Shopping Round

I

MY work as a comparison shopper in one of the world’s great department stores, an organization which employs in its intricate machinery approximately ten thousand souls, paid me twenty-five dollars a week — a larger salary, it was impressed upon me, than the majority of those doing somewhat similar work on our staff received at that time. The average wage for a beginner was twenty-two dollars, with the magnificent prospect of a rise to twenty-five as a reward for faithful, loyal, and untiring service. This amount, incidentally, does not begin to pay for the wear and tear on clothing, not to say nerves; but, as the ‘Chief’ blandly explained, he could get any number of refined women of moderate incomes who did not need the money but did want work, because they were bored. That may have been true, but all the women engaged by him while I was there were working because stern domestic pressure or tragedy made employment imperative. And the quality of our work, the importance that was attached to our decisions on merchandise, the influence that these decisions had upon the subsequent policy of the store, were in no way compensated by our weekly checks.

Perhaps it is because women have been the family shoppers for centuries that comparison shopping is looked upon as one of the few openings for women not trained to a profession. Nor was marriage necessarily a drawback in this field of endeavor. Twelve of the possibly twenty members in the department were tied, more or less effectively, by the bonds of matrimony. Some were traveling as ‘Miss’ for professional reasons; the majority were frankly ‘ Mrs. Thus-and-So.’ Because I needed a job and the money, and, apparently, because I had qualifications which recommended me to the ‘Chief,’ I became one of the shopping sisterhood.

Comparison shopping is the development of a system by which a department store is made aware of the business activities of its competitors — ‘rivals’ is a term never used in this connection — and constantly obtains information, both intimate and accurate, concerning the range of stocks and prices, the color array and method of display and presentation, the equipment, counter space, window treatment, the number of customers in given departments and how and what they buy, and so forth. In a word, the shoppers are scouts whose trained eyes and ears must be quick to seize upon pertinent details in other shops so that those in the home shop may work with greater knowledge and security.

The shoppers are selected with care. It is highly important that the persons chosen should look and act like ladies, for under no circumstances must it be suspected that they are snooping. They must have the air of customers, so that without rousing suspicion they may elicit information by careful questioning of the clerks or possibly the buyers — for buyers are always called upon to consult with important-looking women — or by listening skillfully to other purchasers. The store for which I shopped was making a distinct bid for college graduates, and a degree was a great asset in getting the job. In addition, the shopper must not only look well in her clothes, which must be fairly smart, for it is the welldressed woman who gets immediate and full attention from the clerking force, but she must have enough changes or disguises so that she will not be easily spotted. Her costumes then are a sort of protective covering, cloaks of invisibility, permitting her to pass unnoticed in and out of the stores which she must, in the nature of her job, visit more or less regularly. Those in charge of the comparison office must be careful to guard against sending her too frequently into the same departments of the same stores, lest the sales people become suspicious. To guard against this possibility several persons usually specialize in a given general field.

Finally, if, in applying for employment, a woman can show that she has substantial family connections, the entrée to exclusive places, acquaintance in the better shops, charge accounts of her own, she is the more likely to be taken on. Chalked up prominently on the bulletin board of the shoppers’ room is the request that each individual designate those stores at which she maintains active personal accounts. Obviously it is easier to return merchandise if it is charged than if it is bought for cash. A merchant is invariably polite to a charge customer, for he knows that he has little comeback; the woman will simply refuse at the end of the month to pay the bill for goods that she considers unsatisfactory. Yet so eager is he to keep this name on his books, and thus make sure of continuing patronage, that he will carry over a debt rather than have the cash in hand, and he treats this type of customer with infinitely more courtesy and consideration than he ofttimes employs with the cash customer. I might mention in passing that I did make use of my personal accounts in other stores for convenience in my work, and that my purchases for the store that employed me ran from seven hundred and fifty to a thousand dollars a month. These purchases were made either to supplement our own stocks, to furnish models for copying if we felt that we could approximate the article at a lower selling price, or to show our buyers what other establishments were offering that was interesting and different.

