Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adventures in a Retail Clusterf*ck

If my gratitude for having been liberated from the world of employment in retail or hospitality was high during the days leading up to Christmas, then it reached a level even more intense on the day immediately after it. Even though all those years working in and around shopping centres on Boxing Day had taught me little apart from how easy it is to lose faith in humanity on December 26th, this year I decided to try my luck at the sales.

Like some sort of chump, I psyched myself up and woke up relatively early (for the day after a feast as epic as the one defeated the day before) and put on my kicking boots and decided I'd be one of the many thousands that would no doubt add up to an absurd figure at the top of the night's news. I should have realised my mistake then, but let's face it - I'm not usually one for overly rational thought processes.

Knowing I wouldn't be able to find a car park, I recruited my brother to drive me over. To be honest, I think he was just curious to see the extent of the madness. He certainly did appear to get a sick kind of joy from the image that met us at the end of Waverley road. Turning off Waverley onto Warragul, we were immediately absorbed by the traffic vacuum and slowed to a stop. A family walked across the road in front of us, Ev remarking that they had the right idea. Too right. Twenty minutes it took, to get from that intersection to the entrance of Chadstone. As we waited at the lights at said entrance, the family that had walked past us at Waverley road again overtook us. On foot.

I was reminded of a Christmas a few years ago, when I met Mitch at Chadstone two days before Christmas. I'd arrived there first (via public transport like the boss that I am), and soon received a phone call from Mitch to say he'd been searching for a park for about ten minutes and might be a little while longer. I found his car and jumped in, figuring that two sets of eyes would be better than one whilst on the  hunt for that most elusive of yule tide prizes; a parking spot. Ten minutes after I greeted a more than slightly irritated Mitch, I had to laugh and cry out, "Everybody's wasted!" upon seeing yet another car being cut off by a more ruthless carpark hunter. Half an hour after that both Mitch and I had our windows wound down, and were yelling on the top of our lungs, "EVERYBODY'S WASTED! EVERYBODY'S WASTED! EVERYBODY'S WASTED!". In that situation, it was all we could do to keep a shred of our sanity.

Yes, that's a car. Shut up.

Indeed, on Boxing Day 2011, it yet again appeared as if everybody was in fact wasted. There were men directing traffic. There was horn honking. I hauled ass out of the car as Ev bade me good luck, and I walked straight into the most ridiculous clusterfuck of a retail warzone you can imagine. Everyone had their game face on. You could barely take a full step because of the sheer amount of people that were inside. It was loud, there were children yelling, there was music, there were huge signs declaring HUGE SAVINGS, there was shouting and there were just oh so many people.

At some points it was actually impossible to move, it was so crowded. I'm not joking, or exaggerating. I couldn't move, or take a full step. I'd shuffle forward, then find myself stuck behind a family gazing seemingly dumbstruck into a shop window. At that point, if I were in a cartoon universe, I dare say there would have been steam coming out of my ears. At least, that's how I felt. Aside from the moving around, exiting the shuffling throng to actually enter a store was a feat unto itself. Upon entering a store, and immediately being deafened by the music being blasted, it was a free-for-all battle for goods. Clothes were barely still on hangers, ripped off by people shoving past each other and prams (honestly, the fuck?) parked in the most inconvenient of locations. For instance, right in front of a rack of dresses. I attempted to shuffle and sidle my way around the shop to observe the sale table. I slowly - oh SO SLOWLY - made my way there and to my frustration found nothing worth buying. Oh, and then I got tangled up in my own boots because of the crowd and accidentally tripped a shopgirl over. She went flying, and I took that as my cue to leave. Generally once people start injuring themselves in my presence, it's time to leave.

