Throwback Thursday – Fitting In

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Through a friend of the family I heard that a local software company was looking for summer interns, which seemed perfect since I was only a few months away from starting college a few hours away. I turned in an application and was given an interview with Ching.

Although I asked a few times, no one told me what department I was interviewing for, so when Ching asked “What do you want to learn about?”, I responded “Maybe a little about accounting.” She was a manager in the Marketing department. Doh.

Somehow I was still hired and I spent the summer learning all about Marketing from a B2B Software perspective. On my first day I nervously smiled at everyone and Googled how to make coffee, since I don’t drink it. Mid-morning, Ching looked over the wall of her cubicle and said she was going on a coffee run, would I like something from Starbucks. That’s when I knew I would like this job – the boss was willing to get an employee coffee.

At the end of the summer I was awarded a part time internship that I hadn’t known I was competing for and the rest is history. I’ve been with the company ever since.

So ends the last of my Throwback Thursdays…

Throwback Thursday – Your Dreams Are Your Own

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To Amazon’s unending horror, I hate color. My wardrobe consists of neutrals, black and the rare splash of color – sort of like how often you’ve seen a unicorn walking into the Senate. If that ever happens CSPAN will finally be able to justify it’s costs.

On this particular day, I decided to wear something upbeat and perky: black pants, black shoes and a black lace button down shirt covering a turquoise top. It’s more color than I usually wear. I walked into a small, locally owned retail store and was hired on the spot for my “fashion sense”. Considering that I almost never shop and frequently wear clothing from five years ago, first impressions aren’t everything. Remember that, people!

I began working in this store that advertised it was for “mature” women who desired all-natural fiber clothing. We had loyal local clientle as well as out of town women who forgot a scarf or wanted something cooler to wear during their vacations.

On my first day I told my new boss, SoSo (it’s close to her real name, which was also the name of the store) that I recognized the register as the same type that I had used for two years at the Discount Store. I noticed that she input prices manually, used a calculator to figure out tax and break bills given to her by her clients, then did a long work-around to open the till to give change. All of that could be done on the register. I thought I was being helpful, but I was immediately banished to the back room to steam.

Ahhhhh steaming – have you steamed clothing before? If you’ve ever been in a sauna and poured water onto the hot coals or rocks with your face directly above the steam…that’s what steaming clothing in a small closet sized room is like. It sucks. If you hold your hand the wrong way, you burn it. If you stand the wrong way any area of your body could be hit by steam. Since I was in a small enclosed room, the hot steam had nowhere to go, except directly into my pores causing me to sweat. There are people in labor camps that sweated less than I did, although their work is more physically challenging.

I was going to put a pic of the industrial steamer I used, but it searching for it caused PTSD flashbacks...so here is a cute bunny instead.

I was going to put a pic of the industrial steamer I used, but searching for it caused PTSD flashbacks…so here is a cute bunny instead.

After a month I learned that as long as I didn’t question any of the existing policies and quietly put clothing away, I would only have to steam for the last half hour of my shift. The minute I asked why we did things a certain way or suggested moving stock in any way, I would spend the rest of my time soaking my clothing and smelling to high heaven.

A month into my stint at SoSo’s, I was counting down the days until I graduated high school and left Hometown forever (funny, huh? Since I had to move back after college. Friggen HILARIOUS!). I hadn’t told SoSo this yet, but it was my eventual plan…probably when I gave my two weeks notice. I only had three weeks of high school left then the summer and finally freedom in college.

It was a slow day and I was hanging up a new shipment when SoSo asked about my career path. I had applied for college with no degree plan, assuming I would figure it out as I went along. I asked for clarification.

“Well, what kind of business do you want to own?” She asked, folding a shirt and placing it in the window.

“Um, I’m not sure.” I said, confused. At the time I was looking at teaching or accounting, neither of which would involve my own business.

“Well I’m glad I’m able to give you a taste of what it means to be a small business owner.” SoSo said brightly, “I love being a mentor. You were born for retail!”

I took this as an insult, after two years of working for Discount Store.

SoSo cleared her throat, “It’s just that I realized that I haven’t really been giving you guidance on how this store runs. I want you to feel free to ask me all owning a business since you have first hand experience with me.”

“I guess I never considered owning my own business. I’ve been researching a few different majors.”

SoSo stopped folding and turned to me slowly. “So you aren’t interested in owning your own business?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it before.”

