Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Once Upon A Time

I worked for the J. Peterman Company.

Actually it was part time, on week ends and some evenings during the week around Christmas. It was short lived and in the height of the J. Peterman popularity. Before Seinfield, yes, there really was a J. Peterman. It is not that guy that pranced around on Dancing With the Stars. But, we all know that, don't we?

J. Peterman somehow ended up in Lexington, Ky. Not sure why or how, but he did. His empire blossomed on the North side of town, pre-Internet. It's funny to think that anything was before the Internet! It has become so much a part of our lives and infiltrated every aspect of it! I know that I have altered how I spend my hard earned bucks.

Back in the day, there was a large building that housed the J Peterman warehouse. UPS loved the J.P. company. The US Post Office loved J.P. No telling how many catalogues he mailed out all over the world. For years. All over the world!

Before having a part time job for J.P. (call me Elaine Jr.) I ran across him in the back pages of a magazine I was reading in the mid to late 80's. It was an advertisement for the Duster. It was how he got started, selling the Duster because whereever and when ever he wore it he was stopped and questioned. The question always was the same.... "Where can I get one?".

And the J. Peterman Company was born.

I rummaged around in my closet for a hat to shield my head from the death inducing rays thrown down from the relentless heavens that was frying my brain. I found this...

My Panama hat, or as I like to think of it, my Miss Blue Hat. (it was called several names depending). And when I placed it on my head and was into the mind numbing process of picking out yellow black spot leaves I remembered the Peterman Empire and my little part in it.

First of all, I was young! And everyone working there was young. We were all so young I guess that would answer the question of why we would work for such low wages and have such high standards demanded of us! The J. Peterman company was noted and praised for being the BEST in the business, which was mail order. Any given night, 100 customer service reps manned the telephones and were placed in the cue. There was no telling who might call on any given evening/night as the phones remained open till 1am. Celebrities called all the time. I never caught a celebrity call, but when it happened THAT person always stood up attracting the attention of everyone in the room and would gesture wildly towards the phone and mouth the name of the caller.

Standing up was common, as it hurt the ass to sit all the time through out an eight hour shift. I would love to ask the customer on the line, "Would you like me to get the garment so I can describe it better for you?" and with that, would un-plug and trudge around the "show room" and pick out the item. J.P. was great about having all the merchandise available for the CSR's to have at their disposal. And it was quite an affair, for he had thousands of items. I would gather the garment and go sit in my chair and begin to describe it to the person on the other end of the phone. Description was essential and we were coached and thoroughly refreshed through out our tenure with the company. He was not the BEST for nothing.

It was fun. But it did not last for long, just that one Christmas season and into the spring of the next year. I remember this vividly because it was 1996 and UK won the NCAA Title that year. We listened to the games much to the despair of the customers calling in! The final four...that Saturday night I'm certain J.P. got more complaints than ever before. I remember it as if it were yesterday (doesn't every Cat fan?)

"Okay, do you have a tape measure, now bend over to the right .... that's your waist, measure it. (a pause) Okay, what does it say?" The customer replies with his/her waist measurement and UK hits a 3 pointer against U-Mass in the final four game and you forget you have not muted the mouth piece and you yell out loud, "THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!"

Truly, it was fun and I was shocked when he went bankrupt and exhilarated when he got his company back!!

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

OMG I have that Panama hat! I purchased it YEARS ago and would love to find another, because unfortunately, it's starting to wear out. If anyone knows where I could find one, PLEASE let me know...I've looked everywhere, to no avail. Great blog, BTW!