Tag Archive | retail management

Writing a Book is Hard

I wrote this thing, this book-type thing. It’s a memoir of my years in retail management, and I’ve been working on it for over five years now. Today, I finished it. I’ve done all I can do by myself. I’ve written, re-written, re-organized, cut and pasted and added and deleted. I’ve read it and re-read it, had a few people read early versions that bear little resemblance to the manuscript now sitting beside me. And I think it’s done. I mean, of course, it’s not DONE done. I’m sure there will be more edits in the future. But I feel good about it (as good as one can feel about their own writing). It FEELS done. I think the major revisions are done, and now it’ll be tweaking to take out boring sections, flesh out good sections, building up the themes. For that, I need people.

My husband will be first, and I know he will be supportive and encouraging, and gentle in his suggestions. I’ve got a former co-worker in mind too, to make sure I wasn’t unfairly harsh or critical of our team. She’s a smart, well-read woman whom I trust to be honest but kind. And then I need someone who’s not related to me and who wasn’t part of that retail world, and I’m still pondering that. How do you find a good beta reader?

Then, I have to figure out what steps to take next. It would seem that memoirs are hard to sell, based on what I’ve read from agents. They need to be exceptional, and I’m not convinced I am, or that my story is. I’m a good writer, but does this story stand out? Why would a reader pick my book? What would they get from it? Is my story different enough from so many others? Would an agent even consider me without a strong platform? What the heck IS a platform anyway?

I’m still trying to find answers to those. And I’m pondering self-publishing too. It would be quicker, and I know that most of my former co-workers would love to read it. But I can’t help it: there’s a part of me that wants the validation of traditional publication. It would mean that someone out there valued my writing, thought it was worthy of sharing with the world. But why does that matter to me? Why can’t my own opinion be enough? Because I’ve seen too many self-published books that should never have been published, and I don’t want people to put me in that category.

So I’m going to find the list of memoir-friendly agents that I made, and I’m going to start researching. What do I lose by trying? (I mean besides my self-esteem and confidence.) Maybe I’ll get rejected 100 times, and then I’ll reconsider self-publishing. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that one agent who thinks it’s worthy. Wouldn’t that be something?

Retail Memories: A manuscript snippet

This is scary. But I’m going to do it anyway. *deep breath* I spent several years working retail, and my company is closing soon. I’ve been working on a memoir about my retail escapades, and today I thought for Throwback Thursday I would share a little snippet. You meet a lot of customers over seven years and many of them were good. And many were…not. *Please note, names have been changed!*

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I hate to say it, but when it came to outright rudeness, some of our older customers took the prize. I don’t know if it was the mindset of “I’ve lived this long so I can say what I want”, or if we truly just lose our filter as we age, but there were a lot of insensitive women out there. Sometimes it was a minor snub: ignoring us when we talked to them, using a cold voice to tell us, “No. I don’t need your help.” Sometimes they were flat-out mean, like Martha and Hazel.

These two women (I don’t want to use the word “ladies”) were the bitchiest couple of women I ever had to help. They were friends, probably in their late 70s, and they typically shopped together. Martha had short brown curly hair and a permanent scowl on her face. Hazel was beautiful: gorgeous thick platinum hair, porcelain skin, big eyes, wide smile. She had to have been a knockout when she was young. Hazel was in better health so she drove them to the store. When they were there, they demanded the full attention of at least one associate for their entire visit. Being older, often it was easier for them to call us than come in. If we were really lucky, they would use three-way calling to call us together.

“This is Bonny, how can I help you?”

“Yeah, I need another pair of those pants.”

Of course I knew who it was. We had caller ID on our phone. But the idea that she expected me to know her instantly, and know what pants she was talking about, irked me.

“I’m sorry, who is this?”

“It’s Martha!” she snapped. “Hazel needs another pair of those jeans she bought!”

At that point, I would hold back my sigh and start looking her up in the computer to try to figure out which pants she was talking about.

“Can you tell me which jeans they were, Martha?”

“The black ones! Hold on, let me get Hazel on the phone.”

By the time Hazel joined us, I was looking through her profile. “Okay, Hazel, you need another pair of the classic waist straight leg in size 16?”

“No no no, I need the petite 16.”

“We don’t have that in the store. You bought the 16. You would have to order the petite and have it sent to you.”

“I don’t think that’s right. I’m sure I bought a petite.”

Martha couldn’t hold it in. “Well, we bought it there the other day!” No you didn’t. “Maybe whoever helped us that day knew how to find things.” Said with contempt and derision. Yep, that was me. “But if you can’t manage to find it, then fine. Order it and send it to her.”

“I can’t do that, Martha. You’ll have to call customer service.”

“Oh no! I’m not doing that! They’ll charge me shipping and there’s no way in hell I’m paying shipping just because you can’t find the right pants!”

Logic and reason were useless. If I tried to tell them that we weren’t allowed to place orders over the phone (which was true and I did try to explain sometimes), one of them (usually Martha) carped that we did it before and they couldn’t always get in the store and they were our best customers. 

Resistance was futile. It made it difficult when they called asking for things we didn’t have, items they’d seen in some other store’s ad and were convinced were ours. At least once, Martha insisted that we carried other brand names so of course we would have these pants she’d seen at Macy’s. While we realized part of the problem was honest confusion borne of age and mental decline, their attitudes and the way they spoke to us made it very difficult to be sympathetic.

For a long time, I thought Martha was the ringleader in their antics, since she took charge when they came in. Then one day I helped Hazel when she came in without Martha and realized they just had different styles of bitchiness. Martha was overt, always looking for a fight. Hazel was a queen who expected to be catered to, and would speak with a cutting forcefulness if we didn’t comply with her requests. More often than not, it wasn’t worth the effort to argue with them. We tried our best to anticipate and meet their needs in hopes that they would go peacefully, because in the long run, we knew we would end up doing whatever they wanted.

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So there you have it. Just one encounter of many. I’d love feedback if you have it. Just be constructive and not cruel, if you don’t mind!