18 November 2009

NOT Bookselling

I got home this afternoon from my fifth day working for Borders (notice the operative word "for" and not the word "at") and as promised on Facebook, I am writing a post here about how it's going.

To begin, I am not really working with books as I was told I would be. It's kind of a long story. My second day was Sunday, and I had called in to the store Friday morning asking what my next work day was, since my manager had not been able to post the schedule until Thursday night. I was told I worked 12:30pm-4:30pm. A short shift, to be sure, but I was also told that hours were tight, so I didn't think about it. Well, at 11:30am Sunday, I get a call asking me where the heck I am, since I was supposed to be there at 10:30am-4:30pm. Uh-huh....

I got there as soon as I could, explained my situation, and asked where they wanted me to work (I hadn't been trained on anything yet, so I was waiting for training). I was told to work at the information desk. Um, okay. I did that for an hour, then got moved to work at the kiosk. Ah, the kiosk. If you ever go to the mall during the holidays, you will see the stand set up in the middle of the walkway for the mall stuffed to the gills with calendars, and probably a bored-looking teenage kid sitting there waiting for someone to come by. Well, that's now me. All week. I am now Calendar Kiosk Boy.

Instead of my job involving shelving books, making recommendations of titles for literate academics, and cashiering, I now stand (by myself) in the middle of the mall for my entire shift trying to actively sell multiple calendars to snowbirds (they make a great gift!) who barely need one calendar to remind them of their ever-advancing years. To say nothing of the people who come by and ask, very specifically, if we have calendars of tap dancing polar bears or manhole covers from New York City (not LA or Tulsa, but NYC specifically).

At the interview, my manager very straightforwardly mentioned to me that I would be taking turns operating the kiosk around four-ish hours a week while it was open during the holidays. I come in on Sunday to find out that four people quit the store over the two nights I was off work and now I am scheduled to open this kiosk - alone and as a brand new employee - Monday through Thursday this week. Needless to say, I was frustrated with the obvious lack of communication. I kind of felt like I was lied to.

Now, it's not all as horrible as my hyperbole is making it sound. I mean, yeah, I open the kiosk alone, I don't see any other Borders employees all day until my shift ends, and since I work a mere 5 hours a day, I don't get a break (not that any of the other employees are "trained" to work my kiosk register - a 1985 MS DOS computer hooked up to a printer that still uses a ribbon to print on the register tape), and if I need to use the facilities or get a drink, then I have to call the store up and wait for someone to come and relieve me for ten minutes (the only time I tried this, it took 40 minutes). I mean, I do enjoy a level of independence (did I mention that my first day at the kiosk the loss prevention guy stalked me from the upper level of the mall for at least an hour to make sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing?) that I wouldn't get in the main store, and I get a 33% discount on books (but no discount on calendars, strangely enough).

The one true positive out of all this is that the people I work with - the loss prevention guy, my managers, and the few other booksellers I've actually met ARE actually nice people. I just think there are some problems with the infrastructure and the policies set therein. I imagine that working this kiosk won't be too bad either the closer we get to the new year, as it ought to be quite busy after Thanksgiving. Then I will have something to focus on besides how many times I can "straighten" shelves which haven't been touched before the next customer comes along.

I have never liked retail work. I just need a job with a paycheck to last me a little while before I start looking again for something that doesn't involve me trying to push people to buy a product. I always feel dirty trying to make someone shell out money for something they don't need and could probably get way, way, WAY cheaper after January 1st.

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