by Nathan Stout
Just as a fun memory note, long before I worked at Kmart I remember the old Electronics are had the music (tapes and 8 tracks) behind Plexiglas and there where these holes that you could put your hand through and pickup and look at the different items. Weird huh? Remember that? If so, you too are OLD. Welcome to my world.
Now, do I even need to tell you…
Ok, so I am minding my business doing my Wiehart ‘Imperialist List of Duties’ at the South Freeway Kmart in Fort Worth, TX when a sweet old black lady comes up to the Sporting Goods counter.
“Hello sonny.” She didn’t say that, I’m just setting up the situation.
“Hello, can I help you?”
Now I am ‘guessing’ this is what I said way back then. It’s typically what you said to customers. Since then I have worked at EB games and have learned that that question is a big no-no. You are never supposed to ask an close-ended question. EB games went out of business didn’t they?
“I need some help.” The old lady started rummaging through her hand bag and produced a shiny hand gun. “Can you help me find bullets for this?”
“Ekk!” I didn’t say this but my eyes did pop open. I said something like “please put that up. You are not supposed to have guns in the store.” There was a policy about this sort of situation and it said to escort the customer out of the store right then and there. I didn’t do this. This lady was probably pushing 90 and I really didn’t think she would have loaded the newly purchased bullets and held me up. I remember using my hands to motion her to put the gun away. I did help her and I did sell her bullets. I looked a the barrel and saw that it was a 38 and sent her on her way.
We sold a lot of bullets there. Especially 22 caliber and a lot of rifle ammo during hunting seasons. The 22 ammo was sold mostly to Hispanics who would come in (not speaking hardly a lick of engrish) and say: “you gotta de bullet de 22?” Wade and I would repeat that often heard phrase to each other to relieve a dull moment. I am pretty sure they were used to shoot off into the air on Saturday nights. I lived there on the South Side of Fort Worth too and could often hear them going off.
I am the kind of person who likes to learn as much as I can at my given job and when I transferred into Electronics and became ‘cool’ I also inherited the Hardware department I learned what I could. This included the paint section. I quickly learned from my long lost friend Jared how to mix up paint. There was a stand alone 4 foot section of shelving next the Hardware department with the paint color mixing contraption and the can mixer (that thing that shakes the paint can around). When a customer brought you the color they wanted you got the plain white paint and looked in the magic color mixing book and squirted the right base colors into the white then put the can in the mixer and turned it on to shake up (mix) the paint. Are you ready for a tale of how a can came open inside the paint shaker and went everywhere… well forget it. That didn’t happen. What happened was probably worse. I cannot remember how it happened but one day while I working ‘facing’ the hardware area I heard a super loud crash. I ran over to the main isle and saw that the 4 foot long shelf under the paint color contraption and the shelve under it came loose and fell to the floor. Also something like 4 or 5 full gallons of paint went too. Now that I am writing this I think it might have been Jared’s accident. The paint was EVERYWHERE like a unicorn vomited or something. It took quite a while to clean that mess up. Luckily June wasn’t working that night and Ms. Compton just looked on amused.
Not only did I just implicate myself earlier in this post to breaking policy and letting a gun carrying customer buy bullets but I am about to bust myself for several acts of what can only be called fraud. Let’s just say I took advantage of my situation working in Electronics. During my time in Electronics the Super Nintendo came out. This was a big deal and after the initial stock was quickly sold out and we replenished I opened one of the boxes and hooked it up to the main TV and played it for a while one night. I would also open a CD or two and listen to them while I cleaned up the department at closing time (I closed them back up and put them back on the shelf). I am pretty sure I’d be fired on the spot if they knew that at the time. One of the greatest board games (to me) came out at this time and I remember there being an end cap filled to the brim with HeroQuest. This dungeon crawling type game was too good to pass up and sure enough I opened one up and looked at all the cool parts. OK, so my transgressions weren’t THAT bad but still I am sure Mr. Wiehart is looking disapprovingly down at me (where ever he is).
I promised to tell you about the blue light. This was back in the day before he was upgraded by marketing types into some sort of mascot. The blue light was considered a bad thing for some reason. If you will remember back if you will to your own child hood I am sure you heard some blue light jokes about Kmart, didn’t you? I know I did. All the blue light was was a flashing blue light on a pole on a rolling box. When the store had a special they would get on the PA system and announce “Attention Kmart shoppers we are having a blue light special on women’s bras for the next fifteen minutes.” It’s actually a clever way to get customer’s to spend longer in the store if they are hanging around anticipating a ‘flash’ sale. Anyway that’s about it. It was nothing special but for some reason it has this social stigma attached to it.
One final tale I would like to entertain you with (before the tale of the big heist on the final day of this Kmart Week blog series) is a tale of Sporting Goods, wooden floors, glass, and glade. One fine day I was organizing and cleaning the upstairs Sporting Goods stockroom (see, I was a neatfreek even back then). Now if you remember the comment I made a couple of blogs back about the stockrooms being basically wooden structures… done, OK. I was moving boxes around and I picked up one of the boxes of hunting back stock. There is this stuff called ‘Doe Pee’ that hunters use. It’s some sort of attractant. Anyway… its pee… They used to (and probably still do) make it in glass bottles. The box I picked up had about 24 of these glass bottles in it. You know where I am going with this, don’t you? Yep, I dropped it. It crashed to the wooden floor. Are you putting 2 and 2 together yet? The pee soaked into the wood rather quickly and STUNK TO HIGH HEAVEN. The box had not opened and I wasn’t about to open it to pick out the non-broken bottles so I took the whole thing and chunked it in the dumpster chute that was down in receiving. I got nasty looks for the rest of the week (or until the smell went away back there). So I go back to the stockroom (gagging and squinting). By this time everyone knew of the Doe Pee incident and avoided our area. I went out to the sales floor and got two cans of glade and emptied them both (double fisted) straight into the wooden, pee soaked spot. Even after that it still smelled for quite some time.
That’s almost everything I can think of when it comes to my exciting time at Kmart. With the exception of the big heist in the final part tomorrow. Stayed tuned!
See part 5 of my Kmart Memories