day in the Lingerie Department. As usual, the morning had been slow, just the regulars--Monica, who stops by every morning to finger the sales racks (she's about seventy and clearly enjoys that everyone in the department store knows her name), tourists rabid for shopping after a year spent saving up for the big vacay (they never want to buy lingerie because they can't really show it off when they get home: "Look what I got in San Diego!!!"), and a parade of middle managers from my own store checking in on the total lack of sales thus far that day.

A woman came in, obviously in the wrong bra size. We refer to it as the "four-boob phenomenon," when the breasts are too large for the cups and puff up over the tops, creating the appearance that the woman in question has four boobs. I was desperate to get her into the fitting room for her own sake, commissions be damned. How I wish I could be like the team on "What Not to Wear" and just tell people out and out how terrible they look and how much they need help.

Finally I got her into the room, and discovered, to my dismay, that she was one of the proudly immodest. Which is to say, she preferred having her tits toward me rather than toward the wall like a normal person as we switched out bra after bra. C'mon, people, I'm Midwestern! Have a heart.

She was buying happily, loving the giant supportive Le Mysteres and the thinner, cozy Wacoals. I couldn't sell her on the Chantelles, though. No one cares about things hand-sewn by the French anymore. All they want is utility. I found out she was visiting from Washington State. Trained to ooh and aah over tourists, I started babbling about what a great city San Diego is, how there is so much to do, this place has great margaritas and that place has a view of the La Jolla Cove that is to die for..."I'm here alone visiting my son in rehab. He's made the last ten years of my life a living hell."


So I did the only thing I could do. After I'd rung up her sale, I walked her down to cosmetics and passed her off to a girl I know there to have a makeover.

Retail therapy. I know it well. And now I provide it. Send me your tired eyes, your poor sagging tits, your huddled masses yearning to be well-shod, the wretched refuse of your long work-day; send these, the purposeless, tempest-tost to me--I lift my measuring tape beside the cafe door.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Neuroscience of Underwear

Last week in the Lingerie Department, I helped a disturbingly fat grey-haired attorney and his giant-breasted wife find pajamas for his mother and a gift for a friend's wife-to-be. The attorney was your usual ruddy choleric windbag of a plaintiff's man, and he enjoyed asking all of us our bra sizes and then laughing, saying, "Oh, I shouldn't ask strangers about that." Ha ha ha. Yessir, you are hilarious. Meanwhile, his wife darted around, obviously embarrassed by his behavior, wielding her therapy dog (a Schnauzer) like an emotional shield.

The attorney was disturbed by the pajamas his mother, who was living with the couple, normally wore, because he could see her large pendulous tits outlined clearly through them. I hooked them up with a little loungewear complete with thick hoodie to hide the poor woman's shame.

The gift for the wife-to-be was a bizarre thing to seek. The attorney kept looking at thongs and sheer chemisettes, telling me the woman had just had a baby and was proud of how she'd gotten her figure back so quickly. "And she's got huge...breasts," he said proudly, as if they were his own. The wife wanted to get her a cami and underwear set. I thought both things were pretty damn intimate gifts, especially from a couple to a friend. "Yuck," I thought, "Swingers." They settled on a black lace cami and thong set. Ugh.

Mr. Attorney just wanted to chat, chat, chat. At one point he informed me that his brother was a neuroscientist who lectures all around the country. Apparently, on one trip, his luggage was lost and he had to wear his wife's underwear to a conference. He discovered he loved it and now buys nothing but silky soft ladies' bikinis.

All things considered, I'd rather hang out with the brother.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spanx: Empowerment or Torture?

If Alberto Gonzalez had really wanted to get valuable intelligence from purported terrorists via torture, he needn't have gone so far down the slippery slope toward violating human rights on a more disturbing scale than a Zimbabwean dictator. He could have just shipped a huge supply of Spanx to the CIA and said, "Only women can stand these things; therefore, they must be unmentionably horrific, like secretarial work and nursing."


 There I was, already broken down and ready to confess to anything, ANYTHING, to get me out of the hands of the women molesting me with bra fittings and forced mirror-staring,  when the Spanx rep came in. "Oh yes," my manager gushed, "you have to try on all of them, too. You are gonna love these." 

In came a parade of grinning women (were they grins of cheer or of delight in my pain? I'll never know), handing me power panties, power bike shorts, a power onesie with (no joke) a slit in the crotch you are somehow supposed to pee through--because there's no way you can get these things up and down your body in under twenty minutes--, power camisoles, power slips, power bras, and power tummy tube tops. 

They brought me the flesh-colored pieces instead of the black. I will never forgive them for that. I was wearing black underwear, which showed creepily through the flesh-toned power torture devices, as did every awkwardly compressed bulge of my post-breakup weight gain. My rib cage was forced to contract to a degree that didn't allow me to breathe normally, and I began to feel lightheaded. "Yes, yes, it was me," I wanted to shout. "I planned the attack on the Pentagon singlehandedly." I hoped confession would let me go to a nice warm safe prison, or get me a swift execution; in either case, I'd be free of having to pretend I was comfortable with myriad women checking me out in my power panties. 

All this, dear followers, for nine bucks an hour--I wasn't on commission yet. This may be one of the saddest stories the economic collapse has yet produced. It was even worse than whoring, and vastly less lucrative.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adult Female Sexual Molestation

It was my first day in the Lingerie Department. I hadn't worked retail since college, but this was turning out to be unlike any other retail experience imaginable. I was naked to the waist, being womanhandled by no fewer than three salesgirls, my department manager, the regional manager, and five product vendor representatives of varying age and cheerfulness.

First, my manager asked what size bra I was wearing. When I told her, she laughed and said there was no way I was that size. Hoping she meant, "you are far, far more svelte than that size," I followed her into the dressing room. "You have to try on everything you can to see how they all fit,  otherwise how will you be able to sell them?" Good question. Because selling giant Oprah bras to middle-aged women has always been my fondest dream.

Measuring tapes flew. Bras were scattered everywhere in the dressing room. A twenty-something salesgirl standing behind me reached around to lift my breasts in their temporary mega-bra.Oh. My. God. Just because hers still have the perk of youth doesn't mean she has to tug on mine like they were her mama's. I felt like a fashionable cow being fitted with udder enhancers.

A reed-thin product vendor for bras made for the extremely well-endowed walked in and introduced herself. "You look like my products were made for you," she said, eyeing my tits as if they were about to be publicly traded on the NYSE. Her bras start at a DD cup size. I almost started to cry. I've been wearing a B or a C my entire adult life, with brief forays into an A cup during a misguided attempt to become a marathon runner just before my nervous breakdown. Let me tell you, seeing yourself in a three-way mirror being fondled by old thin women who appear to be handling filet rather than flesh is the best motivation you will ever have to lose weight. I'd already vowed to go on a permanent diet of Fresca and circus peanuts every 8 hours when the Spanx rep came waltzing in. But that's a story for another day.