100% commission at Nordstrom

Retail can turn you into a number

Selling is service.

That mantra is engrained in my mind as I climb the treacherous employee stairs, reading the large motivational signs; it prepares me for a long shift. I enter the sleek Nordstrom in North County and leave myself behind. I am now employee number 9138934 — a customer-service zombie in trendy attire.

As I stroll through Cosmetics to get to my department, Accessories and Sunglasses, I am dreading the prospect of checking my sales figures. Commission sounded fabulous during three intense days of training, but when customer returns count against employees, you can grow to despise Nordstrom’s generous policy.

I find 9138934 and see that I am at negative $550. “Damn,” I mutter. “It must’ve been those Gucci sunglasses.” At a 9 percent commission rate, I will lose about $50 on my next paycheck — all because of a return. We Nordstrom salespeople call it working for free. I will have to hustle $550 worth of scarves, hats, and sunglasses just to break even.

Yeah, it happens all too often.

I pace around the sunglass bay, looking for my next sale.

An edgy-looking older male approaches. “I need to return these,” he says.

I recognize the Chanel 330s. They’re called Glam Magics, big sellers at any luxury retailer. These $330 shades look as if they’ve gone through a washing machine and then were mauled by a pit bull. Return them, really?

“I got these for my girlfriend’s birthday a month ago, and my dog chewed them up before I could give them to her. Can I get a new pair?”

This sounds rehearsed, which is normal at Nordies. We salespeople have to just stand there and allow people to come up with the strangest lies so they can get money back for something they either regret buying or stole.

I have two choices: I can take back the damaged merchandise and be chewed out by my boss, or deny the return and be attacked by the customer. Decisions, decisions...

The only rule in the short Nordstrom employee handbook? Use your best judgment.

Always turn returns into sales. Another phrase embedded in my mind from training.

“Sir, I am so sorry,” I say, “but I cannot take these glasses back, due to the scratches on the lenses and condition of the frame. Let’s check out some of our new sunglasses and we can find another pair for your girlfriend.” This tactic is a bit of a stretch. On the other hand, I have nothing to lose.

“I thought this was Nordstrom,” the customer complains. “This is bullshit.” He grabs the case and struts off.

Well, nothing gained, nothing lost. But now I need to hustle so I can make some money.

My department manager appears. Kathy (not her real name) seems to be on a power trip.

“Okay, girls!” she says. “Our units per transactions need help right now! If they’re checking out plastic-frame sunglasses, have them fall in love with some aviators. And grab a scarf-and-hat combo! Everyone needs these items.”

She must be joking. Look around...we are in Escondido, in a dead store, and to top it off, there’s a recession. My sales skills are good, but that won’t mean much to the average customer.

In retail, nodding and going along keep the higher-ups off your back. “Sounds great, Kathy,” I say. “You’re totally right.” Not. I may be a sheep in the corporate herd, but I will never drink the Nordstrom Kool-Aid.

I switch over to scarves and hats, hoping for luck there, and maybe a commission or two, but there is a hefty pile of returns from customer service, waiting for me to put them back out on the floor.

“What do you think about this scarf?” I ask Ash, another sales associate. “Doesn’t it smell like perfume? We should take it to alterations to get steamed. That’ll take out the smell.” I hoist the obnoxious purple wrap that someone probably wore once and returned. In my mind’s eye, I see Grandma all gussied up. Must’ve been bingo night at the casino.

“It’s disgusting that we have to put these worn returns back on the floor,” Ash says.

A classy older woman walks through the second-floor opening in the mall, and we’re suddenly like lions spotting their prey — this store is so dead, most sales associates usually spend their time trying to sell merch to other employees. But if it looks as if a customer has money, we jump all over the sale.

Ding-ding-ding. I am the winner. Everyone gives me the stink eye as the woman comes toward me.

“Hi,” I say. “Welcome. How are you doing tonight?” Closing is at 9:00 p.m., and I am still in the negative, and I am going for the exactly right level of friendly. I need to make this sale.

“I’m not shopping,” the lady says. “I just need to get this belt fixed. It’s falling apart. I got it ’bout ten years ago.”

Before I can think of how to respond, the old gal beats me to it.

“Nordstrom should stand behind their products,” she says. “This belt is falling apart. It should not be falling apart.”

