Now before anyone can start their illustrious career in retail, they must fill out the application. Now in the old days, you had to walk into a place, ask if you could possibly have an application, all the while being judged by the person who may or may not give you one, depending on how you looked or whether or not they felt that you might somehow be a threat to their job security. However, things have changed now and it’s done online and is submitted in a few minutes without having to endure any uneasy and unwanted human contact.
When I first went to Kmart and was told that they were hiring in the footwear department, I was introduced to the manager Fred, who asked me a few questions, handed me an application, and told me to bring it back to him.
I sat down in the eatery, which later became the K-cafe, and finally a Little Caesars’, but I’m getting off track. I sat down and began to read the application.
Name: Obvious answer here.
Date of birth: Again nothing out of the ordinary.
Address: So far so good.
Phone number where you can be reached: Now it is here that I should have started to worry, because where you can be reached would turn out to mean that we will call you any and every time that we feel that you should come into work on your off day or that you should change your schedule at our convenience but never at your own.
Work history: Sounds innocent enough until you realize that they want this information only to see where you worked, what you did, and with whom you did it. For me, my previous two employers had been cemeteries, so checking on my work ethic or customer service skills might not be as helpful to them as they thought. When I look back at it, maybe working in a cemetery prepared me for working in retail, because after time, you really did work with the dead, those who had no hopes or dreams left, who only went through the motions until they either quit, retired, or died.
References: Okay, so they want to talk to people who can vouch for you, and what, your ability to put things on a shelf? To do the same mind numbing task over and over and over again hour after hour? To ask them if there was any head trauma in my past which would explain why I would want to work for this company in the first place?
Education levels: Now this one didn’t make a lot of sense at the time but I think I understand it now. They wanted to see if you had more than a 1st grade education, because if you had more (and at the time, I was a college student looking to make some money during the summer months) you should and would be smart enough to think about what you were signing up for and run out the damn door.
If in college, please list your major and when you hope to graduate: Now what difference would this make in the world of selling shoes? There is no field of study that could prepare you for the world of putting shoes back into boxes and onto people’s feet, not a single one. I mean what could getting a degree in physics have to do with selling shoes for example, unless you wanted to figure out the trajectory that you would need to throw away your vest and name tag so they would hit the garbage can with nothing but net? Or what could a degree in early childhood education prepare you for in putting pumps back in their rainbow rows on a shelf? Okay, maybe working with children and their simple ways would prepare you for the childish behavior that you would have to deal with each hour of every day.
Likes, interests, hobbies: Now this one still gets me, because it is wrong on so many levels. First, no one cares if you collect stamps, or coins, or first edition Hemingways; they just don’t care and should not be expected to do so. Second, if your likes and interests really mattered, you would find a job in that field so you could connect the two of them. No, unless your likes are putting shoes in size order or answered the same questions to the point of nausea, then your likes do not matter. Finally, I think that they asked the question only to see what it was that you were going to be missing out on when you took this job, they wanted to remind you of the things that you were no longer going to have the time or energy to do after working all day.
The last part of the application was space for you to answer some questions about yourself that did not get answered in the first part and so now was the time to do jus that.
Tell us about yourself: I guess it was wrong of me to say, and I quote “I study nuclear science, I love my classes, I’ve got a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses, things are going great but they’re only getting better” (some people do not appreciate my sense of humor or my need to put pop culture references into places where they do not belong…for those that do not know, this is the opening lines to the Timbuk 3 song Futures so bright, which is ironic now when you think of the time I wasted in shoes.
Where do you see yourself in a year? In five years? Now this question should have scared me because it meant that they knew something that I did not know, that they knew somehow I would be working for them in a year, in five years, in 11 years, 7 months and 19 days; but I would get the last laugh, for I would not only survive the store closing, the company filing for bankruptcy and the property being demolished and turned first into a Home Depot and then a Pick and Save, but I would also get the opportunity to tell the tales to all of you.
Cover image courtesy of Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr