Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Servitude with a smile"

Apr. 5, 2015 "Servitude with a smile": I cut out this article by Zosia Beilski in the Globe and Mail on May 3, 2011.  It's about working in retail.  50 yr old woman named Caitlin Kelly worked in retail and she talked about how she struggled working there.  How customers don't respect her and most of the time, the job isn't that good.

I have worked in retail like at a clothing store for 5 months in 2005 (I was 20 yrs old).  I loved it, and then I got bored and got a job at Call Centre #1.  Then I kept working at Call Centres.  There was some retail jobs here and there.  I really enjoyed working at a restaurant because of the free food.  I'm sure some of you guys are laughing at this part.

Here's the whole article:

At the age of 50, Caitlin Kelly got a job in retail.

Fired from The New York Daily News, the journalist and author decided to supplement her freelance writing income with a job at The North Face in wealthy Westchester, N.Y.

Ms. Kelly describes her two-year stint selling sleeping bags and ski gloves to hedge-fund managers and society matrons in Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.

When she wasn't entertaining arcane questions about parka linings or scraping gum off the floor, Ms. Kelly got to experience the "random vitriol" of shoppers - and she says the worst customers were women.

Other hazards of the job included hands so dried out by merchandise that they cracked and bled, as well as breaks taken in a washroom - The North Face didn't offer staff many seating options, Ms. Kelly says.

The pay? A grim $11 an hour.

The result of such conditions are high turnover rates across the industry, according to Ms. Kelly. Even so, she describes an esprit de corps among her fellow associates, who included former executives and a veteran of the French Foreign Legion.

The Vancouver-born, Toronto-raised author spoke from Tarrytown, N.Y., with The Globe and Mail.

The title of your book, Malled, puns on being mauled. Was that your lasting impression of retail?

People's experiences can be very different from mine. I'm hearing from a lot of people around the country saying, "Yep, that's my life." A lot of people in this industry are working for low wages, they don't get raises, commissions, bonuses, and they're driving the business. I was very frustrated by that gap, between the pressure to perform and, what, seven bucks an hour? A lot of people come away from it feeling very tired and very bitter.

Tell me about the embarrassment factor: You write that you hoped no one would see you working your "odd little downscale pursuit" at a suburban mall.

A lot of people in my circle gave me much more credit and respect for simply doing what I needed to do. I needed to make money. When a recession hits, you can sit at home and have a pity party and feel very scared. The job market is completely indifferent, and I was 50. It's not pretty over 45 and it's really not pretty over 50.

The extent of corporate control in a shopping experience might surprise customers: You describe a regimented six-step sale process.

As shoppers, we're distracted, or we're in some lovely reverie of "I'm going to buy some pants." You're enjoying your day. [Behind the scenes] it's very centralized. There would be orders from head office, big thick binders of things we had to do and say. These are large corporate entities. You're a cog in the machine.

Most of your bad customers were women, but some men also seemed to take pleasure in making you feel small.

A guy once dressed me down for not being able to take something off a mannequin. You know what, buddy? It's just a jacket. Get a grip on yourself.

You talk about customers who come in "pre-pissed." Why are they so angry?

I was in Westchester, N.Y. Some of the most insanely wealthy people would shop in our mall. What became very clear was that it was class warfare. When you are behind that counter, these people come in and see you as just the next thing in line that is there to make their day absolutely flawless. These people have an army of servants - nannies and au pairs and trainers and manicurists and pedicurists. But this was a store. Guess what? That's not in stock, it doesn't come in purple, it doesn't come with pockets. I can't wave a wand and give you what you want. This is like talking to a really tired two-year-old. These are people you don't say no to and they really get ugly.

Were the stay-at-home wives wielding the hubby's credit card resentful of not having autonomy, even as they spent?

Sure, hide the bag in the closet, I know people like that. But there is also the sense of "I married the Wall Street boy and you didn't." It comes off of them in waves. "I won the contest." In some ways, I felt sorry for these people: If you have the need to make some poor clerk feel crappy.

Were some of your customers emotional shoppers, filling a void?