I want to scream, “Nothing lasts forever!” but being a customer-service-trained individual, I know only too well that I can’t be that real.

So I pick up a phone and dial the night manager. I can see the relieved faces of my coworkers — by pure luck, they’ve escaped being stuck with That Lady with the Crazy Return.

When the manager arrives, I introduce her to the customer, then get as far away from the situation as possible. But before heading back onto the floor, I decide to check the department’s sales numbers for the day. If I use employee numbers, I can see how my teammates have done, and even the boss. This isn’t snooping, only normal practice at Nordies. It keeps the competitive atmosphere thriving.

Me: sales $0.00, returns $550.

Ash: sales $475, returns $35.

Kathy: sales $1745, returns $25.

My hope for making money tonight is dwindling away.

And here is Kathy. “Girls, it is dead in here!” she says, a smirk on her face. “Call your customers and get ’em in here to shop! We need to make our goal! Make it happen.”

It’s 7:00 p.m. on a Monday night, and calling customers at this hour is something we all hate and dread, but to stay with the herd, we do as Kathy says.

I dial Jill in Rancho Santa Fe, hoping she won’t pick up. Then I can leave my well-rehearsed voicemail.

Score! Another long conversation with a shopaholic, husband-deprived housewife avoided.

I look at my watch. Another two hours have flown by, filled with the folding of hundreds of scarves, then laying them out facing in the correct direction, according to my manager’s standards.

And now I can go. Lucky for me I’m not closing tonight. My feet throb as I trek down the once-motivating employee stairs at the end of another disappointing shift in retail sales.

An insider's view of working at Nordstrom

My mom rushes into my room playing the ultimate backup alarm: “Wake up! You’re gonna be late for work!”

It’s a serious oh shit moment. I have 30 minutes to get ready. That’s enough time for hair or a good outfit, but not both.

What the hell am I going to wear? I mentally scroll through my inventory of clothes, trying to settle on something my coworkers — and especially Kathy — will not criticize. On top of everything else, it’s mandatory that Accessories employees wear a scarf or headband every day to work. That seems a bit extreme, right?

I pull myself together with an all-black outfit I hope won’t receive too many snarky looks from the young, ultra-trendy (make that ultra-snobby) “personal stylists” roaming the store.

“Good morning, girlies!” I say on my way in. I always greet the customer-service gals. They deserve serious credit for dealing with clowns, day after day.

To my right I see a group of young, egotistical salesmen — with a few oldies sprinkled in — over in Women’s Shoes. Now that is where the money is.

To my left, the Cosmetics employees are gossiping, refreshing their makeup, adding a dab of perfume before starting their shift.

I spot Kathy at a register, typing at the keyboard, and with every step I take toward her, I am preparing for the sales-confidence beating about to go down.

“Hi, Kath — ” I begin.

Then I am saved by the bell.

Paula (not her real name) — aka the Shepherd, aka the store manager — announces: “Good morning, my fabulous 364 store! Are we pumped up to have an amazing day in sales? Please grab your beautiful spotlight item for the month and head up to the rally on the third level in ten minutes.” Paula makes everything sound fabulous. This is misleading.

“Hi, Jessica,” Kathy says. “Since we did so awful yesterday, you need to make it happen today. I want you to sell at least three Guccis or Chanels, three cashmeres, and two hats.”

Micro-manage much, Kathy?

I run to the stock room to grab some overpriced gloves for the rally upstairs. Hmm…purple or gray? These are the only colors left in back-stock of our popular, tech-friendly gloves.

Neither of the colors seems right for the rally, though. And then I see the manager’s tiny old desk squished into a corner of the stock room. You’d think a sales manager at Nordstrom would have a nicer desk and a computer less than ten years old.

On the desk is a pair of red gloves. Perfection.

I ascend the escalator to where a sea of sales personnel waits for the rally.

It is 9:00 a.m., and most of us salespeople look, from the neck down, stylish and ready to have a successful day. But then you look up and see dark circles from closing the night before. Our eyes are begging for coffee from the espresso bar downstairs.

I glance around, feeling as if I am in high school.

The sales gals who sell mature women’s clothing are mostly older chicks who have been retail sales associates for years. We call them lifers.