To illustrate. Sales were lagging in the fine lingerie sections. I was chosen to ‘shop’ our own lingerie department and those of other stores about town, and to make a survey of the situation. I was to take the pulse of the trade, as it were; to ascertain what was the cause of this unhealthiness; to learn what others carried which we did not, and why; to study what the customer was asking for, what she was being shown, — for by clever substitution on the part of the clerk gaps in stock may be covered, — and what she was actually buying. I was also to note where the departments were placed — on what floor, adjacent to what other departments, so that we could know by what logical steps the customer would be led to this special department; how many clerks were employed, and of what type; to what degree they were informed, and what were their sales arguments, if they had any; the kind of lighting, how the aisles were spaced, how the department was dressed, the type of counter display and its accessories — that is to say, the trimmings in the cases, the floppy French boudoir dolls, the sachets, pillows, and flowers; how the stock was kept. In a word, I was to study the countless ways by which trade is stimulated and the customer is induced to patronize and purchase.

Since never being satisfied with the present state if, possibly, there may exist a better is one of the basic principles of expansion, and the very breath of life in the nostrils of Big Business, I was to include in my survey the smartest establishments in order to buy there — or anywhere — novelties, attractions, garments that had in them elements which we could assimilate to advantage. We were willing to pay any price for a new idea, an interesting feature or angle. To pirate designs for subsequent quantity reproduction at a popular price was considered entirely legitimate. During this campaign I bought lavishly for the firm — new materials, new ‘conceits,’ fetching ‘ensembles,’ anything which I thought had tonic value. Our house preserves at all times an openmindedness, an eagerness to learn and to improve upon its own methods by careful analysis and adoption of the best elements of another’s success. This positive and constructive thinking energizes and vivifies the entire system.

Another time I was called upon to apply these same scientific methods to mourning dresses and coats, and to purchase numbers of garments which after careful study found their way into stock, marked in conformity with our policy of selling at lower prices.

II

To be successful the shopper must strive to keep her fresh, outside point of view. Naturally one’s fund of general information is enormously increased. I have ‘shopped’ everything from wooden rolling-pins, selling at twentythree cents in the outlying provinces, to rare Chinese rugs and gorgeously enveloping wraps of Russian ermine! The technique is fairly simple. On receiving a strange assignment, the buyer for the home shop will usually prime his shopper on those particulars or points for which she should keep her eyes open, and she sallies forth, endeavoring to manifest an enthusiasm which she does not always feel, conscious that business demands a certain front if one is to bring home the bacon.

Take the rugs, for instance. A competitor, who has the name in the trade of maintaining an outstanding department, announces a sale. ‘Drastic Price Slashing’ — the copy man’s favorite headline — is the legend carried by the evening papers. It may be that our buyer has been ‘tipped off’ that the other fellow has been collecting cautiously for just this event. The majority of his advertised rugs may indeed be new imports, as he claims; others are probably taken from regular stock; still others are tag ends, held over in the warehouse from a previous sale and thrown in with the lot for clearance. The shopper is instructed to watch for and report on all these possibilities, as well as to note the amount of cotton warp visible on the right side of the rugs, the pile, the pattern, the field, the border, the color, whether the rugs are washed or unwashed, and the size, though this last item is usually listed in the advertisement.

Before we go on our errand,—the editorial ‘we,’ for we seldom hunt in couples,—our rug man will show us from his own stocks rugs which he thinks will be comparable to those his rival is featuring. For it is gall and wormwood to him, as to all clerks, to hear a customer say that she has seen the ‘same, identical thing’ at another store at a lower price, and he knows that he dare not let himself be caught the wrong way.

At the competitor’s shop one fairly trips over the piles of rugs assembled for the big event. To the obsequious clerk we explain, with becoming poise,—a slightly bored pose is very effective, — that we are interested. To be too keen for detail would only defeat one’s end, which is to impose one’s self upon the clerk as a true customer.

Rug after rug is spread before our eyes, some so lovely in their gorgeous blue and purple depths that exclamations of pleasure are honest and genuine enough. Sometimes the sale has been staged for the benefit of a hand-picked list of charge customers, each the recipient of a ‘private card of admission’ flattering in its implication of exclusiveness. This undemocratic dodge is effective because a germ of snobbishness is latent in most of us, a feeling of superiority over the next fellow; and the clever merchants of the Avenue, understanding the sales value of the personal touch, play up to this trait in human nature.

In this particular rug sale it would seem that the Greek dealers had somehow or other secured the majority of the cards, and were buying in the rugs, no doubt in order to resell at a considerable increase. As one watched them at their shrewd trading it was not difficult to conjure up the picture — almost the smell — of foreign bazars and market places.

‘What’s the story?’ asks the buyer on our return, and we tell it minutely, since every detail conveys subtle meanings to him.

