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GAP.Ý It’s on every third glass window that covers the front of the store.Ý The windows display large posters and body forms, not mannequins because they don’t have heads, hands, or feet.Ý They wear the latest items to arrive in the store, and look impeccable most of the time, because most of the time I dress them.Ý The tiled floor between the glass doors gives way to a scratched and scuffed hard wood floor in desperate need of a wax and buff.Ý The dust bunnies that seem to breed and quickly distribute themselves until they are under every fixture and on top of every shelf must first be exterminated.Ý The lighting is a combination of muted fluorescent in the middle with focused spotlights on the items toward the outside of the store.Ý I can catch a whiff of wool, or leather every so often, but usually my nose is polluted with Dream, Heaven, and Blue, constantly sprayed by customers testing it.Ý Just smell the bottle, ok?Ý Music is always pumping out of the speakers from a tape that is sent to us from the corporate office.Ý Sometimes the songs are danceable, sometimes not, but the volume is always loud enough so that you can listen to it if you get bored, but still hold a conversation over it.Ý Conversations that often times occur between employees themselves.Ý I’m not big on the conversing side of it.Ý I listen to the music, thinking about what I really want to be doing right now.Ý Do I want to fold this sweatshirt?Ý Do I want to look for another size?Ý No I want to put my tongue piercing back in and dance around the store busting a move for all the world to see.Ý I can’t do that.Ý I have to obey the corporate law because I’m on “Gap Time.”ÝÝÝ Women’s items are on the left side, men’s on the right.Ý Each is divided further into four sections: sections one two and three, and the denim section.Ý They all have themes.Ý Section one is usually seasonally casual; currently it’s filled with sweaters and wool pants, scarves, hats and mittens.Ý Section two has all the khakis; it’s sometimes the Gap at Work section, or the Smart and Snappy section.Ý Right now Women’s Two is filled with velvet pants, silk shirts, tuxedo skirts and pants, button up shirts, and turtleneck sweaters in merino wool.
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The same gray slate tiles from the entry surround the cash wrap in the middle of the store.Ý The cash wrap is what we insiders call the little box with the registers where you pay for your stuff.ÝÝ The inside is a barely organized mess.Ý Binders with everything from daily schedules and employee phone numbers to lists of the last year’s markdowns are cluttered in cubbies next to gift cards, envelopes, four different bags, six different boxes, and manuals on how to use the register.Ý The carpet inside the cash wrap gives employees a false sense of comfort, but there’s no getting around the discomfort of standing in there for 4 hours on December 23rd.
Ý“Did you find everything O-Kay?” I ask a typical customer.
“Actually, I was wondering if you had that one fleece sweatshirt in a medium,” she replies.
“I was looking for the navy, my daughter really wanted one for Christmas.”
“I can check for you.”
What I’d like to say is “Well, maybe you should have though of that before today, dumb ass.ÝÝ Those fly out of here, and it’s the day before Christmas Eve.Ý You’ll be lucky to find a medium in any color.”Ý And then break out the running man.Ý But I don’t.ÝÝÝ
The carpet also covers the floor of the fitting room, in the back left corner of the women’s section.Ý Contrary to popular belief and the moral thoughts of the three-or-so gray-haired mothers a day, our fitting room is unisex. (Gasp!)Ý Deal with it!Ý It’s not like we encourage people of the opposite sex, or even the same sex, to share an individual fitting room.Ý They have doors with locks.Ý I think everyone can handle it.
The whole process in the fitting room is rather interesting.Ý There are usually two sales associates assigned to the fitting room, the F1 and the F2.Ý It is the job of the F1 to show the customer to a room, making sure that there is no merchandise left over from a previous customer and let them know that if they need any other sizes, styles, or colors they can just tell us and we’ll do our best to get it for them. I figure this actually works about 37% of the time, because 10% of customers in the fitting room are men who are too stubborn to admit they picked the wrong size, and any woman who isn’t comfortable with herself, I figure about 40%, won’t say her size out loud.Ý The remaining 13% are these customers:
“I’m just going to go get a different size, can you watch my room?”
“Actually I can get that for you, what do you need?”
“Oh, it’s fine, I know right where they are, I’ll just go grab it quick.”
