when work is crazy

Between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, I sold $42,000 in clothing. That is as much as our entire store might do on an average Saturday, or maybe a really good Sunday.

I’ve had a goal since I started working as a Sales Associate at this particular store: sell more than $10,000 in one day. While we don’t work on a strict commission*, I still wanted to have that accomplishment under my belt. But until now, the closest I ever got was $8500 on Memorial Day this year.

That all changed when work announced their new, absurdly stupid** sale. On Friday, when I sold $8000 while only working 5.5 hours, I knew that this weekend was my chance. My chance to honestly excel at my job: run the fitting rooms, make people happy, and sell an absurd amount of clothing.

My Job

Let’s talk, for a moment, about running the fitting rooms. It is crazy. My job priorities go as this: (1) let someone into a fitting room as quickly as possible; (2) when they exit, clean out the room and close the room as quickly as possible — do not leave it open and unattended; (3) help customers with sizes, colors, and fashion advice as needed — and add on additional items as often as possible; (4) process clothing so that it can go back to the floor. On a good day, I can control all four of those goals; on days like this past weekend, I’m lucky if I get to goal #3.

There’s a point in running the fitting rooms where you lose control of the processing: where the items to be processed are so great that you know you won’t get to a manageable place until after the store closes, and maybe not for a few days. On days like this weekend, though, we are lucky enough to have help. In fact, we have an entire room dedicated to processing — but we still get backed up and overwhelmed. It’s inevitable, and it’s messy, and there’s a point where you just have to accept that you’ll have to wait for every single customer to be locked out before you can fix it.

But somehow, this weekend, there was a miracle.

I don’t know if we were just properly staffed, if my Queen of Processing was just incredible (well, let’s just go ahead and admit that she is), or if there was just some divine being who dictated that customers would be realistic about the number of items they brought to try on. Regardless, we stayed (mostly) on top of processing on Saturday. Every hour or so, I would turn around from helping a customer and be greeted by a mysteriously empty rack, ready for the next wave of customers to discard their rejects. It honestly felt like a magic trick.

The strangest thing about this phenomena is that the people who were helping with the processing and the go-backs and the stock checks — they were almost entirely new staff, as of that week (and some as of that day).

This is one reason I love new people: they are not jaded about the work we’re doing. They do not move slowly, or complain about the customers, or give up before they start because “we just can’t handle that kinda crazy.” They worked hard, and they hustled, and they were always ready to help no matter what I or any customer asked of them. This is what I loved most about the attitude of my fellow team members this past weekend.

In Conclusion

While I do not wish to work retail indefinitely, I cannot deny that it is a job which challenges me in a lot of good ways. I was so energized from Saturday’s success — nearly $20,000 in one day — that I couldn’t sleep for hours. I was jittery and shaking and hyper and beyond excited: because honestly, it was a rush.

But not only did I excel at my job, my peers excelled at theirs. No, they did not have $500 sales on a regular basis — but if they weren’t there to get the clothing back to the floor, there wouldn’t have been any clothing for me to sell in the first place.

I could talk for hours about what I’ve learned from working this job, from work ethic to fashion (and holy cow have I learned a lot about the latter). But what I’m trying hardest to learn is to always enjoy my job, and to always do my job to the best of my abilities.

I’ve thought a lot about my personal work ethic for the Holiday Season, which is fast approaching — in fact, this past weekend was just a taste of the crazy we’ll be experiencing over the next few months. This is what it boils down to:

Work hard, move quick, have fun. Enjoy your job, and try to improve the lives of both customers and fellow employees. Give credit to those who deserve it. Be Extra Nice.

***

*Commission Structure: we do not work on a standard commission structure, like most big-name retail stores, where a top seller will receive a percentage of what they sell. Instead, we receive a bonus based on the store making its selling goals each month. This means that the store has a set goal to achieve each month, and if we make that goal the entire store gets a cut (rather than the individuals who sell an absurd amount of clothing). This includes non-sales people, meaning those who work at night and in the mornings putting out more product, as well as cashiers and sales support, who generally don’t have an opportunity to sell enough clothing to start earning commission. While this method is detrimental to top sellers (like myself), I think I prefer it — it’s more team-oriented, and overall more effective to motivate everyone to help out.

**On the Stupidity of this past weekend: BR regularly has crazy sales, such as 40% of one full-price item every Wednesday, 30% off for all card-holders, or 25% off sale. If you pay attention, you never have to pay full price for a single item. But these sales are limited — usually, only one will happen at a time, and the coupons and sales frequently exclude “special” lines, like Shoes, Bags, and specific clothing collections. Moreover, those sales are planned out months in advance. But this sale — for whatever stupid reason — was 40% off the entire store, no exclusions. And as sales associates, we only found out about this sale Thursday (and it went live on Friday), meaning we had no time to prepare and staff the store appropriately. On Friday, we sold $60-70k on a staff which would normally sell $30k. Absurd? Yes.