It is the business policy of the store with which I was connected to undersell its competitors in all equivalent merchandise or stocks of like quality, taking competition throughout its delivery district. Since it is manifestly necessary, for the elaborate working out of such a system, to know what the other stores are offering, and since it is impossible for the buyers, the department heads, or the management to cover the ground exhaustively all of the time, a comparison shopping department is indispensable. All the great metropolitan stores recognize the advantage of such a service, but ours, because of its peculiar needs, maintains the most pretentious in the city. The head man is an authority on merchandising. Three assistants give out the daily work, read and sometimes edit the detailed reports which the shoppers supply, and, finally, relay this information to the various buyers or department heads throughout the store.

In her written reports the shopper must note the date and time of her call on the competitor; the number of customers in evidence, and whether they are buyers or lookers; the price, range, and condition of the stock; where the stock is featured, since naturally it makes a difference whether the display is at Table I, facing the main entrance, or on the fifth floor rear; how the stock is displayed, and whether the article to be compared is identical with that in the shopper’s store, or superior or inferior to it. Through such reports the organization has secured a fairly complete statistical account of the investigations conducted by an alert staff.

An important member of the department is the stylist, who reports on windows, on what is seen on the Avenue, at the races, and in smart restaurants, on what is being worn by Madame at first nights or at the opera. The stylist also covers fashion shows, corset reviews, and the ‘class’ advertising that bids for the patronage of Society.

Besides the stylist and twelve or fifteen shoppers, specialists in certain lines and all usually able to sketch roughly, the comparison department of the store I served employs a bookkeeper, a cashier to dispense funds for daily purchases, and a marker constantly busy in adjusting prices on outside material bought for comparison. The volume of this outside material is enormous, and before it is put into our stocks we must take off a discount commensurable to the per cent of our underpricing. Several stenographers are necessary, as well as three messengers whose duty it is to distribute this material swiftly throughout the store, since time, especially in mark-downs, is a highly important factor.

Naturally there are certain standards by which to gauge and stabilize this price cutting. The store states frankly that except in four specific departments it does not sell seconds, and therefore we were instructed not to bring in seconds, ‘imperfects,’ and ‘runs of the mills’; that it does not sell ‘powdered’ crêpes, or silks that have been ‘loaded’ to make them appear heavier than they really are — a fact which can be easily detected by beating the suspected material gently on the hand to make the fine dust show; that it does not sell pieced furs or garments the facings of which have been pieced. Also there are certain specifications laid down rigidly for the cutting of garments. Only a certain number shall be cut at one time. In our age of highspeed production, many thicknesses of goods go under the knife at one operation. Obviously they cannot all be sized equally; the top 36 will not be the same as the 36 at the bottom of the pile. All garments are examined promptly, and as promptly returned to the manufacturer if they are not up to standard. It is also necessary to note whether the lining matches; whether it is all silk, all cotton, or a combination of both; whether it is hand-tailored or put in by machine. These details naturally all affect the cost of manufacture and sale.

Especially in rugs is it imperative to report seconds or imperfects. Often, too, we have bought the so-called ‘overstuffed’ chairs and had them torn apart to see what grade of material the competitor was using, so that we might maintain our faith with our public on lower selling prices for equal quality.

Silks for analysis as to fabric, texture, color, pattern, and quality are bought in three-yard units, — a dress length, — so that, after careful scrutiny, they may be re-marked and thrown on the remnant counter. Curtain materials are purchased in two-and-a-half-yard samples. This length is just enough to curtain a window. These samples also reappear later on the remnant table. All blankets bought outside are sent to the laboratory for microscopic examination. Knitted wear, whether silk, wool, or cotton, is submitted to the same close scrutiny. It is the fineness of the gauge, the number of stitches to the inch, that gives these garments their value and sets the standard by which to judge them.

In shopping for china, the essential points to be observed and reported were: —

1. Is it open stock?

2. The name of the manufacturer.

3. Is it imported or domestic?

4. Of how many pieces does the set consist?

5. Note the gold line on the edge of the dish; its width and general character.

6. Are the handles finished in full mat, half mat, or just gold-lined?

7. Are there any noticeable blemishes on the dish?

8. How large is the competitor’s stock?

Always, for greater accuracy, we were urged to buy a piece with a handle, — a cup or a vegetable dish, — for here the proportionate amount of gold used in the set is shown to best advantage.