Fine with me, that makes the F1’s job nothing.Ý The F2 is the one who actually has to go get the other sizes, and fold the clothes tried on in the rooms.Ý Unless the customer decides to take the items back on their own.Ý As a shopper, I used to think it was polite of me to do that.Ý Now I know that nine times out of ten whatever a customer takes back onto the floor is going to be refolded by some poor employee at ten thirty-seven after the store is closed and he or she is on their third table of long-sleeve T-shirts.Ý Those are the worst things in the world to fold.
I have wanted to work at The Gap since I decided on a college that contained a Gap in the local mall.Ý My sub-par hometown was not blessed with the big blue logo in our mall.Ý The lure of the fashion industry, no matter how small a part of the fashion industry The Gap is, was too much for me.Ý I’ve worked with the company for just over a year now.Ý When I was hired, October 4, 1999, I received a New Hire Packet.Ý Included in the packet were six booklets that I had to read, as per corporate order.Ý Granted, I got an hour’s worth of pay for that reading, but still, I have enough reading to do.Ý I’m a full time student.Ý
“What You Should Know About Working at Gap Inc;” contains the ‘Words to Live By,’ the bible of Gap Inc.Ý
… everyone counts
… every difference makes a difference
… own it, do it, done
… less is more…simplify
… take the smart risk
… do it better every day
… do the right thing
(Notice: dance freely isn’t included in that list.Ý I’ve even tried to persuade my managers to let me dance in the windows to attract customers on a slow day.Ý That didn’t work either.)
All you really need to know is this: do nothing that will make your General Manager disappointed in you, in any way.Ý I serve under two floor supervisors, who are basically assistant managers without the title because they don’t work full time, six assistant managers, and the big dog, the slave driver, one of the most intense people I’ve ever met, our general manager, whom I’ll call Krissy.Ý Most of the stress caused at work is a direct result of her being there, although no one would ever tell her to her face.
Krissy is a great woman to talk to and hang out with outside of the work environment, but when she’s there she is totally focused on the task at hand.Ý She has fallen victim to the Gap Inc. corporate ladder, and desperately tries to make a good impression on everyone around her while attempting to climb it.Ý “Busy hands are happy hands,” is one of her favorite phrases, and she often times precedes her comments with “In order to meet the needs of the business…” She is very by the book.Ý Krissy is quick to recite policy rules and regulations, and tell you if you aren’t following them.Ý All the employees get a daily reminder of these policies in a process called a One-Minute Meeting.
The One-Minutes are given to every employee right after they punch in on the time clock.Ý Usually they have something to do with current in-store promotions or our customer service policies.Ý Gap Inc. is very focused on customer service.Ý Sometimes Krissy will just ask you out of the blue,
“Can you tell me the five customer service behaviors?”
“Greet every customer in your section, help more than one customer at a time, help find sizes and styles, help customers in the fitting room, and offer online.”
I think those are right, but there are so many lists of different behaviors to follow that it’s hard to keep them straight.Ý However, Krissy’s intensity is very often kept in check by the plethora of customers of less than average intelligence that keep me extremely entertained.Ý
“Do you sell Tommy clothes here?”
“No this is The Gap, we sell Gap clothes here.”
(Insert the sprinkler and a little clogging here.)
The average Joe Schmo who comes into the store will usually do the exact same thing.Ý He or she will maybe browse through section one and two, and then spend a good hour and a half in section three.Ý Why?Ý Because aside from the sporty college items found in three, there are also at least two sale rounders and two sale columns.Ý Finding a $9.99 shirt in your size is really very important, no matter how ugly it is.Ý Every time we get new items in the store the employees make guesses as to which ones will go down to $9.99 before they start to sell.Ý I’m actually amazed that we make as much money in a day as we do sometimes.Ý I’m convinced that a good half of our daily sales comes from items that are $9.99 or less.Ý It’s great.Ý I love local mentality.Ý “All I need is one pair of jeans, a couple sweatshirts, tennis shoes and a baseball cap.”Ý People in this state spend huge amounts of money on belt buckles, their cars, and Arctic Cat jackets that are covered in neon pink and green.Ý There is so much more out there.Ý I suppose no one can really help their own drive for thriftiness.Ý It is instilled in all children on their first trip to the grocery store.Ý Coupon flyers, store flyers, and looking for the signs, sale, sale, sale is all a learned process.
That sale crap sits in our back room forever, or until it sells out of the store.Ý In other words, forever.Ý As a visual specialist I often find myself in the predicament of trying to find places for all the sale items in the store.Ý It proves to be a difficult task and most of the time I end up asking what other employees think I should do with it.Ý “Burn it,” is the most common answer.Ý I mean, who really needs a pair of orange slim fit stretch capri pants anyway?
