Sunday, January 15, 2017

a pie divided into more pieces does not a bigger pie make

It's a slow Sunday in January.  

Not a lot of people shopping. But miraculously only three of us end up working. 

So I have a decent day.

But rather than feel grateful, I start to feel angry. 

Management overstaffs the floor because they can. They pay us ONLY commission. I assume their thinking goes something like this:  the more sales associates on the floor, the more volume is generated in sales. 

Forgot the fact that...

Customers don't like being asked, every three feet, "Can I get you a room?"

Shoppers don't realize they should be helped by a single sales person. It's easy to think yes, you can help me (too),  when being approached by so many.

Even if the store does generate slightly more in sales with higher number of associates (which is questionable), each sales associate ends up making less. The pie does not keep expanding with more people; each piece just keeps getting smaller.

I believe in the 80/20 rule. That 20% of associates generate 80% in sales. My theory is simple: if the store evaluates output by associate, and gets rid of the bottom 40%, the remaining associates will earn more, stay longer, be happier — and, the store will not lose sales. 

There are ten associates in my department. One just left. January and February are dead months. Why not wait until March when things start to pick up to fill the open position? That would be the right thing to do for us associates, given how little we make during these dismal months. But I hear that management is looking to hire now.

Some days, as many as 8 of us are scheduled to work. Not only is that unfair, but it creates a more aggressive, unpleasant environment. And, our department floor space is not that big.

So why do I stay? Aside from the fact that I can't find a full time corporate job.

Well, I like the exercise and the discount, my colleagues and my boss. 

And many of the customers.

Today a beautiful woman from Ecuador and her equally gorgeous daughter (a student in NYC) come in.  They are lovely, considerate, and a total pleasure. Before leaving the mother says, "I shop a lot. Both at Saks, and other stores.  And I've never worked with a more helpful and knowledgeable salesperson. You know the merchandise. And, you pick things that not only I like, but that my daughter likes too." Her daughter then adds, "And my mom never compliments. Really. Never. " They end up buying a sumptuous rabbit fur coat and handbag. And totally make my day.

If only... 

All my customers were like them ... 

Management treated its sales associates as if they cared about them...

I could find really comfortable shoes that were stylish and allowed (sneakers and Uggs aren't) ...

Well then I could really like my job. Until then, I'll keep looking.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


I'm dressed, showered, and ready to leave at 8:30.

Then I realize I'm working the late shift and don't have to be at work until 12:15.

I have two customers all day.

It's snowing, barely.

It's cold.

And it's January.

No one is shopping.

I mean no one.

The store is empty. Everywhere.

Except for those who venture in to make returns. Bad weather does not deter these shoppers.

I am the only one working the late shift tonight.

At 8:30 the store closes.

I'm about ready to leave when a woman I've been helping tells me she needs a black dress for a cocktail party on Wednesday. I want to say, "Why didn't you mention this at seven, when I began helping you?" But I don't.

I pull my favorite little black dresses from all over the floor. About eight in all. 

I wait around while she tries them on.

My stomach is growling. I'm exhausted. 

At nine she finally leaves. Grateful, but empty-handed.

I get home at 9:45 and grab two slices of pizza for an unhealthy dinner.

My feet ache from seven miles on hard tiled floors in biker boots.

I end the week with $13,238 in sales. That wouldn't have been horrid for January. 

But subtract from that $6,000 in returns, and that makes for a very bad week. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"I'm sorry; our hands are tied."

I can no longer open the 3-gallon bottles of water that I get delivered from Poland Spring,  now called Ready Refresh since Nestle bought it.

Apparently the packaging on the bottles has changed, and the plastic on the cap is impossible to get off. I have cut myself with a box cutter trying to open the bottles, and have even enlisted the help of both my strong handyman and next door neighbor. 

So two weeks ago I call Ready Refresh. They tell me that the new packaging allows for consumers with newer model coolers to use these bottles and the caps. Apparently the coolers are configured to puncture the bottle caps, thus not needing to remove them first. Very nice if you have a new cooler; not so nice if you don't. I don't.

I've owned my cooler for many years without problem. And now this. So I call Ready Refresh.

"No problem," the customer service rep tells me. "We'll arrange to deliver to you an easy-to-install kit for your old cooler."

Perfect. Except it doesn't arrive.

I call again. Same thing happens. No delivery on the promised date.

And so I call a third time.  After a 15 minute hold "while I investigate," Laurie comes back on the phone with bad news. "I'm sorry but those kits are no longer in stock. In fact, they were never available for this branch. They were only distributed in California."

"Okay," I say. "So what's the solution if you live in New York?"

And the answer that Laurie gives me, and this is a direct quote, is, "I'm sorry. Our hands are tied."