SoSo asked me to go steam the new shipment of cotton pants in the back room, and I knew I’d said the wrong thing. At the end of my shift, she wrote out a check for what I was owed and fired me.

“I thought I was mentoring you, I’m interested in an employee who wants to own a business. This is not working out.”

I was fired for not having the same dream as my boss. On my way out I gave one last kick to the steamer and realized that I would need a new job for just the next three months that would give me a good recommendation for one in my college town, since the last few jobs I had let me go or I quit in a fury. I thought I was screwed…

XVI Throwback Thursday – Too Damn Efficient

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After a few weeks of hanging out after school every day instead of working, I was convinced that retirement must be a blast. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford a tank of gas so I quickly scoured the Help Wanted Ads. Yes, that’s how long ago this was – the newspaper was still the best bet to get a job.

Finally I found a local flower shop in need of some temporary help during the Valentine season. Hometown is known as a romantic destination, so training at a flower shop – even for a temporary position – could give me the skills to be hired elsewhere.

I was hired on the spot and immediately started working on the divine art of flower arranging, which is more skilled than you would assume. The other young woman working there – as a “real” employee and not temporary – was learning with me and you could see the difference between our attempts which ended up with pockets lacking flowers and less artistic arrangements, and the florist who made it seem effortless.

As Valentines Day fast approached, I spent more and more time adding babys breath and fern-like leaves into upcoming orders and assembling the chocolate packages with six other girls. It soon became obvious that the owner had vastly overhired, since orders were coming in but not fast enough to keep us all busy. Soon it became a compeitition to see who would stay through the holiday and who would be let go.

When I was called into the office (read: the back fridge that held the excess stock), I knew I was screwed. The owner explained her mistake and told me it was my last day, with only two weeks of flower-arranging experience, I knew it wouldn’t help my resume at all. One by one, the owner called us into the office until all of us looked miserable – we’d all been let go. How could she let go of every single temp two weeks before Valentines Day??

Then we looked around the flower shop and saw the pre-made bouquets and assembled candies. That’s when we realized that our “competition” with each other had caused us to accelerate our work. So rather than keeping our jobs longer, we had effectively worked ourselves out of a job. Post-tax, I had enough to spend on gas to go to endless interviews where I consistently got rejected from potential jobs, until one day….

Throwback Thursday – Done

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The next day I came in and walked directly to the back room without being told. L was waiting for me with two write ups – one for not completing my task and the other for leaving the store a mess.

“I’m disappointed.” L said as I walked in.

“Me too.” I said and told her everything that had happened the day before.

“You have to sign these two write ups since you did not complete your job yesterday.”

“Are you serious?” I asked her incredulously.

“Yes and I think you deserve to be written up.”

“For what? For being asked to choose between getting written up one way or another? I was screwed either way yesterday and it’s illegal to have an employee work without pay. It’s either slavery or volunteer work and I don’t associate Discount Store with either.”

“If you had helped New Girl and gotten the store clean at the end of the night, I wouldn’t have written you up for not completing your task. But you did neither, showing that you don’t care about this job.”

“Are you really saying that if I had abandoned my project and made sure the store was perfectly clean, that you would have ‘forgiven’ me for not completeing my task and I wouldn’t be standing here waiting for that write up?” She didn’t answer. “That’s what I thought, I’d still be written up but Rosa wouldn’t be in trouble at all. I know she’s the one who accused me.”

“Rosa is not your concern. What should be your concern is your own job, which you failed to do.”

“We had a record breaking day. If I hadn’t been unfairly accused and put on a punishment duty, I would have been available to help New Girl.”

“If you want to be management, you have to think of more than just yourself. You didn’t show good time management or good team spirit. You ignored your other responsibilities and your coworkers to try to save yourself.”

“L, I may be a Key Holder, but that does not make me management. I may do the books and the schedule, but that doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be held to a different standard than everyone else. You’re salary, so if the store isn’t clean you can stay all night and clean it. I’m hourly and I won’t work for free. Management is not just about making sure the schedule works, it’s about motivating workers. When you chose to ‘punish’ me for something I didn’t do and then do it on a shift with the person who accused me, did you think that would promote good team spirit? When I called you during the shift and explained about the huge amount of people in the store and you said I had to finish the shirts and pants despite that – that was me trying to manage my time. You ignored my warning that we were slammed and that I wouldn’t finish. That’s not good management.” I waited for her to at least look sympathetic or sorry. Her disapproving face didn’t change, so I continued: “You can throw those away, I won’t sign them. I also won’t be working here anymore, I’ve had it with this shit and I don’t plan on sticking around to see what else I’ll be accused of.”

