Friday, July 10, 2015

Life At The Store

My daughter-in-law worked for the same company as I did. We just worked at different stores. We gleefully exchanged tales of strange things that happened.

At her store senior citizens gathered together on certain days to have breakfast and a bit of companionship.They played checkers and there were bingo days sponsored by the store. It was a nice outing for them.

One morning as the cleaning staff were cleaning the bathrooms they had to wait while one of the senior men was using the facilities. They waited and waited and waited. Finally someone decided to see if he needed any assistance. No answer.

An ambulance was called. The police came. The poor man had died.

My daughter-in-law called me to tell me that the area had been roped off as the police investigated the scene. It took several hours before they even removed the body because they were waiting for next of kin to come identify him. Could that have been done somewhere other than a men's restroom?

Another morning just as I was walking out the door to go home from work I was informed that I had a phone call. It was my daughter-in-law. "Guess who is in charge of this store?"

I jokingly said, "You are." As a matter of fact she was.

A couple of enterprising young men had come into the store and started to fill their clothing with bottles of liquor. Of course they were seen.

Shoplifting laws in that state have rules that the person doing the shoplifting must be seen to take the item(s) and be under continual surveillance after that. They must be seen leaving the store without the merchandise being paid for before they can be stopped. Security will wait for them just outside the door and ask the shoplifter to accompany them to their office where the authorities will be called.

As employees we were all trained to report suspicious behavior to the security department and let them handle it. We were never under any circumstances to accost someone ourselves.

So these young shoplifters were clinking with the sound of bottles full of liquor. As they were walking out of the store the grocery manager and the night store manager took it upon themselves to play Rambo.

They chased the men and tried to tackle them and hold them for the police. The men were having none of it. They fought back. The grocery manager was right outside the doors of the store when he was hit. The store manager followed his fellow all the way into the parking lot. There the man repeatedly slammed the manager's head into a curb.

The police were at the store when my daughter-in-law arrived. After briefly explaining what had happened the store manager handed her all the keys to the store and said she was in charge until any other manager arrived. He was on his way to the hospital.

I had a department manager that we all disliked. She came in and decided right away to change everything. She issued orders and was short on praise. We could not wait until she was transferred. In retail managers are shuffled around regularly.

For some reason she took a liking to me at times. Sometimes when I was on a lunch break she would come sit with me and talk . I ate alone otherwise because I worked the midnight shift. Still I thought she was an ineffective manager and was anious for her to leave our store which eventually happened.

Then came the morning a few days later and my daughter-in-law called me. "Guess who got your old manager!" Of course it was her store.

I would occasionally stop by my daughter-in-law's store on my way home from work. Her first coffee break happened when I got there so we could sit and enjoy each other's company for a while. We also could let off a bit of steam about work because we knew what the stresses were.

Unfortunately that manager always came running over to sit with us like I was her long-lost sister. My daughter-in-law would roll her eyes in that way she has. I would cringe. The manager would plump herself down and chat away.

It was time to change displays in the main aisles at my store. Fishing gear was one of the displays being removed.

Someone got the idea to play a practical joke on the night store manager. They took a giant teddy bear from the toy department and put the fishing waders on its legs. Then they placed it in the bathroom. One of the smaller employees locked the door to the stall from the inside and crawled under the door to get out.

Someone was assigned to call security to tell them that there was someone in the bathroom who had been there a long time and was not answering any efforts to communicate. Security dutifully went to check. They were in on the prank.

The night store manager waited for security to report that everything was fine. When they told him they could not get any answer either the manager went into the bathroom. He called out to the person and got no answer. Finally he had security open the door.

We were all waiting to see what happened next. We were trying to look busy but it was hard. Finally in walked the manager with a sheepish look on his face. He knew that we all knew. It was good.

One night just as I pulled into the parking lot at work the warning siren went off. I moseyed on to the front of the store looking this way and that way the whole time. Someone said it was a tornado warning. I instantly started to look for the funnel. Security came out and ushered all of us inside to try to make us safe.

I worked in the cash office where the walk-in safe resided. It was the safest place to be in a crisis so I went there. All the other cash office workers were there ready to pull the door closed if needed.

The assistant night store manager was panicking. She was running around in hysterics. She wanted to know why cash office people were still in the office and ordered security to make us all go to the back of the store with everyone else. We tried to convince them all that we were supposed to be right where we were but she was having none of that.

We were herded to the back of the store right before we lost power. There are back-up generators in a store like that but they power the freezers, cooling units, and computers. There would be power for enough lighting units to keep it from being completely dark.

With all the employees and customers in the back of the store it did not take long for the atmosphere to become uncomfortable. Body heat and no moving air made breathing unpleasant. Children became restless and there was some crying. We looked through some of the merchandise and found a few things for them to play with. That helped.

It was a huge relief when the all-clear was sounded and we could return to where we were supposed to be. We were fortunate that the tornado passed us by.

