I got a seasonal job working at Williams-Sonoma in 2013. I thought it could be fun. I’d never worked retail and every job I’d had up until then had been more mental than physical. I didn’t know retail wasn’t cute. I’d bought into hype that retailers pawn off on customers as the store experience.
I loved Williams-Sonoma as a shopper because they had tools. I love a good tool.
I hated Williams-Sonoma as an employee because I was just another tool. And as soon as I figured it out, I was determined to do the least I could to coast.
Physically, it was pretty taxing for me. I wasn’t used to spending hours on my feet, climbing ten foot ladders and pulling down standing mixers from the highest shelves (why were they put there?). The place was an OSHA nightmare. The sewer line had been pitched wrong when the construction crew built the entire center, so sewer gases would come up through the drain in the kitchen. So did giant cockroaches. If anyone in Tucson ever went back there, they’d never eat or drink anything in the sample cups.
And that was on top of the sensory overload. The piped in music, the lighting, the smells and chronic pain would have my brain murdered after even a normal shift.
Customers yelled at me when they’d receive couple they wouldn’t be able to use on the designated dates because they’d be on vacation. They’d ask me for the secret discounts, as if there was a button on the keyboard we never pushed except for our very best friends whom we’d just met ten minutes earlier. They’d complain if they were shorted change…the registers were always fucked…sometimes by 17¢. As if it were my maniacal scheme to bilk rich folk out of their fortunes pennies at a time.
It didn’t matter that I was one of them, one of the one percent, that I had a graduate degree and a nice house. I was no one. I was just a conduit there to cater to them and make them feel great about themselves. They all walked into the store and said the same goddamned thing, “Don’t you just love working here? This place makes me so happy!”
No, I did not live working there. Shifts were divided into morning, midday and evening shift. Morning shifts included opening up the store and preparing food to pass out. Evening shifts included stocking, sweeping and mopping and washing dishes. The midday shift was cushy. Just waltz in and sell things and leave. This shift was reserved for employees whose sales numbers were highest.
But it was a total scam. Midday is when most customers shop. And the evening shifts were four hours, just like the morning and midday shift, but one of those hours was spent after the store had closed. Sales numbers were quantified in dollars/hour. If one of every four hours is spent working while the door is closed, how da fuq are you supposed to sell as much shit as someone who had customers all four hours?
It was sharecropper’s math. And as soon as I figured out I was never gonna make it out of the evening shift, I began dragging ass.
I’d never cleaned floors before. I didn’t know how to mop. It felt weird and awful to touch a dirty mop. Autistics have these kind of issues all the time. So I’d pantomime mopping while the manager crunched the numbers in the back. If there was a noticeable stain on the floor (why were we offering samples of BBQ sauce in the store??? It’s sticky AND easily spilled!) I’d windex it and clean it up with a paper towel.
During working hours, we were supposed to keep busy. If there were no customers, we were supposed to just find other things to do. We were getting paid by the hour, so they justified having run around during slow times by holding over the $13/hr we made. But if the store was hopping, we got the same $13/hr, even if we were busting ass trying to help everyone like we were multi-armed Hindu goddesses. There was no hazard pay.
If you weren’t available to help a customer the moment they came in one of the other women would swoop in to capture the sale. We were in competition with one another. So camaraderie was out the window.
That was, unless, the customer was not white, and then the women I worked with couldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t overt racism or top down management. It was really insidious.
My name tag said I spoke Spanish (I kept it. I still rock it from time to time because it’s funny shit.) But the kind of Mexicans who came into the store all spoke English. It was upper Class Mexicans who put Americans to shame when it comes to conspicuous consumption. But the women wouldn’t touch them. It was stupid because Mexicans are cash buyers AND they never use coupons AND they don’t haggle or pull stupid Karen shit. They were the best customers.
The managers were also a pain in the ass. The main manager was so awful that, if we were working a shift together, customers would come up to me and ask me to help them. I’d point them to the manager. And then they’d whisper that they didn’t want to talk to her. This happened all the time.
Needless to say, even had I given the job my all, I would have sucked at it. It leaned hard into all my weaknesses. And I’m always gonna hate the Man, so it didn’t take me too long to become subversive. If they were gonna have me submerging my hands into a cockroach infested, soapy water-filled sink with dull knives hiding at the bottom, I was gonna care a whole lot less than I could have. Taking pride in my job wasn’t even a consideration. I didn’t have any romantic notions about the rest stop in my life’s journey. I made $3000 over the course of a year.
The only reason I worked there as long as I did was for the employee discount that also applied at Pottery Barn. And then I ordered a sofa. It didn’t come for three months, and when it did, it was the wrong couch. But they wouldn’t let me return it. They told me I had to talk to my manager at Williams-Sonoma. Company policy. Of course the manager fought for me and got me the right couch. Not. She told me to take a hike. So I did. I signed up for working Thanksgiving weekend, and then quit last minute and flew to Mazatlan to sit on the beach.
I really did try in the beginning. But some jobs don’t deserve your heart and soul. What I really learned was how to treat people with humility and a lot of leeway because everyone else might have been awful to them that day.
Speaking of that, I need to find me a jobby job.
Man, man, man
If my manager insults me again I will be assaulting him
After I fuck the manager up then I’m gonna shorten the register up
Let’s go back, back to the Gap
Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch
So if I stole, wasn’t my fault
Yeah I stole, never got caught
They take me to the back and pat me
Askin’ me about some khakis
But let some black people walk in
I bet they show off their token blackie
Oh now they love Kanye, let’s put him all in the front of the store
Saw him on break next to the ‘No Smoking’ sign with a blunt and a Mall’
Takin’ my hits, writin’ my hits
Writin’ my rhymes, playin’ my mind
This fuckin’ job can’t help him
So I quit, y’all welcome
Y’all don’t know my struggle
Y’all can’t match my hustle
You can’t catch my hustle
You can’t fathom my love dude
Lock yourself in a room doin’ five beats a day for three summers
That’s a different world like Kree Summers
I deserve to do these numbers
The kid that made that deserves that Maybach
So many records in my basement
I’m just waitin’ on my spaceship, blaow