The holiday season job I didn’t want and didn’t get, part 1

Ever feel like the blue robot to the world's red robot? (courtesy of

Ever feel like the blue robot to the world's red robot? (courtesy of

What better time to find a job than the holidays? The whole retail industry staffs up to meet the demands of the year’s busiest shopping season. More eager shoppers require more overworked sales people to serve them while wishing they could just go home. It’s a holiday maxim, as accepted as Black Friday and mall Santas and spending money you don’t have. These jobs aren’t perfect, or even desired. And they pay significantly less than my unemployment insurance. But a job is a job, if you get one. I didn’t.

My unemployment insurance will run out soon. At least I thought it would until Congress passed that extension; now I don’t know what the hell is going on. But my plan at the time was to delay the inevitable with a seasonal job at one of New York City’s many fine department stores. They’re all hiring. And seeing the throngs of shoppers up and down Fifth Ave. the other day, I can see why. Working during the holiday season – when work is available – would push back my day of unemployment reckoning. It would save me from having to find work in the dead of January.

I applied for a few seasonal positions – sales and back office – at a department store you’ve definitely heard of. They have locations all over the country, including the flagship store in Manhattan where tourists line up to look at display windows and relive scenes from movies. The smaller stores in Queens are the same as those in suburban Maryland or, presumably, anywhere. The pay would suck, but the employee discount would save me a few dollars on Christmas presents. And I’d get to experience the Christmas Season madness from the front lines. It could make for an interesting experience, provided I don’t get trampled by some present-hungry horde in search of a half-off sale. Maybe I’d even meet the real Santa Claus. I definitely have some questions for that fat hairy bastard… like why he never brought me those Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. I mean really, Santa, WTF?

I applied for three different positions – HR coordinator and salesperson at the main Manhattan store and salesperson at a Queens store. The online application took about 40 minutes to complete and included a lengthy multiple-choice personality test. The questions attempted to gauge my suitability for dealing with the public. And here I thought one only needed a pulse. The appropriate answers were obvious and, conveniently enough, the answers I would’ve chosen anyway. Apparently I have the right stuff for retail and am not a threat to steal things or shoot up the place (file those under “good to know”). A few days later, the store invited me to interview. I was actually a little excited.

Like any good job candidate, I arrived early at the Manhattan location for my 10:30 appointment. It was unseasonably warm that day. My wool suit, which had magically shrunk since my last interview, was a little toasty. The main floor wasn’t yet decorated for the season; customers were few and far between. Having only ever visited as a shopper, and then only evenings and weekends, I was surprised to see the store so calm.

The staff elevator whisked me away to the upper reaches of the store, where the human resources email had instructed me to go. Standing among various employees, I became keenly aware of my reason for being there. With 15 years of work experience and an undergraduate and graduate degree, I was about to interview for a seasonal job in a department store that probably paid less than some of my summer jobs. My stomach dropped, and a lump formed in my throat. My career had come to this.

I exited into the bridal registry section and wandered among the plates and salad tongs and wine buckets not finding anything HR-related. A couple of salespeople chatted by a register; nobody shopped. After about ten minutes, I felt sufficiently stupid and asked for directions. Any trace of superiority or entitlement I arrived with were now officially gone. I started to wonder if I were even qualified to work in retail.

The holiday season job I didn’t want and didn’t get, part 2

The holiday season job I didn’t want and didn’t get, part 3

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  1. nderemployed wrote:

    oh norm… i dont know what to say. i am so sad for you. its not you. it is what it is. i started a new sales job, 2 months ago, commission based working and i am not even exagerating, 10-12 hour days not counting weekends and evenings filled with special events i am required to attend. my cost of doing business is high $100 a week in gas, with $ 50 tolls, and a high cell bill. I am getting bullied and harrassed and not accepted since i am older than my team mates. my boss is trying to build a case to fire me already. i dont know what to tell you. i had a very successful career spanning 15 years as well and the last three years its been pure hell. i fantasize about ending it all since the pain, torture and suffering is so unbearable.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  2. Joe wrote:

    you know exactly how i feel about your superiority, you are not better than any retail worker, get over it. I feel like your whole situation is just karma biting you in the ass for being a prick with all your witty commentary which is a stab at regular americans.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  3. Regular American wrote:

    Who and what are you talking about Joe? Did you read someone else’s blog and accidentally post to this one? Whoopsidaisy! If you were somehow able to read any of Norm’s postings and come to these conclusions, then I’m surprised you had the mental capacity to submit this comment at all. Did your mommy help you? Perhaps you should take your misplaced resentment elsewhere.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Amanda wrote:

    Joe, I don’t understand why you even read this blog since it clearly upsets you so much. I generally don’t comment at length here as I prefer to discuss Norm’s blog with him in person, but I can’t keep from responding to you even though I suspect you’ll find a way to disparage me. Norm’s “witty commentary” is an attempt—and I would say a successful one at that—to deal with an extremely stressful and difficult situation with a little humor. Everyone deals with the difficulties of life in different ways. Some people withdraw into themselves and despair, others get angry. It’s my opinion that through this blog, Norm is embracing levity as a way to keep other destructive emotions at bay. The thought that Norm of all people feels superior to retail workers is laughable. Of course, I have the advantage of knowing him and his personal history, which you do not. I am also married to him, which admittedly makes me less than an objective observer. That said, Norm is one of the most humble, inclusive, generous, and unpricklike people I have ever known. Don’t even get me started on the utter absurdity of your “regular Americans” remark. Our situation is not karma for anything. Maybe you believe that each of the 15 million + people currently unemployed in this country have done something to cause and deserve this economic crisis. Or perhaps you think it’s just Norm who deserves it, which I suppose would make us irregular Americans after all. Norm will keep posting your comments, Joe, but I believe he’s through responding to you as he’s already said what he had to say to you elsewhere. He adds to his long list of positive character traits the ability to not be unnecessarily bothered by people and situations that are not worth his valuable time. Unfortunately I do not share these qualities, and I remain pissed off, frustrated and, frankly, offended by your ignorant and childish need to lash out at someone who is so undeserving of your ire. I sincerely hope you do not reply since I do not care what else you might have to say. Just please stop reading the blog as Norm is going to continue to be “witty” and you, it seems, are going to continue to be pissy.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 6:11 pm | Permalink
  5. Jordan wrote:

    Norm! Stop stabbing regular americans with your witty comments! For the love of god, man. If you stab all the regular americans, who will wash my car and shine my shoes? Other super-americans such as ourselves? I shudder at the thought…

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  6. Catherine wrote:

    Wow, lots of angry and mean spirited people out there! Lots of Mr. Potters
    ( from Its a Wonderful Life).
    I go to a group for unemployed people, and what you are running into is all too common!
    I would suggest one day a week as a regular volunteer somewhere. I go to my local hospital, and it is nice to feel welcome and needed ( though unpaid).
    Just keep on keeping on, Norm!
    Also, since you have a Bachelors degree, have you thought about substitute teaching? Worth looking into, and they really want and need males in the schools.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 1:18 am | Permalink
  7. Tina wrote:

    Cheers Amanda! “Unpricklike” is now my word for the day, though I imagine I won’t easily find the opportunity to use it as well as you did.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 6:04 pm | Permalink
  8. Joe wrote:

    Amanda as Norm’s wife you are a biased party. The fact of the matter is I found this blog via a year ago. Jobless and Less was great for me while I was unemployed but recently Norm has started taking shots at regular americans and acting superior to people. I’ll have you know that I myself am an MBA as well and my new jobs pays nearly 75% less than my previous NYC job paid. Norm is a smart guy no doubt but he’s arrogant as anything in his writing, maybe not so in person, but he comes off rude in his writings. It seems as if his lingering unemployment is causing him to go from every other unemployed american to an unemployed american with the goal of putting down every job that doesn’t suit his personal agenda. I have nothing against Norm and as matter of fact, I feel for him because I dealt with 8 months of anguish as well, but never once did I act like Norm, as a matter of fact, my father owns a small sandwich shop outside of chicago and I went home after 4 months and worked out of a family owned shop with an MIT MBA until my recent opportunity came about in Dallas. So I sucked up my pride and did what I had to do, meanwhile Norm moans and groans about how unemployment insurance “pays about the same”….that’s great most americans need not work since unemployment pays the same as work, that sounds real american of you….real democrat if anything. Bottom line, Norm is smart, but he isn’t a better person than anyone else, and no job is beneath him, even retail.

    Monday, November 30, 2009 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  9. Kelby2012 wrote:

    The picture of the rock em sock em robots was cool, I was fortunate because Santa did drop them off for me on year.

    Norm I like your style, please don’t change a thing. For those who feel the need to complain that you are attacking Real Americans, the hell with them. It’s easy for them to be critics, not having walked in your shoes.

    Any shoeless monkey knows that working in retail is a dead end job for losers, unless you own the company or are in upper management. It was the reason I worked hard in college to get a degree so I could have a leg up in the job market.

    I don’t understand those who get so pissy about what you are blogging about.In their eyes you should gleefully work for retail, and maybe if you work hard, dodge another recession, climb the retail ladder, you will be able to make 75% of what you last made in 8 yrs. It is this pollyana bullsh*t thinking from the likes of people with Joe mindset that pisses me off. Keep up the good work.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

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  1. […] [Read the holiday season job post, part 1] […]

  2. […] the holiday season job post, part 1 and part 2 so this post makes […]

  3. […] visiting the mall this weekend, I’m extra happy that temporary holiday season job at the big department store fell through. What a horrible nightmare of crowds and slush and noise. […]

  4. […] The holiday season job I didn't want and didn't get, part 1 … […]