Thursday, December 02, 2010

Shoe Dog

I love the Brannock Device.  So simple yet I've always approached the Brannock as if not just anybody is qualified to operate it.  I worked as a shoe dog for a bit back in the 80s when I was 20 and 21.  Started at JC Penney and then moved up to Nordstrom.  Though we had a few Brannock's around, we generally took the customer's word on their size.  I was never able to look at a person's feet and know their shoe size, thankfully I didn't sell shoes long enough to acquire that power.  There was a man at JC Penney called Mike that had been selling shoes for over twenty-five years.  Mike could do such things.  I remembered him from when my parents took me to get shoes when I was a kid.  He liked that I remembered him until I started outselling him and then moved on to Nordstrom.
Actually, initially I worked in Men's Sportswear at Nordstrom and that was much easier than selling shoes.  Stand around the sales floor folding a few lambswool v-necks until someone needs your help.  After a few months I took a job as the assistant manager of the Annual Shoe Sale.  That wasn't really selling as much as organizing.  After the sale, I was fed up with retail and worked as a bike messenger for a while.  Then I moved to San Francisco and after a lousy couple of weeks as a messenger there, I got a job doing window displays at Macy's.  For a short while I went back to Nordstrom's at San Francisco Center.  My girlfriend at the time worked there and Macy's had laid me off while the Holiday decorations were up.  Nordstrom offered me a full-time job after the holidays and the half-yearly sale, but I told them I had to go back to Macy's.  Though I never did go back to Macy's for more than a couple of days here and there.  The next few months I was poorer than poor.  Man.  It was bleak.  My girlfriend moved out and took the bed with her.  My friend moved in but he didn't have any furniture nor any money.  We slept on wadded up clothes.  We walked all over the city or sat around our empty apartment reading books and listening to punk records, smoking cigarettes and drinking tea.  We found a case of MJB coffee packets in a dumpster and took a break from tea.  We didn't eat much.  Top Ramen.  We got really skinny.  But we always paid our rent and our bills on time.  I started working in nightclubs around that time and eventually started living right again. 
I never worked in retail again.  I probably wouldn't mind it.  I was always good at selling, earning top commissions in my department.  Never pushy,  just attentive, suggesting things that I honestly thought would be something the person might like.  I doubt I would want to sell shoes again, though I notice that, in general, shoe salesmen don't provide the service they once did.  It's rare that they'll slip the shoe on your foot anymore.  That's how we did it.  Up and down, back to the store room, up and down some more.  Stacking the boxes and restocking them.  It was serious work being a shoe dog, an appellation in which we took pride.

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