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!
All in all, experiences are what make writers, they furnish us with ideas, and ideas can come from anywhere, from behind a till, in the stockroom, talking to people…….
I am very happy to have had this particular experience…. oh and the pay packet will come in handy as I will have a lot of expenses over the coming months. Thank you John Lewis…..
Now it is time to settle down and write. I am so excited, I just can’t wait!
I have received an illuminating writer’s report from The Hilary Johnson Authors Advisory Service: http://www.hilaryjohnson.com/ on my manuscript, Krystallos.
I know what needs doing, so from Monday I shall be immersing myself in writing…… with a view to editing parts of the manuscript, making some necessary changes, and then self-publishing….
But to do that I will have to put my sad hat on, one of the Writer’s Advisory Agency recommendations was to make my main character much more afflicted by sorrow at the beginning of the manuscript, so with that in mind I will have to try and read sad books, immerse myself in a general theme of sadness…. so that my main character, Amelina, will engage with readers on a more personal level. Teenagers like to dwell on the dark side of life and this is something I have to remember to do….
More about that and my progress editing in later posts to come….. Keep me at it, please don’t let me slack. Pester me…
So with editing in mind I am currently reading a book that found me quite by chance. It’s nice when that happens, I saw it at the park and ride bus stop on the way to work, (a free read donated by a fellow traveller.) I’m so glad I picked it up as it is quite a short, interesting, and sad read.
Look At Me by Anita Brookner, here’s the Goodreads synopsis:
A lonely art historian absorbed in her research seizes the opportunity to share in the joys and pleasures of the lives of a glittering couple, only to find her hopes of companionship and happiness shattered.
So book bloggers/enthusiasts, do you have any book recommendations for sad books? Do let me know particularly if they have a young, preferably female main protagonist.
Lots to be done but now the path is set, all I have to do is walk in Amelina’s shoes, and hope she will lead me to the light…..
Just recently I started working in retail as a Christmas temporary. My plan is to earn some pennies to get together a book fund to pay for artwork for a front cover, my promotional, and other expenses that I will incur when I self publish my novel Krystallos in 2016.
I’m not working in Ted Baker as this photo above might suggest, I like to confuse you!
The Abominable Snowman is sticking his rather long tongue out at passers by. A new ploy perhaps to gather customers? Anyway I digress, I’m waffling, back to my experience working as a Christmas temp. This has been a huge departure from my usual daily routine of writing, taking photographs, updating my social media accounts, and of course blogging here on WordPress. What a retail baptism of fire it has been!! Particularly as I am working in a large, prestigious store in a very busy department which happens to be right next door to children’s toys and clothes. The experience has been illuminating in a multitude of ways that I did not expect.
First off you have to walk miles to get anywhere, the shop floor, and stock rooms are vast, and it is a long journey to the staff canteen too, so by the end of the day you feel as if you have had a mega session workout! There is no need to spend money on a gym membership! If you’re like me your water, bubble bath, and heating bills will sky rocket because you’ll soak your weary limbs in a hot tub of bubbly loveliness every night.
The very nature of retail means that you are standing on your feet all day, and if you’re not standing, or walking, you’re climbing up step ladders, (particularly if you’re short like me, and unable to reach the top shelf in the stock room,) or if you aren’t doing any of these aforementioned things you are lifting…. With all of this physical work there is the temptation to sneak into the stock room and take a short sit down for a few seconds on a stool there. The stock room itself is a vast Alladin’s cave of just about everything you can think of, there is even a wall of hangers dedicated to just about every brand you can think of, so the first room of thumb is to befriend the stock room manager as he is a guy you most definitely want on your side.
Thirst, that’s another aspect of working in retail that I didn’t consider. Working in retail is thirsty work, so rule no. 1 is to drink loads of water before you begin, and avoid alcohol at all costs, this I learnt the hard way. Last Saturday I had a very nice Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, minced pies, chocolates and a couple of glasses of wine, courtesy of my employer but going on the tills immediately after this gourmet delight wasn’t a good idea, no, I needed a sleep after all that food and alcohol… ZZZZZZ…..
