I’m covered in oil from the bags of coffee I’m pouring into the dispensers. One of the early morning jobs I have at The Epicurean kitchen store at the mall.
I have an apron on over one of my “Sunday best” work dresses. That and high heels are a requirement of the dress code for the women of the store.
Though I am lugging and opening heavy boxes of merchandise and coffee to put on the shelves, heels must be worn at all times.
I have worked here for 4 months. I have been promoted to Assistant Manager. I have the highest sales of anyone in the store. We make commission on everything we sell.
I have already won:
A Krups Coffee Pot
An entire set of Calphalon pans
A set of J.A. Henckels knives
and many other “top sales” prizes.
This morning, I’m getting ready for my shift, filling the coffee dispensers.
Someone behind me says, “Hello there.”
I turn around, smile and say “Hello Sir, may I help you?”
To the tall thin older gentlemen in an immaculate white suit.
He is smiling and then he frowns.
I wait for him to speak.
He says, “What’s your name darlin?”
I point to my name badge and say “It’s Heather, Sir.”
He says, “I see, where are you from?”
I say, “Well I just moved here from Seattle, but I was born in Michigan.”
He looks me up and down squarely
and says, “ahhhhh ok I see, you’re a Yankee.”
I look at him with my mouth open
And I don’t really know what to say.
I think, who is this person?
Are they serious?
A Yankee? What does that mean?
I think, Heather, keep your cool.
I say, “I guess my living North of here could technically make me a Yankee. But regardless of that, can I help you with something in the store today.”
He says, “Yes, darlin, yes you can. You can go in the back and put some lipstick on to start and maybe a bit more makeup.”
I say, “I appreciate your opinion but I think I look just fine.”
We stare at each other for a minute.
I continue to smile but I know he can see I’m angry.
I have no poker face. (something I still work on to this day)
He says, “Well, I actually own this store and I think you’d probably sell more if you freshened up a bit.”
Ok, I think, now this makes more sense. (actually it makes no sense, but he’s not just a random, sexist idiot, he’s my bosses, boss).
I look at him and think, Heather you need this job, you need this job, you need this job.
I say, “I don’t think you know who I am, sir. I’m your assistant manager, and with all due respect, I’ve never laid eyes on you before, I still don’t know your name, and I am the best salesperson with the highest numbers in this store. And I do that not because of my makeup or lip color, but because I work hard and I’m a hell of a salesperson.”
He says, “Is that right? And my name is Mr. (it doesn’t matter).”
“A pleasure to meet you Mr. (whatever),” and I grit my teeth and put my hand out to shake his.
As we shake hands I say, “Yes that is right, you can look it up. But it is your store and I need this job so I’m happy to do what you ask. I’m sure I have some lip gloss in my purse.”
He says, “I’ll have to check you out. I like my staff to have some… sass. But I would be obliged if you’d put a little bit more of that gloss on.”
In the grand scheme of the world it wasn’t a big deal.
But actually it was. And I’ve never forgotten it.
It still pisses me off. In that moment. I swallowed it.
All the things I wanted to say. My disbelief at his attitude.
Watching him think that he had “helped” me. Had I not needed the job and I did at the time, badly. I would have told him a few things about lip gloss and women
Written by Head Maven & CEO, Heather Newman, Creative Maven
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