No mark-down on merchandise in our own stock to meet a competitor’s price is considered necessary unless he shows a representative range. It is, of course, unfair to interpret the policy of the house to mean that it will mark down a whole stock number if the other merchant has only one article of its type. The loss to the particular department resulting from this too liberal reading would indeed be devastating. In ready-to-wear clothing, especially, the competitor must be able to show a range in both size and color that will comprise not less than one dozen garments of a particular style. One of the most aggressive of our competitors tried to force a great mark-down in silks where in fairness the reasons for a mark-down did not exist. For instance, in an advertised sale, knowing that we should be sent to shop, and having previously examined our stock, he threw in several bolts of silk identical with what we were showing; but the run of the pieces was generally inferior to the grade which our house carried, and no action was deemed necessary on our part. In justice be it said, however, that we found little misrepresentation of merchandise, either in quality or in quantity, and never on the part of the really big merchants. They are honestly trying to play square, humanizing the service as much as possible and establishing friendly relations between the store and the customer. It is, of course, much better business. ‘Caveat emptor’ and sharp practice are being driven out by the enlightened spirit of fair dealing.

III

Our shopping routine varied little. A few minutes before nine found most of us in our places, ready for the morning assignments. Money for purchases of comparative merchandise in other shops is given by the cashier, and a receipt is demanded. Our first duty was to examine the regular and special offerings in other stores, and especially their various sales, such as the January White Sales, the Courtesy Days, the August Fur Sales, — picture to yourselves the joy of trying on a succession of fur garments in torrid weather, — and report our findings instantly by telephone. We were encouraged to buy on our own initiative any new article or novelty priced under five dollars, especially if it seemed to be attracting favorable public attention. If the price exceeded five dollars, we were advised to report on it before purchasing. ‘Identicals’ of merchandise at our store selling at a lower price at another were to be bought automatically, so that the store buyer might be convinced of the necessity for price revision. Sometimes such an adjustment means hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and a buyer, temperamental tsar though he is in his own petty kingdom, knows he holds authority only so long as he can produce what is politely called ‘the goods,’ which, translated into plain English, means that he must show a fat margin of profit on his balance sheet.

All purchases on morning ‘ads’ are brought in by the shoppers by ten o’clock and sent immediately to the various units of the store, where merchandise of our own approximating the new purchases is brought out for comparison. After consultation with the experts of the comparison department, the buyer will mould his plan of procedure.

Although primarily the work consists in shopping on the basis of competitors’ advertisements studied in the evening editions of the previous day’s papers and comparing these goods with our own, a request may come from a department for information on specific merchandise. The shopper then will have to visit every store in the district for information concerning goods to be advertised and put on sale in a week or ten days’ time; she must list minutely all details bearing on the subject. Or it may be that a customer of ours, Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Abramowitz, has seen something at Blank and Company’s at the same price as ours, or — horrors! — lower. In either event a staff member is sent scurrying. Sometimes these ladies are right, but more often they are wrong, for it is perfectly amazing how inaccurate an honest person can be when she is untrained in observation. The wits of the comparison shopper become razor-edged. It is often necessary on ‘identicals’ to carry many style numbers and manufacturers’ numbers in her head, for woe betide her if she is seen to take out her pad and pencil in a rival store. She can never reappear in that department — she is spotted. The fierce antagonism of the clerking sisterhood will be manifested against her. I found that by crooning a list of numbers, making rhythm of them, — 487, 652, 487, 652, 821, 956, 821, 956, and so forth, — I could retain them until I reached a haven of comparative safety, but this sort of thing takes practice.

Delivery tests enabled us to study at even closer range the conduct of our competitors’ businesses. We would be instructed to purchase, all at the same given time, but each in a different shop in the delivery district, a certain specified article. It might be a boudoir lamp to cost ten dollars, an iced-tea set, a piece of silk underwear, or an embroidered bedspread. It was our responsibility to record carefully how the clerk checked the sale, — for we were to mention pointedly that we were buying a gift,—how she received the money, whether the receipt was volunteered, whether she asked if the price tag was to be removed, what degree of interest in the sale was shown by the clerk, and to what extent assistance was given by her to the ‘customer’ in making the selection.

