Ina is legitimately mad.
I am sincerely upset that our store wants us to provide this wrapping service without ever teaching us how to do it properly.
Wrapping is the plague — I’d like to stay far, far away from it.
Ash, my coworker, has started her shift. She approaches with her usual smile, something necessary in this line of work.
“Hey, Jess,” she says. “You can take your lunch now.”
I am relieved to hear this. Time to put these feet up for an hour. But an employee could go broke eating at the Nordstrom Café, even with our discount, so I opt for more caffeine instead, a quad-shot espresso over ice. The retail employee’s fountain of energy.
Oh, and the Nordstrom employee lounge can make or break your lunch.
For instance: the shoes guys always rush to the lounge to grab the clicker for ESPN. The girls and other non-interested employees must opt for another location.
Or: the employee tables are filled to capacity.
Or: Bravo is on the TV, so we are all forced to catch up on the latest Real Housewives episode.
Lucky for me, on this day the TV is off. The clicker is nowhere to be found.
I sit at an empty table, hoping to tune out the chatter, the exchange of weird-return stories, the bragging about a large sale.
I go into a daze…
“Jessica Swenke, five-four. Jessica Swenke, five-four.”
Oh, that’s me. I run to the nearest phone. It’s up on the third floor, in St. John, a designer area where you would be lucky to find anything to wear that’s less than several bills.
“Hi, this is Jessica Swenke,” I say into the receiver.
“Jessica! It’s Nika,” says the woman on the other end of the line. “Albert and I are heading over to the mall and want to shop with you for new hair accessories. Just checking to see if you’re available.”
“Sounds great, Nika!” I say. “I’ll see you and Albert soon. Thank you so much for thinking of me!”
Albert (not his real name) and Nika (not her real name) are regulars of mine. They are a cute couple from Russia, mid-40s, and they never shop without one another. Nika returns about 70 percent of the stuff she buys.
I down my espresso and clock back in, hoping Nika will purchase something worth keeping for more than a month or two. She loves the glitz and glam, so I pull some hair accessories and wraps I think she will love.
Soon Albert is holding Nika’s flashy silver purse while she stands at the mirror, trying on accessories.
“Oh, wow, that looks incredible,” he says.
“Oh, my gosh, you look stunning.”
“You are just ravishing in that headband.”
Albert spews these dramatic compliments in a monotone. Nika soaks up the glory. After an hour, he’s said it all and Nika is ready to buy.
“Your total is $85.10,” I say. Another hour has passed, and I’ve earned less than $9 in commission. I’m thankful that at least it’s more than minimum wage.
“Excuse me,” another customer says. “I needed some help with sunglasses, but no one was helping me. Do you mind?”
This woman is dressed way down, but she sounds kind.
“Of course!” I say. Night is creeping in, and I am eager for a sale. “Let’s go over there.”
The woman pulls out older Chanel and Gucci sunglass cases.
“I’ve had both of these styles for years and absolutely love them,” she says. “So I came in to buy a new pair of each.”
I grab the current, modified styles of the glasses from back stock. The woman loves them as much as her old ones.
“Total is $1125.95,” I say.
She hands me her card to swipe. It’s heavier than usual, and I realize it’s the notorious black American Express.
Never, ever judge a woman who isn’t decked out in designer duds. Especially when you’re 100 percent commission.
Kathy paces up to me after I hand the generous customer her bag.
“Jessica, I just love the way you sell to customers,” she says. “Woo-hoo! You made our sales for the day. Awesome job.” Kathy is jumping for joy because, for today, the heat from upper-level management will be off her back. Not to mention, she takes a cut of everything that I sell.
One minute I suck at sales, the next I’m a rock star. I’d better soak in the praise, before it swings back the other way.
Kathy and Ash jet out for the night, and I am left to go it alone for the oh-so-dreaded closing shift: dusting, cleaning the glass displays, making sure everything is perfectly folded and in its correct place.
A tall order, if you’re busy, you know, helping customers. Isn’t that my real job?
The store is set to close at 9:00 p.m., but we’ll remain open if people are shopping.
It’s ten to 9:00 and a few browsers remain; customers who, when you approach them, say immediately, “I’m just looking.” Isn’t that what everyone is doing here?
The other employees have nasty looks on their faces. They’re giving the evil eye to these last stragglers on the second floor. Meanwhile, I scurry around the department, making sure everything is perfect for Kathy in the morning. Not one scarf can be left unfolded, not one pair of sunglasses can be out of place, or I will have to kiss goodbye being on Kathy’s good side.
The ten-minute warning sounds: “Attention, customers, our store will be closing in ten minutes.” A giant sigh of relief comes from every department on the floor.
Now it’s time to get serious. Time to count the money.
There are three registers I have to count. I know I’ll be last in line when we get upstairs to turn in our money bags.
I scramble to write everything down. If I miss something, I’ll be in deep shit (pardon my French, Kathy). I glance up every 30 seconds. The Women’s Shoes team is heading upstairs, followed by Cosmetics, Men’s, Jewelry, and Handbags.