Now this is where I’m going to get a bit silly, but that’s allowed as this is Kyrosmagica blog after all. There is a whole new language in retail that just sounds like gobbledegook to me. I haven’t worked in retail since I was a teenager, I do wish this was just yesterday but in truth my teenage years were a long time ago! Of course this is the case, I have two teenage daughters for goodness sake! Obviously back then things were very different, we didn’t have internet returns, fancy collection services, in fact my memory of retail work is pretty hazy, I seem to remember selling china, lots of it and wrapping it carefully in bubble wrap, and dusting, but did I do much more than this? I worked for a department store called Goldbergs in Edinburgh which doesn’t exist anymore, a bit like my foggy retail experience, so it’s no surprise that when a manager asked me to do recovery…… I looked confused and a bit stumped. Recovery, what in heavens is that? My writer’s mind did a merry dance and came up with all kinds of exciting possibilities but ….. Recovery isn’t giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to an old granny who has collapsed in the store, grabbing a stolen package from a thief, or catching a Christmas mug before it splats on the floor, no recovery, is simply making the store ready for customers, in other words tidying up! That I can do, I think….. Then, there is the Kimble gun, no this isn’t a deadly weapon, well not unless it gets into my hands, that sharp needle has to be kept well away from my fingers and from passing customers, that plastic safety cover is a must. What is the lethal Kimble? It’s just an over sized stapler type device for putting tags on, once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy! As well as this there are other terms which escape me…. There are a plethora of abbreviations on the rota of work to confuse you, so MT is Menswear till, FR is fitting room, if you happen to be a bit dyslexic and think FR reads FP you’d be in real trouble. Funnily enough that’s just what I did the other day, FP, what’s that, Fred Perry? No read the initials properly Marje…. and I’m not even dyslexic so I have no excuse!
Somehow working in retail has been an unexpected fund of inspiration for me, Yippee!!!! Nowadays I can’t go anywhere without thinking of ideas for stories. The stock room has given me an idea for a short story about an evil stock room guy, that’s no reflection on anyone who works in the stockroom you all seem lovely I hasten to add… Those terms that I mentioned might just feature in my writing too, who knows….
Oh, before I forget to mention it one day we had a customer in the store screaming which was frightening, given the prevalence of terrorist attacks recently. The managers cautiously went off to investigate. I’m not sure exactly what happened and why she was so distressed but thankfully nobody was hurt. Perhaps there’s a story there too..
My highlights up until now have been many but here are my favourites:
1. A handsome young man came and asked for a different size in a garment and asked if he could come to the stock room with me to find it!!! Cheeky….
2. Santa’s arrival, and of course all the excited kids in the toy department which happens to be right next to Menswear, they bring back memories of my two daughters when they were little!
3. Music playing, one day we had a band playing right next to my particular section in Menswear. This was great fun, and put a spring in my step but by the end of the day, I was kind of glad it wasn’t a daily occurrence! No offence it was lovely for a while…..
4. Minor accidents. Yes I managed to stab myself, drawing blood with the Kimble gun that shoots plastic hanging hooks on to caps, and gloves. I nearly became a selling item! Also at the till one of the staff managed to staple her finger with a bog standard stapler, who knows how she managed that? !!!
One day after work I had to walk some more to pick up a canvas for my daughter for her GCSE Textiles mock exam. I ended up walking to the other end of town to find one in my price range. A mother’s love knows no bounds! My poor wee legs…. There was a wizened old lady serving on the till in that particular shop who looked as if she should be well beyond retiral age, poor soul she looked exhausted, it was just before closing. Sympathy.
As I waited for my bus home, I noticed that across the road from where I was standing there was a large yellow skip with two men standing in it, shouting orders to a young man bringing huge slabs of polystyrene packing towards it. The younger man arrived at the skip carrying these potential missiles above his head, and tried to lob the packing at his mates but his weapon was too big and unwieldy to be a useful missile. Watching this kept me entertained and amused on my long, long, wait for the bus….
Well it’s been an eye opener, it really has. Respect to all those shop workers, and the plethora of employees who work standing on your feet all day, you do a sterling job. It’s not easy.
Have a very Merry Christmas, and put your feet up and have a long soak in the tub whenever you can…
My retail work has really put me in the mood for Christmas this year. What about you? Are you in the mood for Christmas too? Have you started your Christmas shopping? Or are you really behind like me? Do tell….