Friday, September 9, 2011

Thank You For Your Service

I am not a big shopper. Indeed, I hate to shop. A Mall Rat I am not.

So the fact I was in the mall twice in less than one week is blog-able in and of itself.

But, indeed, the mall has people. And among The TCM Principles are these basic notions:

- People are interesting,

- You never know whom you’ll meet

On my first trip to the mall I was shopping to replace my ever beloved boots. They’ve been resoled and reheeled four times (at least) and had about, oh, 50,000 miles on them. When your spouse is encouraging you to shop, well, that’s a sign it’s time to do something about the situation.

The early 30-something salesman in Bloomingdale’s was pretty amazing. Super responsive. Super quick to bring out more shoes. Sales-y but not pushy. Responded with humor to my snarkiness when he tried to explain that the low heels about which I had certain doubts (wait a minute – wasn’t I shopping for boots?) showed just the right amount of toe cleavage and how he’d heard some fashion guru on the subject, and etc., etc. (Serious. He got The Look. He laughed.)

As he was ringing me up (yes – boots!) I thanked him for his patience and what a great job he did. "Oh. Thanks! I'm used to pulling way more pairs of shoes for a customer than that! No big deal!." 

Then he told me he was ex-military. He’d served in Afghanistan as a medic in the army. “My worst day here is way better than my best day there,” he said.

I believe you.

Fast forward six days and I’m back in the mall again. I know. Painful.

This time I’m out of perfume. Now, I’m not the flowery uber-girly type, nor do I find it necessary to leave a smellprint wherever I go. I just, maybe, want to, say, smell more pleasant than, well, not.  Ahem.

The boneheads that were the purveyors of my favorite scent had the bright idea to discontinue it. “This way they get you to try new things,” says the annoying Bloomingdales saleswoman. Wrong. I’m forced to SHOP MORE. We’ve been over this. Hate. It. Bah. I walk out.

As I’m leaving, I pass one of those desparate-y kiosks that float adrift in the center of the mall. This one is a famous name discount perfume kiosk. Say now . . . maybe they’ll have my discontinued perfume . . .

The salesman is early 30-ish. He’s wearing a t-shirt. He has a southern twang. On the whole he seems more like someone you’d meet at a NASCAR race than behind the counter at a discount perfume kiosk.

He was helping an older Chilean couple. They were working him over. They were HAGGLING with him and he was actually NEGOTIATING. (Did I know you could do that? No.) But he was super pro about it. Incredibly patient. Very pleasant. And pretended not to notice when the Chilean man said to me, “My English not so good. But, these here – are they rip off? Or are real thing?”

NASCAR perfume salesman juggled his way over to me.  “Oh. Sorry. We don’t have that one. But we have these other three by the same company.” He pulls out a pile of boxes and helps me sample them all. Okay. I find something I think I’ll like. “Great!” he says. “Now if you buy that one, I can give you another at half price.” Okay. Whatcha got? “This one’s our most popular seller.” Ugh. Um. No. Too much smellprint-ability. “Okay. Too flowery? I know what you’ll like.” He pulls out yet another box. And he’s right. He totals it up – it’s less than what annoying oh-you-get-to-try-new-things-saleslady wanted for a single bottle of The Unknown.


As he’s ringing it up, I say “Gee. How did you come to sell perfume? I mean, how did you learn all this stuff?”

“Well, I’ve always been good at sales. And I’ve got military training. I pick stuff up quick.”

“Really? In what branch did you serve?”

“I was in the army.”

“No kidding. I just met an army guy over in the shoe department at Bloomie’s.”

“Yeah? Well, I bet he didn’t do what I did.”

“What did you do?”

“I was a sniper in Iraq.”


“You’re right. He was a medic.”

He laughs. “That’s great! I could put holes in ‘em and he could patch ‘em up.”

<insert visual from my mind’s eye>


I wish him luck with the Chileans. He beams a big smile and makes a dismissive wave. “Psssht. This is nothing. You should hear the Italians!”

So there you have it.  Just a couple of veterans doing the best they can in  jobs that, in their pre-military lives, they would probably never dream they’d have. Or would even think they'd want. Heck, they probably hated the mall, too. But on the heels of experiences I can only imagine they've each had, they’re just happy to be here. And by “here”, I mean . . . well . . . 

You can connect the dots.

So when I say this, I mean it:

Thank you for your service.