The infamous Women’s Shoes salesmen look like a pack of bachelors oozing with that typical salesman’s stench. They stand around as if they’re at a bar, discussing the week’s winning and losing football teams. Typical.

Paula steps out for the rally. She has a presence that comes from being a tall woman with incredible style. Think Devil Wears Prada Meryl Streep, without the harsh edge.

Paula is going to get everyone fired up to sell and make the store money.

Department by department, sales associates go up to the microphone, trying to score brownie points with Paula, who gives away free drinks from the espresso bar. The retail gods know we need it — concealer can only hide so much.

Then we are given our daily sales goals. Then we’re dismissed back to our sparkly departments, which have been bedazzled with holiday decorations.

Yes, it’s that time of year.

Longer shifts, the endless folding of those beloved silver Nordstrom boxes, and the tying of the infamous silver bows. You’d think sales associates would be trained on how to tie bows, on how to wrap boxes perfectly, because that is the standard. But, no.

My first customer of the day — Ina, an older woman who buys a beautiful scarf for her daughter-in-law — asks me to wrap the box.

My skills are about to be tested. Uh-oh.

I do a hack-job on this poor lady’s gift box. When it comes to wrapping presents, not everyone is Martha Stewart. But there’s no one around to help me fix it, and I can’t leave her waiting for long. Every step back is filled with dread and embarrassment.

In one long breath, I say to the customer, “Hi, Ina. Okay, so, I know the wrapping isn’t perfect... If you want to get it wrapped nicely, I would recommend going upstairs to customer service, and they will do a great job. I’m sorry.”

Ina is legitimately mad.

I am sincerely upset that our store wants us to provide this wrapping service without ever teaching us how to do it properly.

Wrapping is the plague — I’d like to stay far, far away from it.

Ash, my coworker, has started her shift. She approaches with her usual smile, something necessary in this line of work.

“Hey, Jess,” she says. “You can take your lunch now.”

I am relieved to hear this. Time to put these feet up for an hour. But an employee could go broke eating at the Nordstrom Café, even with our discount, so I opt for more caffeine instead, a quad-shot espresso over ice. The retail employee’s fountain of energy.

Oh, and the Nordstrom employee lounge can make or break your lunch.

For instance: the shoes guys always rush to the lounge to grab the clicker for ESPN. The girls and other non-interested employees must opt for another location.

Or: the employee tables are filled to capacity.

Or: Bravo is on the TV, so we are all forced to catch up on the latest Real Housewives episode.

Lucky for me, on this day the TV is off. The clicker is nowhere to be found.

I sit at an empty table, hoping to tune out the chatter, the exchange of weird-return stories, the bragging about a large sale.

I go into a daze…

“Jessica, five-four. Jessica, five-four.”

Oh, that’s me. I run to the nearest phone. It’s up on the third floor, in St. John, a designer area where you would be lucky to find anything to wear that’s less than several bills.

“Hi, this is Jessica,” I say into the receiver.

“Jessica! It’s Nika,” says the woman on the other end of the line. “Albert and I are heading over to the mall and want to shop with you for new hair accessories. Just checking to see if you’re available.”

“Sounds great, Nika!” I say. “I’ll see you and Albert soon. Thank you so much for thinking of me!”

Albert (not his real name) and Nika (not her real name) are regulars of mine. They are a cute couple from Russia, mid-40s, and they never shop without one another. Nika returns about 70 percent of the stuff she buys.

I down my espresso and clock back in, hoping Nika will purchase something worth keeping for more than a month or two. She loves the glitz and glam, so I pull some hair accessories and wraps I think she will love.

Soon Albert is holding Nika’s flashy silver purse while she stands at the mirror, trying on accessories.

“Oh, wow, that looks incredible,” he says.

“Oh, my gosh, you look stunning.”

“You are just ravishing in that headband.”

Albert spews these dramatic compliments in a monotone. Nika soaks up the glory. After an hour, he’s said it all and Nika is ready to buy.

“Your total is $85.10,” I say. Another hour has passed, and I’ve earned less than $9 in commission. I’m thankful that at least it’s more than minimum wage.

“Excuse me,” another customer says. “I needed some help with sunglasses, but no one was helping me. Do you mind?”

This woman is dressed way down, but she sounds kind.

“Of course!” I say. Night is creeping in, and I am eager for a sale. “Let’s go over there.”

