Saturday, January 07, 2012

Re-tales: Miss Sally

"Re-tales" will be a reoccurring feature, remembering stories from a career in retail.
Installment # 1 - Miss Sally

Miss Sally

An era was ending in retail. Career positions were increasingly exclusive to management. Heels preferred, not required. Outdoor plazas were turning into malls and I was learning how to steam on a hook. Formalities still lingered. Even the assistant manager, just two years my senior, was addressed as Mrs. Hall, not Lynne. Some stores still had porters, gentlemen who unloaded and moved product, lest the ladies run their hose. It was a different world, one I was anxious to see turn, except for Miss Sally.

Miss Sally was a fixture at Northland. In her many years with the company, she had seen, done and re-done it all. Darn right that hairdo was really hers, she bought and paid for it! She still wore a girdle, not a foundation garment, and if anyone needed a safety pin, Miss Sally and her girdle would provide. Everyone was Missy or Miss Lady, customers and coworkers alike. Laughter came loudly and often, but when you worked with Miss Sally, you learned.

Probably the most important lesson I learned from Miss Sally was to take things in stride. Let whatever it is roll off your back and keep going. “You never know what anger a body walks through that door with, their bad day don’t have to be yours.” Words to live by in retail. Second best lesson? Always bring a second pair of comfortable shoes. Many days, the second was the first. Hard to be philosophical when your feet hurt.

Miss Sally also taught us the sneaky toilet paper trick. Shoplifters often will hide product they are planning to swipe, compiling a cache of many items in one spot close to the exit, then leave and come back later to make a quick grab and run. Watch them stash the goods, wait until they leave, then replace the collected goods with a roll of toilet paper. Tell all the staff, watch and wait. Laugh your ass off when they find it. Seldom is more fun had on a sales floor.

It’s been nearly thirty years since Miss Sally and I watched the thieves run, police at their heels, from the broken display cases of Lotus Jewelers, past Lerner and out to parking lot points unknown. Most likely she’s gone, just like Northland. Just like those formal days of retail. Luckily, we are all the sum of our past, so Miss Sally lives on. Take that, shoplifters! Wipe it and weep.