Keeping It Brand, Part 14

88a77e08e56fb124dbfb6df47283a456I work at Target, and most days that simply means I wear Red & Khaki, smile at everyone I run into, and perform a passel of other tasks aimed at increasing sales so I can keep my average number of hours per week. Sounds like fun, right?

Most times it’s lonely, truth be told, because I don’t generally work with a group of people. I’m not a cashier so I don’t get to shoot the breeze with other cashiers in those lulls between guests ready to check out. I’m not on the presentation team so I don’t get to tear down and put up shelving and new products with a group of others. I’m not a backroom team member so I’m not listening to music in the backroom while backstocking or taking items from their locations to put on the sales floor. I’m the Perishables Assistant, so I work alone.

Now, working alone doesn’t mean I’m by myself. During my day I do run across hundreds of guests, most of whom are perfectly friendly, most of whom are pleasantly hygienic, and most of whom are good for brief conversations to keep me interested. But it’s one thing to have a pleasant conversation with a guest for a few seconds, and quite another to be a member of a team and have others who also work there to talk with about everything under the sun.

It’s why I like Saturday mornings because that’s when we get food shipments and the flow team comes over to my “horseshoe” area and helps put away the frozen and dairy items while I work hard on the produce and meat counterparts. Saturday mornings are when I truly do feel like a member of a team. It’s when I get to know people who I might be on a first name basis with but who I don’t otherwise get the chance to know. And while I’ve been teaching summer school for the past five weeks Saturdays are the only day I really get to have that connection.

Tuesdays used to be the same, but I’m not there on Tuesdays right now. I miss my Tuesday conversations. But anyway, Saturdays are it for now, so I treasure them even more. Sometimes I think maybe I picked the wrong job. I mean, there are a ton of workstations in the store, most of which offer more chance to interact with others. But then I look at the other side of the coin. Continue reading “Keeping It Brand, Part 14”

Keeping It Brand, Part 13

f2d27“‘Do you have any of those 99 cent eggs?” the woman asked me at 8:15 this morning. I knew her. I had seen many like her yesterday in the afternoon when we first ran out of “those 99 cent eggs.” Honestly, I’m embarrassed to tell people that I don’t have what they’re looking for, especially when what they’re looking for is one of the biggest tenets of the holiday that is coming up soon. But it sometimes happens, and I have to do what I can to make their shopping experience as good as it can be regardless of the absence of eggs, or whatever else happens to be missing.

So what did I do today to help those guests who were disappointed over the lack of eggs? I gave them discounts on other products they wanted to purchase. I labeled and brought clearance products out of the back room and re-merchandised them in the egg section. But the first thing I did was to sincerely apologize, and an honest apology can go a long way toward repairing hurt feelings, in retail and in life.

Funny how working in retail gives me more of a perspective on real life. We spend so much time before the store opens making sure everything is ready for a full day of sales. The floors are cleaned, the windows and bathrooms too. The food is put out and faced off so it looks fresh and full to even the casual eye. The endcaps are also faced off and filled with product to influence even more sales. Money is placed into the registers in preparation for making change, smiles plastered on the faces of the employees to make it all seem more hospitable.

Today was one of those days where everything worked like a machine. Continue reading “Keeping It Brand, Part 13”

I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 10

coverI remember I was in a room with close to 25 other youngsters aged 7-12, all wearing shorts because it was hot out. We were in a church recreation room in West Philadelphia with two older ladies who were obviously in charge. I was 10 at the time and out of school for the summer – we all were – so I could have been anywhere doing anything, but my mom had heard about this program to help kids do outreach for the church as well as assist in paying tuition to a rather expensive private school that we attended. And I was scared.

You see, back then I was nervous about pretty much everything, the shy kid in the back who doesn’t say “boo” and hopes to keep blending in so people don’t make fun of him. That was me. And I saw pretty early on that the “outreach” we were expected to do meant going out in a public place, talking to absolute strangers, and getting them to sign up for a subscription to a Christian magazine (or several). You can understand why that properly freaked me out.

Now, the ladies seemed nice enough. They were going to split us up every day and head to two different parts of the city where we would canvas people all day long, while carrying around  satchel full of magazines that they could purchase for $2 or $5 dollars apiece, and subscriptions that cost considerably more in the short term but “paid for themselves” in the long term (i.e. eternal salvation). They were magazines with one name monikers like Insight, Messenger, Listen, and Outlook. I personally didn’t think people were allowed to solicit in some of the places we did, but the ladies apparently either didn’t care or thought God would take care of it.