“So you’re leaving without notice?” She said in a heavy but unsurprised voice.

Then I acted like the teenager I was: “Duh” was my reply.

My only regret from that day was when I filled out the form explaining why I was leaving. Rather than being circumspect and saying “personal reasons” or something professional, I wrote down that my manager was a jerk, customers didn’t respect workers and I couldn’t stand Discount Store a day more.

It felt great to leave without a care in the world. Suddenly, I was jobless and on the hunt for something new….

Throwback Thursday – Blame Game

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

It turns out being a Key Holder was not all about doing reports and working the cash register. Everyone was required to open at least once a week which involved taking cash to the bank (using our car and gas which that $.50 per hour raise really didn’t cover) and receiving shipments. I excelled at keeping the books so L had me doing that and working on the schedule. Since I’m the type that has lists for my lists and I have a love affair with Excel, the schedule was no problem. However, it should have been the job of L the manager or Rosa, the assistant manager.

L hated the schedule but Rosa was upset she wasn’t the one doing it. Most days I was able to avoid her, but not Sundays. On Sundays we worked together the entire day and since she was the Assistant Manager she stayed on register while I worked the floor with the New Girl, who just couldn’t seem to pick up our alignment for the clothes. One Saturday during the closing shift L called me into the back room.

“Zoogie2, how do you arrange the pants during closing shifts?” L asked me slowly.

“Uh, by style and size…?” I trailed off, unsure what she was asking me.

“Someone reported that you were throwing pants into the middle of the racks to save time. I-”

“What!? I don’t do that!”

“It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t do it, I found a lot of pants under the racks and you are the only person reported as doing it. You could get a write up for this, but I’ll give you one chance. You need to completely clean and align all racks of junior pants and shirts tomorrow by the end of the day or you’ll be written up.”

“Tomorrow is Sunday – we’re only open a half of a day. Aligning pants and shirts is a multi-person job that takes a day or two!”

“All I can offer is for you to do it tomorrow since Sundays are quieter and you’ll have an additional person on the shift.”

The additional person would be New Girl, so it was like having no extra person at all. I knew it was either Ana or Rosa that claimed I threw those pants under the rack and when I breezed in on Sunday, I knew it was Rosa.

“Just because you have to align doesn’t mean you can neglect your other duties.” She said with a mean girl grin. The New Girl assured me she could handle cleaning the store since Sundays are slower.

I thanked New Girl for the support and turned to Rosa, nastily saying: “Actually, I won’t be doing anything except aligning. If it’s slow, you can handle the front, Rosa. I don’t intend on dividing my time and if you have a problem with that you can complain to L. But remember that special assignments from the Manager supersede regular duties, so your complaints won’t mean much.” Without another word I started in on the pants.

Unlike every other Sunday of the year, this one was filled with demanding people. I managed to complete all of the jeans, but since so many people were interested in trying things on that day  it seemed like every time I completed a section another person would mess it up. We actually made record profits that day and I will give New Girl credit, she tried really hard to keep up with the rest of the store. The fact that she hadn’t quite learned everything yet mixed with the rush of people and Rosa being too busy to help meant that by the end of the evening the place was trashed and I hadn’t quite finished the shirts.

While I should have been helping New Girl clean up the racks, I was still doing shirts. Rosa yelled at us that we had five minutes to finish the floor before she shut down the computers.

“Impossible! Zoogie2 is still doing shirts and I’ve only finished a few racks.” New Girl exclaimed. Rosa’s face fell as she surveyed the store.

“Zoogie2 stop doing shirts and help out with the rest of the store.”

“Fuck no.”

“We’re going to get in trouble!” Rosa exclaimed, grabbing a few items desperately.

“We’re screwed either way. We can’t clean this mess unless we stay for at least an hour, all three of us working. If we stay that late we’ll be written up AND I’ll get a write up for not finishing the shirts. If we don’t clean the floor we’ll get a write up and I’ll get one for shirts. I know you lied about me Puta, and I’m not going down for the pants when it wasn’t me. If I get written up, we’re all getting written up.”

Rosa didn’t deny it and walked over to the computer. “I’m clocking us out.” Both New Girl and I protested.

“This is both of your faults. You didn’t help clean, Zoogie2, even though you know New Girl is still learning. New Girl, you should have been trying harder. We’ll stay an hour late unpaid to finish.” New Girl looked like she was going to go along with it for a few seconds, but no fucking way was I going to work for free after all of this crap.

