You may remember I time when there were downtown department stores. This was before malls got popular and the downtown area became a ghost town. So, around Christmas, 1974 I was hired as a stock boy for the Toy Department in our downtown Belk Department Store. It was just a Christmas job before going back to PC for the Spring semester.
Officially, my job was to restock the toy shelves during the Christmas rush. I worked with 2 other people. Belk sat on the corner of Main and Hampton Streets, which is where the art museum is now along with a bank. Other stores downtown included Davison's, Penney's, Haltiwanger's, Tapp's, and one or two more. Belk was the biggest. It had four floors, although only three were for selling to customers. The fourth floor had offices, a restaurant, and stock rooms. Our toy stockroom was on the fourth floor. Near the back of the stockroom was an opening with a metal slide that connected to the stockroom behind Toys on the third floor. The concept was to slide the toys from the fourth floor to someone on the third floor to restock the department. It was a good concept, since the third floor stockroom couldn't hold many toys. We were told that we couldn't slide down the slide between floors, but we did anyway. After all, one had to have fun.
There was a lot of downtime during the day, so I would go out onto the floor and help customers find stuff. It also got busy, when a sales associate would leave the register to go help someone, so I learned how to run the register, and rang up stuff for other associates. One in particular--Cathy. She was nice, and I had a crush on her. Her sales started going through the roof, because I would ring stuff on her number. She didn't find out until I was about to leave the job. My supervisor got mad at me, because I wasn't supposed to ring stuff up, but then I thought that it meant more money for the store, because customers might leave mad because I couldn't help them. That was the start of my thinking that the customer was the most important part of the equation. My supervisor wanted me to just stock toys, but there were just so many toys we could put on the fixtures.
I would return to Belk after graduation from PC to work a year, while saving money for my next adventure. I will write about that later, but for now just to say that retail during Christmas is not very fun. Be kind to those workers. They are trying to help you, whether you believe it or not.