The Jeans Whore

As I dig deep to train for the 2013 NYC Marathon, I am reminded of a time when I was known as “the jeans whore.”

I was in high school and had a part-time sales job at Banana Republic, one of many stores at an upscale mall in Short Hills, New Jersey.  My job included greeting customers with a smile at the front door and explaining the difference between a weave and a knit.   I walked into the back stockroom one afternoon to find my manager sorting through boxes of fall merchandise, the pungent scents of packed leather and denim still fresh. My manager smiled as she held out one of the new fall items, a beautiful lambskin bomber jacket priced at $300.  It was gorgeous, yet out of my price range.  But then she explained an upcoming back-to-school sales contest whereby a salesperson would receive three dollars for every pair of denim jeans sold.  “You can do it,” she said. “Buy the jacket with contest money!”

I had my challenges.  In hindsight, I was not the ideal retail sales associate.  First, I felt awkward approaching customers who appeared to be browsing, and instead waited for them to ask me for help.  I preferred to work the cash register, finding comfort behind the repetitive motions of clicking the register pad, bagging the merchandise, and making small talk with someone who was experiencing the high of a new purchase.  But most of all, I was a high school student who worked minimal hours so I had a serious time constraint in which to sell a boatload of denim jeans.

When the contest began about a week later, I jumped in head first.  I offered to take weekend shifts from co-workers, increasing my time with the piles of denim stacked floor to ceiling in the back of the store.  I threw my feelings of awkwardness to the wind and started to approach every customer who showed the slightest whiff of interest in denim. If a customer was buying a blouse, I suggested she complete the outfit and purchase a pair of jeans as well.  If a customer wanted a belt, I offered him the right shade of washed denim to match the brown leather and silver buckle.  If a customer walked by that wall of denim, I was in her face, smiling, giving her my name, telling her I was there to help. I owned that wall of denim.  Before long, my co-workers, all older than me by several years and viewing me like a kid sister, jokingly started calling me “the jeans whore.”

The contest lasted ten days and by the end, I had sold sixty-seven pairs of jeans, making me the contest winner in the entire Northeast region and the third highest seller of denim in the entire company.  I also received a bonus for my performance.  Several weeks later, the jacket hung in my closet, entirely paid for with contest money.

I learned something valuable with all those jeans I sold: with a clear goal and sufficient inspiration and support, you can at least try.  Only then do you have a shot at succeeding.  It is with this attitude that I climb onto the treadmill most mornings before the kids wake up, trying to build my endurance for November 3rd.  Will I make it?  I don’t know.  But I sure am going to try.

And yes, I still own the jacket.

I am running the ING 2013 NYC Marathon on November 3rd in memory of my cousin, Gerry O’Sullivan, and to raise money for Breakthrough Cancer Research.  There is hope, and that hope is in research.  Please visit my JustGiving page here if you would like to learn more.

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