Thursday, September 21, 2006


When I was 19, I got fired from my first job ever. It was at an LDS bookstore. They fired me because they thought I stole money from the register. Don’t you just love that?

I was a peppy, perky freshman looking for a part-time gig that would work with my class schedule. The bookstore was close to campus, and had an open morning shift that would fit perfectly. Plus, I had a friend already working there in the afternoons to recommend me to the store owner.

The store was owned by a middle-aged married couple, Lorraine and Phil. (names changed). They had owned this store, the only thriving LDS bookstore in the area, for many, many years. Lorraine and Phil lived in another stake, so I had never met them before. But because they adored their employee, my friend, they accepted my application almost sight unseen. A decision, it would seem, they quickly regretted.

I had never held a job before. In high school, I was always occupied with my flourishing extracurricular world, and depended on my parents for financial wherewithal. Once college came, however, that all changed, and now I needed to work.

Phil was hardly ever around the store. The store was Lorraine’s baby. She oversaw absolutely everything. Her daughters and sons-in-law occasionally were brought in to help out, and her only employees outside her family unit were my friend and me. Lorraine was the kind of woman who lived under a constant cloud. A real sourpuss, martyr type. Her voice was soft and wearied. No one ever did things the way she needed them done. Life was nothing but something to endure. Sighing was a favorite pastime. Have you got the picture? I never have lost the irony that such a woman could spend her life selling books and music created solely for the purpose of uplifting the human spirit. By the look of it, it would take a crane and three legions of cherubim to lift Lorraine out of anything.

The Lorraine-Mary combo was one of curious workmanship. Here I am, 19 and truly clueless, with all the innocence and optimism, (read: dingbat) of youth, determined to work hard and make everyone fall in love with me. Here is Lorraine, Queen Poopy Pants of All the Land, ready to die unloved, unappreciated, and determined to prove to Mary that no matter what she hands out, Lorraine will never, ever, like her. Not ever.

Lorraine reluctantly whisked me through about 30 minutes of training, five minutes of which was spent learning how to use the 20 year-old cash register. This register was completely ancient. Didn’t scan bar codes, didn’t calculate tax, didn’t have credit card capabilities. All it did was hold the money and spit out those small little receipts and print out daily sales totals at the end of the day. (More on that later.) Of course, 19 year-old little me was afraid to appear stupid, so very few questions were asked.

I had never worked a register before, and this one was particularly confusing. You had to calculate sales tax on a separate calculator and manually punch it in after hitting a couple buttons in some sort of sequence I could never keep straight. Yet even with all my register struggles, I could never have predicted that this cash register would eventually lead to my tragic, unwarranted, and morally deplorable downfall.

Before long, I grew to dread Lorraine. More than that, I was terrified of her. I never, never, did anything right. I never wanted to ask her questions. She always looked so desperately annoyed every time I opened my mouth, like she was either going to slap me or faint from exhaustion. She’d call every day for a report of my daily activities, and proceed to tell me what I’d done wrong on nearly every point.

After my 30-minute training day, I was left to fend entirely for myself. I’d open the store every morning at 9:00 a.m., and would be there alone until 1:00 p.m. That meant that for 4 hours I alone handled all sales, stocking, shipping and handling, scripture name-branding, etc. In short, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. In retrospect, I can say that this job was a walk, but at the time it wasn’t. I was young, inexperienced, and had received what turned out to be an abysmally inadequate training session. This led to consistent and serious mistakes. Here are a few of them:

Signed and accepted a shipment of items which Lorraine had not ordered; priced them and put them on the shelves for sale, only to have to go through the whole store later, with invoice in hand, pulling said items off the shelf and sending them back.
Ruining three sets of scriptures in the name branding machine, when I put the letters in upside down. Three separate times.
Not knowing how to use the register.
Not knowing how to add sales tax.
Not knowing how to void items from a receipt after I hit “Total.”
Lorraine hates “Voids”, and I was averaging two a day.

It wasn’t long before Lorraine would begin each phone conversation with, “[heavy sigh] what did you do, Mary?” With each new mistake, I became more and more stressed, until one day I devised a brilliant new scheme. I decided not to tell her about anymore of my mistakes.

