Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hillbilly Mom, Junk Pricer

Yesterday I said I might steal something from Rebecca. So I did.
It was this idea, which I got from her post yesterday. It was about
OP stores. I take it that is some quaint Australian euphemism for
JUNK STORE. This is where I can outRebecca Rebecca. For
I, Hillbilly Mom, used to work in a junk store. Nyah, nyah.

I thought I told this story before, but my loyal reader Mabel told
me this morning at school that I hadn't, for she would be sure to
know. So if I did, consider this to be one of those "Best of Hillbilly
Mom" compilations.

I worked at an insurance salvage store for a year, after 5 years of
teaching. I moved to Springfield to get my Master's Degree, and
worked around my class schedule. I had shopped in this store
during my undergraduate days, and stopped in again to browse
after I moved back to town. I saw they had a "Help Wanted"
sign on the door, so I filled out an application while I was there.
The next morning, Vera, the bookkeeper who ran the place (she
thought) called me to come in for an interview. She was very nice,
but you could tell she was one shrewd businesswoman. She had
dyed auburn hair all ratted up in a 60s kind of bouffant. She wore
skin-tight Vanderbilt jeans, spike heels, and talked like her back
molars were wired together. Oh, and she was about 50 years old.
Vera also had a habit of saying, "Uh huh" after every sentence.
Kind of like Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade, the way he said,
"Mmm hmm", only not in a creepy way. She hired me on the spot.

I was SO proud of myself to get this job. I had no retail experience.
It was kind of a large store, Cardin's Insurance Salvage. Maybe
some of you have heard of it (Redneck Diva) if you know much
about Springfield. It is on Glenstone Avenue, not too far from
Chestnut Expressway. Anyhoo, after working there about six
weeks, Vera gave me a RAISE! Of $0.15 per hour on my hourly
pay of minimum wage. Again, I was SO proud! And Vera acted
like she had just nominated me to be the first woman president.
A couple months later, as I became more friendly with people,
I asked Vera why she hired me. Pleased as punch, she replied,
"You looked clean. Uh huh." So much for my pride.

Cardin's bought stuff from insurance companies, after a retailer
had gone out of business. It might have been due to fire, flood,
tornado, bankruptcy, whatever. We also got J.C.Penney returned
merchandise. My job was "assistant pricer." Charlotte, one of
the main two women who worked there, was the pricer. I was
like her indentured servant. She treated me good. Charlotte told
me what to work on each day. Sometimes, I helped her unload
a truck. Sometimes, we loaded a truck, so we could have a
truckload sale. For instance, we would haul out all the winter
coats and hang them in a semi trailer for a 'just arrived-winter
coat sale'. Man, was that hot work in August! Charlotte taught
me how to price: take the original price, and divide it by 2.
Sometimes we had to look up the Penney's stuff in the catalog
to price it. Sometimes it was right in the package, not even
opened, with the price on it. I got a couple of comforters this
way. They didn't even smell like smoke. That was the running
joke...that everything there had been in a fire. If it was some
odd shipment that we didn't know how much it cost, Charlotte
had the final say. We priced things by writing on them with a
black Sharpie. Right on the item, on a tag if it was clothing.
People came in all the time with their own pens and tried to
change prices, but all the cashiers knew how we wrote it, and
that didn't work. There were some good arguments with people
goading the cashiers into calling them price-changing thieves.
Then the customer would walk out in a huff: "I'll never shop
HERE again!"

I got a bad case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from holding items
and writing on them all day. I didn't know what it was at the
time. I would wake up at night with my hands and forearms
hurting so bad that I had to soak them in ice water. It all went
away after I stopped working there. Go figure.

We had different sections of the store, like Wal-mart. The worst
place to work was Toys. People let their kids play while they
shopped. 4 or 5 times a day, the toys had to be picked up. The
easiest was Clothes, because the worst thing there was folding
the used Levis and stacking them by size. Otherwise, you had
to make sure the $3.00 blouses stayed separate from the $5.00
blouses, and put them back on hangers if they fell off. The best
place was Boots, but it had its own manager, and took up about
a third of the store. We had exotic skins that were illegal, and a
lot of people came in to buy boots. Some were $300 or $400,
which was quite a high price for Cardin's. The girl who worked
in Boots was allegedly screwing the boss. And not the boss of
the boots. If you wanted to hide out for a while and avoid being
called to the register, you went to Rubber Boots. It was in the
back corner of the store, out of sight of the register and Vera's
little platform. The first day of work for any new hire (including
me) was Rubber Boots. You had to spend all day sorting them,
matching up the pairs, and the liners. That was to see if you'd
quit, or get lazy and slack off. Charlotte would pop in to check
every so often.

Downstairs, we had hardware, lumber, carpet, and wallpaper.
This was no-woman's land. It was like another continent. These
fellows were on commission. It was dog eat dog. Who could
out-hustle or outsmart or out-cheat the others. We had Wes,
the slow country guy; Randy, the hyper little-man; Don, the
big lazy cheater; Tony, clean-cut high school kid; and Penny,
a new hire, a manly kind of woman who was married to a
truck driver. Two of them would be assigned to watch the
parking lot, which had stacks of lumber, toilets, pipe, etc.
They would grab the customer, make the sale, and write a
ticket. We had to keep the tickets on a metal spike by the
cash register, because that is how they were paid, a commission
on their total sales. The others stayed downstairs to sell the
carpet and stuff there.

This is so long now that I am going to continue it tomorrow.
Come back anyway. I'll tell you about the toilet, what people
used as a toilet, and my lie-detector test. C'mon, it'll be fun.
Bring some refreshments.


Blogger Chickadee said...

Hmmm, they don't have any junk stores like Cardin's in St. Louie. I'm kinda jealous. I get excited when I find a good bargain. I look forward to your next entry!


12:05 AM  
Blogger MrsCoach2U said...

My Grandpa used to drive a semi, his route was Springfield, he loved that store! Never been there myself, but I've heard about it. They used to have one in Joplin kind of like that, can't remember the name of it.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Chickadee said...

A little off subject, but I went to Sonic this afternoon for lunch and I thought of you as I was sipping my Cherry Limeade.

As I was waiting for my order, I read the menu and noticed for the first time that I can get a sunrise Cherry Limeade! With Orange Juice! That's a lot of citrus for the taste buds. I wonder how long that has been on the menu.


4:15 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

They even had a branch in my hometown a few years after I left Cardin's. It was called Reubin's Sons, and was run by our old night mangager, Doug. I went in a couple times, but I don't think he recognized me.

I didn't know about the sunrise cherry limeade. I got 2 Cherry Diet Cokes today, one for my Hillbilly Mama, who watched the kids after their half-day of school.

You don't know what you're missing. If it's still open, they probably have the same canned food that they had when I was there. Nobody ever bought the food. Though we had some canned pudding at school last year that looked like what we had at Cardin's...

10:14 PM  
Blogger Redneck Diva said...

I actually have seen Cardin's! How cool is that?

This is turning out to be quite a story...now that I feel like I'm back from the brink of death I'm catching up.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

Ahh...we've led a rich, full life, haven't we? Cardin's. There is no substitute.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Hi Hillbilly Mom,
Looks like I forgot to comment on this blog entry. In fact, I don't even remember reading this blog entry, so I will just say: "That's it! I'm going to get you back for this!"

5:29 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

Paybacks are HELLLLLLLLLL!

8:48 PM  

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