Friday, January 24, 2014

How Retail Became My Life!

My first real job was working at Hudson’s Department Store.  I remember my interview.  The Human Resources Director was Blanca Fauble, and she was exotically beautiful,  with an accent which made you wonder what South American country she hailed from.

She asked me a few basic questions and then she handed me a coffee mug and told me to sell it to her.  I looked at the mug and then smiled a great big smile and proceeded to tell her that she “really needed this fantastic cup.  It’s really big and will hold enough coffee that you don’t have to refill it as often as a smaller one.  It was a stylish design as well in a basic color which would go with practically any décor and the sleek lines made it different than most other basic mugs available.  It was obviously a mug for someone of a certain class.  Someone ready to define themselves as trail blazers of fashion!”

I got the job and started in Women’s Sportswear.  I met everyone in the department and quickly sized up the personalities.  There were three full time women and then several part timers.  Chris was the maternal worker bee, always helpful and lived by the rules, Kathy was a little negative but a hard worker and Karin was kind of the happy go lucky, helper type.  The part timers must have been rather boring as I cannot remember many of them.  I think I worked really hard and tried to learn the ropes.  Our Department Head, Libby Linder was pregnant when I started.  She had a nasal voice and was very pleasant!  She would write us little motivational notes.

I usually worked about twenty five hours a week in that department but found it easy to pick up shifts as I went along.  Many of the girls were very social and willing to give up weekend shifts so I would do as many as I could.  I learned to ignore the training we received which stated that we had to approach a customer within three seconds of entering our department.  I knew from trying a few times that you would startle them or they’d just leave if they felt intimidated.  

I quickly became the number one salesperson in my department which was funny considering that I wasn’t really trying for that title. I learned quickly that there were a few of the salespeople who were very competitive and jealous of me for surpassing them, Kathy being one of them.  She became very irate and would purposely try to sabotage me with Libby.  I made Libby look good so she ignored the issue.  I learned all of the Managers and their quirks and all the Executives.  I enjoyed my job but after the first few months found myself being somewhat bored by the tasks assigned.

Then one day I pulled an angora sweater out of a bag during a return and all of a sudden I couldn’t breath!  I had to give the return to someone else to do and I had to leave the entire area.  I went to the doctor and was told I had an allergy to wool, angora and about thirty other things.  They also assumed I might be allergic to the formaldehyde that was used to treat MOST fabrics.  The doctor told me that I couldn’t handle being around those fabrics constantly any more.  Wool and angora were very prevalent in the fall of 1984. 

They sent me to Blanca Fauble again because nobody knew what to do with me.  I thought that perhaps I would lose my job but she told me that I had larger sales figures as a Part Timer than the full time people did with almost twice the amount of hours.  She figured that they’d have to find another place to put me with those fine selling skills.  I was happy!

She sent me home and told me to give her a few days.  When I went back she told me that she had come up with an idea of where I could work.  She told me that there was a program that was relatively new called the Gift Selector Program.  It ran from about October through the first of the year and they were in need of an Indoor Sales Representative. 

 She told me that this program was run by the Operations Director for the store, Vern Pachla.  Mr. Pachla was a very intimidating man.  He was second in charge, behind only the Store Manager, and he looked like a mountain!  Probably six foot, three inches and three hundred and fifty  pounds, I was quite honestly scared of him.  I went into his office and Blanca introduced me.  He told me that Karin from my previous department had run  the program the  previous year and they had made about six thousand dollars.  

He explained that there were these booklets called Gift Selectors, which ranged in price from $15 to $150 dollars.  Businesses could buy them and give them to their clients or employees during the Holidays and then the recipient would go through the book (which didn’t have the price on it) and select a gift, they would call the redemption number and order whatever they wanted and it was shipped to them.  I was listening to him intently, and he stated that I would cold call businesses to set appointments for our outside sales rep. and then I would also sell them in the store during the last few weeks before Christmas to those who didn’t make the meet with the outside rep.

Blanca came back in the room and asked Vern how it went and he looked at me, looked at Blanca and said to her, “Well, It would go a lot better if she told me she wants to do it!  Or tell me anything……….she’s just staring at me.”  To which I finally responded that I would be delighted to run the program.

Over the next few months I cold called businesses and got the hang of the program.  I got to know Vern better and really began to like my new job!  I had “banker’s hours” and got to basically do whatever I wanted, which probably rubbed some people the wrong way.  Retail is full of bitter people and I met many of them.
The only thing that got me nervous was that the nearer Christmas got I wondered what would become of me when the job was over.  Where would I go then?  Well, I was ecstatic when Vern took me to lunch three days after Christmas.  He asked me if I had any idea where we ended up financially and I told him that I knew we were over ten thousand but I didn’t know the final number.

We ended that year with nearly nineteen thousand dollars.  Just a bit of a leap from the previous years six!  He told me that he was really proud of the job I’d done and that I had been invited to a luncheon at the home office in Detroit where I had earned a prize for having the highest percentage increase over LY totals!  I got a $50 gift selector and a twenty five cent raise.  Now, the most I had heard of any raise was fifteen cents an hour, so I was in shock!

He also told me that he had decided that I would be his “Girl Friday” and do some special projects for him from time to time.  My next project was to be the Team Lead for Inventory Readiness.  And I learned how to do a store inventory for the next month.  That was a success so he decided when I wasn’t doing special projects for him I would work in the other department he was in charge of and that is how I came to work in the Cash Office!


  1. Vern was 6 foot 4 and weighed about 280. He really thought you did a good job with the gift selectors.

  2. Susan, read your post about mobile park. I am trying to find an elderly couple who lived here for several years prior to 2013 in Lot 305 E. Clare Ramey and his wife Katherine. He is a member of my Masonic Lodge in Missouri and I do not know how to contact them. Any thing your parents may know would help. Never posted on a blog and don't know if this will work. I will check you Blog for a response.
    REW, Lebanon, MO