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when work is crazy

There is something incredible about selling $8000 of clothing in 5 hours, give or take fifteen minutes. Let me do the math for you: that’s $1600 in a single hour. It’s a rush — grabbing sizes, helping put together outfits, smiling at people, and (most importantly) making them feel helped.

I don’t like my job every day, but I love my job most when it’s crazy. When the customers want that item in this size in three different colors, and “can I get a discount for…?” — because honestly, I’m really good at handling that kind of crazy.

Tomorrow morning I have a date. Then I go back to crazy-town for nine straight hours. It’s gonna be a great day.

AVS 2011 – dance goals

In short list format:

  • triple steps – I still have trouble really swinging my triples. I think part of this is because my pulse could be stronger, so I’m really going to work on that. I also want to make sure I’m pulsing at the end of my swingout — I don’t know for sure if I’m not, it’s just something that was mentioned which I’m curious about.
  • Charleston pulse – one of the teachers said something which really resonated with me: pulsing in Charleston should be mostly in the bottom half of your body, leaving the top almost still. While I’ve theoretically known this, it really clicked with me this weekend — honestly, it makes Charleston a lot more comfortable, which can be painful in (let’s be honest) the boobies region.
  • keeping my feet closer, more under me – something I feel I’m almost always working on — but I think that’s because I gain more body awareness the more experience I have. Specifically, I’m going to be working on keeping tight on my triple steps (when possible), my turns, and various fancy moves.
  • focusing on the main point of connection – 1) helps maintain frame with awkward connections, like when a lead has you by the left hand or left elbow; as long as you orient towards that connection, you won’t over-rotate or break frame. 2) helps be a better follow, as you’ll be focusing on what the point of connection, which is telling you what to do next. This might be obvious, but it’s worth saying. We frequently forget to pay attention when we’re connected in a strange place or when we’re “going crazy” for the music or the moment.
  • frame – yes, I mentioned it in the last point, too; but I’m really trying to work on it. Specifically, I’m looking at not opening up too much, as well as not giving more tension / compression than my lead is asking for or than is necessary to understand what’s going on. Additionally, I want to work on my core frame, meaning the muscles that hold it all together.
  • posture – also part of the frame thing. Also, I noticed in the competition video, that I don’t always stand up straight…and that’s just ugly.
  • be true to the step –  If I should be triple stepping do it. In fact, just try to triple step more, as eventually I’ll learn the difference of when to triple and when to step-step.

That’s a lot, and I’m cognizant of the fact that not all of it will get done, and that much of it I’ll be working on this time next year, at the very least. However, it gives me a good idea of where I am at the moment, and things I can think about while social dancing.

There are two things I really want to do outside of swing dancing which might help in some areas (particularly balance, posture, and frame):

  1. boot camp of some sort — for core and upper body strength, specifically, but also to build stamina and potentially speed?
  2. yoga – to build control, flexibility, and strength

If anyone knows of any boot camp or yoga classes which can be taken on a budget, let me know! I’m also going to keep an eye out for Groupon and LivingSocial deals…

***

On a tangent, I have noticed a few things since I’ve been taking all these workshops since June-ish: my dancing with specific leads I’ve always found challenging has gotten significantly better. I think, though, that it’s how I approach dancing with those leads. I’m a very visual follow: generally, I want to match the variation that my lead is doing. While I realize this isn’t always what should happen (and I’m good about resisting the urge on a swingout, I swear), it is still frequently what I attempt.

One lead in particular is a very light, but very complicated lead; he’s different from most dancers in Atlanta — his pulse is much stronger, and through that pulse he leads complicated syncopations and variations. About two months ago, I stopped looking at his feet for clues about what to do next and stared at his chest — and low and behold, it went a little smoother. No, I did not get all the awesome stuff he led. However, I was able to get the general movement and direction, and I was more on time. Now, some time later, I frequently hit the same or similar variations, and I have a much higher frequency of matching his syncopations.

I think it’s something a lot of follows have trouble with — the transition from a mostly visual follow (most beginners) to a more “feeling it” follow. While much of this is fairly easy to figure out (connection, basic pulse), I think there are specific leads who challenge us to find their pulse, or maybe who challenge us to find a better pulse (I’m not sure which yet — or maybe even both), so that we are better able to follow.

I think a lot of my dance goals above tie into what I’m talking about here: I’ve been really pushing myself with leads I don’t connect well with so that I might find more challenges in my own dancing. And honestly, it’s been working pretty well — this particular lead now asks me to dance on a regular basis, which was never (and I mean never) the case before.

Success? Moving towards it, I guess!

