Just Another Retail Experience Like Any Other….retail worker

I had always heard that if one must work in retail, that high-end (meaning over-priced and over-marketed) retail would treat their employees a little bit better and start your pay at a little bit more decent a wage than traditional or typical retail outlets.

Partially true. Nordstrom started out being non-traditional but quickly became such a political and depressing environment that I was actually relieved when their massive after-Christmas cuts came.

Let me explain: Here I am, a former English teacher with a degree in English and years of retail experience under my belt (I mean, who hasn’t worked in retail at some point in their lives), suffering from teacher burnout. I had quit teaching and needed some form of income. Yes, I knew retail would not even approach what I’d made as a teacher unless I was in management, and even then, it would still not really approach 30 grand a year.

At any rate, I applied for positions with Nordstrom and stated the truth, no more, no less; and was subsequently hired.

Their “orientation” was a huge build-up to a new store opening. We were constantly told to be enthusiastic and see everyone else, co-workers, as a sort of extended family.

Once I was hired and began working, however, the illusion quickly faded. The department supervisor was never in our department, yet she criticized us whenever she appeared from out of her dimly-lit office. She never listened, just criticized, smiling as she spoke – like all the other managers.

It also became apparent that you had to become a “member” of the Nordstrom “family.” Meaning, that the more you socialized with managers, ran errands for them, “schmoozed” with them and attended to them, the more time you’d get with them and be seen as “family.” One co-employee was driving the supervisor to and from work, running errands for her, shopping for her, doing her work for her and working well beyond her scheduled hours -raking in more overtime pay than anyone else and getting preferential treatment that was glaringly obvious – such as lunches out with the supervisor, other managers, discounts that were unspoken, etcetera.

We’d all been hired at the same date, but it was obvious how the “pecking order” had been established within less than 90 days. When I clocked out and went home to my wife, other employees socialized with other employees, taking them out to meals, or sat and talked with the supervisor, running errands for her – if and when she showed up.

If the supervisor didn’t like you, as was the case with me; since I didn’t feel right socializing with other employees, she’d say that she had gotten complaints about you from others. She could never tell you who was complaining about you, or exactly what they’d said. She also didn’t want to hear any comments from you, as to whether or not these complaints were true or not. (I just wanted to work and go home but still was pleasant and occasionally joking with others.)

Appearance was everything at Nordstrom and you were still perceived as human trash, to be discarded at a whim, just like any other retail outlet. The difference was that at Nordstrom, they smile in your face and say “thank you,” as they establish their biases and preferences and cut backs after every sales quarter.

A typical mens dress shirt at Nordstrom is from fifty to a hundred dollars, but you pay for the overhead of the piano player and arrogant aristocracy there. Sales is always slow at a Nordstrom, but the prices are so inflated that they reap huge profits. But, if you work there, you had better kiss up to your manager and other management and take them out to eat and bring them treats as often as possible if you want to keep your job.

Am I bitter? No. Am I a little resentful? For now. They present a facade of wanting to be fair and balanced and open, which they are…to hiring minorities. When it comes to treating employees any better than any other retail chain, they’re worse because they smile as they stab you in the back and say “thank you” as they cut competent and efficient employees simply because they over-hired to meet their Christmas rush needs.

My “evaluation” lasted all of one minute. I had done a great job for Nordstrom, but had to be removed from the schedule so they could cut from every department. Nice.

I told the supervisor that I wasn’t angry and didn’t take her decision personally, because she’d never taken the time to get to know me personally unless I fed her or ran errands for her or drove her to and from the store.

Good riddance and I hope I never have to work in the demeaning field of retail again.

And why shop at Nordstrom when you can buy anything they sell at less than half the price at virtually any other retail chain? And if you want to feel fussed-over by underpaid and under-valued retail employees, get a carwash or get a dog to slobber over you.

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