Tuesday, 17 January 2012


As yet another year bites the dust, so does yet another career. Ok, so a temping Christmas job hardly constitutes a career, but I have been told that, due to my ‘misconduct’, I cannot ever again be considered for re-employment by the shop in which I worked for the past seven weeks, so in effect, any career in retail is a non-starter.
Misconduct. What would the average Joe, shopping in one of the UK’s most famous store, consider to be misconduct? One’s hand in the till? Nicking things off the shop floor? Telling a belligerent customer where to stuff their fat butt?
None of these transgressions applied to me thank God and even though there were times when I most certainly didn’t want to be there, like dawn on Boxing Day, I somehow, as did my colleagues, managed to smile between gritted teeth, apologise for the long queue and check the customer had the correct size (so many of the hangers are erroneous), and asking if the Sir/Madam will be using the store’s credit card. If not, why not? It has many advantages and so on and so on. Failure to ask if they will be using their store card results in disciplinary action, just ask one of my colleagues.
I also made small talk with many of the customers, went the extra yard in helping them and held their hands or even had a full on cuddle with many who were suffering for all number of reasons. Customer service was the best part of the job. As a customer in my own time I had the odd run in with colleagues on other floors that were a little more obdurate in their methods than I was. Their losing the order form for my turkey caused me great consternation and it was only after the fourth day of my asking when I would receive it and naturally being rather unimpressed with being fobbed off, did I actually have it handed to me, by which time I was apparently ‘rude’. I was most certainly disgruntled.
I was also slightly aggrieved when, on attempting to reserve a coat for Hubby, the customer assistant was unprepared to assist me. She wasn’t allowed to apparently.
“Why not?”, I asked, perplexed. I knew the lay out of the screen that she had in front of her and how to sort out customer reservations.
“You are only allowed to reserve it for 24 hours”, was the reply. Funny that as I’d had a demonstration by one of the managers on my second day on how to precisely change the reservation date on an item to make life a little more convenient for the customer. Anyway, whilst the above may have been instrumental in making a name for myself, I continued to make friendships with other staff members, enjoyed a Christmas staff do and take pride in several members of the public thanking me for my help.
So, why then would I receive a message to visit call the managers office and, a few days later would the same subject be brought up at my ‘exit’ interview wherein I was given the ignominious news that I wasn’t fit to be a shop girl comprise of?
It goes like this. A couple of days before Christmas, the shop in which I worked provided a space for a local, severely disabled war hero to raise funds and awareness for the charity he now works for having left the Royal Marines. He and his colleagues were selling calendars, had collection boxes and were also handing out key fobs and chocolates. As I was adjacent to them in my green, beauty queen sash, meeting and greeting customers at the top of the first floor escalator, I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with the chap in question who explained how he had received his appalling injuries. As a military wife it was deeply shocking. He was flanked by tall, stately Royal Marine veterans proudly wearing their berets and medals. It being Christmas and far from home in Wales, they were happy to talk and offered me a chocolate.
“I’d better not”, I replied shaking my head, “It’s against the rules”.
“Go –on, please, have a chocolate. It’s Christmas!”, one insisted. The injured marine also implored me and so, smiling and thanking them all, I popped a tiny, bite-sized Bounty bar into my mouth and let it melt. And that’s it. The sum total of my misconduct. However, I’d been clocked by a senior, female, fellow colleague who later apprehended me and rebuked me for eating the chocolate.
A week later I was hauled over the coals and had to sign a letter admitting to and agreeing to my misconduct. “This is absurd”, I objected but they were deadly serious. My misconduct had been asterisked – it was as though I’d transgressed one of the Ten Commandments with an 11th written especially for me ‘Thou shalt not chew gum, nor suck sweets on the shop floor’.
“I know that”, I said to one of the many managers, “I do not need to be told this but, one has to be judicious and I accepted the chocolate in the spirit in which it was offered”. I’d have liked to have added ‘to have done otherwise would have been far more damaging to your reputation’ but I was infuriatingly, in tears by now and my vocabulary was distinctly limited although I did try to articulate the inexpressible pettiness and absurdity of the situation but my protestations were seen as aggressive. So, there you have it, ‘chocolate-gate’ was my undoing in my short and appositely metaphoric, shelf life.
There was a tv programme on years ago called ‘In At the Deep End’ which featured Paul Heiney and Chris Searle attempting new jobs every so many weeks. If anyone has any similar bright ideas for ‘Alice Band: All At Sea’, do get in get touch. I’ve nothing to lose.

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