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Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: #17 The Interview

Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: #17 The Interview

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Earlier, I had written about the application and the warning signs and red flags that went unnoticed as I continued filling out the forms, and now it’s time for the interview.

My interview in shoes, consisted of myself and the man who would be my boss for most of the time that I spent working in the footwear department, minus of course the times he was out due to having a stroke or two and the times he retired only to come back only to retire only to come back but at a different location than ours.

We sat down across from each other in the eatery of the Kmart in which I was going to work and he began asking questions.

Fred. So why do you want to work for Meldisco? (Meldisco being the name of the company which sold shoes inside Kmarts, the company that operated independently of Kmart)

Me. Well I’m looking for a job to help pay for college.

Fred. So have you ever sold shoes before or worked in retail?

Me. No I have not, my last two places of employment were cemeteries.

Fred. I see, so why did you leave the cemeteries?

Me. I wanted to do something else other than cut grass and pull weeds, and on rare occasions bury someone.

Fred. Well you won’t be burying anyone here (what he should have told me is that when I got the job, that I would be burying my hopes and dreams and part of my youth)

Me. That is true.

Fred. So if you get the job, you will be responsible for the department and for taking care of our customers. It’s a lot of work but hopefully you can handle it. You will also be on probation for 30 days, but if I don’t like you in a week, you will be gone.

Me. Understood.

Looking back now, I probably should have turned around and ran because the idea of selling shoes is not invited or promising, and I had no real intentions of staying past the summer months anyway, but I digress

Fred. Well, you can start on Wednesday. You will need a white shirt and black pants and a tie (of course none of which I had, seeing that working in a cemetery did not require a dress code, at least not for those of us on the other side of the hole 6 feet deep)

This took place on a Monday and I had my first shift on a Wednesday

Ken Hawkins via Flickr

Now things at Target were a bit different. For one thing, 15 years had passed during which time I had found myself unemployed and then employed but working as a field tester for Briggs and Stratton for a few seasons. After sitting down at a computer (which is where the application process took place), I waited patiently, not exactly knowing what was to happen next. A door opened and my name was called and I followed the woman into the back room. She told me her name was Lindsay and that she had some questions for me.

Lindsay. So why do you want to work at Target?

Me. Well I have a seasonal job but am looking for something permanent.

Lindsay. I see, so you sold shoes. Tell me about that. (I found this question odd, because no one, and I mean no one wants to hear about shoes and working with them).

Me. Well, basically I ran the department, was responsible for dealing with warehouse and merchandising and putting up displays and tags and whatever else I was asked to do. (Basically, I did all the work and my boss took the credit, the raise and the trips to Florida as a bonus)

Lindsay. Well here at target, its a lot like working in shoes (well, that much is true, if you consider working hard, so someone else takes the credit, not being appreciated for anything and having the life sucked out of your soul) but there is so much more to experience.

Me. Well, I am up for the challenge.

Looking back now, I was not up for the challenge, of working hours past those scheduled, of running around like crazy on truck day, of playing the whoever finds the oldest outdate wins a free soda game, or anything else that followed in the roughly 13 months that I would be there.

Linsday. Okay, you need to get a drug test and then once we get the results you will be a member of our team (which again looking back on, is not a team that myself or anyone else should or would ever want to join)

Me. Alright.

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I went to get the drug test and within 72 hours I was a member of the redshirts and wore my plastic nametag with pride. Again looking back, I now find it odd that I did not see the connection between wearing the redshirts at Target and those who were the first to die on Star Trek; it was never going to be Kirk or Spock, but it would be the unnamed unknown member of the crew always decked out in a red shirt.

Amtec Photos via Flickr

My final interview happened 14 years ago this February. I had received a phone call and was told that if I wanted a job that I needed to be at the location in 15 minutes. I was there in 12. I dressed up, with dress shirt and pants and a tie, with a copy of my resume and references. This is how that interview went.

Mr. C. Looking at me. So what’s this?

Me. Looking at myself to make sure that my fly wasn’t open or that I did not have food on my shirt. It’s my resume and references.

Mr. C. You didn’t have to dress up or to do all that, you came highly recommended by one of the pharmacists and he doesn’t do that for just anyone.

Me. Well I thought it was the right thing to do, to be professional (now, looking back on the time that I would spend at that store, the word professional seemed to be the wrong choice of words, because most of the people that I would work with were not professional. if could tell you stories, and who knows, if given the chance, maybe some time I will).

Mr. C. Well all you need to do is pass this drug test and then you will start on Monday. You are not going to have a problem passing the test are you? He said laughing.

Me. No I am not but I can’t start Monday, I’m getting married on Monday (which was true, seeing that i had an appointment at the courthouse for a 3:00 wedding with a justice of the peace)

Mr. C. Okay, you can start on Tuesday.

And that was the interview, no questions about my past, no questions about my work history, no pretending to want to know what it was like to live the Al Bundy lifestyle without the red headed wife and the two kids and the Rhodes’ living next door. It was simple and to the point.

Each step in retail begins with an application and an interview, and if you are smart, you run the other way.

Cover image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

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