The woman pulls out older Chanel and Gucci sunglass cases.

“I’ve had both of these styles for years and absolutely love them,” she says. “So I came in to buy a new pair of each.”

I grab the current, modified styles of the glasses from back stock. The woman loves them as much as her old ones.

“Total is $1125.95,” I say.

She hands me her card to swipe. It’s heavier than usual, and I realize it’s the notorious black American Express.

Never, ever judge a woman who isn’t decked out in designer duds. Especially when you’re 100 percent commission.

Kathy paces up to me after I hand the generous customer her bag.

“Jessica, I just love the way you sell to customers,” she says. “Woo-hoo! You made our sales for the day. Awesome job.” Kathy is jumping for joy because, for today, the heat from upper-level management will be off her back. Not to mention, she takes a cut of everything that I sell.

One minute I suck at sales, the next I’m a rock star. I’d better soak in the praise, before it swings back the other way.

Kathy and Ash jet out for the night, and I am left to go it alone for the oh-so-dreaded closing shift: dusting, cleaning the glass displays, making sure everything is perfectly folded and in its correct place.

A tall order, if you’re busy, you know, helping customers. Isn’t that my real job?

The store is set to close at 9:00 p.m., but we’ll remain open if people are shopping.

It’s ten to 9:00 and a few browsers remain; customers who, when you approach them, say immediately, “I’m just looking.” Isn’t that what everyone is doing here?

The other employees have nasty looks on their faces. They’re giving the evil eye to these last stragglers on the second floor. Meanwhile, I scurry around the department, making sure everything is perfect for Kathy in the morning. Not one scarf can be left unfolded, not one pair of sunglasses can be out of place, or I will have to kiss goodbye being on Kathy’s good side.

The ten-minute warning sounds: “Attention, customers, our store will be closing in ten minutes.” A giant sigh of relief comes from every department on the floor.

Now it’s time to get serious. Time to count the money.

There are three registers I have to count. I know I’ll be last in line when we get upstairs to turn in our money bags.

I scramble to write everything down. If I miss something, I’ll be in deep shit (pardon my French, Kathy). I glance up every 30 seconds. The Women’s Shoes team is heading upstairs, followed by Cosmetics, Men’s, Jewelry, and Handbags.

I am a one-girl team, trying to finish. Accessories is short-handed. Other departments have three or more people to help.

One register left to count.

“20-40-60-80 — ”

Then everything goes black — the store lights are on a timer. Uh-oh. Counting money in the dark heightens my chances of messing it up.

Finally, I shovel the money bags into my arms and try to balance them as I make my way upstairs. The glamorous and sparkly second floor isn’t quite as fabulous in the dark.


The third floor is alive. I don’t feel so alone anymore.

I am the last in a line of very tired but well-dressed sales associates waiting to turn in their money bags and be released back into reality. Somehow, I always feel like a mess in this sea of type-A personalities. I scramble to get my money bags filled out and in order.


Laura (not her real name), the customer-service manager, will be counting my bags tonight.


Laura climbed her way up the Nordstrom ladder from being a sales associate. It probably helped that she drank the Kool-Aid. Scratch that — she invented it. Every rule and code, she will enforce. If you make a decision about a customer or purchase, she will judge it. Laura is everywhere in the store and knows most everything that goes on. What with our extensive video surveillance, not a single move goes unnoticed. You are always being watched.

“The money needs to be facing upwards, Jessica,” Laura says. “I’ll do it for you this time, but next time, you need to make sure you do everything before you get upstairs. We try and make it timely and efficient up here this late.”

Just like that, I’ve devolved from Sales Superstar to Money Bag Mess-Up.

“Yes, ma’am,” I say.

I dash to the nearest computer screen and clock out number 9138934.

I look at the dashboard. “12:30!”

I am 30 minutes early for my 1:00 p.m. shift.

No sense in letting these curls fall. No sense in letting my make-up melt in the heat. So I go in.

The climb up the once-hopeful stairs at the employee entrance is exhausting. The motivational signs no longer seem bold, but transparent.

Instead of a cheerful hello to the gracious customer-service gals, I make a hard left. I head to Human Resources.

It’s a snap decision, but I will no longer answer to 9138934. Kathy, Paula, Laura — I think of them as “Javerts,” from Les Mis — they can’t get me now. Okay, maybe I’ve seen that story too many times.

