Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Little shop of horrors

Last summer, when I was still a poor college student desperate for beer—er, food money, I accepted a position as a part-time retail associate at a sporting goods store. (As a side note, I would just like to point out that using the word “associate” in conjunction with any job title really helps inflate its perceived professional value. Like right now, instead of referring to myself as a newspaper reporter, I prefer calling myself a “reporting associate.” See what I mean?)

I was thankful for the job, as I had spent several weeks trying to get hired for any of several positions for which I was massively overqualified. I was thrilled to beat out a slew of 15-year-old boys for an opportunity to acquire some valuable experience in the area of price gun operation.

The problem was, I may or may not have told a couple of little white lies to beef up my résumé. Gone are the days when any old Joe Blow could just walk into a business establishment and get a minimum wage job. Now you need things like “experience” to give you an edge over the competition.

I used my status as a collegiate athlete as a platform for my fibbery.

“Well, I’m around college athletes like, pretty much every day,” I told the manager. “So yeah, I definitely know a lot about sports and sporting equipment.”

It must have worked, because I got hired. In reality, I knew nothing about any sport other than running, so racing flats were pretty much the extent of my sporting equipment expertise. But I figured I could handle selling a glove or two to a few harmless little league parents. Wrong.

I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw her sprint through the front door of the store. She was visibly stressed, her face flushed and sweaty. She was decked out in baseball fan gear, culminating with the compact-disc-sized photo button pinned to her t-shirt. In the photo: a roughly eight-year-old boy posing with a baseball bat and flashing a smile that was short a few teeth.

“He forgot his bat, he forgot his bat!” she screamed as she speed-waddled up to the cash register.

Oh boy. I shot a pleading look to Tom, the other kid on duty that night. He just smiled, as if to say, “No way. This one’s all yours.”

“I NEED to buy Carter a new bat RIGHT NOW,” the woman said. “It has to be EXACTLY like the one he left at home—I don’t want him to be thrown off by something different. Hurry up! His game starts in TWENTY MINUTES!”

I led Psycho Mom to the bat section, where I calmly asked her what kind of bat she was looking for.

“I DON’T KNOW!” she screamed. “Isn’t that YOUR job?!?”

Before I had a chance to remind her that I was a minimum-wage retail employee—not an effing psychic—she was pulling bats off the rack like she was Lindsay Lohan and the world’s last Long Island iced tea was stashed at the back of that bat tower.

“No, no, no…” she chanted as she discarded each incorrect bat—on the floor.

I stood there in horror, unsure of what to do. What do you say to someone who is destroying your store and acting like a complete lunatic?

In my head, I said things like, “Oh, don’t worry about making a mess—I’ll get it. You just go right ahead and tear apart any rack and/or display you want.” Or: “Bitch, are you cuh-razy?”

When she finally found the one she was looking for, she abruptly stood up and proceeded to speed-waddle all the way back to the register.

She drummed her fingers as I cut the tag off of the bat and scanned it into the system.

“Will that be all for you today?” I asked.

“Yes, yes, just hurry and ring me up,” she said as she thrust a credit card in my face.

I swiped the card and handed it back to her.

“Receipt with you or in the—”

Before I could finish my sentence, she had shuffled out the door, bat in hand.

“Bag,” I said, before bursting into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

And that, my friends, is why I’ll never work in retail again, and my kids will run cross country.


  1. At least the kid didn't have a magical bat carved from an oak struck by lightning, a la "The Natural".

    Though that may have been more fun. "Go carve a new bat, Crazy Mom!"

  2. If that had happened, I might have just quit on the spot. Or started drinking on the spot - one of the two.