All the merchandise was ordered to be sent to some private address previously determined upon, usually the home of one of the shoppers, where the time of delivery of each package was carefully noted by someone detailed to receive the goods. Our own wagons then called for the lot and brought it, unopened, to the comparison department. There the packages would be analyzed, examined, and criticized from the points of view of wrapping, packing, design and composition of the boxes, and possible advantages of the rival system over the system obtaining in our own store. When one considers how many shops have to be covered in a test of this kind and the total amount of such purchases, one begins to grasp how eagerly our particular firm responds to the keenness of metropolitan competition and how aggressively its members battle for supremacy!

Price wars we dreaded. Suddenly a merchant would be detected ‘digging in.’ He might concentrate on some specific article — books, boots, drugs; one never knew what it would be. Then his forces and ours would be all aquiver for the coming battle. If possible we would buy him out. Once a certain store staged a sale of vacuum jars and bottles of a standard or trademarked make. They were obviously under cost, for we were selling ours ‘close’ at the time. It was my job to ascertain how many the other man had, what sizes, whether he had a reserve, or if all were on the counter. I was to buy them and bring them back with me.

Arriving at the competitor’s, I cruised about, listening to other customers, giving the impression that I Was waiting for someone. Having exhausted these means of securing information, I allowed myself to become interested, and remarked to the clerk that these jars seemed unusually good values. The clerk, thanks be, was more than ordinarily expansive. She volunteered that they had never been sold so low, that they were all perfect, and that she did not know the reason for their sale. (We did, for it was rumored that the store was about to change hands and policy.)

‘These containers would be splendid for a girls’ club hike, would n’t they?’ I continued. How many did she suppose they had? She could n’t say. Well, two hundred or two hundred and fifty, perhaps? She would see. I waited anxiously, for most stores will not sell in large quantities to individual customers; it cripples service and depletes stocks, which must be kept up to a definite standard.

The girl came back with the information I hoped for. To her astonishment I told her I’d take them all with me, and it was a substantial order. The boxes were packed, loaded on a taxi, and transported to our department, where our original price held, the competitor having been literally cleaned out.

Another man decided suddenly to ‘call’ us on riding boots, then selling at around seventeen dollars. Daily, then twice daily, then oftener, those boots were ‘shopped’ by both stores. It was impossible to buy out the stock. Try as we might, we could not discover his range. He was evidently well entrenched and stood embattled for the siege. ‘One pair to a customer’ was his war cry. Several persons a day were sent by our office to buy. He was returning the compliment, so that what we bought to-day he would probably buy back to-morrow. As soon as his price dropped, ours dipped a proportionate amount. This seesaw continued with grim determination on both sides until the boots were finally selling below five dollars and stayed there, each store waiting a new move from the other, though the cost price was over twelve dollars and both competitors were losing money by their tactics. At last, one fine day, when we appeared according to schedule, we found that the boots had quietly crept back to normal. What price business supremacy! We all sighed with relief.

A battle, fierce and bitter, conducted on somewhat similar lines, waged around a special brand of imported soap. Twenty-five cents a cake was the usual price. Before that rival merchant got through with us and we with him the public was buying that soap at two cakes for half a cent!

Then there was an ambitious frontal attack by the soap merchant, who decided to assail all departments at the same time and cover us with a really impressive barrage. Challenging, as he did, our lower-priced selling, a policy which he claimed was an impossible gesture, he aimed at our very vitals. By supplying his public with what he considered comparable goods and by selling the goods at a sacrifice, he thought to force us into a precarious condition because of the price cuts we should be obliged to take. But our whole staff, sniffing the smoke of battle in a just cause, descended upon him in a body and bought hundreds and hundreds of dollars’ worth of his stuff for analysis, examination, and scrutiny. He had planned badly and the skirmish died almost at birth.

IV

Comparison shopping is naturally looked upon as highly confidential detective work. The utmost precaution is taken by the store to guard the identity of its shoppers. The management even goes so far as to object to the shoppers eating together or walking with one another on the streets at lunch time, lest they be the more quickly recognized. It is etiquette among the Body not to notice a fellow worker in another shop by even the faintest flicker of an eyelash. Shoppers pass like strangers in the throng, respecting one another’s bread and butter. Our success depends upon our ability to remain unknown inside the store for which we work, as well. Even when we shop in our own establishment to gauge the quality of its service — that is, in regard to telephone, new clerks, elevators, delivery, stocks, staples, and so forth — we appear as customers. Mystery enshrouds us. We enter by a separate elevator that dispatches us to dizzy heights usually unattained by the rest of the personnel.