I sign paper after paper, and then I am released.

I walk down the hallway, no longer a number. I am Jessica.

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This story truly depicts exactly how the retail world is! Loved how real, fun and humorous this piece was! Great story! WE WANT MORE -Jenna

Jessica's article nailed it, not in terms of groundbreaking literary quality but accurate in what goes on at Nordstrom. I read the other comments and it is obvious which comments were made by Nordstrom Employees trying to bully their points across to clear the Nordstrom name. Two aspects Jessica failed to mentioned were: "Being written-up" and the excessive bullying that goes on between department managers and their employees. When your sales numbers plummet due to returns or the economic down turn (which Nordstrom categorically refused to admit) your department manager has to "write you up" for underperformance. The performance goals are arbitrarily set based on prior years' monthly sales. They can shrink your department's merchandise, or move your department, give you evening hours when few customers are shopping, or even hire on far too many sales associates, and three write-ups based solely on one person's assessment, and HR gives you the boot. And, the plastic HR people are thrilled to have their jobs having clawed their way out of the retail trenches to a 9-5 job. Secondly, the very few Department Managers who don't bully their employees to perform are eventually let go. Ever wonder why turnover is so great or that so many employees are moving to the Rack where they are paid hourly wages? The long hours of retail are easy compared to the excessive abuse levied by management.

absolutely. "written up" was always such a threat. and never lead to anything. and the fakeness... oh god. like any manager ever REALLY cared if WE felt like we did well; they care that they do. not real management talent..

Thanks LynnG that is exactly how the Vancouver Nordstrom is too. The honeymoon is over between everyone who has worked there from the beginning on opening day. Anyone in management who is fair with the(ir) employees is let go or looked down upon.

I worked at Nordstrom for four years selling shoes and this perfectly describes the life of every employee. Getting hit with returns happens daily because of the rampant abuse of Nordstrom's (non-existent) return policy. Customers are pretty much free to 'rent' merchandise from the store with no consequence, except perhaps a sideways glare from a disgruntled employee who's paycheck is depleting. At the end of one particularly grueling day, I finally managed to crawl out of the thousand-dollar hole I'd been in by selling a pair of $625.00 Aquatalia boots. After laboring for 90 minutes with this lady, she committed. She loved them so much, she assured me, that she didn't even need the box! I was thrilled for about 20 minutes until a girl from customer service came into the stockroom with the returns of the night--and the boots. I was pissed about the return, losing $65 (on my 10%), but mostly because she was a pussy who returned them in customer service. When you're shopping at Nordstrom, be considerate that they are not getting paid just to watch you try on clothes and then put them all away. If you need help that's great, but don't waste their time.

Oh and to answer a previous question: No, there is not someone in the back who goes and gets all the shoes for me and then nicely puts them away. That person is me. The 12 pairs of pumps, 9 pairs of boots, 6 flats, 4 wedges, and cute little sandal with the bow in ALL 6 colors that you tried on but are "so sad none of them worked out", I collected and carried all of those down a flight of stairs to bring them to you. And yes, now I'm super stoked to put them all away.

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It's so sad that all Jessica can do is complain about everything and everyone at Nordstrom. Not one positive thing to say. Nordstrom is one of the best run retail stores. I know as I worked there for nine years and at other retailers over the years. None hold a candle to Nordstrom's quality of service and their care for their employees.

Maybe Jessica needs to look at herself. You tend to get what you put out there. It's sad when your mother has to wake you up for work and when you can't wrap a simple package for a customer.

^ obviously hasnt worked at nordstrom in the recent years. its not what it used to be.

This story would've been fascinating...if it wasn't stolen from Freeman Hall's "Retail Hell." Nice try, Jessica. You should take some writing classes...it might help you to not look so pathetic in your next groundbreaking exposé.

Welcome to the world of retail.

Sales + Retail + Corporate Environment = Not For Everyone. I agree with vjchan's statement that "You tend to get what you put out there."

At the end of the day it's a job and no job is perfect. I'm sure Jessica was a great employee and did her best while she worked at Nordstrom however, it's obvious sales isn't her strongpoint and she's probably better off doing something she's passionate about which appears to be writing (you can't deny that she's good at it).

