Shortly after finishing grad school I worked at a start-up company that provided concierge services to shopping malls. The owner of the company thought it was important that all the office staff spend some time out at a concierge desk so we could better manage the staff out in the field. I get that, and even agree, but when you think of a concierge, does my face pop up in your mind?
Let’s be honest, I have no tolerance for stupid people. Do you have any idea how many of them are out there running loose? Apparently a lot, unless there is a higher proportion of stupid people in shopping malls than in the general public. But I think not. Regardless, I am definitely not cut out for retail.
My first gig was at Landmark, right as it re-opened as a mall. I spent my days tracking down loaner strollers and wheelchairs, and filling out reports about what I was doing all day. Landmark shoppers had very few questions; mostly they were just going to Sears to buy tools and appliances, and whatever else they needed in Woodies and Hechts. Yes, Woodward and Lothrop was still open back then. In any event, other than the danger of dying from boredom, it was OK.
My next assignment was Tysons Galleria II, which was also new. Most of the time the place was empty, but there was a memorable interaction with a woman who wanted to know the location of the Ritz-Carlton. I described it and marked up a map of the mall. She was still puzzled. “If I come in to the mall from a different entrance, where is the Ritz?” She showed me an entrance on the other side of the mall and I mapped it out to the hotel. Still confused. She pointed to another entrance on the map and said “Where is the Ritz if I come in from this entrance?” Speaking slowly, and avoiding big words, I explained to her that the Ritz doesn’t move, only she does. She studied the map again and finally walked away, but she was not clear on where we kept hiding the Ritz.
My final assignment was White Flint. Unlike my previous stints, the mall was packed all the time and there were lots of people asking lots of questions. People most frequently asked about the location of I. Magnin. Note that the concierge desk was literally right in front of the store. I finally stopped answering and started just pointing. If they still didn’t catch on I would just take them by the shoulders and twist them around.
The single most annoying thing was that 9 out of 10 people asked about I. Magnum. I know it seems like a little thing, but spend 8 hours a day listening to it and it starts to grate. The last straw, and the end of my “career” as a concierge, was when I worked until the mall closed at 6:00 on Christmas Eve. I was stuck with idiots who were frantic, which is not a good combination. There seemed to be a lot of men who had just heard it was Christmas Eve, and realized they had no gift for the little woman. To recap, now I have frantic idiots who are motivated purely by fear. It was the Perfect Storm.
The men were wild-eyed, demanding that I tell them what they should buy their wife. Does she like perfume? Umm, unclear. Does she need a robe or a new coat? I dunno. Shoes maybe? I recommend you buy a size 7. And they would do it! As if I had some way of divining someone’s shoe size. In allegiance to the sisterhood, I steered them toward things that could easily be exchanged.
I was almost home free. It was 5:55 or so and then it happened. “Where is I. Magnum?” I should have been stronger, I should have just pointed, but I was seriously over the whole job. I heard myself saying “Sir, I. MagnIN is right the [bleep] behind you!” Then just for the heck of it I smiled and wished him a Merry Christmas. He didn’t know what to make of all that and just quietly stepped away from the desk.
All that, and I never even earned my Gold Key.