This was the first novel that I wrote back in 2001 when I first moved to Spain to live. I had written short stories before and non-fiction health books, but felt the need to bring a little romance and humour into my writing.. the result was Just an Odd Job Girl.
Previously Imogen shares her experiences of working in the shoe department of Huntleys where both and staff revealed more than they intended…
Chapter Six – Ladies Fashions and shop lifters
I was invited to join the team working for a brand of ladies clothing, specifically made for petite, rounder women. I was a little out of place, being nearly six-foot tall, and rather younger than both the staff and the clientele. But, I had my uses. My experiences in chasing small boys with their stolen dirty postcards came in very handy.
Although we were a very upmarket department store, we still had our share of shoplifters. Unfortunately, the better quality, seasonal fashion clothing was a target, and we suffered quite significant losses as the beginning of each season. There was a wine-bar around the corner from the store. The unscrupulous would come in, view the new styles, and then go into the wine bar, locate the team leader of the gang of thieves, and put an order through for the size and colour required. I discovered all of this from one of the security guys who rather fancied me.
I did ask the obvious question. ‘Why doesn’t someone do something about it?’
My understanding was that the gang moved around a great deal, that there were too many of them and as one group were caught another took over and that it was an ongoing process.
The manager of the department used to tear her hair out when we did the weekly stock-take. However vigilant we were, there was always some stock missing and Head Office was beginning to be very difficult about the situation.
We followed people around, as they browsed the clothes racks, constantly shadowing their every move. This, of course, annoyed many totally innocent shoppers, so much so that they went elsewhere for their new spring outfits and so takings were down as well.
One of the shoplifter’s favoured techniques used young women with pushchairs. They would slip a skirt or blouse under their toddler, or down the back of the pram and then walk out. This was before the days of security tagging, and short of stopping every woman with a buggy, catching them was very difficult.
Another method of ‘stock removal’ was used by a group of young men who would go up the escalator in threes. The one in the middle would lift two or three items off the rails by the side of the escalator and drop them into a black plastic bag while the boys in front and at the rear kept look out.
Then came the breakthrough. I was just assisting a rather large lady into a new spring coat, when I saw three lads get on the escalator. Sure enough, the middle one put his hand down and lifted three jackets off the rail and over the side quick as a flash. That was it, as far as I was concerned.
I shouted for the manager to call security, I dropped the coat on the floor, shouted ‘sorry’ to the startled lady, and set off in pursuit. I dashed up the escalator and the lads saw me coming and that I was big and mean. They dropped the black plastic bag, which held our stock, on the next floor up, and turned around empty handed to give me a victory sign – back to front.
They got on the down escalator, thinking that I would give up, now that I had recovered our jackets. Not a bit of it, my blood was up and several weeks of frustration brought me to the boil. I flung the bag with our garments at the nearest person who looked like a member of staff, who later turned out to be the General Manager, and hot-footed it down the escalator in pursuit.
The boys reached the ground floor, with me only a few feet behind them. They kept looking over their shoulders at me in disbelief. They had a good two hundred feet to go before they got to the safety of the exit onto the road and I decided that, as these guys were considerably larger than postcard thieves, a good slapping was probably out of the question. So, I improvised.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen.’ I shouted at the top of my voice. ‘This is what a thief looks like, and why your goods get more and more expensive!’
The culprits began to run, their faces red with anger and embarrassment. I followed them to the door, repeating my chant as we went. The funny thing was that, along with the three in front of me, several other shoppers made a dash for various exits.
Customers stood stock still in amazement, and then most of them started to laugh. One boy tripped over his shoelace that had come undone and he fell through the door into the street. All signs of dignity and bravado were now completely demolished. Satisfied that they were now off the premises, and unlikely to return in the short-term, I about-faced and headed back to my department.
Shoppers returned to their task and I received smiles and nods from most of the staff that I passed on the way to the escalator. At the bottom of the moving staircase stood the man that I had thrown the stolen stock to. My manager was with him clenching her hands nervously.
‘Miss Baxter’ the man said ominously. ‘My office immediately.’
I received a verbal warning; more for my own safety than anything, as I believe Mr. Dempsey was concerned about possible repercussions.
In the following weeks our stock levels remained stable and although other departments were hit we were left alone.
After two months on the department, it became my job on a Saturday to parade through Mr. Dempsey’s office with the weekly figures. He used to give me a wry smile and always asked if I had managed to stay out of trouble this week. I know that, following the incident, the security department was given a shake up and the guy who fancied me left within a couple of weeks. Things definitely got a little tighter after that and it made our jobs much easier.
* * *
I looked at my watch and saw that it was nearly one o’clock.
‘Do you want me to go or shall we finish now’ I asked Andrew, who did not appear to be in any hurry to go anywhere.
‘Why don’t you finish off your time at Huntley’s, I’m quite frankly fascinated to find out what mayhem you managed to cause in the cosmetic department.’
He did smile as he said this and I knew that rather than the put-down I was used to, I was actually being teased.
©Sally Georgina Cronin Just an Odd Job Girl
One of the reviews for the book
Just an Odd Job Girl is the uplifting story of Imogen. Cast aside aged almost fifty by her husband who chooses a younger wife to replace her she faces beginning life all over again. A new and most cool phrase totally to me in this book – the fast tracker – a great name for those gorgeous young women who forego the whole long term working to succeed in life together as a couple in favour of swiping an already successful older man from the woman who has put in all the years to gain the success. Imogen’s self-confidence is low as it can be, but she heads off to a personnel agency that specializes in placing the more mature job seeker to see if they can help her find work in spite of her not obviously stellar curriculum vitae. Twenty four years of “only” housewife and mother. There she is interviewed by Andrew Jenkins, who rather than dismisses her on the basis of her tiny CV, encourages her to tell him what she liked or didn’t like about the few jobs she did have many years back before she stopped working in exchange for being a stay at home wife and mother. And then the fun begins!
I laughed so hard I almost cried a few times reading Imogen’s memories of former jobs and employers. She’s crazy in the most wonderfully inspiring way. Chasing thieves and fabulousness in a funeral parlour and dentists office to name only two of the places she showed her wonderful character and savvy in on her Odd Job Girl trip. The apprehending of the shoplifter just has to be read! In the telling of her own life, Imogen realizes her value though. While this book is a really fun romp, it’s also very poignant and touching. So many women around the globe really do get kicked to the kerb after years of thinking that they married their true love, and would be together forever. Generally they feel old and ugly, all used up and not much use for anyone or anything, let alone a meaningful career and life.
This is a book with a happy ending, and an inspirational happy ending at that. It shows that all is never lost until the very last breath that you take. It shows that everyone has fabulousness within us, and all it takes is to recognize it, grab it, and have a ball with the amazingly wonderful person that you are. It’s not all about age, it’s all about feisty and real. Five out of five stars and a very hearty one hundred percent recommendation. A nice one for the guys out there too – especially if you have ever been a target for a fast tracker. There’s a whole lot more to life than a little bit of nubile.
If you would like to browse my other books.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin
Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally.
I hope you will join me again next week for two more chapters in Imogen’s colourful work history.