AVS 2011

AVS will always hold a special place in my heart — after all, it is the event which inspired me to start swing dancing. As such, I tend to return to AVS every year a little nostalgic…but also frequently disappointed. This year, however, I was incredibly satisfied. The advanced classes were stimulating despite being composed of an upper-intermediate crowd; the band was spectacular; the space was good and seemed surprisingly full despite its large size (I mean, it’s GT — it has the potential to be severely under-attended), which led to high energy and lots of space to move around in.

All in all, it was a successful event. There are two things, though, which I found to its detriment. First, while most of the advanced classes were fantastic, there were two or three which I found to be so uninspiring that I wanted to sleep (and in fact, on Saturday afternoon, I did). However, I think every workshop event has its share of uninspiring classes, so for this to be one of the two main problems actually speaks even more for AVS, which has had its share of bigger problems in the past.

Second, I was not a big fan of the competition structure. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never attended an event where you have to choose between competing in the Strictly or in the Jack and Jill. I think this was a detriment to the energy, which could have been even higher had the advanced dancers been able to compete in all the dances they chose. At the same time, I understand the motivation to get more people signed up to compete by eliminating some of the advanced dancers as an intimidation factor…but I don’t think that would have been a problem, in most cases.

Moreover, I did not appreciate the battle-style structure of the Strictly (which I chose to compete in with MQ — love you, MQ!). While I do approve of battle-style competitions, I believe the music was too fast (more than 200bpm) to really encourage playing off our direct opposition. The speed was a detriment to the energy of that specific competition, which could have been an absolute hilarity if it had been slowed down just a tad. In fact, a friend who had not attended the event asked me what was up, because when she watched the video, it just looked like a “clusterfuck.” Her word, not mine.

Regardless, I absolutely loved competing, and it was a really good learning experience. The videos are on facebook, so its hard to link to them — but I will be watching them for quite a while trying to look at what I can do better next time.

A friend sent me some interesting stuff on her thoughts about competitions, and I think she should post more about it on her own blog (hint, hint); however, I understand it’s not necessarily the purpose of her blog, so it might not happen. It has given me food for thought, however, on how I might approach competitions in the future and, if I run an event, what my thoughts for competitions for others might be.

I’m also going to post some personal goals and thoughts about dancing. I’ve attended a lot of really good workshops this year, but I haven’t been able to act on everything I want to — partially because some of my goals are genuinely difficult, and partially because I haven’t had the focus I wanted. Maybe blogging will help.

what’s that saying…?

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

Okay, not that one, though it is pretty good. No, I’m thinking about something along the lines of getting back on the horse. The proverbial horse, that is, since I’ve never been a big horseback rider.

When I moved in with my sister, I had no internet; however, I moved out in July, and I’ve had internet since then. So why no posts? I fell out of habit, and I had no motivation to get back in habit, no matter the inspiration.

However, despite my sudden disappearance from the blogging world, I haven’t really stopped making personal improvements:

  • I’ve fulfilled my dance competition goals for the year (compete four times), and I have another two competitions lined up for this weekend. I’ll try to post videos of some of those comps at some point.
  • I’ve been solo dancing — even competed in it twice (see above) — though, there was much coercion involved, I won’t lie.
  • Not only are my student loans consolidated, but I’ve been making regular payments on them. Yay!
  • Continued reading books & analyzing them, though I failed to post any of those reviews I was going to post. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some of them later?
  • I’m currently under-going a “30 day cleanse” of coke. Well, technically I’m cleansing all soft drinks — but let’s be honest. I only drank coke.

So honestly, we’re doing pretty well. A lot has happened — I applied for a job at the Library, but didn’t get it; I’m one of the best sellers at BR; I’m studying for the GRE, and I’m finally looking at Grad School like I might actually want to go.

Time away from the blog has honestly probably done me good. I’m probably going to adjust the direction of this blog from week-long challenges to whatever challenge comes up. Here are some thoughts:

  • I want to learn to sew. Not just mend a hole in my pants, but refashion jeans. I need a sewing machine, so it will take a while, but it’s gonna happen.
  • I want to like where I live. I mean, I like it, but I want more — awesome decorations, smart setup. I live in a small place, and I need to revamp it so that it’s more…comfortable.
  • I want to learn to use my camera. I have a lot of friends who want the same with their own cameras, so I think this is very achievable.
  • I want to continue to improve at doing my own makeup, hair, and fashion; I’ve learned a lot, but I still have my off days.

I’m trying to fine-tune the direction of whatever I post: not necessarily updates about my life as much, I know. But are they going to be more project oriented? More challenge oriented? With more pictures or more steps or more reactions?

Any questions / comments / rude remarks are welcome. I’m gonna go study now, but I’m definitely back.