Next stop was a lady-orientated chain store whose name rhymes with "Chorever Blew". I was there to exchange a top that I'd been given by a well-meaning family member. If anything, that location was even ruder than the first. People were actively refusing to get out of the way for each other, making a point of reaching over other ladies' limbs to grab/snatch at a garment that caught their eye. The snaking, monstrous line for the fitting rooms was only out-shadowed by the line to actually pay. And woe is me, to my horror I found myself behaving exactly like everyone else after only a few short minutes of trying to find something suitable to exchange my gift for. Such was my irritation and growing anger at being shoved and glowered at, that I too began to refuse to budge when someone appeared like they wanted to sidle past me.

What did give me some amusement however, was the presence of boyfriends. These poor unsuspecting males had obviously been dragged along by their significant other/girlfriend/wife/potential lay, to this horrid cave of house music, pastel colours and sparkles. The expressions on their faces ranged from discomfort to confusion to thinly veiled disdain. I had to stifle laughter at a couple of points, such was the expression of woe on at least a couple of stubbled faces. Seriously, why would you subject a guy you care about to that sort of torture? At least if it's a store that sells both male and female clothing, they have somewhere to scamper off to hide. LET THEM HIDE! In this case though, the wares being flogged were not only female-only, but also at perhaps the upper echelon of girliness. Come ON, have a heart!

Fun fact: When I worked at a shoe store, the highlight of
my day was often making conversation with bewildered and bag-carrying
boyfriends and husbands. 

As one awful pop hit ended and another began, I couldn't help but audibly groan as I put my headphones back on (pro-tip: a soundtrack of Dropkick Murphys, The Bronx and Dan Deacon makes Chadstone on Boxing Day that much more bearable). I looked up and saw a bespectacled Boyfriend shooting me a grin. His lady was rummaging through a rack of skirts and he was standing there, not knowing what to do with his hands or where to plant himself. We exchanged a look that wordlessly said, I don't know what I'm doing here and you don't look like you know what you're doing here but this is pretty ridiculous and kind of sucky.

I finally made it to the front of the paying queue (with rather a good haul in the end, might I add), and smiled at the girl behind the counter. I don't particularly enjoy shopping at Chorever Blew, but I know what working on Boxing Day is like.
"How've you been faring today?" I asked
The girl laughed wryly. "Okay I guess. A few overwhelming moments but we're surviving."
I wished her the best of luck and meant every word. I understand that you might think, "If you hate the job, then just quit!" but I'll tell you this, it's easier said than done when you're strapped for cash. And there's a whole mess of thought processes between, "Oh, I'll survive a few days of hell for the extra pay!" and the subsequent "KILL ME NOW. WHY DID I NOT THINK THIS WOULD ACTUALLY BE LIVING HELL".

Anyway, the best is yet to come. In possession of a possibly-too-generous Myer voucher from my place of employment, I finally psyched myself up for the challenge and walked over. Past the stupidly long line to get into Swarovski, past the couches with worn out children and grandparents, past the line in front of Gucci. For those of you playing at home, while Chadstone proper opened its doors to the mouth-frothing public at 7am, Myer opened at 5am. Apparently. So I was all-too aware of the hours of shopping that had been undertaken before I even arrived. I'm not usually one to get caught up in SAVINGS! BARGAINS! SPEND MORE! but shit, I wanted something good.

What I was met with was hangers strewn all over the floor, clothing all over the floor, women wandering around with great hunking piles of clothes in their arms. A little overwhelmed, I wandered over to the swimsuit section and found it resembling a colourful warzone. It was like the scene I'd encountered at my previous location, only worse. A man was sitting on the ground surrounded by bags,  seemingly having given up and chosen to rest. He was getting dirty looks from everyone, but appeared not to care at all. I guess you have to admire that. Not a single fuck was given by him that day. Anyway, I snatched up a bunch of possible potential outfits and and headed for the fitting rooms. Or rather, I headed to the line for the fitting room. As I edged to the front, I saw a small contingent of girls working there. The expressions on their faces ranged from despondency, weariness, and one putting on a brave face. One though, looked like she was about to throw in the towel. I suppose it was her job to enforce the five-garments-per-customer rule.

I saw a group of giggling teenage girls exit a change room with a pile of discarded clothing and my heart went out to her. 

Anyway, I emerged with a pair of shorts and went to explore the rest of the Myer monstrosity. You know, it was funny. Once I decided to tackle the crowd as if I were at a music festival, I was a-ok. I thought of it as a kind of "that band's just finished and I have to get through this crowd going this way in order to get to that stage over there" situation and just amped up the nimble footwork. I did get elbowed in the boob, and I did get hit with a stray handbag, but my mood lifted considerably and I was able to push past the confusion and more than mild irritation and see the scene for the absurd comedy that it was. My next stop: homewares. 

As the launch day of Myer's big sale, it was 50% off all cookware sets. Couples with trolleys stacked full of pots and pans and non-stick surfaces narrowly avoided a bumper car scenario at every turn. You could almost smell the stench of newly wed domestic bliss. Only $99 for a Jamie Oliver roast dish! Specials on Kitchen Aids? My god! Get another trolley! And get this: I got right into the spirit of domesticity. Having never shopped for kitchen goods, it floored me sideways to find out exactly how much that shit sells for. That shit sells for a lot! Did you KNOW that?? JEEZ! $800 for a bunch of Jamie Oliver pots and pans! Like, four of them! What is this world coming to? At any rate, as someone who's in the market for a house of her own, it suddenly dawned on me that while I have a bar fridge, a big TV and a fantastic collection of Star Wars books and a tea towel with The Drones on it, I'm kind of lacking in the kitchen department (disregarding the tea towel of course). So, I bought a cookware set. You read that right. A nine-piece cookware set. Do you know what I have now? A wok. A roast dish. A bunch of pots. I HAVE A STEAMER, YO. I pushed it off the shelf and kicked it (let it never be said that I ain't lady-like) all the way over to the counter, past the trolleys and their newlywed owners. I sat on the gargantuan box while in the queue to pay, resplendent on my newly-found domestic acquisitions. 

The amusing thing is, I came out with some kick-ass jeans, shorts, a top and a belt, but I think I'm most excited by cookware set. Maybe because it's a sign to myself that I'm not just threatening to find myself an abode of my own, or maybe because I only paid $13 for it. Thanks to the fact that it was reduced by 50%, and I had $200 left on my gift card, I only paid a grand total of thirteen of my own clams for it. Pretty good, no? 

I left Myer with a spring in my step and with The Monkees in my headphones. Suddenly the crowds bothered me even less. Maybe that's why people do this every year - that the promise of bargain-hunting happiness outweighs the inevitable pushing and shoving and overwhelming rudeness. Maybe. I know this for sure, however: that I won't be enduring that scene again in a hurry. Sure, I found myself some good bargains and some sweet-ass duds but that was four or so hours of my life that were for the most part incredibly unpleasant. 

My cookware set and I were picked up by another obliging family member (again, I'm sure it was out of morbid curiosity than familial goodwill), and we laughed at the PARKING INFRINGEMENT NOTICEs that were strewn all over the cars that had the audacity (read: stupidity) to park in loading bays and ramps. Turning onto Dandenong road and looking over the vista of cars in front of us, we were struck by how dumb the entire thing was. Dumb. That's the only word I can think of to describe it. Yes, I know I was an active party in it, but I'll be the first to admit to the overwhelming dumbness of it. Remind me to do all my shopping online from now on. 


  1. That sounds absolutely miserable and yet you made it out there with more of a spring in your step. So overall, not a bad shopping experience! And yay for having enough funds to do all that shopping. Such deals to be had! This reminds me of the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, back in the U.S. I've never experienced that, preferring in the past several years to do all my shopping online. But somehow though less stressful, it's not quite as fulfilling as walking out with bags in hand. Congrats on the deals you found!

  2. Make sure you season the wok! Otherwise you'll ruin it. Google it :)