* Note: If you like this post, you’ll also want to check out this update that I wrote*
During the summer after freshman year of college I, like many other college students, was broke and needed a job. I thought it would be fun to say “I work at Victoria’s Secret.” I was also very interested in the employee discount. Plus, I figured, how hard could it be? You’re folding underwear all day. That sounds easy enough. As it turns out, I ended up spending more money at the store than I made that entire summer, and the job was opposite of enjoyable. In my defense though, when you are sorting bras and watching for shoplifters for eight hours, you have to fill your time. I would do this by looking at all the new items we had in the store. It was so strange. At the start of a shift an item could look ugly, but by the end of my shift I absolutely HAD to have it. I’m proud to say I’ve matured greatly since those days. However, as a result of my time at The Secret, I cringe whenever I hear the word “panties.” It reminds me of folding them for hours on end just to have some unpleasant teen come mess them up. It also makes me think of measuring stranger’s chests. Neither of these things invoke happy memories.
I am going to be honest with you. I was never the employee of the month at The Secret (as I called it). In fact, I sucked at my job. BUT it wasn’t really my fault, because I had virtually no training. My training consisted of watching a training video for an hour or two. No on-the-job training. Nothing. They stuck in me in a room with other trainees, played the video, and then said “see you for work tomorrow.” It was bad news.
Every day I would come to work PRAYING that I didn’t have to do “cash wrap” as it was called aka work the cash register. When they would make me work the cash register, I would break out into a cold sweat. a.) I suck at math. Not a joke. I am AWFUL at it. b.) All the buttons and codes you had to remember confused me and made my math deficiency even worse. c.) the lines were always long, and if you were slow then chaos would ensue and the manager would come stand over your shoulder. My manager was not exactly a barrel of laughs, so I did not enjoy this bonding time with her. During one particularly traumatic experience, a woman with really, REALLY long hair and a jacket straight out of the ’90s critiqued the way I made change. “Um…why did you give me a nickel and a quarter?” (or something equally as petty) she asked me.I just looked at her blankly for a second and then said something to the effect of, “Because I needed to give you thirty cents and I used a nickel and a quarter to do so.” I said it very politely and flashed a big ole smile.”You could have given me three dimes.” She said. Her butterfly bangs taunted me. The Tweety Bird patch on her jacket leered at me.”You’re right, I could have. This was just the way I thought to do it first. If you’d like three dimes I can do that for you,” I tried to remain calm as I watched the line grow behind this annoying woman. I saw my manager watching. She was not smiling.The woman stared at me in silence. “Here’s your receipt. Have a nice day, ma’am.” I said, hoping that signaled the end of the conversation.
“No, I want to know why you made change like that!” she demanded, raising her voice. People turned to look at us. I wanted to reach across the register and shove all of the various flavors of lip gloss that we sold down her throat. I had no response for this woman. I already told her once that this was the first thing I thought of when I had to give her thirty cents. I offered her a different variation of thirty cents if she so desired. What else could I do? I couldn’t argue with her. Big smile again. I didn’t know what to say so I just hoped that would suffice. Inside I was mentally cursing myself for not living in a more sophisticated city. This argument would never happen in a chic metropolis like New York or Chicago. After what seemed like hours, my manager stepped in and ushered the woman and her acid-washed jeans out the door. Good riddance. This woman haunts my nightmares.
The other thing about The Secret was that I never actually learned how to measure anyone’s chest. In fact I know I’ve been wearing the wrong bra size for months, but instead of just measuring my own chest to correct the problem, I had to go in to another Victoria’s Secret and have someone who actually knew what they were doing measure it for me. Every day, I lived in fear that someone would ask me to measure their chest. When a customer entered the store, I would mentally communicate with her and tell her NOT to ask me to measure her. I would always try to be busy. There were panties that needed folding at the “panty bar”. There were mannequins to be dressed, there were shoplifters to watch out for. There was anything and everything to do except measure women’s boobies.
It seems like measuring someone’s chest would be very easy, right? Just throw that measuring tape around their chest and you have their bra size, right? NOPE! NO! WRONG! You have to do two different measurements and then add/subtract them and then based on that measurement you use a chart to figure out what their actual bra size is. If you measure wrong then the whole thing gets effed up. One time, a woman with a large chest came in and asked me to measure her. It was like my third day. I ended up determining that she was a 34 B. A few minutes later, my boss came stomping over and screamed at me. Apparently she measured the woman and found out she was a 36 DD. Okay, whatever. I was close. I wanted to tell my boss that maybe if she had actually trained me, things like this wouldn’t happen. But I didn’t. I just apologized and went back to the panty bar. Where I belonged.
When I was at The Secret getting my own chest measured a few days ago, the first girl I asked to measure me was young and didn’t seem too confident in her own chest-measuring abilities. I realized she was probably the new me. As she began to get flustered while trying to measure me, I said. “It’s okay. I used to work here. I had no idea how to do this either. I’ll find someone else to do it. Don’t worry.” She looked so relieved. I smiled at her and she smiled back and then went back to the panty bar, where she also probably belonged. I knew the feeling. Don’t worry, bad Victoria’s Secret employee, some day when we are both famous we will use this as material for our “E! True Hollywood Story”.
A job as a Victoria’s Secret angel? Now that would be ideal. Unrealistic, but ideal. A job measuring chests, folding underwear, and doing math? Not for me. Although, my mom would probably tell me it built character. So…there’s that.