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Monday, August 15, 2016

Life is no Rose Behind the Scenes at La Vie En Rose

How I worked as a Sales Associate at La Vie en Rose Boutique

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt
Today after taking out my black and grey work clothes out of the laundry, I finally felt that it’s over.  There is nothing wrong with grey or black, and it can be fun. But if you constantly see yourself in these colors, it can really affect your mood.

I wore these colors for quite some time since I first started working at La Vie en Rose Agua boutique as a Sales Associate (SA). I finally had the courage to give my manager a notice that I’ll be leaving. That was in the last week of my final days in that job. I felt relieved and happy, so much so that I can only describe it as euphoria. I still want to believe that this job also made some of my ex co-workers miserable, but once they leave work - probably have wonderful personalities. 

In the fall of last year, I found myself in the situation of needing to make some extra money, so I started looking for a part time job. Considering other circumstances in my life, and some previous retail experience, going into Sales seemed like a reasonable solution. 
I applied to the store, where I used to shop, and liked the service and the product. I was hired the next day after I applied, and had to turn down other job options. I have to admit – a beautiful display window, a beautiful product, and a pleasant previous experience as a customer with the assistant manager were deciding factors. After all, I wasn’t looking for a new career. I was looking to make some extra money.

I came to work with my best intentions. Immediately I was told that if I SELL, I’ll get more hours. My initial training lasted for about two hours and consisted of trying on different styles of swimsuits. During that I had to tell Assistant Manager whom I would recommend these styles to. I was quickly shown how to use the register, given work manuals to read at home, and was expected to sell next time I come to work. That was it for orientation.
After reading the manuals I was encouraged by phrases like “our employees are our best and most important value”, and truly wanted to believe that this Company cared about the staff.
Later I realized that nobody got any further training. Our average sales were expected at a 100/hour, but  employee recognition was given only when your sales were above average for a significant period of time (ex. 3-6 months). Further, we were to sign a daily task sheet with our goals for the shift. My goals for a 5 hour shift would be around $500, sometimes reaching to a $950 if the store was behind on the weekly goal. Moreover, if I was one of the employees closing the store, and staying another half hour to clean, my daily goal would include $$ for the time the store was closed.

We were supposed to sell to every 2 customers out of 10 that entered the store. It was not very difficult to achieve the goal If you were the only SA on the floor or if it was an extremely busy day when customers really wanted to buy. Yes, there are some days when there is a lot of traffic, but it is extremely difficult to make a sale.  Some customers bring their family and friends to shop with them, and every “body” is counted by the traffic counter. The real trouble was when there was a very “busy” significant other (usually a male) on his phone pacing in and out of the store.
Many times I was put in the situation when the store simply didn’t have the desired styles and sizes, especially larger ones, but I was still expected to sell, which in a lot of cases would mean deceiving the customer by selling the wrong product in the wrong size, which I couldn’t do. Then, of course there are the dreaded returns, which on a slow day can put your modest achievements into the red.

The lack of training and explanation of simple rules led to a lot of micromanagement, like creating rules on the spot, and being told off in a pretty rude way depending on the mood management was in. I worked for five months – fall and winter, and only after Christmas we saw a real rush of people. I enjoyed being busy and helping customers, but other times on a slow day – the SAs would compete for the customers, steal them, fight with each other for them, and things got really ugly at times.

Every time I came to work expecting something unpleasant either with the management, colleagues or customers which created a lot of anxiety and stress in my life.  I felt that it was not worth it for a minimum wage job with no benefits, no commission, and some laughable rules that the Company has for its employees.

Photo by Quick Fix
My “favourite” rules were the following:
We were not allowed to purchase in other stores anything that our “home” store carried, and that included the missing sizes.

Another rule was that you were not allowed to purchase anything without the manager’s approval, not even using the employee discount. I worked a lot of evening shifts, when the manager was not there, and I was also not allowed to put anything on hold even though I would pay the same price as the next customer. Sometimes the sale price was lower than the price using the discount.

We were also not allowed to unwrap spare sizes of new arrivals, even though there was enough room on the racks. Later the search for the needed size in full boxes of products while your customer was waiting undressed in the fitting room turned out to be time consuming and frustrating, and often resulted in a missing item, as it was “on its way”.
 I’m not even going to mention the special visits from the regional “royalty” that caused additional undue stress and confusion amongst our staff.
 There was also the “jean Fridays” when the employees were allowed to wear colorful clothes and jeans but only for the “price” of five dollars which was donated to the “Roses of Hope Foundation”.

Nearing the end of my employment I got a couple of Saturday and Sunday’s shifts in a row. Unfortunately, we were overstaffed again and again. As the desperation to achieve the monthly budget was setting in, I realised that it was time to get out. To quit was pretty easy, as it turned out nobody really cared.   A couple of my colleagues left shortly after me, as that job took a toll on their wellbeing too.
On a positive note – I learned a lot about swimwear, female figures and what looks good on whom. I met some nice people and gained some new experience. After all, it’s an experience: good or bad.

Oh well, time to move on! Au revoir La vie en Rose!
To read more reviews by current and former employees visit

Author: Former Employee

All photos from Wikimedia Commons

File:Free Smiling In Pink Heart Sunglasses.jpg

File:A Question of Who's In Charge (9883242164).jpg, Scott A. McNichol, "A Question of Who's In Charge" (2002) in Elora, Ontario.