Nordstrom is absolutely at the pinnacle in the retail industry. Other retail companies can only dream of having the brand and prestige that Nordstrom has — even if they would never admit it. At the very least they want to have the same level of customer service that Nordstrom offers its customers. No one can argue that. I challenge you to find another retail company that has employees (especially sales people) that have been with them for 20+ years. Walk into any Nordstrom and I can guarantee you'll find at least a handful. That says a lot about the company.

Jessica, regardless of what you say about Nordstrom the real issue here was your inability to succeed in a retail sales environment. It's irresponsible for you to blame the company on your own shortcomings since it erodes your own credibility. And you better hope your next employer doesn't see this article because if I was interviewing you, I would look the other way.

One last thought: something tells me that even if they had a more stringent return policy you still would have never made it.

Wow John Banks! You really sound like a tool, or a number. Nordstrom does not care about their employees. I know for a fact they just "re structured" the reagion and "let go" multiple employees that have been there for over 30 years! The said only way to keep your job was to move to Texas! And no, I didn't mis spell you user name. John Banks is the store manager of Fashion Valley San Diego that EVERYONE hates.

Great depiction of Nordstrom life..as a former employee I can relate to it all...especially having to make those awful phone calls to get people in to shop.

The only rule in the Nordstrom handbook is NOT "Use your best judgment."

The only rule is to "Use GOOD judgment", because sometimes, your best judgment is not good judgment.


This hits very close to home even though I worked at Robinson's-May. But my special talent--signing up people for store credit cards--kept the big bosses away from hassling me about my sales quotas. They would put me at a table out front and as people walked by, I would offer them a small gift if they filled out a quick application. I could hustle 20-30 credit apps per hour.

I earned more money shilling those credit cards than I did from the commission I supposedly earned on the sales floor. I feel bad now thinking about all the people I probably helped dig an unaffordable credit card hole that they fell deep into.

How sad. As a former Nordstrom employee I find this story a joke. As in any retail job you make your own business. Obviously you were and are not a great salesperson. Maybe Walmart will hire you as a greeter.

haha everyone replying clearly works for that nordstrom that jessica worked at. and drinks the kool aid. and berates other employees. and truly hates their job but will never face it because it becomes a lifestyle and it's "safe" to relax into a retail job isn't it? former nordstrom people: the place is NOT what it used to be 5-10 years ago! ask any "lifer". ANY of them.

Wow this article is incredibly lame!!!!! I worked for Nordstrom for 22 years. I started as a giftwrapper when I was 16 as a matter of fact and I could wrap a present at that age, it's a ribbon and a box for gods sake at least when I wrapped it was actually paper and bows. After being a giftwrapper I moved on to sales in Accessories and kept moving up in the company. I can't believe what whiner this girl is. How about taking some accountability for yourself. I guess I was tougher than her in my teens than she is at her age. Every work place has it's ups and downs and you have to make the best of it. But Nordstrom is no where near as bad as she makes it out to be. There will always be bad managers and great leaders that you work for. There are so many lies in this girls story. All I can say is Thank God that Nordstrom doesn't have to put up with this employees crappy attitude and now someone else will have to put with her crappy attitude. Goodluck to who ever hires this girl in the future and remember don't make her work too hard or she might just write a ground breaking expose about your company!

This was a most entertaining piece and it held my interest. The surprise was the number of defenders of Nordy's. vjchan, who apparently no longer works for Nordstrom, states "Nordstrom is one of the best run retail stores." For a long time that was undoubtedly true, but it has been through some really tough times, with its stock down to about $5 a share in late 2008, after having been over $55 less than two years earlier. While ALL stocks were down at that time, I'd guess that JWN was teetering on bankruptcy at that time. So, I beg to differ about its management.

Thirty years ago, while I was teaching retail classes at a local college, students did reports on retailers. Those who worked at the then new arrival, Nordstrom in Fashion Valley, had high things to say about it, although I remember much of it being vague and platitudes. Others who didn't work there (but who wished they did, i.e. wannabees) also held it in high regard. I must confess that I haven't been into Nordy's in a mall in so many years I've lost count. My last big purchase there was a pair of gray wool slacks about fifteen years ago.

