Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Endless 18 was my dream job. Or so I thought. Rated the #1 brand for teen girls in the world, I had shopped there numerous times, and loved the latest styles and the low, low prices. ($2.50 tank tops? Sign me up!) So what if every piece of jewelry broke after one wearing. It was only three bucks! Who cared if I spilled spaghetti sauce down the front of a shirt and ruined it? It was only eight dollars! I was the second oldest employee there at 29 years old, and I was the second in command.
The company has a long history, along with a family-oriented image. One couple owns the entire company privately. They have only given one interview. In that interview they stated that they worked so hard, were so glad to come to this country from China, and that they go to church every single morning. They are good, solid citizens who love Jesus, and therefore have a scripture stamped on the bottom of every single shopping bag. (I had never noticed this before. But next time you run across one of those blinding yellow plastic bags, check it out. It really is there.)
Like I said, I was excited to start. It would be a whole new life from Dillard’s. I was promised Sundays off, which with Justin’s crazy nursing schedule, was ideal. At least we could plan one whole day per week together. I had to close two nights a week, but how bad could that be? Terrible. Absolutely, insanely awful.
The mall closes at 9 p.m. Except during Christmas, when it’s open until 11. I have never shopped that late in my life, so I was unaware of this little piece of information. But being that I started the job in March, it never occurred to me to ask.
Every room at Endless 18 has a different theme. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you like to shop. Me, I didn’t care for it. Like, if I find a top that I like, and it’s black, but I would rather have blue, I would have to find the blue shirt in an entirely different room of the store. Colorizing would be a tremendous help, but I’m not the boss. Anyway, every room is different; it could be a girly room, a tribal room, a biker chick room, whatever. Every single item of clothing has a particular place. And I could never figure that out.
Teenage girls are the most inconsiderate species on the planet. When they get dropped off at the mall by their parents, they run in screaming hordes straight through the doors of Endless 18. And then they load up their skinny arms full of skinny jeans, leggings and 2.50 tanks and head back to the fitting room. Then they proceed to try on every single item of said clothing, and leave it all in a tangled heap on the floor, only to prance out and do it all over again. (Just so you know, I’m not being prejudiced against skinny people. Endless 18 is technically a juniors store, and the company is owned and all the clothing designed by Asians, who are thin people. I firmly believe the clothing styles are based on an Asian frame.)
The fitting room attendant was usually the person who drew the short straw, or who was unfortunate enough to be really good at working the fitting room. It takes a special person to do it. You have to not only be friendly and good at offering helpful advice, but you have to know where every single article of clothing lives in the store. And as I mentioned, that was one thing that I just never got. “Purple tank tops live in this room, but purple tanks with silver stripes go in this room.” It was mind-blowing.
Closing time at Endless 18 is particularly hellish. Each closer (and there are NEVER enough) has their own room, or rooms, to close. Every single item has to be perfectly arranged. And buttoned. And edged. And zipped. And tied. And after that? You get to put back every single thing that the skinny teenage girls left on the floor all day long. Because the chance that you have a good person working the fitting room that has been sorting all of these clothes for you is slim to none. I once spent two hours completely refolding an entire table of camisoles. I was NOT happy. And the entire time, I thought, “I went to school for this?!”
While the closers are working the floor, the managers are counting money and doing endless paperwork. And while we are doing that, the teenage employees are texting, and listening to iPods, and slacking off and doing nothing, because the managers are too busy to get onto them. I could feel myself turning into a real bitch every single time I had to close, and that’s so not me. I really cared about a lot of these kids, and I hated having to be mean. But I didn’t want to be there till 2 a.m. as we often were, and I couldn’t imagine doing it in high school. Sleeplessness has a way of making people evil.
The day to day life at Endless wasn’t completely awful (unless you were a closing manager). My real issue came in the form of the district manager. I affectionately refer to her as The Devil from Dallas. She would come sweeping in about once a month and no matter how hard we worked to make the store perfect, it was never acceptable. The entire closing crew would stay until 3, 4 or 5 a.m. to make the store immaculate. Didn’t matter. One of my manager friends worked multiple 24 hour plus shifts. She was never appreciated, or even thanked for it. When The Devil got a hint of that, she told the other manager (who’s name is also Ashley) that it’s not supposed to be like that. Well, the reason it IS like that, is because nothing is ever good enough.
The Devil from Dallas also had a sidekick in the form of a visual manager. We’ll call her “VaGina”. She was equally tiny, equally snotty, and equally vicious in her complaints of our store. And she was the ultimate cause for my downfall.
I had been miserable at Endless for several months. I just didn’t care like I did in the beginning. The exhausting 10-14 hour shifts, the constant need to be fake and cheerful, and the lack of both sleep and seeing my family were wearing me out. I missed every family event during that time. I was the unlucky one that had to close on the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Halloween. On Thanksgiving, I had to be in bed by 8 p.m., completely missing one of our family dinners, because I had to be at the mall by 4 a.m. for Black Friday. (Or “The Most Terrible Day of the Year. Ever.”) The Christmas season was awful, due to the mass of impatient, hateful shoppers and the incredibly late hours. Because remember, the mall was open until 11. We didn’t get out till 2 a.m. as it was, and now the store was open two hours later.
In late January, I was at the end of my rope. Then my brother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. My family was rallying together, and I was stuck at the mall. I put on my best face, and did the best I could, but I guess I didn’t fool anyone. In February, while my brother-in-law lay in a medically-induced coma in the ICU, I fielded a store visit from VaGina by myself. When I returned to work the next day, my store manager and an assistant asked me to step outside. I was informed that VaGina was accusing me of not being fake and smiley enough, and that I had broken procedure a number of times while she was watching. All of the accusations were false. I had a witness for every event she was mentioning. And think about it: if I was going to break the rules, I certainly wouldn’t do it in front of her. The Devil was asking that I step down to Assistant Manager. I was literally shaking with anger. The Devil and I had never gotten along, but I hadn’t done a single thing wrong. The sad thing was, I cared so little by that point that I took it as a sign. I called my husband on my dinner break and he told me to walk out. Just leave. Make a dramatic exit and throw my keys and stroll out the door. But being the honest and decent person that I am (and NOT a rulebreaker), I couldn’t do that. I was closing that night, and it turned out to be one of the latest and longest shifts I ever worked. I just couldn’t walk away and leave the store a mess; it wasn’t in me to stoop that low.
I called my store manager the next day, and told her I was giving my notice. (In the world of retail, that means you’re quitting…you have to offer your two weeks, but you never actually work it. Except at Dillard’s, where I was obviously a more valued employee.) The funny thing is, although I still feel my hackles raise up when I think about The Devil and VaGina, leaving when I did turned out to be the best thing. I had plenty of time to spend with my family while I looked for something else. I was able to be there with my best friend/sister-in-law while she held Jason’s hand in the ICU. I sat quietly with her while she expressed her worries about what would happen when he woke up. Or worse, if he didn’t wake up. So in the end, I guess I owe a ‘thank you’ to The Devil and VaGina. I just didn’t realize it at the time. So to The Devil from Dallas, and your feisty sidekick VaGina, thanks. Thank you for making me realize what a relief it was to escape from the hell you put us through. Thank you for making me not spend quite so much money at Endless 18, because now I know what kind of people the higher-ups choose to run their company. Thank you for not letting me turn into you.