Thursday, September 8, 2016

Story 151: Hawking Your Wares

            “Matt, you’re sampling ----- Sauce today over by Books and Clothes.”
           “Oh man, that’s right by Sheila’s station!  Can’t I sample ---- Chocolate over by Dairy and Baking?  Marissa wouldn’t mind me taking that!”  He knew that she actually would mind, very much.
            “Marissa didn’t call out sick and Ron did, so you’re sampling ----- Sauce and not another word about it.”  There was none.
            Matt set up the sauce samples on his table before the store opened, dreading what was to come.  It wasn’t the greedy and/or cheap customers who only sampled all the tables in the store for an aggregate free meal – everyone knew that this was a loss leader that resulted in one direct sale in a thousand, but succeeded in its true goal of repeat business and the false sense of pulling the wool over the company’s eyes by getting “free food” (there is no such thing, and the wool does not exist).  He could handle them; most snatched and ran anyway, leaving him in peace.  No, it was Sheila he dreaded.
          Sheila: she of the booming voice and the aggressive sales techniques.  Sheila, who overpowered all within her radius by her sheer force of will and vocal cords.  Sheila, who made the numbers of all employees who sampled around her shrivel up and become inert.
            Sheila, the samples closer.
          “Samples of ----- Sauce!”  Matt preemptively struck when he saw the first traces of outside humanity begin their aimless wandering through the aisles.  He was around the corner from his opponent and could not see her: all he knew of her presence was The Voice.
            “Good morning, like to try some ------ Sauce?”
            “TASTY ------ CHICKEN!”
            “Have some – ”
            “CHICKEN!  SAMPLE SOME ----- CHICKEN!”
            “Try some ----- Sauce, on sale for – ”
            “How about some – ”
            And so on for eight hours.
            By the end of his shift, Matt had only sampled a tenth of the stock that he had been given; he hung his head in shame as he turned over his table to the next employee and clocked out for the day.
            “Hey Matt,” a raspy voice addressed him as he waited for his ride at the front of the store; he turned and saw Sheila, who had never before spoken to him directly in the two years that he had worked there.
            “Hi….?”  He replied.
            “Don’t feel bad about today – the managers set up that spot for the products they don’t want to carry anymore, and the only way to keep Corporate from sending them to us without figuring out what’s going on is to kill the sales.  Ron usually has the honor, but he got laryngitis.”
            “Oh.  So you weren’t trying to out-sample me, then?”
         “Well, no, I try to out-sample everybody; I just wanted to let you know that your table placement today was more of a reflection on the product rather than on you as an employee.”
            “Oh.  OK.  Thanks?”
           “You’re welcome.  Just don’t try to be like me – you’ll have no voice left by the time you hit 30.”

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