But over the years I heard the tales of the sweet young things who would buy a party dress at Nordy's, wear it once, and then bring it back a few days later claiming that they hadn't worn the dress at all, despite the reek of cigarette (and other kinds of) smoke, and some sweat, too. And the salespeople were often victimized by those customers--who weren't customers at all, just opportunists.

The truth of the matter is undoubtedly somewhere between the tale as told by Jessica and the claims of those such as johnbates who think that the company is a great retailer and a great place to work. I would wonder, however, if johnbates ever actually worked in a Nordstrom store.

Nordstrom IS a great retailer and a great place to work. My wife has worked there for over ten years and has done extremely well for herself — and she loves her job.

Let's just say that I know more about the company and its culture than someone who hasn't walked into one in the past 15 years!

VISDUH! thank you. people are just so critical when the have never been in someone else's shoes.

I wonder what the sales vs return commission rate is for workers at Wal Mart? From someone who spent the week between Christmas and New Year's doing nothing at May Co. but folding and sizing four tables of jeans on sale, I throughly enjoyed this article. It reminded me why that was my last job in retail sales decades ago. I can't imagine working at Nordstrom in Escondido. That would be as boring as trying to sell Mercedes in El Cajon.

You can really deliver a zinger! Poor old 'Dido don't get no respect. Keep in mind that there is a Mercedes dealer in Escondido, one that does well. It serves a huge area with pockets of affluence to the north and south (and to a lesser extent the west). Mall based retailers are just not doing well nowadays. Where there were a host of department stores like the Broadway, May Co, Robinson's, Wards, Buffums, Bullocks, Bullocks Wilshire (fancier version of regular Bullocks), I Magnin, and Saks Fifth Avenue in the malls, nearly all of those are gone, condensed down to one, Macy's. And even Macy's isn't exactly prospering. That kind of retail sales is a tough row to hoe now, and will not get any better for a long time, if ever.

So far the comments have been far more entertaining than the article. The story is too long and sounds more like a woe is me excerpt from her diary. Clearly there's a pattern with Jessica's work ethics. Jessica you saught a job in retail during the holiday season, did you really think it was going to be different? I have worked for Nordstrom for over 16 years, I have held various positions throughout the company and I guess you can say "I drank the kool-aid". Judging by Jessica's numbers, she worked one holiday season and is now somehow qualified to write an article about a company that is well over 100 years old. When I started with Nordstrom at 20 I knew nothing, I assumed I would be a top seller and everyone would like me. It wasn't long before I realized that it wasn't about being liked, it was about being respected. Nordstrom has taught me humility, respect and compassion. They have shown me that perseverance is vital and you can always leave things better than you found them. Stereotyping return customers shows your lack of commitment. Having your mom wake you for work shows your lack of effort. Without commitment and effort it's near impossible to persevere.

Wow...poor girl...couldn't make it in retail so she has to resort to bad mouthing a great company...I am a current employee of Norstrom, have been for the last 10 years and this story just makes me laugh...I don't know whats worst, that your mom still has to wake you up to ensure that you make it to work on time or that you don't know how to put merchandise in a box and tie a bow...you don't work for "free" in this company, you ALWAYS get a paycheck, but it's up to you to build on that check...You can settle for what alot of people in this country would kill to earn (way more than minimum wage) or you can built trust with customers and have them continue to shop with you and earn that commission, that's all up to you...the more you sell, the more your going to make, plain and simple...I've enjoyed working for a company that's built on trust, ethics, values and respect...I hope to continue to grow with this company as they venture out...Good luck to this poor bitter girl with absolutely no work ethics...You'll always get out of life what you put in and by the looks of things with you, that's not going to be much.

Upon rereading this "amazing" story one more time, I am struck by the description of Paula (not her real name) the store manager. Her spiel on the PA system, if correct, is a remarkable piece of cheerleading. The use of the word "amazing" is apparently very popular with hip chicks now, as is the use of "fabulous." All this suggests that the store managers of Nordy's use a constant stream of emotional appeals to move the merchandise. But emotion is a double edged sword, and for all the highs there are lows, and the more highs one can induce, the more, deeper and longer lows are the result. I suspect that, among other things, Jessica was suffering from emotional let-down.