So one of the mistakes I decided not to tell her about was the time when this guy wanted to not buy this $25.00 book after I had rung up the total. Now, we know from the previous paragraph that I had no idea how to void things correctly. Regardless, that would mean one more void over which Lorraine would hit me with that vicious sigh I loathed so dear. So….I did nothing. I made no note of it. I simply accepted his check minus the cost of the book in question, and went on with my day. I really had no thought for what consequences this would have. I just knew that I couldn’t tell her about one more stinkin’ void.

The next morning, Lorraine calls me at the store:

Me: Good Morning, XXX XXXX Books?
Lorraine: [sigh] Mary, it’s Lorraine.
Me: HI, LORRAINE Everything’s fine!!!!
Lorraine: Mary, [sigh] there was a problem with yesterday’s totals.
Me: Oh really?
Lorraine: We’re about $25 short. Do you have any idea why that is?
Me: [quietl] No.
Lorraine: [sigh]….Are you sure? No problems ringing anything up yesterday? No voids? Nothing?
Me: Mmm..nnyuh huh.
Lorraine: What?
Me: No. Nothing.
Lorraine: [pause]…Okay. Well, the register’s short, and there’s no accounting for it. This is a problem.
Me: Hmmm.
Lorraine: Well, call if anything happens, Mary. And don’t touch the scripture branding machine.
Me: Sure won’t. THANKS, LORRAINE!!!
Lorraine: [Sigh].

It always amazes me every time I think on it, that I preferred lying to this woman than admitting to her my mistake.

The following week, I’m sitting behind the counter listening to Kenneth Cope, reading, when Phil walks into the store. He’s carrying a white envelope in his jacket pocket.

Phil: Hi Mary!
Me: Hi, Phil! It’s been a while!
Phil: Yeah, it’s been pretty busy.
Me: Yeah, I bet.
[Phil takes his time getting up to the counter. Head down. Looks a little preoccupied.]
Phil: So…Mary.
Me: Yeah?
Phil: Mary…..Mary.
Me: [nervous laugh] Yeah?
Phil: Mary…have you ever been canned before?

I’m not making that up.

Phil went on to explain that the store had hit some rough times financially, and they were going to give my shift to their daughter for a while until things got better. He handed me the white envelope which was my pay for the rest of the week, and said I could keep the book I was reading as a gift. Not a few months later, the store moved to a larger location, hired at least two more employees, and they’ve gone on to be enormously successful.

The moral of this story is: I’m okay with people thinking I stole money from their old, ancient, dumb cash register if it means I don’t have to tell Lorraine I had another Void. In fact, I stand by that decision to this very day.


This is hilarious and harrowing, Mary. I hate getting in to trouble at work. It reminds me of the time I was working at Wendy's and my favorite store manager came to talk to me discreetly about the fact that my drawer was $50 short. I promised him that I hadn't stolen it and I didn't know why it would be coming out $50 short. I think that he believed me.

It turned out later that he found the $50. I had tucked it under the tray b/c that's what we did with large bills at a former job---I had done it automatically without thinking.
First of all, I thought you got fired from your current job and I was all, Oh NO!!!! Thankfully, no. "Canned" is a scary subject line.

Second, you crack me up. I think I might have done the same thing, which is scary to reflect upon. Also, I had a job in Chicago where the attitudes of my bosses (multiple bosses. Joy) were always "What have you done for me today?" That's not good for morale. Lorraine sounds like a moral vacuum.
Found your blog from a friend of a friend of a friend, etc. Funny story. I too worked at an LDS bookstore in UT owned by a husband- and wife-combo, though I don't think it was the same as yours since the wife was mostly hands off. I can definitely relate with you on the difficulty of scripture name-branding. I got so scared of the little machine and the slips of gold paper that I vowed never to have my own name put on my own scriptures, and I haven't. We used to rub vasoline over mistakes on scripture names we made to make it look better, and I know there's about 20 sets of scriptures out there that I totally messed up on when I was a teenager. Thanks for taking me back.
Clarie, welcome! Nice of you to read and relate with me!
This really made me laugh. You have a gift for telling stories, and hopefully this will shine through in your class.
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