As some of you might know from a previous post: https://mjmallon.com/2015/12/13/retail-inspiration-yuletide-style/
I have been working as a Christmas temp in John Lewis Cambridge, and yesterday was my last day. It has been quite an enlightening and interesting experience in many ways. I started off with oodles and oodles of training. John Lewis puts a lot of priority on staff training so if you want to go into retail in a serious way this definitely is the company to work for. Or if perhaps you might be a student looking for some extra cash while studying, or a return to work mum looking for their first venture back to work…. Or a hopeful author a.k.a someone like me….. Whoever you are John Lewis will take you on if you are prepared to work hard.
Amongst the till training, laws about selling knives, and other hazardous substances we learnt all about different kinds of fire hazards, including chip pan fires!! Hence the funny photo at the top of my post…… An extinguisher would be very appropriate if you happen to work in their staff canteen, and are regularly using industrial sized deep pan fryers. But somehow they didn’t warn us about lesser hazards and potential injuries such as the kimble gun, paper cuts, or staple accidents, etc, which happen on the shop floor!
Here are some of my amusing highlights, I hope you like them:
- I tend to be a bit accident prone. I managed to cut myself, on shelfing, prick my finger with the point of a kimble gun, drawing blood. This sharp needle like device is used to secure tags to gloves, hats, etc. As well as this a fellow member of staff also stapled her finger at the till! Quite a feat, I’m not quite sure how she managed to do this……
- Not content with that alone, in the stock room I nearly squashed a fellow member of staff between the unsuspecting racks of clothes, by moving the large winding rack without checking anyone was in there. Oops. I’m so glad she alerted me to her presence up a ladder. She shouted! I would too! It’s bad enough climbing up ladders without being at the mercy of people like me….
- I’ve had some odd requests from customers and witnessed some strange ones too. A gentleman asked me to take a photo so I asked him what he’d like me to photograph, and he said himself, dressed in his John Lewis jacket and cap. Then he asked me for my impression of the overall look. He was quite handsome ,……
- One day a man came to my till and said he had a business meeting and he needed to buy something more suitable to wear so he proceeded to buy exactly the same designer black polo shirt, and jeans that he was currently wearing.. How strange, there was no difference at all, and the ones he was wearing didn’t even look worn. It does make me wonder why? Why would he spend so much money to buy exactly the same clothes, in the same colour? Was he about to murder someone in his current set and he needed a clean outfit for later? Ah, this is what happens if you write, you imagine scenarios everywhere… No one can escape your scrutiny.
- At the till point one of the younger members of staff, a particularly cheerful young chap, who seemed to be particularly keen and vocal in his enthusiasm for customer care was asked to model a children’s hat for a customer, he obliged. It was a monster woolly hat, that covered the majority of his face like a balaclava. Afterwards I remarked that I wish we had had a polaroid camera behind the till to take his photo as evidence of his embarrassing moment.
- On my last day we had fireworks at the till, well not real ones, just bubble wrap being popped by a nineteen year old co-worker who likes to burst the bubbles on the wrap. Of course it was quiet at the time, she didn’t keep the customers waiting!!
- There were hugs, a card, with the following message from my boss: “Thanks for your support over Xmas, good luck with your writing, you may be the next J K Rowling!!” No pressure then! Last but certainly not least a pressie of Double Choc Chip Biscuits from Liberty London. Yum… Looking forward to eating these this weekend on my trip to London to go prom shopping for a dress for my daughter!
Great post, Marje, You have certainly gained a whole lot of fodder for writing after your experience at John Lewis. That guy who bought the identical outfit sounds very creepy! Good luck with the manuscript! 🙂
Thank you Judy, glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks also for your good luck wishes. 🙂
Ha! I did the same in Selfridges in 1976 but remember nothing much except meeting up with a friend who was playing Father Christmas and spending an inordinate amount of time adding tags to clothes in the stock room!
Yes I have to admit to an inordinate amount of time folding clothes, tagging items, etc, but there were a few highlights… People make the experience more enjoyable, the JL staff were very nice.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is about as tearful as it gets.
Thanks for the tip will check it out. 🙂
Wow, what an experience!
I just realised that I haven’t read a sad book in a while…
Sorry I didn’t do the Nomination this time… Somehow the post didn’t go well with it. Next week I write about a movie, and then I will fit the nomination business in 🙂
Thanks Inese, look forward to reading about your movie post and the nomination, all the best, Marje 🙂
We do tend to find ‘content’ wherever we go! 🙂
Retail has to be a fruitful place for stories and characters. It’s odd enough as a customer so heaven knows what it’s like in the dark side of the till!
Retail is exhausting, and strangely, leads you to see a more unpleasant aspect of people’s characters. Retail assistants don’t get treated well by the general public, nor do they get tips, yet they work damned hard and are expected to be happy and accommodating at all times. People forget they are human and not robots or servants. If customers treated them better, they would never feel the need to complain about poor customer service lol! But you do get some nice ones and some funny ones too. Good luck with your rewrites and edits!
Yes I agree, it’s a tough job with little reward. I reckon from now on I am going to do my best to be kind to retail assistants!! Thanks for your good luck wishes Ali. 🙂
Marje I think you are the kind of person who is always kind to everyone! 😍
Ah, Ali so sweet of you to say so. I do try to be kind most of the time, but I do have a tiny sting in my tail, as I am a Scorpio!!! It doesn’t come out very often, only when I am sorely provoked!
Well if the sting comes out I’m sure they deserved it! 😀
Ha Ha!! They might not think so!!
First of all Happy NY 2016! 🙂
Very funny work /retail experiences and looks like you did enjoy it.
Happy NY to you too. I did had a few giggles which always helps make the day go by in an enjoyable way. Thanks for stopping by Kyrosmagica and for commenting 🙂
Thanks hope you can check my posts it’s been awhile since last time you’ve visited 😉
Of course, been super busy recently, editing my manuscript getting ready to self publish. Not much time….. but have popped around to check out your posts today.. 🙂
Thanks 🙂 I admire people like you who can do self publishing. I know it’s not that easy. Good luck!
Thanks so much, appreciate your good luck wishes.. 🙂
Thank you Edwina, thanks so much for sharing with your readers on your Free for all Friday. Glad it had you giggling… Have a wonderful Friday, and a lovely weekend. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your experience at John Lewis. Hilarious about the young chap with Monster Hat though, Indeed writers find Inspiration everywhere.
Thanks for your comment glad it gave you a laugh. 🙂
You are welcome Marje. 🙂
Perhaps, following the advice from the Writers Advisory Agency, you can have your main character be hit by a falling piano or something halfway through chapter one.
That’s an idea…. maybe …. ideas come from all sorts of experiences but falling pianos are still a bit alien to me!!
I guess it might be a bit melodramatic. Perhaps a major character could be trampled by a hippo or struck by a meteorite instead. 🙂
Or the hippo could be trampled in a game of charades that got out of hand? Anything can happen when you write!!
That’s true. The hippo could even be playing the piano when it fell. Fiction is fun.
Whatever you do, do not eat this manuscript….
I think your writing will have lots of wonderful angles after your retail experience. I worked seasonally for Macy’s at Christmas years ago…it was unique and for sure low-paying. But the discounts? Sweet. LOL!
Ha Ha. Yes, that’s the plus of retail: discounts, and lots of writing ideas….
Thanks for featuring me on Free For All Friday Edwina. 🙂