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My first mistake was working at the mall, obviously. My second was working at a store in the mall about which I had once said: "I want everything in this store so bad that it physically hurts." My mom totally saw this train wreck before it hit. "Are you sure you'll be able to resist the temptation to spend all your money on clothes?" she wanted to know. I smiled and answered, "What money!" And then we laughed, because I had no money, which to my mother meant I was going to have to use the money I earned to pay my bills, and to me meant that I would be putting a lot of new clothes on a credit card.
The work was okay. It was fine. It was a mix of feeling snobby and "above retail," which, gross, Logan, don't be like that, really, you're not above anything, seriously, and then also feeling like a total idiot because I could never remember how to use the cash register or the steamer or fold the tank tops with the proper amount of crease. Or, you know, sell anything, to anybody.
This was not my first stint in retail. One of my earliest jobs was in another clothing store, and the discount when I was working there was half off everything, which is basically, but not quite, free. I bought up all the leg warmers, racer back tanks, and hot pants that my then-little butt desired ("These are classic basics! I'll have them forever!"), then wondered, at the end of the month, why writing my rent check was a dicey undertaking. That gig lasted four months, the clothes maybe six months after that, and at some point the realization that it's stupid to spend all of your money on clothes came … and went. And came … and went. It's a lesson that went unlearned throughout the years and would continue to be unlearned at the new job at the mall. You see, we got half off sale items and 20 percent off full-priced stuff. It was kind of a good deal.
Do you see where this was going? At 27, I got a job at the mall so that I could pay my bills, and I earned money to pay my bills, but I also used my discount to justify spending that created more bills. I even condoned getting the store credit card (the last thing I need is another credit card) as a way to "monitor my spending," which, what did I think I was going to do? No idea, and never found out, because I immediately automated minimum payments so I never actually had to login to look at my damage. In fact, I didn't even think about it for months until I was about to swipe for an $84 purse (originally $300! SICK DISCOUNT) and felt a slight pang … of something. So I paused and pulled out my phone and logged into my account and saw that I was quite near my $750 limit! But not so near that I couldn't buy the purse. So I did.
At the end of three months, my paychecks added up to $1,060.36 (this was not a fulltime job, and I made $8.50 an hour, with the promise of sales bonuses that never materialized because, apparently, the only person I'm capable of selling to is myself). Which I did, well and often. I put $750 on my store card (maxed) and $387.65 on my other credit card (not maxed, but close enough), for a total of $1,159.87 in beautiful consumer goods that evoke the spirit of America but are all made in Asia.
I got a lot, sure: five silk shirts, one wool skirt, two pairs of tights, one pair of jeans, five pairs of shoes, three necklaces, one hat, three hairclips, a bathing suit, a leather bag, three winter coats, two leather belts, one gray cardigan, two tanktops, and a tiny wool blazer for my nephew. But: my favorite coat is still the one I've had for years. The silk shirts are all snagged or stained because I don't take care of my things. The jeans are the ones I wear when I absolutely can't wear my other ones even one more day. And I still have nothing to wear. And nary a credit card with which to remedy that. Which is for the best, of course. My new job keeps me out of the mall (mostly).
Previously: How to Bring Your Lunch to Work — A Guide.
Logan Sachon lives in Brooklyn.
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