Musings: Sales

Today’s topic is: “Have you ever worked in sales? Tell us your best story about that job!”

Like many, I had a part-time retail job during high school. While the cool girls worked at trendy clothing stores inside the mall, in the autumn of 1992, I worked at Ross Dress for Less, a discount department store in the mall’s parking lot.


I wish I could share a great story about how I single-handedly foiled a band of shoplifters, but nothing exciting like that ever happened to me. And considering it was nearly 25 years ago, only vague memories of this important teenage milestone remain.

I remember that at the beginning of every shift, I was assigned to work in one of three areas of the store. My favorite position was as a cashier. Even though it meant long periods of standing, it was the most interactive place in the store. Somehow I felt important to be taking other people’s money, as I earned my first non-babysitting paycheck (at the minimum wage rate of $4.25 an hour).

My second favorite assignment was as the gate-keeper to the fitting rooms. Standing behind my podium, I would count in-going hangers and give customers a large plastic square with a corresponding number on it. Rehanging and sorting the rejected items appealed to my early desire to organize, and once, I was given a pointy labeling gun to attach price tags to a huge pile of swimsuits!

My least favorite shifts were staffing the fragrance counter. (When I told my husband that my first job was as a “fragrance sales person,” he laughed out loud. It is a bit ridiculous because I have never been a perfume-wearer, which means I probably wasn’t a very good perfume salesman either.) I liked the power of carrying the display case key on one of those curly plastic coils around my forearm. But there weren’t many customers who bought their Red Door, or White Diamonds, or even the high-school-jock-favorite Drakkar Noir from a discount clothing store, so most of the time, my job was to tidy up the adjacent Accessories and Gifts departments. To this day, I can’t walk past a wallet display or see a bottle of Apricot facial scrub without thinking of my five long months in retail.

While my memories of actually working are a bit fuzzy, I vividly remember looking forward to my 15-minute breaks in the back room. I would buy a chocolate brownie with nuts and a Coke from the vending machine and thumb through back-issues of Soap Opera Digest. (In those days, I only occasionally caught episodes of One Life to Live but could stay informed using those half-sized magazines.) I remember steering clear of the old linoleum table in favor of a not-too-comfortable vinyl couch. If I was there alone, I’d take off my shoes, prop up my aching feet, and look forward to the end of my shift when I could also take off my pantyhose. (Little did I know that I’d spend the majority of the next two decades in jobs where nylons were part of the required dress code.) Those breaks never seemed to last long enough, which is why my next job didn’t involve as much standing or as much perfume (but that’s a story for another day).


Did you work during high school? Share your memories in the comments.

~ Phoebe DeCook

(P.S. If you missed previous Musings, you can binge-read from the beginning.)

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