I work at a popular clothing company selling heavily branded graphic tees to bored teens with a day off of school, a dream in their hearts, and their parents' credit cards. From the crucible of cargo shorts, I humbly present: Tales from Mall Clothing.
Part I: Pimp-man and the Labor Day Rush
It's a recipe for disaster unlike any other: combine the standard frantic back-to-school shoppers, a new floorset, and a region-exclusive promotion that was roping in shoppers from hundreds of miles away with a long weekend right before every school in the area opens its doors, and the results are predictable.
I was posted up in the front of a very crowded, very full store. My job was to man the "greetgrinder" - my internal monologue's clever portmonteau for the front of the store. I was the preemptive first strike capable of warming the customer up so as they moved throughout the rest of the store, the other associates could have an easier time interacting and selling IN THEORY. What this boiled down to often was me delivering enthusiastic greetings to mallrats staring down an iPhone.
3 hours into a 5 hour shift consisting mostly of unfolding and refolding the same stack of jeans, in walked a middle-aged black man carrying three bags of clothing and talking on the phone.
"Oh great," I think, "another brick wall for me to greet straight in to." However, I don't get scheduled for being complacent.
"How ya doing today, sir? Sorry to interrupt you call, but everything in the store is half off." As I turn to once again find the warm embrace of the practiced folding/refolding cycle, I hear a voice.
"Hold on - Darlene, I'll call you back. Aye yo! Did you say half off?" It was the man.
"Yes sir, everything in store! Biggest sale of the year."
"Aww yeah, pimp's gotta hook himself up with some jeans."
My practiced routine hits an immediate roadbump right around the time the former-wall, current-customer threw out the "pimp". Was I the pimp? Was he the pimp? Was he a local pimp's personal shopper?
Did Darlene know about his double life?
My shock abating, I was back in the moment.
Me: "Alright my man, how do you like your jeans?"
Pimp-man (PM henceforth): "Pimp's not in the market for jeans today actually, y'all got any white pants or blazers?"
Me: "I know for a fact we've got a big stack of slim white chinos in the back, but they only go up to a 34/34. There a size I can grab for you?"
PM: "HAHA I appreciate it, but pimp's AT LEAST a 36. Those pants would make me walk around like I was tryin' to rob a saloon." (all the guys out there, imagine how you'd walk trying to avoid the crushing crotch constriction of undersized slim chinos. Cowboy, right? All the girls out there, try to empathize the best you can.)
I was full-on laughing at this point - after 3 hours of boredom and middle schoolers, here was a man who had replaced most of his personal pronouns with "pimp" and was the most genuinely entertaining customer all day.
PM: "How about that blazer? Y'all got any of them around?"
Me: "Hah, yup, follow me. We've got a big rack of them all covered under today's sale."
I showed him the rack of our not-at-all-sporty-but-certainly-cheap blazers and he bursts out laughing.
PM: "Haha man, didn't even tell you why I was in here today! Pimp's sending off the summer in style tonight with all my friends. Pimp's looking for a white suit jacket."
Me: "Oh yeah, only one more night to wear it! Sorry sir, we've only got the navy blue here."
PM: "It's all gravy, man. Pimp's gonna go check out Macy's and still make tonight all white. Have a good one and enjoy the holiday!"
Me, speaking now punctuated by uncontrollable laughter: "Thanks, man. You too!"
And as he was walking out, he slid the three bags onto one arm and whipped his phone out all in one fluid motion. As he left, I heard only the following above the dull drone of the salesfloor: "I'm back Darlene, sorry about that. Pimp's browsing."