I was drawn to the toy store after I experienced it with Ani. I loved my mood rings, and I went back to ask if they were hiring. They weren’t at the time, but I decided to take their business card and try again. I would call once a week until finally, one day, they called me. Before this job, I had applied to many places, but I wouldn’t get a callback, and even when I tried to call, it wouldn’t make a difference. I spoke to Rissa, the manager of the Encino location, and she advised me to practice my gift wrapping skills because there would be a test since I was being interviewed for a season gift wrapper. During my interview, I wrapped a box and I was asked when I was available. I was hired on the spot, and my first day was Saturday, November 27, 2010.
My first day was incredibly exhausting. I worked a full eight-hour shift and wrapped an abundance of gifts. My arms felt like they were going to fall off by the end of the day. I was excited to start this job but after my first day, I felt less excited. Still, as the month went on, I kept telling myself, you are only here for the month just get through it. I made some friends with Bessi and Betty, who were Karen’s mom and aunt. They were wonderful ladies and we had the best time wrapping and talking. They taught me a lot, especially about what colors bow to use on holiday wrapping paper depending on if the gift was Christmas or Hannukah or which gender. Rissa was an incredible manager. I felt this connection to her from the moment she called me for an interview. She was an older petite woman with sparkling blue eyes. She always had red lipstick on with high-waisted jeans and a cute top. I enjoyed her company immensely and I wanted to learn more about her. I learned that her father once owned the toy store along with her brother, but they sold it to Ron. At the same time, Rissa also known as Carissa was very mysterious and private. Other ladies worked at this location too but these women have always stayed with me for the love they showed me. The other employees at the time were aggressive and frightening. I was only eighteen years old with no real-life experience and everyone else was older than me for the most part.
One of my coworkers, who was under the age of eighteen, had been working there for about a year. She was in high school and worked here part-time. This was one of my first experiences dealing with mean girls at a job. She made fun of me and said some cruel stuff to me including if someone was to sexually assault me, I should just let it happen. Another employee, claimed that I accused her of allowing me to use the register when I was not supposed to since I was just a gift wrapper. I had no idea what she was talking about but she was adamant that I knew exactly what she was talking about. Both of these employees were let go eventually. I actually took one of their spots after the holidays after she made sure to tell me that I was going to be let go.
I never met Karen during the holiday season, but I did meet Ron. Ron was this big-bellied tall man. He frightened me. One of my first memories of Ron was when he yelled at me for messing up on selling a hundred giraffes. I told the customer we didn’t have one, but we did have one in the back that was on hold, but the customer didn’t come so technically, we could have sold it. I was so scared that I didn’t want to come back to work. I thought he was going to fire me. He didn’t. A couple of days later, I screwed up by putting the wrong price tags on an item. He made me stay after my shift to correct my mistake. I was frightened by my boss.
I would usually close with Ron during that month. One night, we had an older woman come into the store to purchase Christmas gifts. I believe she was related to some celebrity. She came close to closing time. I decided to help her find gifts for all-over grandchildren. She purchased a thousand dollars worth of presents and wanted gift wrapping. So I gift wrapped everything for her too. We closed at 8 pm but I was there till almost 9:30 pm. I had no idea how I recommend so many items to her especially since I was there for a short amount of time and I had no experience in toys at all. I grew up not having many toys myself honestly. She had grandkids from all age groups and I did my best. I was proud of myself and so was Ron. I think that was the moment when Ron was like oh this girl has some skills. She can sell.
I was hired as a permanent staff member in January of 2011. Ron said in the short time that I have been there, I have received more compliments than any other employee except Rissa, who has been a part of that store for over a decade. I was flattered. Ron quickly became one of my favorite people.
I didn’t even know I was good with people. It just came naturally to me. I liked to talk and listen. It was such a lovely experience to spend hours helping customers find gifts. It wasn’t about the sales for me, it was just fun.
I was promoted to store manager within two years at the age of twenty. I spent five years of my life at this company and I had a lot of ups and downs. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned. To be honest, thats a whole book of its own but we will cover the highlights and why it was important on my journey to Hollywood.