Sunday, 6 January 2008

Fill Ins

Boxing Day sales are for the insane. We all know this because we’ve tried it at least once and been crammed into bad air-conditioning with strangers farting turkey and burping Lindaur. But the biggest argument for staying away is the fact that you get the Fill In serving you behind the counter.
While retail bosses lounge around the beaches of New Zealand looking forward to counting their takings at the end of the day, their Fill Ins are using the time to bitch them out, big time.
I’m still not sure how I ended up shopping on Boxing Day, but I think it had something to do with needing a toasted sandwich maker or the fact that I was temporarily losing my sanity. By the end of my shopping spree I was absolutely certain that all retail bosses are absolute pricks. I would like to say I was eavesdropping shamelessly as I scanned the boutiques suddenly aware that I also needed a sundress, but the din of disgruntled sales assistants whining was so loud it was unavoidable.
“She’s so like, totally unreasonable. I hate it when she’s here, she’s so picky.”
“So I told him I’d already worked three days straight and he could just get stuffed.”
“I can’t believe he had security cameras installed to watch us, like I’d steal any of his crap clothes.”
And so it went. I felt as though I had arrived three hours into the staff Christmas party while the boss was unavoidably detained in the loo. Insults were hurled and accusations made all in that ear drum shattering pitch which takes hold of women when they’ve had a few. And the intense concentration required by all members of staff involved in the discussion meant that I could have stripped naked, had a picnic and conducted a séance on the shop floor without a flicker of interest. The only let up on dissing the boss was one shop where the Fill Ins were having a good old bitch session about that girl Lara the Fill In across the mall at the other dress shop She’s a real cow.
I only mention this Boxing Day saga because the trend for retail workers to share their feelings in front of customers has become worryingly prevalent. In recent times I’ve heard stories of thrush infections, several boyfriend sagas and also been the unwilling observer of a staff member being disciplined to the level of a second warning behind the counter while I was attempting to buy some stockings. Do they not have staff rooms anymore? Or perhaps it is just that I’m a hopeless nosey parker and most customers simply don’t notice the shame, humiliation, anger and emotional meltdowns worthy of a Coronation Street episode going on behind the till.
But I’m sure I’m not telling bosses anything they don’t already know. You can’t be on the job 24/7, every good boss knows to take time out, especially at Christmas. But when it comes to retail I have to disagree. Why would you leave your shop to the mercy of a bunch of 18-year-old morons at the busiest time of the year?
Especially when you know that Fill Ins just don’t give a shit.
I hate having to point out that the items I have just bought were actually on sale, but I did it three times that day managing to save a few hundred wrongly charged dollars in the process. And each time was met with:
“Oh are they? How much did you say? That’s a good price isn’t it? Don’t mind me, I’m just a Fill In. ” Oh that’s okay then. Fill Ins can’t be expected to do their job properly.
But my special award for Fill In Retail Worker of the Year goes to the girl in the honey shop. I just about bought the whole shop so keen was I to purchase the special honey which has more healing power than antibiotics that I was entitled to a free soap and my daughter demanded that I get one.
“Oh are you? Which one do you want?” “I don’t know,” I said pleasantly. “Which one do you like?”
“I don’t like them,” she replied deadpan as she gazed out the window longing for sun and surf. “They’re a stupid shape.”
I never found the right toasted sandwich maker but I did find a punch bowl fountain at K Mart which lights up. Which was almost worth the insanity.

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

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