Really Laurie?  Then untie them.

So I ask for a supervisor and get Christine Gueriere. Her solution is better, though far from perfect.

She'll give me a cooler with a free rental for two years. But after two years? "We can negotiate then."

So for now at least, I'm happy. 

As is my super who got my old, perfectly-working cooler.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

a must-see Broadway show

I rarely cry anymore.

I'll be the only one in the theater dry-eyed after a sad movie. Didn't even shed a tear watching the heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea.

But tonight, Susan and I go to see a play, based on Jill's recommendation a couple of months ago when she said, "Trust me on this. Buy tickets now."

So we did. And she was right. 

Incredible performances. Gorgeous music. Compelling story. An absolutely amazing Ben Platt. One heartbreaking scene, particularly if you're a single mom. And Monica Lewinsky seated in front of us.

This is a show worth seeing. And unlike most theater I go to, there wasn't a single thought of leaving at intermission.

It was that good! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

january funk

There are barely any shoppers at Saks this past weekend.

Just lots of returners.

Snow and cold do a good job of keeping people at home. Except for those determined to return that gift grandma got them, or the coat they liked last month but don't like anymore. 

In short, business is dismal.

Then I learn that because I had to take substantially from my disappearing retirement fund, I now owe $15,000 in taxes, that I have no idea how I'll pay. 

I am stuck, still wondering, how can I earn an income that can sustain me? 

I have no answers. Just lots of questions and sleepless nights.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

a rule meant to be broken

611 is the name of the cafeteria at Saks. The numbers, taken from the store's address (611 Fifth), give it an aura of sophistication that doesn't exist.

First, its hours don't coincide with the store hours.  If you work past 4:30, which everyone does, you need to exit the store to find a place to eat. And on a weekend night, that's not easy.

Second, it's not subsidized. Eating at 611 costs more than picking up something at Agata Valentina, my local gourmet grocer.

Third, the long shared tables are often unclean. Sticky drink remains and crumbs are often scattered on the table tops. 

Fourth, many of the diners (all store employees) think it's perfectly okay to watch videos and TV shows on their phones with the volume up. Is there no thought that screams, "Gee, maybe the woman next to me isn't interested in hearing my face-time conversation?"

And finally...

I have accepted the rule that if I want water in a cup I must pay 11¢. The rationale is, "Cups cost money and in the past, people have abused the privilege of free cups. You're not paying for the water or the ice, just the cup."

I don't bring my own cups to work, so I've reluctantly accepted this rule.

Today I buy hot tea; I switch to tea whenever I have a cold.

$2 for a tea bag. So I get two cups of hot water and go to pay. 

"That's $2.27."

"How's that?"

"$2 for the tea and 27¢ for the second cup of water."

"But I thought the cost of a cup is 11¢."

"Only if it's cold water. Hot water is more."

"I don't understand. If I'm only paying for the cup, and not the water inside it, what difference does the temperature make?"

"I don't know, but that's what it is."

"Okay, then this is cold water."

I'm charged $2.11.

Stupid rule averted! 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

a day of small accomplishments

I wake up with watery eyes and a scratchy throat.  Great timing for getting stuff done that requires staying home.

I make a hard-cover blog book for my blog postings. Usually it takes two volumes per year. Today I see a 30% off coupon for the site I've been using (blog2print) so I make a book covering July through December 2016 (the first half of the year has already been booked). It feels cathartic, even though I can't imagine ever sitting down and reading through them. Perhaps these books will survive and a 100 years from now people can take a peek into the every day life of a New York woman who loves being a mom and hates growing old —among other things.

I've watched over 50 movies this year, including 19 in December. I'm ready for the first round of BAFTA voting.  I take this role seriously. After thinking pausing and rethinking,  I am comfortable with choices I make for the nominations.

I clean out my freezer. I won't be buying anymore chicken to freeze. I give 3 pounds of Costco boneless/skinless tenderloins, vacuumed packed in December of 2015, to Aziz, my favorite doorman. I also hand him a new package of Costco frozen salmon wondering what I was thinking when I bought it. 

Next comes my makeup purge. Pencils for the eyes and lips that haven't touched skin in years. Powder blushes that have long been replaced by ones I like better (my two favorites being Dior Rosy Glow 001 in Petal and Cheek Fabric Powder Blush #502 by Armani). Old brushes that are probably still good, but have been replaced by the fabulous Wayne Goss brushes (I especially love #13).

I remove everything from my medicine cabinet, clean the inside glass shelves and back mirror, then toss everything I haven't used in the past month.

I had planned on cleaning cleaning both my linen and clothes closets but my cold takes over and I lose all energy.