I’d stayed in a job that I didn’t really need that constantly passed me over because I didn’t speak Spanish. Then when they did finally promote me, I was blamed without evidence for something I didn’t do. And punished despite the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t need this crap, I wasn’t going to do any more. So I asked Rosa when she was going to clock me out.

“I just did.”

“Fine, I’m leaving. I’m not working for free.” I said, planning on making a sweeping exit. Until I realized the door was locked and I had to wait for Rosa to open it. New Girl followed me out into the night…

Throwback Thursday – Stolen

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Finally Manager was gone and Assistant Manager was promoted, we shall rename her L. L’s first order of business was to go to the regional manager and explain that the rule against employees under 18 being promoted was unfair and I could sue them as they were discriminating against my age since being a legal adult and speaking Spanish weren’t legitimate business requirements and I had demonstrated that I was capable of doing the job.

I was immediately promoted and finally had that raise. L was not happy with Ana since she refused to do any work “below her station” and while she did not demote her officially, she decided that Ana needed to learn the basics of the job. Ana had been resisting this, so L decided to teach her by forcing her to do the job of a Floor person. This meant that now Ana reported to me, did returns and kept the floor clean. She was not happy.

One busy day, Oxana was maintaining the floor at the back of the store and I had pulled Ana up to the front to clean the racks in front of the windows so the store looked more inviting. Two girls from school were flitting around the shelves giggling and trying on tons of clothes, but I was so busy with the checkout line I wasn’t paying very close attention. I asked Ana to keep an eye on them since I’d heard rumors about how they used a five finger discount to afford their make up and clothing.

While I was still checking customers out, they sauntered out of the store without buying anything, unseen by me. Oxana ran over to the register and whispered, “The sweaters those girls were wearing look like the ones on rack 5.” I looked out the front window and my heart sank. “Watch the store.” I muttered to Ana as I ran outside and flagged them down.

“Hey! Those aren’t the sweaters you were wearing when you came into Discount Store.” I said, breathing heavy after running across the parking lot.

“Uh yeah they are.” One girl said, chewing her gum loudly.

“No, those are from the store.” I said in a flat tone. “I can see the tags. If you disagree, maybe we could discuss it further on Monday. You guys have <teacher> for homeroom, right?” They handed over the jackets and sauntered away. I should probably have called the cops, but in total they stole less than $8.

I went back into the store and thanked Oxana then asked Ana why she hadn’t said anything. “Oh,” she murmured, eyes wide, “I thought you would notice since you are the Key Holder and it’s YOUR job.” Clearly Ana was not a fan of mine, but I didn’t really care since I had the job I’d wanted….right?

Throwback Thursday – Lying

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Ana was not a good supervisor, she was too busy competing with Jessie for most incompetent worker. Jessie knew where clothing went since she used to be a floor person, but Ana felt it was below her station to learn. However, Jessie had a habit of clocking everyone out at night once she finished paperwork and letting us continue working on the floor for free while she did her nails behind the counter. It was a lose-lose situation.

Around that time I was offered another babysitting gig for the summer, but I wasn’t sure how to tell discount store I had a second job without them firing me (again). The babysitting job didn’t pay much and it was only temporary, so I didn’t want to alienate Discount Store until I could find a permanent position somewhere else.

So I did what people do all of the time – I lied.

It is a requirement of Hometown to complete 50 hours of community service in order to graduate high school. I had already completed it, but I lied and told Discount Store that I needed to do my hours that summer and that I’d found a place to volunteer. Since it was required for school I made sure that Discount Store’s schedule came second. At our monthly mandatory meeting, Manager brought up the impact to our work schedules, saying: “Since Zoogie2 will be doing volunteer work this summer, we will be rotating the schedule as to who will work days.”

Jessie giggled and loudly interrupted, “How many did you get?”

My brow knit together in confusion, “Um I’m doing 50 hours.”

“Shit girl, what did you do?” Jessie’s eyes widened.

“Huh?”

“To get 50 hours of community service, what did you steal a car?”

“No, it’s required to graduate high school. Aren’t you doing them too?”

Jessie shook her head, “Naw, I’m getting my GED.”

I found out later that no one believed me and they thought I’d gotten a sentence of 50 community service hours. In better news, Manager finally received his promotion and now Assistant Manager was in charge of Discount Store…

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