Kmart 2/7 – Padawan meets Master

by Nathan Stout

This man brought me through the Jedi trials to become the Master:
In order to find out who this person is you gotta jump…

Welcome to 1991! I just started working in the Sporting Goods/Automotive department. Those two departments (that went together for some reason) were at the back of the store. I got my orientation then my first duty was to learn the register. I was working at checkouts for a few days, and then they put me in my final destination. One of my first departmental duties was to learn how to straighten the shelves, one of the most annoying and time consuming aspects of retail. “Pull the items all the way to the front of the shelf. Make everything look full and neat.” Every night I had to work until closing (I was the only part-time employee in the department so I closed at least five nights a week.) I had to straighten, or ‘front,’ all the shelves in both departments. This was not the only closing time duty in the department. I also had to put back returned merchandise, restock the motor oils, restock the antifreeze, collect the money from the register, and collect the fishing and hunting licenses. The longer the employees took to get the store back into order, and their closing duties finished, the longer we stayed. Things were always rushed, and sometimes employees would stash merchandise to be returned to the shelves behind other merchandise, or unfrequented areas in the store. It was like the postman story you have probably heard; a postman who’s lazy and doesn’t want to be bogged down with mail he is to pick up, dumps his mail in another postman’s mailbox so he gets the job done.

The sporting goods counter sat right next to one of the sets of swining doors that lead to the back stockroom. See this nifty map I made in Microsoft Paint:You will notice some markings like ‘Vortex Room’ and ‘Devil Doll Room’ but we will get into those later. My proportions might be off but that is basically the layout of my working area. The automotive department started in the far left corner of the store, right where the cash office/break rooms/loss prevention offices were located, and the sporting goods department ended where the cafe began. My domain spanned about 50% of the back wall, and comprised something like 25-30 isles of product. I quickly picked up how to do the most important tasks, including the dreaded ‘facing the product’ task where you basically brought all the product forward to make it look nice and full. That’s where I spent most of my time at Kmart, standing there straightning all those bottles of car wax, window tint, and doe pee, and luggage (which was part of sporting goods for some reason).

The ‘cool’ place to work was Electronics (of course). Older stores used to have this sort of cave where there were wall to wall televisions, and it was always twenty degrees warmer. The majority of the employees were older people. This was back in the day when it wasn’t such a sad stigma to work retail and (I guess) it paid more than it does today. There were a few young people (mainly at the front checkouts) but I was one of the few young people working on the floor. One other young person working the floor was Wade. He worked in Electronics (so he was ‘cool’). It took a while until I started talking to him, but when I did, we soon hit it off. Wade liked all the stuff I liked. He even had video tapes of the laserdisc versions of the Star Wars trilogy! I struck up a friendship with him, and I eventually got to be ‘cool’ too and moved into Electronics. During the years we both worked there, we would often move from department to department, and there were times where we both worked in automotive / sporting goods. When we did, but was it trouble. One day Wade showed me a bottle of orange air freshner that had a broken top. This was back when real orange scent was just making its way into the market. Wade had this clever idea to have a little fun. He took the open can, and went to the automotive upstairs stock room, via the Devil Doll room (on your map above). Right at the top of the stairs was the metal duct work for the a/c system. There was a convenient hatch right overhead for access the duct. Wade placed the open can inside the duct. With much giggling, like school girls, we dispursed, and acted like nothing happened. Within three minutes, the store smelled like an orange grove (and it was a big store). Our fellow employees were extremely puzzled, but in the end I think they knew it was us trouble makers.

At the time during which Wade and I worked in Electronics, our schedules usually had us working together on the weekends. That meant that each weekend would become ‘Start Wars Sunday’ or ‘Indiana Jones Saturday,’ in which we would play all the movies back to back on all the televisions in the cave. There was this one kinda creepy dude that would come in, and stand there and watch an entire movie without moving (I swear). I even made a sign proclaiming which trilogy was playing that weekend.

One of the great things about working in electronics was the comission. If you sold some types of electronics, you got comission. It was very nice when you sold a big TV or stereo system. At Christmas it was extra good. This brings me to our pay. Kmart used to pay us in cash. I kid you not. On payday, you went to the window in the cash office, and they counted out your paycheck right there. It was a great way for you to spend your money before you even got out of the store. The company, as a whole, had to stop that years later, when some goons figured this out and started mugging employees.

Join us tomorrow when I will tell you tales of the Devil Doll!

1 thought on “Kmart 2/7 – Padawan meets Master

Leave a Reply