Most of the time sale items end up getting put in the back room, forever doomed to be filtered on to the sale rounders one at a time as soon as there is room to squeeze them in.Ý The back room is an amazing structure in itself.
The door to the back room is in Men’s three.Ý The door opens to a long hallway in front of you that holds sale items on shelves that extend about ten feet toward the ceiling, and on rolling racks pushed up against the walls the entire length of the hall.Ý Make an immediate left and you are in the bulk of the back room.Ý This is where all the stuff we can’t fit on the floor is stored.Ý Wall mounted double deep shelves, rolling shelves and rolling racks clutter the space along with a seemingly endless stack of unprocessed boxes of shipment. Bad lighting reflects off the cheap white tile floor, and the smell of dust and the freshly opened plastic that individually wraps every item that gets shipped to the store fill the room with kind of a gloomy despair.Ý It’s a good thing.Ý
The back room is where all the good stuff happens.Ý You can break it down freely in the back room, provided that you claim to be looking for a 36x32 in the loose fit jean.Ý As soon as an employee steps off the sales floor and is no longer under the watchful eye of Mr. Corporate Man, all hell can break loose.Ý Usually there aren’t many supervisors in the back room, unless they are on their way to the office.Ý Sometimes, the supervisors are the ones letting loose to begin with.Ý All the gossip flies back there.Ý Just unload shipment for a day, and you catch up on everyone.Ý Poster reminders of policies and rules cover the walls, but his is where all the rules get broken.Ý Obviously screwing around in the back room is not “meeting the needs of the business,” but hey, it happens.Ý
There is a policy on fraternization between employees, and a strict one on sexual harassment.Ý One of my co-workers, whom I will call Jenny, and I manage to break those policy rules all the time.Ý The fraternization policy states: “Any workplace conduct arising from a romantic or otherwise intimate relationship or friendship between employees in the same work location is considered unprofessional…”Ý Well, that makes me as unprofessional as they come.Ý
Jenny and I work, go out, and just sit around together all the time.Ý We talk about what happened at work, and the people at work, and whatever else we want to.Ý Oops, there goes that personal employee confidentiality.Ý Just yesterday our shifts at the store crossed paths, and I stepped into the backroom to check on a size.Ý Jenny was walking in as I was walking out and she cornered me in the hallway of the back room.Ý She proceeded to grab my ass, at which point I turned to one of our other assistant managers and said,
“Craig, She is grabbing my ass… and I like it.”
“Yeah she grabbed mine earlier too, that dirty slut,” he said.
“I did,” were the two words that came out of Jenny’s smiling lips.
Well, there goes that sexual harassment policy.Ý Thank God Krissy wasn’t around to witness that one; we would all be screwed.Ý And I don’t mean by Jenny.ÝÝÝ
Even though I’ve broken a lot of the policy rules, and sometimes can’t stand dealing with the people there, I manage to usually keep a smile on my face and act the part of the Gap formulated employee.Ý I can honestly say that I do enjoy the whole twisted world of working there.Ý That enjoyment has resulted in two raises and a promotion in the last year.Ý Krissy even recently approached me to ask me about my plans for the future.
“What year are you in school?”
“This is my fourth year.”
“So, are you done after this year?”
“No, I have at least one year left.”
“Ok, well I was just wondering where you see yourself in five years, because I just wanted to sit down and talk with you about the opportunities this company has to offer.Ý I think you have great merchandising, and visual skills and you could go far in the company…” this woman is going five hundred words per minute.Ý Really, you should hear here speak it’s a scary thing in itself.
On October 4, 2000 I received my one-year recognition.Ý A 5x7 piece of thick paper with a large silver number one on the left side.Ý It reads:
Thank you for your dedication to Gap Inc. and your commitment to our growth and excellence.
President & Chief Officer
I’ll get one with a silver number three in two more years.Ý Great.Ý Really great.Ý So why do I even continue working there? I go in that store knowing that I’m going to be working under a strict guideline of rules and regulations, but I don’t care.Ý I’m not letting the man get me down.Ý I’ll put on my headset, my badge, and walk on to the floor, and wait for my first opportunity to screw around.Ý All the things that happen when the corporate blanket isn’t covering a customer’s eyes are what makes that job enjoyable.Ý Anyone who works there can vouch for me. They’ve all seen me bust a move.Ý