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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