Friday, July 5, 2013

The Time I Sold My Soul To Retail

In what feels like another lifetime, I was a sales associate in a woman's clothing store.

Hubby and I had just built our dream house and I needed to supplement my income to contribute more to the mortgage.  Normally, I would take the summer off from teaching, but that summer I got myself a part time job at Cotton Ginny.  I shopped in that store.  I loved the clothes.  The people I worked with felt like family.

It was good that I had that part time job because when Hubby was transferred to Saskatoon my job at Cotton Ginny was able to transfer too.  I needed a break from teaching piano.  No one understood how burnt out I was but no one talked me out of working retail.  It was an easy job for me.  It was like shopping except I didn't have to buy the clothes!  I worked hard.  I was loyal.  I was told by the District Manager that what I did for the store did not go unnoticed.

My position was considered part time even though I had been getting full time hours.  What I didn't know when I transferred was that I had taken someone's spot who was on maternity leave.  This person, I called "Friend" and we worked together, but as I later found out, she held a grudge against me for taking over her position.  I had no idea all this was going on.  The was a revolving door.....liked to play games.  She liked to try to make me look bad and she liked to do things behind people's back.  In my time working for the company there were 3 managers at this store and this one was the final manager.  I can't imagine she was a likeable person in other areas of her life.

That summer, the company began reorganizing.  We were told that they were creating an Assistant Manager position in our store and everyone else would be part time and given no more than 20 hours a week.  Imagine that!  After having full time hours.  What a kick in the butt.  What happened was I was pitted against Friend.  There were many things I did that were considered my responsibility that she didn't know how to do.  It was poor timing, but due to a family engagement I went on a weeks holiday.  When I returned, Friend suddenly knew all of these things.  Not only that, but she flaunted her new knowledge in my face.

We interviewed for the job.  Friend got the job.

Manager told me that she had wanted me to get the job but staff found me condescending.  Right.

So I gave notice and got an Assistant Manager job in the store across the mall hallway.  I worked there a year.  Being an Assistant Manager was a good and yet horrible experience.

I saw the Music School Director in the mall one time.  She said to me, "You're working here?  Come see me."  Well, that wasn't the immediate sign that made me go see her, but it wasn't long and I did.  It was obviously meant to be because a full time piano teacher had just up and quit.  I was immediately hired and given a full schedule of students.

I worked retail for 5 years in total.

I used to miss the comradery.  I liked chatting with shoppers.  I loved having a new wardrobe all the time.  I gained much more though.  I gained weekends and holidays off.  I gained a shorter work day with more money.  Most importantly I got my life back.

Cotton Ginny closed.  The company went bankrupt.  I saw Manager and Friend move from store to store within the mall.  Staff seemed to do that in search of a better job.

This whole experience happened about 8 or more years ago.  Today, I went shopping at that very mall.  Some of the stores have changed.  I was shocked to look in the Dawgs shoe store to see Friend hustling her butt in her retail way.  At another time, I might have stopped and said hello.  Not anymore.  I've moved on.  It makes me sad because I wish she could have as well.  If she was so determined she should have tried for something better.  I can't imagine....even fathom....still working retail and being the person I am now.  I know that teaching piano is what I was truly meant to do with my life.

My manager in my home town said to me, "You are better than this Sandra."  I didn't understand what she meant.

But now I see it.....

.....and she was right.


  1. Retail's a tough business. I'm glad you found your niche.

    1. I don't think people really appreciate those who work in retail until they've done it. There are TONS of things shoppers don't understand. When does new stock get put out? Someone has to stay and do it or it's done during hours and customers are neglected. I got criticized for taking holidays and told I was a poor role model! It was a bunch of craziness. I'm glad I did it. But much of that time is a blur because I was working so much.

  2. Nice to tell someone you think they have an attitude AFTER you don't give them the job. Kicking someone when they are down is SO SO classy.

    I use to work retail. I didn't mind it, but yeah-they was silly petty crap. I was still going to college, and this one woman would always bring it up in a derogatory way. She bullied me, and many of the people just seemed plain sad. I am not sure why, it could have been such a fun job.

    1. I had been asking staff how they felt if I was put in a manager position. I was looking for feedback to improve. My manager told me because I did that they had to do interviews. Right. I told am I supposed to improve if I don't know what areas need improving? Oh she was a real piece of work. She even tried to tell me that she wanted me to get the job. It was all so immature and dumb.

  3. Having a best friend who is a retail manager in one of the company's flagship stores is a real eye-opener as to what goes on in retail. I am glad I don't have to do it. Close as I've ever come is working in convenience stores, and while I was really grateful for the job at the time (and in some ways I miss it!) I am glad to be teaching now... I love it.

    And for the record, I'd willingly wade neck deep into teenagers over having to settle staff-room disputes. The job of a manager can be really close to dealing with teenagers... but worse, for adults mostly believe they know better.

    1. I would totally rather have to wade neck deep in piano students than to have to be a sales associate ever again. What is so shocking is the way retail coworkers treat each other...the back biting and back stabbing....and for what? I had the delusion that by being in management I'd have more time....but that was a crazy notion. By being in management I had to dedicate more time to my job, I had to work crazy hours to fill in for people who were "sick" plus report to district managers who really had no clue as to how things were at store level.

      All that said....I KNOW how sales works. I KNOW the steps that most retailers make their staff use. It really really irks me when I go into a store and get ignored!