During a different tornado my daughter-in-law's store was not quite so lucky. There was no warning and suddenly the roof was torn completely from over the produce section. Fortunately no one was injured. The store was a mess until they could get the roof replaced.

For a while there was a problem with a ring of shoplifters. There would be a group of them who would descend on a store. They would spread out so that security could not keep track of all of them. Then they would get what they came for and out the door they would go.

One night they visited my daughter-in-law's store. Security was waiting at the door for them. Struggles ensued. One woman fell to the floor and began to scream "Police Brutality!"

Other shoppers entering the store were shocked. Shoppers in the store were incensed. They all began tearing the store apart. The management had to call the police who sent out the riot squad. It took some time to calm people and resume some sense of order.

As a side note security camers clearly show the woman throwing herself down. No one else was near her.

There was also an infamous shoplifter. We called him "The Tie Man". The reason for his name was that one of his favorite items to take was silk neckties.  They were easy to conceal and easy to exchange with no receipt. All he had to do was claim that they were a gift.

Most employees knew him. We would notify security as soon as he came into the store. But we were never able to catch him.

He was finally captured. When they searched his car they found some interesting items. The most interesting was a journal. In that journal he recorded the date, time, and which store he visited.

He noted whether employees had greeted him and looked him in the eye. If they did he would leave.

He recorded what he stole and the price on the tag. He recorded how much he received when he returned it.

He made a fortune (hundreds of thousands of dollars) and it was all recorded. He shoplifted from all the major retail stores in several states. I wonder if he is out of prison yet.

One night we began to feel ill. I was a cashier that night. All of us experienced burning and watering eyes. Customers were complaining too.

The night store manager called the gas company to come out in the middle of the night to see if there was a natural gas leak. They found nothing. We were still having problems.

Of course they refused our pleas to close the store. The manager was getting ready to call the gas company again. Someone came from the back of the store where merchandise is stored.

A delivery truck had backed up to the loading dock to be unloaded. The exhaust pipe of the truck was just above the floor level. Since the driver left the motor running all those exhaust fumes were pouring into the store. A person could hardly see through the poison filled air in the storage area. Once the truck was turned off and a couple of doors opened the air was better. We were going to live!

At my daughter-in-law's store someone spilled some chemicals in the paint department. The fumes were highly toxic apparently. People were being sick in the aisles. Employees were ill.

An emergency call was made and a hazmat crew came out. They immediately closed the store. Several people were treated at the hospital.

The greeter from my daughter-in-law's store called me one night to tell us to be on the lookout for a man who came into their store, loaded a cart with auto accessories, and ran out with all of it. Everyone was so shocked at the act that they just stood with their mouths open. I thanked her and informed the manager of the store so he could notify security and anyone else who needed to know.

The greeter called a second time to tell us that the guy had come back and done the same thing a second time. I sort of chuckled but I said we would watch for him. We were talking about it when she suddenly exclaimed, " There he goes again!" He got them three times that night.

One night I was working at the service desk. The greeter worked right next to me so we had been talking back and forth during the night. There was not as much business at night so we had a little time to be idle.

A man came in to return something. I obtained his information as I was trained to do. I then examined the merchandise he wished to return. There was a reason I could not accept it for return so I declined.

He demanded to see the manager. I called the manager who said he would be there as soon as he could. He also notified security just in case.

The manager was not moving fast enough so the man went to grab the greeter's phone to call. She refused to let him use it.

He began to yell at her. Then he grabbed her around the throat and began to choke her. Security came running and rescued her. Police were called and they took him away.

She prosecuted. He was found guilty and sentenced to a short term in jail.

These are just a few extreme examples of life in retail. It is not always easy so be kind to the person trying to assist you or cashing out your purchases. We appreciate kindness.


  1. Wow. I guess we don't realize how many rude (and worse) people frequent mass marketing.

    1. These were only some of the worst. Don't get me started on cell phone use rather than speaking to a cashier or rude comments to or about other customers. And employees could be just as bad Perhaps I will do another post about some of the other things that happened.

    2. I wish people would be nicer to each other.

    3. I wish people would be nicer to each other.

    4. That is the answer to the quest for world peace. Just be nice.

  2. These are fascinating accounts. Only paused to shake my head and remember some of the problems I dealt with during my working years. Never had to wait out a tornado warning though --good thing too. Truly a fine post, exceptional.

    1. Your praise means a great deal to me. Thank you. These are only from my life in retail. I have another post almost written about other things that happened there. Then I can start on some of my other jobs.

  3. You have some interesting life stories to share with us.
    And I read each of them patiently.
    They are really good.

    1. rainfield you are too kind. I read all of your stories of the mushrooms and Alice. You live in a wonderful world.

  4. What an interesting turn of events and lovely stories, a real delight to read. Greetings!

  5. Wow! I don't have any work-related stories that could even come close to some of those! What an interesting line of work. Thanks for those stories Emma:)

    1. Just wait until the net installment. It is coming soon.