Retail Hell #5: California Has Seasons

Sell the card, sell the gift, sell the gift bag

By Kat Avila
Published on LatinoLA: October 20, 2005

Retail Hell #5: California Has Seasons

?Put stuff away.?

?Try to be kind. Other people?s grumpy moods may not have anything to do with you.?

?Your priority is to sell, sell, sell.?

As faithful LatinoLA readers know, I've been working two retail jobs this past year, one at a chain bookstore and another at a card and gift franchise. Recently I gave notice at the card and gift shop, because there was no way I was going to survive working 24/7 in retail during the Christmas shopping season. (?Berserk Cashier Injures 10 With Shopping Cart,? the headlines would read.)

Have you read Barbara Ehrenreich?s book Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream? She also wrote the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed. My own experiences fall somewhere between those of Nickel and Dimed?s low-wage workers and Bait and Switch?s white-collar unemployed, though I identify more with Ms. Ehrenreich?s experiences in Bait and Switch since I have an advanced college degree, am computer literate, and know what it feels like when an earnest job search nosedives into accepting any job in the face of mounting debt and out of exasperation.

Between gritted teeth, I can admit I?ve learned useful things in retail. For instance, California does too have seasons. We have Valentine?s, when store shelves turn sparkly, lovey-dovey pink and red, and teddy bears carrying heart-shaped boxes of chocolate crawl out of hibernation. This is followed by Easter, when prayerful plush bunnies armed with Christian crosses scare away the teddy bears. Suddenly the store is abloom with rabbit-shaped egg baskets, bags of cellophane grass and jelly beans, and plastic bobble-headed bunnies, turtles, and chicks squatting in gaudily decorated egg shells.

Then there?s Summer Vacation. Picnic plates and napkins, beach-theme and touristy items, and travel games for children are front and center. The sales table is stocked up to lure people into the store, since there aren?t any big holidays to bring customers in. The commercially pathetic Summer Vacation is quickly buried under bushels of shiny Back-to-School apples.

Christmas starts to sneak up in the middle of Summer Vacation before Halloween. Some of you know what I?m talking about. The premier of Christmas ornaments in July. There are people who shop January to December for Christmas gifts.

If you saw merchant XYZ across the street already selling the same Christmas items you ordered for your store, how many of that item do you think you?ll unload if you put it out later? That?s why you?re seeing Advent calendars and Christmas cards alongside the jack-o?-lanterns, witch luminaries, and autumn leaf and harvest table runners.

Sell the card, sell the gift, sell the gift bag. Seasonal and higher priced items are displayed at eye level and in prominent areas of the store. Glass vases and other transparent objects on the top glass shelves allow more ceiling light to filter down to the lower shelves. Cross-merchandise by placing stuff in both the seasonal and everyday sections. Yummy candy and twinkly jewelry goes by the registers.

Stores are minefields for the shopper with weak self-control, which is why you see so many parents dragging out naive crying children from stores. Be a smart shopper this holiday season. And please be kind to the cashier.

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