Snow Days & “No” Days

It wasn’t until I had been a manager for the company for years that I even knew it was a possibility to opt out of opening your store for inclement weather and hazardous conditions.

“I just tell the managers, if there hasn’t been one customer in an hour, go home,” she told me, just as if it was commonplace knowledge.   My mind spun like a whirlwind thinking back, my DM had always insisted if the mall has their doors open, you are open.

This included my first Christmas Eve in 2009, when Lubbock received one of the largest snow storms it had ever known.   I looked around me as all the stores started closing up shop by noon despite the doors to the mall remaining unlocked; leaving our little shop to offer little beacon to our dark cavernous mall.

At that point I had been on track to gain a huge lead over our Christmas goal, leaving me to sit on a very nice stack of cash for my Christmas bonus.  Our goal for this day was five thousand dollars, and with three associates on staff about all we achieved was a huge clean out of the stockroom and some simple repairs to our employee restroom plumbing issues.  One customer graced us with his presence, and though his near two hundred dollar purchase was a large and very appreciated one, it was not enough to save our day, much less our month.

“Why are we even open,” my employees would complain.

“As a service to our customers.” I remembered a snowy drive from Houston to Matagorda my family had made on Christmas Day of 2004.  Snow was not something we were accustomed to driving in as Houston had not experienced a white Christmas in nearly a century, so our two hour drive turned to four.   Our gas gauge was starting to bing, and with an eight year old, 12 year old, myself and my parents we started to panic as to wether we would find ourself stranded in the freezing cold wth no cell signal, or worse yet, have to endure the roaming charges!

Eventually, in a stretch of wilderness there came a service station to the left of us.  As we turned in we prayed they were open despite the weather and despite the holiday.  The attendant was a kid, perhaps in college with a letterman, of course at the time I would have said peer.  I wondered how he felt about being at work that day, I wondered how he felt about missing Christmas morning with his family, or how long he was working.   I thought about his dangerous ride he must have made to work, and the one he would inevitably have to make in return, and I hoped he understood how selfishly appreciative we were of him.   I wanted to ask him these things, I wanted to tell him, but I thought he may just find me stupid, so with a quick exchange of cash we moved on our way.

I know the business of imports and aromas may not be as much of a necessity but I prayed that we may have really made a difference in that man’s life, having him prepared with a slew of gifts from Christmas.

“But what about the goals,” I asked her, my mind still reeling over the fresh new revelation.

“What do you mean?”

“If the store doesn’t open, is that just an automatic forfeit?”

“If the store doesn’t stay open, the goal is forgiven.”

I thought of February 2nd, a little over a year after the snow fiasco.  I had since relocated to Houston and that morning I could not turn on the news or my computer to know if the groundhog had seen his shadow or not because I was experiencing my first ever blackout.  Our little shack in the country was not well ventilated, and I shivered in the cold as movers took my ex-husband’s things from the tiny back bedroom I had stored it all in.  The frost on the window, and two disgruntled roommates with a lack of coffee signaled to me six more weeks of a very bitter winter.

My employees begged me to go home, it was luckily my day off, so as I sought out the Houston Galleria for warmth they were struggling to retain heat in the only mall that lost electricity if the sun was too hot, weather too cold, or the slightest breeze lightly caressed its structure.  We continued to conduct so much business in the dark, as we noticed all our neighbor shops were closing up.

This gave us the upper hand as customers were glad to find anywhere to shop when arriving to the outdoor mall on a warm summer day only to find the majority of the mall vacated because the Houston heat had shut down the electricity.

“It’s a hazard to your customers to stay open,” the Wet Seal Manager tried to convince me to close shop one June afternoon on her way to her car.

I wondered what would happen when the lights shoot back on?  What was the hazard if my tiny store was so well lit by the floor to ceiling windows that worked like a greenhouse in my store.

But now it was one of the coldest days in February, and no one in Houston was desiring to wander the outdoor mall.   Most intended to stay at home and attempt to stay warm with cocoa and battery operated heaters.

One customer was all we had…my sales associate was proud to boast that he convinced her to purchase three earrings instead of one, as per the promo of buy two get one free.   The total amounting to a 20 dollar earning for my store for the entire day.

“The goal is forgiven?”  It was beginning to make sense.  What kind of a waste was it for the company to maintain a full staff, and run electricity for hours (when it worked) if no income was to be made.   Why was it this DM understood the math, but my DM did not seem to prioritize these matters?  Why was I forced to wait out a tornado standing in a store of glass, while the rest of the world was locked in a storm shelter?

This past snow day I heard from many sales associates that were having to wait out the storm.  Having to come in and stay beyond several inches to a foot of snow before they were released to now drive the dangerous roads home.   When do you call it quits?  What is your indicator it is closing time?

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