J. C. Mogensen

Reality with a Healthy Dose of Humor


Adventures In Retail

Posted on November 23, 2012 at 9:40 PM

It's that time of year again, when neighborhoods twinkle with festive lights, families get together, and heathens wage a non-existent war on a holiday that Christians barely understand. While other people are practicing their close combat techniques so that they can more efficiently body-check the old broad reaching for the last flat screen at the Black Friday sales, I'm reminded of the six months I spent barely getting by while working for the world's biggest retailer back in '94/'95.

My actual title at Wal-Mart was "stockman," but it was never made entirely clear what my duties were. I spent most of my time in the back putting together displays, gathering carts from the parking lot, refilling the pop machines out front, and flirting with the girls in Health & Beauty or the Shoe Dept. (the rest of the store was staffed by ugos). I like to think I was as loyal and faithful an employee as $2.25 an hour above minimum wage will buy, but I hated that job with the intensity of a thousand suns. As shitty as that job was, and it was pretty damn terrible, it was occasionally entertaining.





Petty Principles

Wal-Mart employees are supposed to park at the extreme edges of the lot so that the morbidly obese customers don't have to waddle so far before plopping into one of the store-provided Rascal scooters. It was colder than a witch's tit that winter though, and I didn't feel like walking, so I parked right in front of the doors just like a lot of my fellow "associates." Management decided to crack down on this bad habit and started putting $2 parking tickets under the wipers of offending vehicles. I laughed the first time I got one and actually said "YOINK" as I tore it from the windshield of my baby (a black '88 Mustang) and left it crumpled on the ground, but they got progressively more annoying as time went on. The fact that someone had the nerve to try and charge me 30% of my hourly wage for parking too close to the door became a matter of principle before too long. When I was finally confronted by one of the four assistant managers, I had racked up 28 unpaid "tickets."

"The money goes to charity," I was told.

"I make $6.50 an hour. I am a charity," I replied.

"It's store policy for associates to park at the edges of the lot," he said.

"That's not in the employee handbook," I countered. I had no idea if that was true because I never read the damn thing, but I was willing to gamble he hadn't either. "My policy is to call the police if my car keeps getting vandalized while I'm at work," I added.

"Will you just stop, please?" he asked.

"Probably not," I answered. And that was that, I didn't change my ways and the tickets stopped. $56 in unenforceable parking tickets are still out there with my name on them.


The Emergency VCR


Sometimes, when I was wrist-slashingly bored, I would wander the store and see if any of the mouth-breathers needed help finding socks or AA batteries. While on one of these walk-abouts I was taken by surprise when a war-cry rang out from behind me. A woman the size of a linebacker had a VCR cradled in her left arm as she used her right to clear the road ahead while bum rushing her way towards the fire doors at the corner of the store.


"STOP HER!!" The call came out from a winded department manager to me as the thief put more distance between herself and him while closing in on me. She and I made eye contact for a terrifying second before I politely stepped aside. Seconds later she crashed through the emergency exit and into a waiting GMC Jimmy.

Now, theft is not uncommon at Wal-Mart, but the brazen way that big broad had lifted her soon-to-be-outdated gadget was enough to make it the topic of discussion for a few days. I personally had seen probably hundreds of shoplifters while working there; I just never cared enough to stop them. When the VCR bandit was brought up in the break room the next day, I remarked how funny it was. Almost on douchey cue, one of the assistant managers asked if I really thought it was funny that someone would steal from our store.


"Maybe not funny ha-ha, you know, more funny strange…" I said, backpedaling. But it was funny.


When he asked why I didn't do more to prevent the devastating loss, I said, "She clearly wanted that thing more than I wanted to stop her."


I'd like to think she took it back to her trailer house and had her baby-daddy wire it up to the VCR they already had so that they could use one to record the rented tapes they were watching in the other one.




The Wal-Mart I worked at was almost brand new at the time and was located right between the University of Idaho and Washington State University (hence the uncommonly high number of attractive coworkers I had). It was an especially snowy winter that year, not to mention ball-crackingly cold. I mentioned earlier that one of my tasks was to fetch carts from the lot, but you should know that this was before cart-fetchers had those cool motorized contraptions to do the hard work for them. I had to muscle dozens of those metal bastards at a time over a slushy and frozen lot and in through the hobbit doors on my own.

The snow piles left by the plow crews out in the lot were easily fifteen feet high at times and, for some reason, the frat boys got a kick out of tossing the shopping carts as high up there as they could. The carts would sink into the snow and get even more buried once the next storm and plows came through. The manager took me aside one day and told me to dig the carts out of the mini mountain range outside. I spent half a day out there digging like a dog on all fours because he wouldn't let me take a proper shovel off the shelf to get the job done. After freeing three of the probably thirty buried carts I told him to live with it 'til spring.

The manager was not happy with my work shirking, but, after three other stockmen told him what they thought of his plan, he gave up.


Impressive athleticism aside, is there a reason we, as a society, continue to tolerate fuckin' frat boys? All they do is listen to shitty music, make nice girls feel bad about themselves, drink awful beer, and wreck things.


"You can trust me, Baby. I'm a Women's Studies major."



The Reason For The Season

The telltale sound of Salvation Army bell ringers serves to remind you that poor people don't disappear just because an overweight elf who loves himself some good old fashioned breaking and entering is on his way. Still, even the most Christmasy person has to acknowledge that those bells get old in a hurry.


The bell ringers at this particular Wally World were stationed inside the foyer, which gave their bells a little extra echo. After receiving constant complaints from the cashiers about the noise, management made the decision to ban the bells. Instead, the ringers were given red and green laminated papers that said "RING RING" and "DING DONG," respectively, on them. It takes a special person to ring a bell all day in order to guilt strangers into giving up their pocket change, but flapping a Christmas-colored onomatopoeia at the savings-driven Grinches is a lot to ask of even these giving souls.


This is one of those rare occasions where I can feel for both parties. The ringers were just trying to use a time-honored way of getting the attention of the distracted masses so that less fortunate folks could have a brighter holiday, while the already frazzled cashiers were slowing going batshit from bell-torture. There are no winners in a situation like that, but holy fuckpops, were those bells irritating.


The Moral Is: There Is No Morale


This is only a few of the often bizarre, always soul-crushing, things that happened during my short stint at that particular circle of hell. I put in my two weeks notice before lunch one day after deciding that I was moving back to Minnesota. I never went back. The thing you have to understand about Wal-Mart employees is that the only thing they hate more than their jobs is the herds of simpletons they have to deal with on a daily basis. These are people who get paid peanuts to do an utterly unrewarding job and put up with holiday shoppers who are in such a rush to rack up credit card debt on shit they don't need for people they don't like that they can't muster even the bare minimum of human decency towards workers who know that they are almost instantly replaceable.


A cashier once told me that a customer who was angry about being charged the wrong price on an item actually opened a 1lb bag of Skittles and started throwing handfuls at her until security dragged the not-at-all-insane woman out of the store. When you're out there this holiday season, don't forget that the schmucks who work retail are people too. It wouldn't kill you smile and be nice.


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Reply J. C. Mogensen
11:17 PM on November 24, 2012 
That is one of the nicest comments ever let on a blog. Thank you Demetra. :-)
Reply Demetra Fisher
1:58 PM on November 24, 2012 
This is one of the very best, well-written, and insanely humerous blogs that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Perfect for the "giving season", it is a must-read for anyone who both enjoys and shudders at the thought of either shopping or working their way through the holiday madness.