In November 2012 I worked at Macy’s for 6 days. I went from being paid $110k a year with full executive benefits, 100% medical reimbursement in 1997 to holiday temp work with no benefits for $8.00 an hour and I was ecstatic. I was thrilled to get out of the house, to have a reason to get dressed up, to be pretty, to put on make-up, to dress my body, to be looked at, to be relevant, to be among people, to be part of the outside world.
After filling out so many odd and relevant and irrelevant job applications for over 1 ½ years, in October/November? 2012 I spontaneously replied to an ad I saw for “Macy’s Hiring Holiday Help” and filled out the endless questionnaire, clearly geared to see if I was people friendly and/or a psycho/criminal. Yes the world has changed since I’ve been in the workplace in the last 14 years.
I’m such a dork. I show up for the orientation in full makeup, blown out hair, black skirt, black tights, black boots and a black turtleneck – well, I’m dressed the part because I come to find out that the Macy dress code is an all-black outfit. The other people filling out applications were basically in Value City clothing. I was overdressed and overexcited. Boy do have I have enough clothes to fill that dress code – plus they will give me a coupon for 20% off plus my own Macy card discount on any black clothing suitable for work. I’m sunk already – shopping is all I’m thinking of subconsciously. We waited the longest time for any leader to come organize us – in the basement of Macys Garden State Plaza – the second largest Macys in the U.S. And I just love this store. I know this store inside and out already.
I’m sitting here among all these people waiting – I’m such a chatter box. These people are already bored and haven’t even started yet. They don’t even want to be here. I am the ultimate dork and nearly the oldest one there but clearly the only one there with any pep.
As part of the training, they give us a tour of the store including the security measures. We get a back tour of the security room, the security screens and the security team. The security guys are young, black guys. Profiling here – young, black guys – the kind Macy’s has been in trouble for for profiling as thieves – these are their security guards. They tell us about the booster bags. Bags lined in aluminum foil so that they security tags on the clothing won’t trigger the alarms on the doors. I’m amazed by the ingenuity of the thieves. He also tells us that the biggest loss to theft at Macy’s is due to its own employees. I’m getting pissed off. Of course it is. Macy’s pays its people dirt wages. But I digress again. Always on the soapbox Kathleen.
Finally out on the floor. Big fucking deal. Fold clothes. The clothes are knocked to the floor. Pick them up and fold them again. Fold that table of clothes. Look at the clock. Customers come over and ask me for help. My manager rushes over to answer them. What am I, a dumbass – I am in the Levi’s section for men – I have 3 sons – I know men’s Levis but this dumbass doesn’t want me to talk – just fold clothes. I cannot stand anyone – especially a man – who thinks I cannot use my brain. So I go back to folding clothes with steam coming out of my head. Fuck him, the next person who asks for help with the jeans, I help. I help the next three people too. Tomorrow, I’m in children’s wear – no surprise. Oh my, little tiny pieces of clothes to fold, fold, fold. At least the manager is friendly. So I fold.
Tomorrow I’m in women’s handbags. This is the day I lose it. I’m on the on the cash register. I’m a wreck. I have tremor since birth. Shaky hands. Nothing you can do for it. But when I get anxious, the shakes go into overdrive. The female co-workers are wonderful and patient. They help me figure out the damn ancient machine and codes. Finally working the machine and not folding clothes – which I do at home all the time – thank you very much! But having a woman stare me in the face wondering why I am hesitating and shaking while I’m pushing the buttons on the cash register is not why I lose it even though it’s not my favorite thing because I’m determined to conquer it, and the customers are nice. As a matter of fact – the co-workers and customers are all very nice and one of my best memories of working at Macy’s. No, I lose it because Macy’s makes a fortune and exploits its employees. Now, I shop at Macy’s and have shopped there for years. But I did not know the line of crap it feeds its workers and I’m sure I’ll hear some line of threatening law suit for this but I always get in trouble, so anyway, to start off with…during orientation the leader DRUMS into us why it is so awful for us as individuals to join a union and why it is better to simply be part of the Macy team and why we should not be misled by any union people if approached by them ….so, back to the day I lose it – I’m working in handbags and remember I have a comfortable life, and I’m doing this to keep busy, to get out of the house, to meet people, yada, yada – and I’ve bought many of these expensive handbags myself – so I’m the seller now making $8.00 an hour and happy to be doing it – happy to be in the trenches with the other gals. This lovely woman I’m working with has helped me all morning; she couldn’t do enough for me, could not have been cheerier, said nicer things, I run out of adjectives….she looked about 65 but turned out to be 50 – hard life I suppose. She said to me that when the holiday was over I should think about staying on part time just for the discount because the discount was 20% even if I only worked one day a week. She told me she started as holiday held the year before. I asked her what hours she worked now? She said full-time. Oh, well, I asked, did they increase your pay – damn, I’m so blunt. She said, well I started at $8.00 like you and I’ve done pretty well now, I’m at $8.40 an hour. I didn’t say anything at first. I didn’t want to upset her. Then I just got too mad. I told her that was wrong. They should be paying her more. She didn’t like that. So I shut up. She wanted to stay in her bubble so I shut up. It’s her choice. I’m okay with that but I’m not okay with Macy’s misleading the sheep. That’s wrong and they know. I didn’t go back. They can keep their $8.00