"When It's So Bad It's Good"
Working for a retailer has introduced me to TONS of interesting stuff I would never have known. Brands I never heard of: Giani Bernini, Cuddl Duds (a brand name just cute enough to nauseate), Alfani, and Tasso Elba (sounding ever-so-Italian - but probably made in New Jersey, who knows? Certainly not me, the non-style queen.).
And I have seen some weird things - from the Lobster On Pedestal I wrote about in a previous blog, to a scent - Bvlgari - that is bottled and marketed as though it is a combination lock on acid...or that has been beamed up when the transporter has had a really bad day.
I'm fascinated with all of it, really. Shape and color and general weirdness have always fascinated me, so in this way, working in retail is A Kinda Cool Thing. Except for the exceptionally ugly pieces of clothing that you just can't even imagine someone buying, much less wearing.
"Reflections On a Year in Customer Service"
"What's APR???" they would say to me, their voices dripping with fear and frustration and anger. "Why do I owe $6,000 when I only borrowed $500???" That was RISE, a company that offers short-term loans with interest rates through the roof. Up to 298%. And yes, you are reading that correctly. There, I offered education and respect and understanding to those who called me, freaking out. I couldn't offer them lower interest rates. I couldn't believe the high ones are lega but it turns out they are in fact legal. "Moral" is an entirely different story.
I did try to get out of that gig and get into a better sales job within the matrix of sales campaigns available, but we had an odd cast of characters leading the charge. The Supervisor who had a substance abuse problem and an anger problem. The 21-year-old Supervisor - need I say more? - who followed the lead of the Supervisor with the substance abuse problem. The Scapegoat Supervisor who the drinking Supervisor hated for no particular reason. The Head of the Department who smiled well, made beautiful promises, and was preternaturally resistant to fulfilling them. Stories within stories within stories unfolded in that crazy department, and anyone who actually did make it out of there (they for some reason hated letting anyone go to another campaign, especially if it bettered the lot of the employee) was seen as a heroine.
It's actually the people on the phone that make this kind of job fascinating. I met Johnny on the phone one day. Johnny lived and worked in L.A. in its heyday, and he had stories to tell about seeing Liz Taylor across the street and being absolutely dumbstruck by her remarkable, purple-eyed beauty. He was a Casting Director back in the day, so you can imagine how ardently I wanted to keep him on the phone all day long.
Okay, so that was December of 2017, not 2018, but I love that guy, so I just had to mention him.
Fraudery and Freakery and Fuckery
I used to wonder how Judge Judy could just look at someone, listen for a moment, and know that they were full of it. I'm beginning to get it. And there are levels. Levels of stupidity, some of which is based on simple (and frustrating) lack of experience of the world we phone jockeys live in, and some of which is based on a sense of entitlement and greed - regardless of financial status or color or sex.
There is the Kindness stupidity:
"The number of my credit card is 4444 ... [pause for 2 beats] - space - 5555 - [pause for 2 beats] -space -6666 - [pause for 2 beats] -space..."
Wow...now I know you have never worked in an office or in retail before.
There is the Blindness stupidity:
"Well I already tried calling the store, so you're never gonna get through."
Really, Sir? I work on the inside - think there just might be a way I have at least a different mode of contact???
And there is the You Think I'm Stupid stupidity:
"Well, the store should come out and remove the security tag from my clothing. They've come out and done it before! Yes they have!"
... [wow, that's a beaut. No. They really haven't.]
"It's Nice of You...But Really...Who Cares..."
Who knew the word "stylist" could mean something besides a hair dresser?
One woman spoke to me on the phone of having been advised by her stylist, and not long after I realized we weren't actually going to talk about her hair but about her clothing choices, I received another call from another woman and became her clothing stylist for an hour and a half.
"What are your measurements? Okay, let me look at the size chart. You need a Medium... Yes, I am absolutely sure. But there is one thing that concerns me. What concerns me about this plunging and revealing swimsuit tankini top [which is completely useless for a swimming class], is that it ties behind your neck. Your breasts pull on the ties which pull on the back of your neck and it's not great for your neck muscles. [Not to mention that you're looking at a picture of a 5'8" model who is 24 years old, and you're 65 and 5'1". What are you thinking???]"
"The First Thing of Christmas That's Such A Pain To Me"
I have to ask myself today if there is any point in my existence. That's how post-holiday it is in here. In this Call Center. And in this psyche of mine.
I feel like a moving target. Now I'm a professional, card-carrying SAG-AFTRA actor - now I'm not. Now I'm an Administrative Assistant - now I'm unemployed. Now I'm a writer, now I'm an artist, now I'm a Customer Service phone jockey. At NONE of these things - ALL of which I excel at - am I making serious money. At only two of them have I been recognized for my gifts, and that is for sales jobs that pay almost nothing.
Is there a PURPOSE here somewhere? Because somewhere in here my vision, my hopefulness, my forward-facing view, my life force is drained by people who are truly exercised about a fucking pair of shoes. Or bath salts. Or a blouse...
