Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fake It 'Til You Make It

I'm really bad at faking it. In fact, I make it a general rule in life not to fake things. Unless I'm acting onstage or telling a story or something, I'm usually (painfully) straightforward about how I feel about any given situation. I'm also compelled to share these straightforward feelings often and with gusto. Just ask the poor bastards who have had to read my facebook statuses that are basically non-stop complaints about how bored and miserable I've been over the last week or so. (Sorry guys, it turns out it was mostly pms.)

But at work I'm forced to fake it. Practically at gunpoint. Example. Yesterday I was at work in the Men's Department, which I absolutely despise. I don't mind the men who shop there, it's just incredibly dull. It's so boring I actually get a little crazy from it. I sneak into the bathroom with my cell phone and start desperately texting my cousin in Iceland (via Facebook mobile), who is almost always, without a doubt, doing something much more fun at the time and is more than happy to tell me all about it in great detail, which I read in a hungry frenzy of masochism and then wash my hands, sigh, and throw the door open back into the world of retail. Or I text friends who are in other parts of the U.S., who are also at work and have little time to console me about my choice to work in retail.

Anyway, so I walk up to this man and he asks me if we have a certain pair of jeans in his size. I cheerily offer to look it up in the computer, and according to the computer, it says we have two more pairs somewhere in the store. I go over to the big pile of jeans and dig through them, sure that somehow the fact that I am wearing a name tag will give me the Divine Gift of Finding Objects In Piles better than the average shopper. Shockingly, I did not find the two mystery pairs of jeans in the pile. Not to worry. With a reassuring nod, I told him, "I'll go check in the back." This is the part where I confidently stride to "the back," through the room of shoe boxes, through one door, into a little hallway, through another door...

But as I walked into the shoe room, I realized that I had no idea which "back room" has all the jeans. Do we even have a room of jeans? Is this even "the back"? I was heading toward the storage room which also has the solo bathroom where I do all my most desperate work-texting. Would there be jeans there? My legs kept walking, they seemed really sure of where they were going, so I decided to just trust them and assume they would know where to find jeans.

We entered the back room, my legs and I, and wow! They really did know what they were doing! Look at all these jeans! I never noticed that the path to the secret bathroom was lined with jeans of all shapes and sizes, like a forest of blue denim. What luck! But wow, so many jeans. Most of them looked like they were a different brand than the ones the guy was looking for. I flipped through one or two pairs, then looked over the Jeans Forest once more, and decided... Screw this noise. I emerged from the mystical Denim Wood, through one door, over the little hallway, through the other door, through Shoe Box Canyon, and back out into the store. There was the guy.

Once again I relied on the magical powers bestowed unto me by my Name Tag. "How did those fit?"
"Yeah, they're too big, I'm going to need the other size."
*Knowing nod* "Ah yes, well you know, we don't have any more in the back, not sure why the computer says we do, but we have a ton of [name brand] jeans in the Juniors department. Do you know where that is?" Reassuring nod and smile, man leaves my department to go look elsewhere for jeans, deep breath, and... End of problem. I think after that I spent a few minutes arranging the ties on the Tie Table. (It's like a rainbow of cloth. I. LOVE. The tie table. It's the only thing I enjoy about working in the men's department, besides being close to the Secret Bathroom.)

Old Ladies and Their Underwear
My favorite department to work in is the underwear department. Not just because it's underwear, and pajamas, but because I like the other women who work there, it's relaxed, the people who shop there usually need your help so they're not rude, and I like trying to convince old ladies to buy leopard print giant panties. They're always like, "Oh! No, I don't want anything that wild." And I'm thinking to myself, "Ma'am, these underpants are the size of Greek fishing nets, just getting one with a little leopard print on it doesn't really make them wild." But I usually tell them something like, "Oh come on, why not make it a little surprise?" Every once in a while there's one who will giggle and buy them, which is too cute for words. That's right, I am a warrior for old women spicing up their underwear collection. You're welcome, Planet Earth.

The Guys at the Pretzel Place.

Nothing helps you feel better in the middle of a crappy day at work then a big cup of soft pretzel bits dipped in cheese and washed down with a coke. Mmmm...salty, buttery carbs. Mmmm...cheese. Mmmm...coke. The pretzel place really close to the store, so we all go there at least once a week to ease our troubles with a mini food coma. I usually talk on the phone to my mom when I go on these little pretzel adventures, because I can speak in "code" (Icelandic) and no one will understand anything I'm saying, so I can express myself freely. Well the other day I wasn't on the phone at the pretzel place, and the skinny teenage boys who work there started asking me questions.
"Do you work at the mall?"
"Yeah, I work at [store]. Here's my name tag."
"Oh right, ok then you get a mall employee discount."
"Sweet."
"Your name is Inga?"
"Yeah."
"Are you... from... somewhere... else?"
"Yes. I am from somewhere else."
"Yeah, I thought so, cuz usually when you come here you're talking on the phone, and you're speaking some... other... language."
"Yeah, I'm spying on you guys. I'm with the Taliban."
"Hahahaha--- Are you really spying on us?"
"No."
"Are you really with the Taliban."
"Yeah, I'm in the Icelandic branch of the Taliban."
-blank stare-
"I'm kidding. Give me my pretzels."
"Have a nice day."
"You too. I'm watching  you."

Once Again, Corporate Ruins Everything
So at work they have this system for training you how to provide the best customer service. It's basically common sense, chat with the customers and get them comfortable with you, help them find what they need, help them find things they don't need, tell them they did a great job letting you help them pick out that one thing they needed and all those other things they didn't need, and then take their money and tell them to have a super delicious day. Or something like that.

But management is taking this common sense selling method to a whole new level of annoying. They obsess over how we're going to "connect" with the customers. They don't seem to want to face the fact no one in their right mind wants to be followed around by a sales person who won't stop trying to chat with them. I understand they want us to do more than just say, "Hi, can I help you find anything?" but they're getting ridiculous. The managers hunt you down (pretending to fold something doesn't keep them away) and force you to role-play with them. They pretend they're the customer and, right there in the middle of the store, you have to pretend you're helping them and come up with things to say. It's awful. They tell you to talk to these strangers like they're your best friend, ignore the fact that the customers get a frightened look on their face when you do this, and JUST. KEEP. TALKING TO THEM. Apparently if we talk to them, they'll buy more things. They don't listen to reason, that if you bother people too much they'll probably just leave the store and vow never to shop there again. They just believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you're not making enough sales it's because you're not talking to the customers enough.

Sigh.

However, this is where I employ the trick I use most at work: The airhead trick. All you do is get this empty look in your eyes, smile a little bit when they're talking to you, and nod, and then agree with everything they say, in a softer voice than you usually use. Works every time. Then they think it's not that you're defiant, you're just a little dumb, and they just need to remind you of what to do, and you're always grateful for their extra help.

Send help.

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