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At my suburban New Jersey high school, there were only a few stores that mattered: Bloomingdale’s, Juicy Couture, Bebe (yeah, I said it), Sephora and Victoria’s Secret.
Halfway through senior year, I got into college and stopped studying and decided to get a job at one of the aforementioned stores so I could get a discount. Victoria’s Secret offered me a position, and in no time I was wearing all black, helping women decide between demi cups and push-up bras.
It turned out not to be that fun because, duh, it’s a job, not an extended shopping trip and I’m not cut out to be on my feet all day. I quit after four or five months to work at a tutoring center, which was definitely more my style. I learned a lot from my stint at Victoria’s Secret, though. Here are my pearls of wisdom:
Seriously, wash that underwear before you wear it: I know most of you probably do this already, but seriously, wash that underwear before you wear it. Yes, it might be new and it might look clean, but it might also have been sitting on the dusty floor of the storeroom for days or worse; who knows what some people do with that underwear in the dressing room. Unfortunately, a ton of men buy lingerie for their lady friends on Valentine’s Day, leaving no time to wash the undergarments. Do what you want, but think about the dusty storeroom.
Don’t try to have sex in the dressing rooms: When I worked at Victoria’s Secret, we were explicitly told to maintain a hawkeye on the dressing rooms to stop any men from sneaking into the dressing rooms with their girlfriends or wives. (I was never given instructions regarding queer women.) It happened quite a few times, too, and we would all bang on the door and demand that they come out or threaten to call security. Victoria’s Secret employees keep a very close eye on the dressing room.
You’re probably wearing the wrong bra size, and you may be in denial about it: A middle-aged woman came in to ask me to fit her for a bra because she saw a segment on “Oprah” on how most women are wearing the wrong bra size. She lifted up her shirt for me in the dressing room to show me her bra and oh my. Her bra was cutting so deep into her breasts that they were spilling over the cups and it looked like she had four boobs. She was wearing a 36B and I told her she was actually a 34DD. She literally laughed at me and said that was impossible and left the store. Whatever, lady.
Victoria’s Secret salespeople probably know better than you do when it comes to bra sizing. I don’t necessarily recommend going into Victoria’s Secret to get fitted, though. They trained us in a few minutes to fit women for bras, and I had a pretty good sense for it, but I suggest you go to a specialty bra boutique because the fitting is pretty cursory and the managers at Victoria’s Secret never told me my next point…
Your band may not be not small enough: The bra should feel right on the loosest hook, and feel a little too tight on the other two hooks. I learned this only last year when I got fitted at Azaleas in the East Village. The thing is, bras stretch as you wear them, so when that tight band loosens up, you can move it into the next hook, and then the next, getting more wear out of your bra.
Please don’t machine-wash your bras: One big complaint we got at Victoria’s Secret was that the bras lost their shape or got twisted. Then I’d ask, “Do you put your bra in the washing machine?” and the answer was always a resounding “Yes.” I know it’s a pain to hand wash -- really, I do. But expect to have to replace your bra after a few months if you let it get beat up in the washing machine cycle -- those wires aren’t going to keep their shape if you do that. Besides, they’re so small and they dry fast: Just give it a quick lather and rinse in the sink.
The salespeople keep asking you to open a credit card because they’re forced to: I don’t think anything was stressed more than the importance of “selling” credit cards. How important was this? Important enough to keep a chart on our card-selling performance in the storeroom. Our manager made a big chart on posterboard with all of our names in order from most credit cards sold to least credit cards sold. On the top, it would say “Julianna: 12 credit cards” with an angel smiley face next to it. On the bottom, it would say “Andrea: 0 credit cards” with a devil frowny face next to it. (I mostly worked dressing room, which is not the easiest place to get people to open a credit card).
Our managers were definitely under a lot of pressure from the regional manager to open as many credit cards as possible, so we were given the rule of three: Ask a customer three times to open a credit card, even if they say no. That means most conversations went like this:
“Would you like to open a Victoria’s Secret Angels credit card today?”
“Are you sure? We have great deals for cardholders and you’ll receive plenty of perks, like coupons and --"
“No thank you.”
“I just don’t want you to miss out on offers like birthday gifts and other special benefits just for our cardholders.”
“Okay, thank you. And your total today comes out to $51.03.”
The rule of three was terrible and anxiety-inducing, especially because you could tell a lot of these people had already been asked some other time to open up a Victoria’s Secret credit card and really didn’t want to have this conversation again.
Years after I worked at Victoria’s Secret, I was buying something there and the cashier asked me to open a card. I said, “I know you have to ask me three times, but I really don’t want to open one, so please don’t ask me again.” She gave me an “okay, you bitch” look, so now I just let people go on their spiels.
There is nothing worse than telling a 12-year-old you don’t have her size: I still cringe when I recall this memory. A 12-year-old girl came in to buy her first bra, and I already knew that we wouldn’t have anything that fit her. After doing a bunch of fittings, you get pretty good at eyeballing a bra sizes, and I remember thinking this girl was something like a 42AA, which honestly meant that she didn’t need a bra yet. Still, I didn’t have the balls to tell her we didn’t have anything that would fit, so I totally copped out: I lied and told her she was a 38B (we didn’t have 38A and at the time, VS only carried up to 38 band size). She stormed out of the dressing room a few minutes later, red-faced and teary, and said, “Victoria’s Secret needs to start making bras for real women!” while her mom stood behind her, crossing her arms and nodding at me. I felt really sorry for mishandling the situation and if I had to go back in time, I would have either offered her a sports bra in her size or just honestly told her we didn’t carry many sizes and that she might want to try a specialty store. Hindsight is 20/20.
I don’t shop at Victoria’s Secret anymore. It’s not a principled stance or anything; I just don’t really like going into the store because the music is always loud and the store smells strongly of their fragrances. Our managers sprayed chocolate fragrance all over the store around Valentine’s Day, by the way, to try to get customers to buy the Victoria’s Secret truffles they were hawking that year, so if you go around Valentine’s Day and are astounded by how fragrant these truffles are, now you know.
[Victoria's Secret image by Sorbis / Shutterstock.com]