We went places like 8th and Market Streets outside of the subway stop, to catch all the people who were going into the Gallery to shop, or outdoors in the marketplace two blocks from our church in North Philly. But the prime two places were the 30th Street Train Station and the outside doors of Strawbridge & Clothier downtown. On occasion several of the employees of Strawbridge’s would tell us we couldn’t be there, but no one in a uniform came to force us out. So we kept going. Continue reading “I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 10”

I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 9

warning_substitute_teacher_postcard-p239009390332992021qibm_400They took my fingerprints, and the only thing I could think while they were doing it was, “Damn, it’s going to be really hard to get this ink off my hands.” But it was all necessary, I knew, the only way to start the occupation I knew I wanted for the rest of my life. Even if the fingerprinting was merely to be a substitute teacher instead of the real thing. Everybody has to start somewhere.

A substitute teacher has to be malleable, to shift from day to day, quite unlike most other professions, which are rote.

I decided to substitute teach when I was in graduate school because the classes were mostly in the evenings, and I wanted to get my feet wet in the profession I was going to school for, which seemed smart at the time. What no one told me, however, was that substitute teaching is so different from actually having my own classroom and set schedule. I learned pretty quickly, though, once I got that first phone call to sub.

First off, the calling system was automated, so I had to set up my “profile” in the system before I could even be called to sub. Once that was set it was all about waiting. Usually the calls would come ridiculously early in the morning, and I would have to re-map my whole day around it. Since I didn’t know the area very well, I would have to ask my wife how to get places, then leave very early just in case I got lost getting there.

I learned pretty early on, too, that it mattered which position I was going to substitute for, if just to help my choice of attire. Once I got the call and it was for P.E. but I didn’t realize the difference until I arrived at the school in a full suit. My shoes weren’t even allowed on the gym floor, so I ended up walking around in my bare feet for most of the day, and I ditched the jacket about fifteen minutes into the first class session. Continue reading “I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 9”

Keeping It Brand, Part 12

Toys, toys, and more TOYS.

T’is the season once again, when hordes of people descend upon retail establishments, searching for the latest and greatest in electronics, entertainment, toys, and games. These kindly folks are given lists by their diligent children, or grandchildren, or nieces, or nephews, or godkids, lists of items for Santa to bring them. These items range from beats by dre headphones, to BMX bikes, to Lego Chima, to Monster High dolls, to basically anything else you can find on the shelves with a price tag on it. And each year, the “must-haves” are different. This year’s “must-haves” were:


  • Playstation 4
  • Zoomer robot dog
  • Doc McStuffin’s Checkup Center
  • Razor scooters
  • Logo Party board game
  • Lego Friends sets
  • Our Generation dolls and accesories
  • Rubber band bracelets
  • Crayola Crayon Maker
  • Flutter-bye dolls

I know they were the “must-haves” because of the plethora of phone calls to the store from 8 o’clock on every morning since November 12th, asking for the availability of said items. That’s of course in addition to the people wanting bungee chairs, rocker chairs, microwaves, Kitchen-Aid attachments (and mixers), vacuum cleaners, Keurig machines, and beer making kits. It honestly blows my mind the sheer numbers generated by a retail store just in that month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Numbers of guests in the building on any given day, at any given hour. Numbers of guests through the checkout lines. Numbers of average items in each cart. Numbers of dollars spent on those items. Numbers of team members assigned to the electronics, entertainment, and toys areas of the store on any given day, at any given hour.

So THAT’S what Zoomer looks like!

And this year I was responsible for two major areas of the store for the holidays: perishables, and TOYS. Now, if you’ve been following this series, you’ll know that my primary job at Target is the perishables assistant, meaning I am responsible for making sure all of our fresh food is indeed fresh, that it’s full on the floor, and that an order goes in systematically so we can maintain the other two. I think many people forget in the maelstrom over in electronics, entertainment, and toys, that food is a huge seller this time of year as well and helps to maintain the other areas of the store. Anyway, though, I was asked this year to expand my talents and take over the daunting task of also maintaining Toys. Continue reading “Keeping It Brand, Part 12”