Somewhere in here, my personal level of disappointment about this work - my sense of having failed to become Important-With-A-Capital-I by dint of being Fulfilled-and-Useful, with a capital FU, is elevated to Code Red, deep-sixing my sense of personal satisfaction in service. Even when a man calls today to ask about returning two rings to the store, and reveals that his wife died in September and that these are two rings she did not wear, I'm not moved. I say all the right things to him, but I'm just. not. deeply. moved.
Even when he says, "And my mother died 2 hours after she did!".
"A Christmas Hangover"
"How was your Christmas?" I inadvisedly ask one older man who calls me today, the day after Christmas.
He pauses infinitesimally, and then says, "Uh...alright. I was alone. Many people are."
I was too. I am. I understand what he is saying.
You know, I'm not Christian. I'm also not anti-Jesus. But I find that I am good and tired of Christmas and its expectations that live within my own self.
It's different than it used to be. Just a year ago, I was ending a 3-year period of being - what is that word, again? It's the replacement word for "homeless". Ah yes, that's it: "displaced". For those three years, the month of December just blew. I was working for myself, looking for clients to hire me for my marketing savvy. And in December, no one is looking to hire. People are looking to buy.
So, to have a December in which I could make money from the very activity that used to bum me out...well, that struck me as brilliant karmic balancing.
"A Customer Service Christmas"
"I have to bury my son tomorrow, and I need to purchase a shirt."
My heart stops. I sit up straighter and I lean forward, wanting somehow to reach her with my concern.
Turns out, she wants a very nice-looking t-shirt, because he was 19 when he transitioned, and he "never wore a suit in his life".
We spend an hour trying to find something. She is calm. In fact, she is so calm I think maybe she's scamming instead of serious, but who would go to this level to get a shirt? No. She's in shock, or fix-it mode. Or this-is-what-I-can-do-for-him focused mode.
I'm not leaving this call until she gets what she needs. We seem to get her there, at long last. She can get a shirt for her son. And she can get it to the mortuary in time for tomorrow's service.
This job is perfect for adrenaline junkies. Actors. Achievers and Over-Achievers, COME ON DOWN!
By the middle of the day, all 6 of my arms, Kali-like, have emerged from my sides, and I am whacking balls back at multiple people at incredible speed: cranky people, nice people, people ordering, and people just damn-out wasting my fucking time. "Hello, thank you for calling. My name is Lori. How can I help you?
"Hello, thank you for calling. My name is Lori. How can I help you?"
"No, ma'am, I'm not in the store, I'm with a part of the store that can see all of the malls throughout the U.S."
"NoMa'AmI'mNotInTheStore", and so forth.
By the end of each day I'm wired.
I come home and drink a few sips of wine, I eat something, and I hit either the couch, or my bed. I bemoan the lack of entertainment inherent in not having a partner to share my life with - but I'm used to this bemoaning; I've been doing it off and on for a very long time - and I go back to working on my business, and writing blogs.
"Off the Sauce"
The adrenaline is not wearing off, but the enjoyment is.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Holidays!
I'm dismayed by the disparities in those who are ordering. The comfortable New York man in his 50's who called yesterday, looking for a fur coat for his wife. The elderly and poor New York woman, born in 1939, who called today to buy a shower curtain liner for as low price as possible because she needs it delivered - can't get out of the apartment. (I waived her shipping.)
I'm bummed out by how many words I say, and how little people actually listen.
"If you don't buy this shoe right this hot minute, it will probably be gone because things are selling out while I've even got them in the CART!"
"Yes. Really. And these shoes you want are called 'Final Sale' shoes because they're almost sold out already."
I give the puffer fish ornament example to indicate just how critical the grab-it-now-and-return-it-later solution is.
"Lobster On Pedestal"
Time for my daily game of Defang The Customer.
The first and final calls of the day were laugh fests. Thank God.
Because it is, in fact, the holidays and we're overrun with calls, we're not getting the coaching sessions we ordinarily would get. So, after the new year, I imagine I'll find out everything I have been doing that has not been perfect. I don't mind. What I'm actually more focused on is plotting the start of a whole new department to cover a part of training that is completely missing. Wouldn't it be incredible to go from $14.35/hour to $150/hour for being VP of some new department?
Anyway, today's last call: my favorite of the whole day. I have realized today that throughout the day one employee or another on this huge level playing field of a floor with its endless desks looks at me like, "What the fuck?" when I'm laughing. I imagine they are probably thinking I'm ... uh ... different, because I do, in fact, laugh my way through the day (no wonder I'm fecking exhausted when I get home; can you lose weight from laughter? Asking for a friend...).
Do you like the idea of breaking those social "should's" that have held you back for too long? Do you like the idea of successfully changing your modes of communication, your business structures, your self-image, and to your quality of life?
Lori Kirstein, Founder
The Goodbye Good Girl™ Project LLC
The Feminine Face of Business
Cincinnati, OH 45205
Gratitude to https://www.freepik.com/ for their free images in our social media!
Gratitude to contributing Photographers!
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