08 August 2017

My (Short) Life in Retail

In the mid-1970s, I got my first job out of high school. I was working at The Broadway department store on the east side of Chris-Town Mall, Phoenix. (The Broadway occupied the space originally built for the Korricks department store.) I loved working retail and I loved Chris-Town Mall so it was a short trip to loving my new job.

I was a floating clerk. Each shift, I would work in a different department depending on where staff was needed to fill in for illnesses, vacations, whatever. That was really fun. I worked in Men’s Clothing, Linens for a couple weeks (vacation, I think) and ended up in Stationery.

Stationery was a fun department. It was me and a very old (and very nice) woman named Dorothy who was smitten with the young Patrick Duffy on the new television program “Dallas.” Seriously, that’s all she talked about: J.R. and Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pam, Miss Ellie and Southfork. It grew annoying after a short while, but I eventually began watching it and became hooked just as she had.

One day, some workmen came out and set up a bizarre display for a bizarre new gadget called “Pong.” It was a small television in a box and a control console on a little shelf. I was trained on how to play so I could demonstrate it to customers. It was fairly popular with the crowds, but not more than any other gadget of the time.

My favorite memory was selling a man a card for his wife on xmas eve. That’s not so unusual, but his next comment to me was: I have to buy a present for my wife. Do you have any suggestions? I felt pity for the poor woman who married an idiot, a man who could not even think ahead far enough to buy his wife a gift on one of the other 363 shopping days. I suggested he might find a nice pair of earrings at the Jewelry Department next store.

[I stayed with The Broadway about a year, then went to work at Valley National Bank (another enterprise that no longer exists) before moving to San Francisco. Chris-Town began to lose its luster in the mid-1980s but has been experiencing something of a comeback lately. The space once occupied by the fashionable Korricks and The Broadway is now yet another tacky Walmart.]

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