Tallahassee, Florida – 1988
One of my favorite jobs was during my college days, working at Jeans West clothing store at Governor’s Square Mall. It was the hottest male clothing store and highly favored by District/Regional Headquarters because our sales had doubled since I was hired in as Assistant Manager (and was promoted to Store Manager within two months) a year prior. Of course, I worked hard to get us above our competition, Chess King and the semi-formal menswear store, J. Riggins.
First, I brought in my wild roommate, Daryl, who had worked with me at Service Merchandise. With “D” by my side, I knew things would be a mess because he didn’t care WHAT he did to customers.
…and you know, I was no better.
Then I convinced two of our girls to be mannequins, modeling our shirts in the store window (The 5-7-9 shop across the hall was doing it, but we became the rage for our antics, which included their “Vogue-like” posing to music). I cut off our mall-provided Muzak and radio service and pumped my own mix tapes through the store speaker system. I then had our people encourage incoming customers to join them in our 12-hour “house party”, which they often did. It was like walking into “da club”, especially Friday nights and Saturdays.
One Saturday, I took a short break and ran to Wendy’s in the food court, where I scarfed down my Double with fries before hurrying back with my large Frosty shake (God, they were so good back then). When I returned to the store, all that was left was my drink, which I had been trying to suck down without my head imploding. If you’ve ever had a Frosty, you know what I mean and why they give you a spoon – to keep you from having a stroke.
As I walked in the store, I noticed this little 2-3 year old kid, eyeing my drink along my every step to the front register. Ignoring him, I set it down behind the counter, on the shelf beneath the register.
I walked over to one of my regular customers who gave me a big hug before she took my hands and started dancing with me. We playfully did The Bump and laughed as I noticed that little boy, who had walked away from his mother, ending up behind the counter. Sure enough, he emerged with my drink in his hands, sucking violently on straw.
“Uhhhh, ma’am!” I called to his mother. I wasn’t going to walk over and take his drink from him. “MA’AM!“
His mother looked up, slammed the coat hanger on the rack, stomped over to her son, grabbed the drink, then slung him across the carpet. Half of the crowd stopped and gasped as he got up and screamed “I HATE you!”
She walked over and handed me my drink, which I was tempted to give back to her (or the child), but being the whistle-blower, I thought it best to leave well enough alone. Of course there was the matter of her child yelling at her, which would never have been tolerated in my family.
She silently returned to the shirt she had been inspecting before looking up and asking how large our belts ran in size. After answering, I gestured towards the accessories section, still a little confused that she had let him get away with such an overt act of defiance.
She walked over to the belt rack, looked over a few of the cloth belts, then the leather belts. She took one of the longer belts, held it up high and looked it up and down. A look of contentment fell on her face as she folded it in half, firmly gripped the two ends in one hand…
…then ran over and began to whoop the dog shit out of that kid!
Whap! Whap! Whap! Whap!
The beating continued as the kid screamed over the music. The customers who were watching them in horror looked over to me as if I needed to do something. Ahhh, the burdens of being a store manager.
“WHAT?!?!?” She snapped as she looked up from her private world, realizing she wasn’t at home. As if that made a difference.
“I can’t sell that belt with you folding it and whooping your kid like that!”
She opened her purse, grabbed a $10 bill, slammed it on on the counter and yelled, “SOLD! Keep the change!”
Whap! Whap! Whap!
“That one’s on sale. If you buy a second, the third is free!” Whap! Whap! Whap!
She didn’t need a second, but since it was already marked down, it was only $5. The only thing SHE needed, she was already doing.
In the end, he got what HE needed.
And with the change, I got what I needed: This time, it was a Wendy’s TRIPLE, fries and a Frosty, later that evening.
All of us, Paid In Full…
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