Friday, 15 June 2018

Buying socks at the department store

After visiting the dermatologist, I went to the department store in the city to buy new socks. I got out of the lift at the wrong floor and asked a clerk I saw walking nearby for directions then headed down the escalator and went toward the Pitt Street end of the building. I saw some socks that were being sold in “one size” and picked out three pairs in different colours. Two pairs I chose had dots on them and one pair was a plain black.

At the checkout, the sales clerk used the register to ring up the total for the three pairs of socks and I paid the $20 using the EFTPOS machine that was sitting on the counter. As she put the socks in a small orange-and-white plastic bag, I asked her if the buzzer at the gate would go off and she assured me it would not. She was fair-skinned and fair-haired and wore a grey jacket and looked European. I took the bag in my hand and walked toward the lifts but as I went through the electronic barriers that have been set up to stop people stealing clothes, the alarm started beeping.

Turning around, I went straight back to the register and told the clerk what had happened. She was different to the clerk who had made the transaction, and had dark skin and looked to have her roots in the subcontinent. She took the socks out of the bag and rubbed their labels over a spot on the counter where there was a sticker affixed to the surface. As she did this, I asked her what would happen if the buzzer at the exit went off again and she told me to just go through. I headed back to the exit but the alarm went off again, so I turned around once more and doggedly walked back to the register, where the same clerk patiently heard my version of events.

She took the offending bag of socks and walked to another register on the floor, nearby, where an older woman employed by the department store was stationed. The clerk with the bag of socks told this woman what had happened and the older woman asked me if I had been to the chemist. I told her that I had not, and that when I had entered the store the alarm had not gone off. The two women had a short conversation, during which the woman with the bag of socks debated with the older woman the wisdom of leaving her register unstaffed. With her hand she motioned toward the register on the floor some distance away, where people were starting to queue to be served, and the older woman said, “Just go.”

She sales clerk with the bag of socks led me in a southerly direction to a part of the floor where a retail franchisee had its clothes set up on racks. She had a short conversation with a female sales clerk there and waved the socks with their labels in front of a device hidden under the counter that I could not see. When she had finished, she started walking west toward the exit and I turned to go ahead of her but she hurriedly spoke to me, telling me that I should take the bag myself and leave the store. She handed me the bag of socks.

With it securely in my hand, I walked through the exit barrier and this time the device was mute. A man was waiting in the lobby for a lift and I pressed the button to call one. We got in it together when it arrived. He got out at the ground floor and I went down to the sub-basement where the food court is located. A woman with a pram was talking with a security guard while she waited to get into the lift, and I exited it heading home.

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