Meet our writers

Win $1,000







Humor December 2016

Ernie's World

A Tale of Retail

By Ernie Witham

But the most interesting days of the entire year in retail were the day just before Christmas and the day just after Christmas. On the day before people were desperate to find that one last gift for the random person they had completely forgotten about.

In the late ‘70s in New Hampshire I worked in retail at a camera and hobby store, starting out as a part-time sales associate and working my way up to full time assistant manager, a position they don't give to just anyone.

"The other assistant manager quit. If you take the job, I don't have to run an ad and interview people even weirder than you."

"I accept!"

And over time, I became quite good at selling photo stuff.

"This new Kodak Instamatic DX3A-7500 takes even better photos than the DX3A-7400 that came out last month. Just look at this advertising photo obviously taken with a much higher quality camera by a professional photographer."

"Wow, I'll take it."

And after the sale closed, I'd put on my "added sales" cap. "You'll probably want a tripod, too."

"Doesn't that negate the idea of having a camera that fits in your pocket?"

"Yes! That's why you'll also want this oversized camera bag that can hold more than 100 rolls of film."

"Right, of course."

I also became quite good at selling hobby items.

"This new Lionel DX3A-7500 n-gauge train engine goes even faster than the DX3A-7400 n-gauge train engine that came out last month. Just look at this advertising photo of a train layout obviously built by a group of mechanical engineers at MIT in a room the size of your entire house."

"Wow, I'll take it."

But the most interesting days of the entire year in retail were the day just before Christmas and the day just after Christmas. On the day before people were desperate to find that one last gift for the random person they had completely forgotten about.

"I need something for my wife! Quick!"

And it didn't really matter what, just so long as it was about the right size and price.

"What's that?"

"A clock radio."

"I'll take it!"

"I need something for 14.53."

"Well, we just got in some replacement propellers for our remote controlled helicopter."

"I'll take them!"

I even had a guy come to the counter with a fire extinguisher (seriously). "Does this come in any other colors?"

"Where did you get that?"

"Off the top shelf in the back. Had to wrestle it out of some kind of bracket thingee."

"That is our store fire extinguisher! For emergencies!"

"Huh. So, how much?"

It was a mad mad retail world, right up until the last customer left and we could close the door. "Ma'am, please remove your foot, and no, I won't sell you my khakis even if your husband and I are about the same size."

Being an indoor mall that the photo and hobby store was in, most days I would enter through the large sliding glass doors off the main corridor. But I knew the day after Christmas there would be an unruly mob of returners waiting for me, so I would enter through a back door off the parking lot, where I could enjoy a quick cup of coffee before the onslaught.

"Two sugars in mine, please."

"Who are you? And what are you doing in our stock room?"

"You guys locked me in while I was looking for the gift wrap department."

"We don't have a gift wrap department."

"I know, and your refrigerator has no beer. It's just full of film!"

And so it began.

"Hello, I'd like to return this badminton set. We keep losing the white birdie in the snow."

"First, you should probably wait until summer to play. Second, we don't sell badminton sets here. Try the sporting goods store at the end of the mall. Next."

"Hi, my wife got me this movie camera but I can't get the movie to play."

"It's actually for taking movies, not watching movies."

"Oh, well can I trade it for a movie watching camera? An R-rated one?"

There were some legitimate returns, of course.

"I got these stupid helicopter propellers for Christmas."

"Oh thank you! We were completely out, so we couldn't sell the helicopter even though a lot of people wanted it."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah! Just look at this advertising photo of a kid just like you remotely flying maneuvers even Chuck Yeager probably can't do."

"Wow, I'll take it!"

Retail during the holidays. Almost enough to make me unretire.

 

For more adventures please check out: Ernie's World the Book, and "A Year in the Life of a 'Working' Writer" This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit: http://www.erniesworld.com.

Meet Ernie