The Joys of Retail During the Holidays, Such as They Are

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While a fair number of my fair colleagues here at the Good Pirate Ship RedState were attending and reporting on events at Turning Point USA’s AMERICAFEST 2022 soirée which took place December 17th through 20th, yours truly was, and is, daily plying his trade in retail land. (I’ve also done time in the corporate world, but that is a whole ‘nutter story.) Anyway, given that for some indiscernible reason my workplace is busier than usual during the aforementioned time period, several weeks ago I deduced that asking for a few days off to attend the festivities would be received with something less than rapturous delight. Thus, I made no request. I’m occasionally intelligent that way.


Having done quite a few holiday seasons in retail during my tenure on this dusty orb, I’ve noticed a few connecting threads throughout the years regardless of whose name was on my nametag. Other than mine, of course. I have often wished to have mine read OZYMANDIAS with KING OF KINGS as my job title and LOOK ON MY WORKS YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR! as my mission statement, but somehow I doubt any significant number of people would get the joke.

Currently, I am at a sporting goods store which shall remain nameless, as I definitely do not speak for them and vice versa. Quite amusing, given how during my school days I was such a mediocre athlete that on those occasions when I was selected as team captain, regardless of the sport I would invariably pick myself last after pleading to play for the other team so mine would have a shot at winning. Even more amusing is that I now have half a clue what I’m talking about when discussing various team sports equipment, especially baseball and softball. I’m still far better versed in faith, music, and politics, but I have RedState for those conversations.

I’ve labored in several different kinds of retail establishments, everything from a Christian bookstore to a drugstore to a big box to a toy store to an office supply store to a craft store. I freely confess that every once in a while at work, I answer the phone and say, “Thank you for calling …” followed by my running through the name of every place I’ve worked until I get to the current one. It used to amuse me to no end how my mother, when she wanted one of us five kids, would run through every name, including the dog’s, before hitting on the right one. Ruffles, the dog, was the only one who came every time, mostly because she knew doing so would immediately bring on the treats. No wonder Ruffles was her favorite child. Anyway, I now get the name confusion.


Back to the connecting threads. Over the years, I have become utterly convinced that in this great land there is a sizable portion of people who never emerge from their homes except between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They may occasionally go grocery shopping, but aside from that, they never see the light of day. They remind me of a surreal yet true story. One afternoon, I was at Disneyland. I noticed a nearby family with four or five kids, most on the younger side. Their clothes, although not bad, were clearly home-sewn, and all of them looked pretty ill at ease with their surroundings. One of the boys went to a free-standing water fountain atop a concrete pillar. He cautiously turned the knob. The fountain started flowing. At this, he excitedly turned to the rest of his party and called out, “Dad! It’s full of water!” Either someone was surreptitiously filming a bizarre “reality” show, or the family were fish swimming against the wind in a dust storm.

Since my employer carries a large amount of licensed team apparel, an alarming percentage of customers fall into two categories: shocked that we have anything or miffed that we don’t have everything. Literally ten minutes after Argentina won the World Cup on December 18th, a woman came charging in demanding to know where we had located the championship jerseys she knew we had because she “talked” to someone. No idea who and no idea when this alleged conversation took place. Just someone. Anyway, the jerseys won’t ship until May 2023, we probably won’t get any, and day drinking is bad for you. The incident did remind me that if ever I meet a person named Someone, we should hire them on the spot to answer all phone calls.


One gets many questions at holiday time that seldom, if ever, occur during the rest of the year. No, I don’t know what size shirt or shoes your grandchild wears. No, the price tag on the merchandise is not there to fun ya; that is what it costs. No, we don’t have any more in the back because if we did, we’d bring it onto the sales floor so we could sell it, as this is how we stay in business. No, you can’t have that cute cashier’s phone number.

The superb comedienne Kerri Pomarolli has a terrific line about this time of year: “If you’re out shopping today, be nice to the retail workers. It’s not their fault you waited until Mary’s water broke to shop.” I can tell many a tale of one-time coworkers whose people skills were something less than stellar. I can also tell stories of harried moms bursting into tears of joy when I somehow procured the impossible-to-find gift their child desired. Of course, material gift receiving is not the season’s reason, or at least it ought not to be. It’s actually the Big Guy’s birthday party. Let’s celebrate, and again I apologize for not being able to help you do so while wearing a new Lionel Messi jersey. Sold out, alas.


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