Wednesday, May 11, 2005

caught on the hop

Ah, the Merchandising Team. What fond memories those two words bring back to me. The Sexy Sirens Of Sportswear. What stunning beauties they were, each and every one of them.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…

Working in the sports store as a staff member was quite entertaining. However, once I became manager, it became increasingly frustrating by the day. When I wasn’t trying to motivate the predominately under-18 workforce to focus on customer service, I was dealing with an irate mother who couldn’t understand that the material of her son’s replica soccer shirt could not withstand being clearly snagged by something sharp. When I wasn’t wading through a mountain of paperwork dreamed up by the mindless beaurocrats at Head Office, I was trying to explain to yet another sales rep that the very same headquarters was where they should go to peddle their assorted wares.

Somehow I would get to closing time, armed with a list of things to do the next day, a list of things I hadn’t gotten done that day, and, to top it all, a sales figure. Ah, yes, the sales figure. The actual thing on which I would be judged, yet at the same time it was the one thing I could not focus on what with staff levels being kept to a minimum and a barrage of seemingly meaningless tasks for managers being spewed forth from The Ivory Tower.

One day out of every three or so weeks, however, I managed to clear my schedule. That was the day The Merchandising Team came to my store. You could tell by looking at them that they had been hand picked by the Managing Director himself, a man well known for having an eye for the ladies. There were four of them in total – a blonde, a brunette, a mousey-brown, and a red head. They came in all shapes and sizes between them, but they were beautiful, each and every one of them.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…

No self respecting straight man would ask for a day off when The MT were rostered to work your store. The female staff, on the contrary, would choose not to be there, primarily so they could whip out their cat claws the following day and brag about how they could have made the store look ten times better themselves. The MT didn’t have to worry about this, however, for by then they had moved on to yet another branch, and to yet another batch of Alpha Male wannabes.

And so, the MT’s van arrived around 10am, and on this particular day they needed help with a new display stand they were going to try out on our turf. Needless to say, there was no shortage of offers to help them lift it off the back of the van. Luckily I was able to pull rank and become one of the volunteers. It was nothing special to look at when bare; it was simply a two-sided mini-wall about four feet high and about eight feet wide. Its purpose was to utilise the vast space at the front of each store, a space that was originally intended to be welcoming for potential patrons, to see if the hottest lines of footwear could be attractively displayed to persuade them to visit the back of the store where the entire range was situated.

It did not take the MT girls long to fix up the exhibit, and they then went about the rest of their day, tweaking a wall configuration here, putting up fresh new posters there, keeping the male staff under their spell everywhere. Ladder-fetching, garment-holding, bulk-of-dirty-work-doing were tasks they never had to worry about, believe me.

As always, when it came to lunchtime, which the four of them would take together downstairs in my canteen, our roster was remarkably organized in such a way that I was the only one taking my break at the same time. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?

“So, Jeff, have you given your Customer Service Seminar yet?” the redhead asked me.

“My what?” Then those three words catapulted my mind back to the stack of Ivory Tower dictats I had put aside for the day. “Oh, yeah, the Seminar! Well, of course, with you lot being here I couldn’t get it done today, so I guess between tomorrow and Thursday I’ll get to it!”

“Awww….” Said the blonde, and gave her trademark pout. Imagine Sarah Chalke, aka the blonde girl from “Scrubs”. Yeah, just like her, in the flesh.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…

“Why did you want to know?”

“Oh, we’ll be finished your store early today, and we were hoping to sit in on your seminar to see what it was like. Not to worry! We can go home early instead.”

And so, at 5pm, one hour before closing time, the hastily arranged Customer Service Seminar began down at the back of my store. It was normally quiet at this time on a Tuesday anyway, and at least getting it done now would lighten my load for the following day.

The MT girls sat side by side with their fetchers and carriers on the benches in the shoe department as I began my spiel, with the security guard manning the front door.

“The key element to good customer service” I began, “Is your approach. Obviously, the customer does not want you in their face the moment they enter the store. Still, you have to be at least aware they are there, and for example, if you see someone holding a shoe for over a minute, you can be pretty much assured that they are interested, and that you can approach them to see if they would like to try it on.”

“You mean like that chap over there?” said mousey brown, aka Kate Winslet.

At the front of the store there was a man in his fifties eyeing up a shoe at the display stand put there only that morning.

“Ah, well spotted. Exactly what I mean. Now, people, watch and learn.”

And with that I practised what I had been preaching. He was casually dressed, and he was closely examining the display shoe as I approached.