The American Dream is very specific: rise, rise, rise. It is not: "lose job, be unemployed for 6, 12, 18, 24 months." There is sometimes this terrible sense of, "Not only is my life not what I want it to be, I can't get it the way I want it to be. And now I'm going to buy something to make me feel better and you better help me." Shopping, for some people, is still this kind of revenge.

What about employee theft, or "shrink," as they refer to it in retail? Do some salespeople see it as a vigilante retort to overwork and abuse?

Nobody can justify theft. You don't like your job? Quit. But you do feel a tremendous sense of frustration. You've got the enormous gap between what your customers have and what you have, what your customers are spending, without even blinking sometimes, and it's a month of your wages. Every hour, your productivity is measured and it's posted on the wall. I knew that I made $11 an hour. I could see every week that I sold $122 of merchandise an hour. Our great associates were selling $200 to $300 an hour on costs of $11 an hour - no benefits, no pension, no sick days, no paid vacations in a part-time job. My best day, I sold $542 an hour for 11 bucks.

Are you nicer to sales staff now?

I have a central respect, that you don't know where these people are in their lives. They could be studying neuroscience at the University of Toronto. Give them a basic respect that they're not who you think they are.

I have to admit there are times when I lose it because I'm in the store and there's another corporate decision that is driving me nuts as a customer. I want to snap somebody's head off, but I know that it's a waste of time because they'll never be able to get the message up the chain.

I walked into J. Crew and there was an associate wearing earbuds. I stood there with a credit card in my hand ready to buy a Christmas present for my sweetie. I walked out. The next time I walk into J. Crew, rightly or wrongly, I am already to some degree pre-pissed.

What did The North Face make of the book?

They told employees not to talk about it.

This interview has been condensed and edited.


Aug. 12, 2015 Be a DJ: I was thinking about what other jobs I could do.  What would be cool?  What would be fun?

Being a DJ would be cool and fun.  However, I don't like working at night.  Also when you're a DJ you have to be like a party animal.  Or at the very least very passionate about music.

Be a nail technician: I went to this information session with one of my friends to this beauty school.  Is this recession proof?  I'm sure some of you guys are laughing at this part.  No disrespect to nail technicians.

I'm not that interested in the beauty industry.  I like it, but I don't know about getting an education to get into it.  The beauty industry does seem fun.

I would have to be really passionate to get an education in something like Professional Writing.

"Nail technicians clean, shape, extend and polish clients' fingernails and toenails."


Oct. 4, 2015 Job search complaint:

Clothing store: I wrote about this before, but I'm going to write about it again.  It was back in summer 2007 and I was working at Treats Café.  I talked to my manager Aziz and I complained about how I passed my resume to this clothing store Jacob Connexion.  They had a hiring sign and they didn't call me back for an interview.  I thought I was a good fit for the job because I have worked at a clothing store before for 5 months.

I told this to my friend Angela and she told me that though they are hiring, they may not find me to be a good fit for the job.  I know, but I thought I was good fit for the job due to prior experience.  However, the manager may have seen that I was only available during the summer and not the school year, so that's why I didn't get a call back.

I'm sure there are a lot of you saying: "That was years ago.  Also Jacob closed down all their stores."

Furniture store: My other mild complaint is that a few months ago, I passed my resume to that furniture store that was hiring.  They didn't call me back, and that's fine.  They probably saw my resume and see I only had 5 months at a clothing store.  They were probably looking for someone with more relevant retail experience like selling big appliances.

Feb. 15, 2016 Day off: Today is my day off because it's Family Day.  I work 7 days a week, but it's really about 30-35 hrs a week. It's full- time, but there is work-life balance.  I usually get a whole day off once a month.

I usually have a day off to put up all my job articles onto my weekly emails/ blog posts.  I'm sure if you look at the dates you can see how I prepare them way ahead.  I'm brainstorming for a way to get a job.

When I go to work, I have evenings where I go to Meetups or watch some of my recorded TV shows.

I only go shopping occasionally like a couple of times a month.  It's usually I have an event to go to, and before it starts I go shopping.  Like last month there was a Christmas party at work, and I worked.  I could take the bus home and then be there for a bit and then take another bus back here.  Or I could rest a bit and go shopping.

Feb. 17, 2016: It's a good thing I got  a day off because yesterday was crazy busy and so was today.  It's probably going to be like this all week. 

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