Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Paper Hearts And A Red Haired Tart
Somehow the employees of Paper Shredder store #42 for ready by the soft opening date; Bud and Chuck were put to work stocking shelves and customers, the older employees were put up front to run the cash registers, Tallulah was working in the copy center in the back and yours truly was working in the book department.
The store PA blared to life, “Al to the front for a price check.”
Ah, some things never changed. I set aside the inventory sheets I was working on and headed up front. Patty was running the main register, she was in her fifties and I think she was a little overwhelmed by the two or three customers we had shopping in the store.
The Paper Shredder uniform was slacks a white shirt and a green smock with the store logo stitched on it. It was odd to try in run in it was almost like a skirt. It kind of helped me understand how the heroines in horror films could never quite outrun those slow moving mummies and aliens.
When I got to the front of the store I found Patty starring confusedly at a package of pencils and a customer glaring. “How can I help?” I gave the customer what I hoped was a reassuring smile.
Patty handed me the package, “How much are these pens?”
“You mean pencils,” I said. “The price is right here on the ticket in the corner.”
“But it doesn't match,” Patty explained. “I rang in the price and the department but she said it was the wrong price.”
The customer gave me a pleading glance, “The sign on the shelf says they're 2.99 but she keeps insisting they're 3.49.”
Patty said, “It says that on the price tag.”
“Oh I see. You see the price you were using was the price before the Paper Shredder store discount.” I turned the customer and said, “Paper Shredder shreds prices and passes the savings on to you.”
“So what do I do?” Patty asked.
“You just hit the ring back button and that will erase what you did.”
“How do I do that?”
“It's the big red button that says ring back.”
“Oh for the love of God,” the customer stormed out.
Patty wrung her hands, “Oh my.”
“I wouldn't worry,” I said. “That's what soft openings are for right?”
“I thought this was the grand opening.”
“Uh-no.” I turned to go.
“Wait, how do I get rid of this sale.”
I called back, “Just call a manager and ask him to void the sale.”
The book department was my kind of work, I loved familiarizing myself with the stock and arranging things just so. There was a horror section and I made sure to make sure that all my favorite authors had their books facing outwards and the ones I thought were crap only had their spines showing. I thought to myself that when I had made my fortune I might open a bookstore of my own and call it Bruno's Books or something equally corny. I dreamed of having an office in back to write my books while my employees worked on the sales floor. I imagined customer's coming in and then begging me for autographs. I fantasized about the girls that had scorned me high school in visiting my place of business and becoming completely orgasmic when they learned of our special order polices. I imagined giving one or two of those former cheerleaders a grand tour until they were so overcome with desire that they would allow me to thumb through the index of their most primal desires.
Man I was glad that smock covered any unsightly bulges that might arise.
The store's PA system blared to life again, “Al to the front to void a sale.”
More than a little confused I headed up to the front to see two customers now lined up waiting for Patty to cash them out. I said, “I'm sorry I can't do voids, only managers can do voids.”
Patty stared at me for a few moments, “You're not a manager?”
“No. I'm not even close.” I looked at the building line and said, “I'll ring you folks out over at this register. Patty just ask for a manager to come to the front and they can fix that for you.”
I got to work taking care of the customer's while Patty picked up her register phone and dialed #9, the store intercom beeped to life and she called for assistance but then forgot to turn off the intercom giving the entire building the chance to hear her confused ditherings.
Once the cashiering was done I headed back to my books leaving Ms. Cooper to deal with the chaos that was Patty's cash register. I got about six minutes of shelving done when I heard Tallulah page “Al to the copy center.”
That's right the book guy had to help with the front register and the copy center. Ah well, there's nothing like being irreplaceable is there? I headed to the back of the store to see Tallulah monitoring a job on each of the two copiers. There were self service machines nearby but no one was using them. There was another customer not being waited on so I asked him what he needed. Thankfully he just wanted to check out a few of the cross pens we had on display, I hadn't really gotten a lot of training on the copiers yet.
“Hey Tallulah,” I called back. “I need the keys to the display case.”
The keys came flying across the room and hit me in the back of the head. I'm sure it was an accident. I spent about ten minutes showing off pens of varying expense. The customer picked one out and asked me to find her a gift box; I headed back to the copy center to do so.
The copiers we used back there were huge multi-purpose things, they could staple, sort and print on multiple forms of media. They also put out about as much heat as your average restaurant kitchen. Tallulah was hard at work here, juggling multiple orders and talking to Bud. However as I rooted around for an appropriately sized gift box I realized she wasn't as much talking to him as scolding him. She wasn't yelling but I could tell even over the whoosh and roar of the copiers that she was verbally cutting him to shreds.
A redhead with a bad temper? As if I wasn't smitten before...
After the pen sale the next hour or so was divided between books and cashiering with the occasional excursion into the realm of office supplies. By the time my 15 minute break rolled around I felt I had earned that can of Pepsi and handful of snacks.
Paper Shredder store#42's break room was nothing more than a table sized indention in the wall about the width of two office cubicles. There were mismatched chairs and a folding table there for the employees’ enjoyment and relaxation. I wasn't alone in the break room for those fifteen minutes, Tallulah was sitting there, her arms were crossed and she was fuming.
“Cookie?” I said.
She frowned at me, “What?”
I decided it might be best to speak a little more slowly, “I said do you want a cookie. My mom made them so but they're relatively dog hair free.”
“No thanks Albert.”
“Al is fine you know,” I sat down across the table from her. “I couldn't help but notice you having words with Bud, now I know it's none of my-”
She spat, “He's a complete asshole.”
Well she was opening up to me, that was something. “In what way?” I asked. “I mean aside from the obvious reasons.”
That earned me a chuckle.
Tallulah said, “He took me on a date. Standard dinner and a movie, and it wasn't even really dinner. It was the food court at the mall...”
I noted to myself that dinner at Arby's wasn't as romantic as I had thought.
“The movie was 'Can't Buy Me Love' and it was OK, I guess,” she said. “But the idea was pretty sad, imagine some dweeby guy wasting all four years of high school mooning over some girl he was never going to get. I mean it's pathetic isn't it?”
“...yeah,” I said with a small cringe. “What a loser.”
“But the kicker was afterwards when we get back to his car he wants to hang out and talk,” she made quotation marks with her fingers. “And by talk he meant he expected me to give him a handjob.”
“He what?” my cookie crumbled in my hand, chips dropped to the table.
Tallulah’s scowl deepened, “He thought that since he took me to the movies I was obligated to get him off.”
I was amazed, “When did this rule start?”
“First I heard of it but then again I did go to high school in Shenandoah. I hear the girls around here were a little looser if you know what I mean.”
“They were? They are?” I set the cookie down my appetite ruined, “I think I missed out on more in high school than I realized.”
“I kind of thought so,” she gave me a mischievous grin and broke off a piece of my cookie. “Breaks over. Gotta go.”
A handjob for a movie? I wondered to myself, Is there some secret price list I never knew about?