By the same token, we are not permitted to share in the benefits of the many welfare units operating throughout the store. Where labor is low-paid, paternalism usually obtains. The store for which I worked maintains an elaborate welfare system, including a permanent psychologist, a hospital perfectly equipped, and a vacation camp with accommodations for one hundred and twenty-five girls.

Many have asked me if living among extravagant clothes and beautiful appointments and accessories did not make us eager to possess them. Strangely, it did not. It was enough to test, to examine, to feel, to know. We were surfeited, and when it was necessary to remedy gaps in our own wardrobe, which wore out all too soon, we begrudged the extra effort. Shopping for us was a business, not an indoor sport.

I have often wondered how we did it, where strength came from for this ceaseless and weary jaunting in and out of shops from nine to five-thirty daily. Further to sustain our morale, and preserve our esprit de corps, our ‘Chief’ thoughtfully appropriated the inscription which graces the local post office: ‘NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN NOR HEAT NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THE SWIFT COMPLETION OF THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS.’ Elaborately lettered, it faced us from a strategic position as we left on our appointed rounds, sometimes to basements, sub-basements, or triple-basements,—for certain ambitious merchants, not content with scaling high heaven to cry their wares, tunnel the bowels of the earth to secure the basement or ‘shawl’ trade, — or perhaps to the subway or the ‘El.’

Zero hour struck for me, I think, while ‘shopping’ these same basements in a neighboring city on Easter Saturday afternoon. The shawl trade, released from its mills and factories, had turned out en masse. Those hordes of jostling, pushing, wildly gesticulating foreigners, charging the crowds through cruelly narrow aisles packed too full, and trailed by countless screaming progeny, the close, fetid air, the sense of dangerous helplessness which a mob always gives, left me baffled and bewildered, and still fill me with clutching retrospective terror.

Down in these cellared depths, tragically enough, skimmed milk masquerades as cream. Here are found the loud offensive plaids, coats whose quota of shoddy is far too high, the broad sheep’s wool collar, dyed in black and tan streaks, the deer skin, stenciled in spots to pass for leopard — a travesty on Fifth Avenue styles, done in cheap imitation for Avenue A. Here they disport themselves boldly on the counters and in the open mart, all these stepchildren of the trade, with whom we are warned not to traffic — the powdered, weighted silks, the seconds, the imperfects, the fakes.

And yet there is a romance, an adventure, about the job. One never knows what will happen next, and one must be ready for anything. There is that fascinating element of the unexpected, of suddenly being saturated by a thrilling flood of beauty that sweeps away all the tiredness and the wretched monotony of battling with crowds. I had several such experiences. Once, while ‘shopping’ Japanese kimonas on the Avenue, I entered an elevator and found myself suddenly translated into centuries that understood the need of spiritual reënforcement; for the owner, an Oriental, had made of that small space a shrine! Here was Beauty in all her loveliness, and a peace that smoothed out the cares of day. When I reached the second floor, where I had again to take up my rôle, I felt that I had indeed been away on a long, soulrestoring excursion into a new and undiscovered country, and the poignant experience can be repeated when I close my eyes. Or, again, when I was sent to report a competitor’s presentation of seventeenth-century brocades and tapestries. To touch them, to be ravished by color that takes on added glory with the ages, to reconstruct a background fitting their grandeur, and to people it with those who, in that faraway time of splendor, knew this richness as a part of their being, was a quickening and dramatic episode.

Those were the high lights, of course. I left after nine months because the prospects of advancement were rather slim. With luck, one might perhaps become head of stock in the art embroidery, or else sell on the floor at thirty dollars a week. That’s the hardship. Many of these women become job-tied because a little salary is a dangerous thing. It fosters and encourages that inferiority complex of which we hear and, alas, see so much, and it cripples initiative. They are afraid to move on, to try something new, and so are mired deep in ruts from which it is hard to pull out.

Of course I miss the store. Certain aspects of the job, if your health holds out, are so interesting. I love the changing sights, the crowds, the hum of many voices, the cheery greetings, the bustle, the ‘girls’ behind the counters whom one got to know and like. For, despite rules, human contacts have a way of leveling regulations, and we became friends, — and what a difference that makes! — so that even now, when the nine o’clock gong rings, I report occasionally for duty because I can’t help myself, and I wander about the crowded aisles of the old setting, like the ghost of my former, hustling self!