“Can I get a size in that for you to try on, sir?” I said, loud enough for my young Paduans to hear from where they were seated.

He looked up and beamed a broad smile.

“Yes, would you happen to have this in a size nine and a half?”

“Why don’t you take a seat down the back there, sir, and I’ll see if we have it for you.”

“Um, ok!”

With that, he hopped to one side. Yes, I mean hopped. From where I had been standing, I could see his torso and his right leg, but the fact that he had no left leg to speak of was beyond my vision thanks to the stand.

“Just down the back there?” He queried, as he manoeuvred his crutch (which was also cleverly hidden) into position.

“Er, yes, just there, I’ll be right back.” And with that I took the display shoe from him, placed it on its tray on the stand, and headed through the door down to the stockroom.

OK, this isn’t too bad, I thought. I can show them all how to treat every customer equally, regardless of the circumstances. Even if he doesn’t buy the shoes, I can still give him top drawer customer service, and the girls will have a glowing report to give tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong?

Ahem…

And so I found the nine and a half and went back up to the sales floor. The pupils had escaped up to the cash register to see how I got on. The customer was seated on one of the benches. As I neared him, I noticed the box was a bit lighter than it should have been.

With horror I realised there was only one shoe in the box. The right one. Its match was on display somewhere in the store. How can I show him the contents of this box without making him think I’m somehow mocking him?

Just look at the box, pretend you’ve gotten the wrong size, apologize, and go back downstairs and sort it all out! Great! No problem! Too bad I thought of that afterwards… maybe I’ll do that next time I’m in the same predicament.

“Here you go sir” I said, nervously handing him the right shoe and keeping hold of the box. “Do you…”

“Need help getting it on? No thanks you are ok.” And with that, he put it on. I could hear muffled sniggering behind me.

And so he rose to his, um, foot, and hopped around a bit with his crutch.

“That’s feels good,” he said, “Any chance of a discount?”

“Uh…”

“Well the left one is hardly any good to me, is it?”

“Uh…”

Back came the broad beaming smile.

“Relax, relax, I was only messing with you. It would hardly be any good to you, either, would it? I’ll take them, thank you.”

“What? Oh, great! OK, well just give me the box there and I’ll take them up to the register for you when you are ready.”

With that, I was able to rescue the correct left shoe from the front display, and successfully ring in the sale avoiding the collective taunts of the others as a few of them silently hopped behind the gentleman as he stood at the counter. At least I hadn’t gotten to the part of my presentation whereby I was to claim there was no (and I mean NO) shoe sale you could possibly close without at least recommending the customer buy a 3-pack of socks to go with them.

As soon as he hopped out of the store, I received a round of applause.

“Now THAT’s what I call customer service, you can even sell a pair of sports shoes to a one-legged man!” quipped the brunette. Remember Carrie-Ann Moss, aka Trinity from The Matrix? Just like her.

What was my story again? Oh, yeah…it’s finished!!!


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9 comments:

Buffalo said...

Excellent!

alley rat said...

hmm, it does seem a bit unfair to have to buy TWO shoes...maybe I should start a business selling only left OR right shoes, for the one legged...thanks for the idea!

Heidi said...

really enjoyed your story! I can just imagine the look on your face when he asked about just purchasing one of the shoes... LOL

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You can think in the presence of beautiful women. I'm impressed!

Dol said...

Ooh, it reminds me of how distracted I get when those hot mo-fos from the gully warehouse come up around my direction.
No wait... I'm confusing fantasy with reality again. Consarnit.

James Howard Shott said...

JL, you have a gift. That gift is for expressing stories in a very good and entertaining way.

Your political positions really suck, however :>)

That was a joke, by the way.

I truly enjoy reading you posts, even though I don't often comment on them.

shandi said...

Loved the story!!! But...I couldn't help being reminded of my cousin. She has a birth defect that left her with one foot 4 sizes larger than the other. If you think it's a waste to buy one pair of shoes when you only have one foot....what do you think about having to buy 2 pairs of shoes? She would donate the odd pair to the Shriners.
Didn't mean to bring you down. Just thought it was interesting.

Jim said...

JL, great telling of snippet of life. Your story made me think of someone I used to work for who had polio when he was 12, the result of which was one leg being seriously stunted as he matured. Like Shandi's cousin, he too has to always buy two pairs of shoes.

I never heard him mention the Shriners in the 7 years that I worked for him, so I wonder if he's aware of that option. Maybe we should start a shoe clearinghouse?

fairygirl701 said...

BWAHAHA! You guys are so silly, will do anything for female favor!!