The great college basketball coach, John Wooden, once told a sportswriter that he never appealed to emotion to get his teams to win, for the reason stated above. He said he just asked them to play their very best every day. He added that the teams he'd coached never would have won all those NCAA championships if he had used emotion. Perhaps those lifers at Nordstrom learned to tune out the emotional appeals and do what they knew how to do. They have learned how to do well with the customers who come in the door, treat them well, expect some good treatment in return, and sell them things they need. Oh, by the way, are Accessories and Sunglasses anything that people really NEED? Especially uncorrected sunglasses that cost far more than my prescription, tinted, aviator-style sunglasses?


I feel the title of this article is misleading. I suppose in someway or another, I was going to be inspired or find a piece of advice in an article showing a happy, youthful, style-centric girl with the title of "100% Commission at Nordstrom."

However, after reading this article I found it quite the opposite. I instead found myself disappointed that Jessica wanted to tear down the retailer and not look to herself. The reason most people dread going into retail stores is this writer's assessment of them. It took me a while to reflect on this, but I think I've come to appreciate what the article really is - a youthful person who has not yet found their professionalism. Instead of them taking ownership of how to do a job, they instead blame everyone else around them for their own inability to adapt.

With any job in retail there are similarities to her description, but that could be said of almost any job where profit is involved. To keep your superiors off of you, do a good job. To create an atmosphere where you can make connections, you need to reach out and network. To give great customer service, one must be selfless and assume nothing of anyone. I find it sad Jessica dumps all of her angst in working a difficult job onto others as if to say, "It's their fault for not teaching me." This is a common thread in the quickly unwinding professional workplace. Someone can be given only so many tools to do their job. At a certain point that person must take it upon them self to learn the next trick of the trade and get some tools of their own. If you don't know how to do something, then ask someone who does. Not just ask someone who does, but ask the BEST person possible to show you how. When you learn it from them, then go to another and ask them how to do it, too. When you get enough examples and you think you can make it your own, then do it and do it with confidence.


The corporate structure isn't for everyone. I'm glad Jessica found that this is not the niche for her. I'm saddened to think people who would want to enter into the retail world would read this and think they could understand what retail is about. If anything they should take away from the article, it's that the writer has low accountability. I hope the readers see that the negativity in this piece is overwhelming. Again, I look to the title, the cover photo, and then think - what was the relation? Let's say if she can't handle the front side of the business with the customers, why not try support? She could just as easily have tried her hand in stocking or perhaps visual merchandising? She never mentions trying her hand any where else since her distaste for sales has taken over better judgement. She has a job, and a good one at that, but decides to just quit rather than learn to do it better? She hates her boss, but doesn't ask her or request feedback? She looks to others and sees what she wants to see in them by assuming the worst and later finding out there was more substance (or monetary value, which she felt was how you judge) to the person. I digress.

Overall, I thought this article was going to be inspiring. What I came away with after putting it down was a sad feeling of what the work place has become. I'd love for someone to tell me that they don't know how to do something, but say something like, "But I'm going to learn since I need to know this to do a better job." That would be something spectacular to hear. Rather than make excuses or blame everyone else, someone takes the time to have some accountability. Ownership. Pride. These are values I think Jessica would benefit greatly from when she finds the time to improve herself rather than dish out the world she clearly doesn't understand to others. Good luck, Jessica. The world is a big place.

Honestly now, did you REALLY expect a piece that "inspired" you in this publication? I've learned to expect a tell-it-like-it-is piece in the Reader, and this one was just that.

The "preachiness" of the comments by those who defend Nordstrom is what surprises me. But, heck, what do I know?

I am not a reader of this publication. I simply was walking by the stand at a pizza joint, saw the paper, had nothing better to do and decided to read it while I waited. I usually have some small glimmer of hope that anything I read will give me something worthy of taking away from it.

"I am not a reader of this publication. I simply was walking by the stand at a pizza joint, saw the paper, had nothing better to do and decided to read it while I waited." And felt compelled to sign up for a Reader account and post 3 messages on the topic (also with "nothing better to do"?). Two questions: 1. Are Nordstrom's and the Church of Scientology affiliated? 2. Does Nordstrom's actually ding sales associates on returns with which they had nothing do in the first place? Oh, the horror....

Answer to #2. Yes. Exactly how she depicts it. You come in check your number and can easily be negative $5-1,000. I worked there 5+ years.

This is the same girl who wrote: My friend, Kelly the prostitute...i recall it being narcissistic judgemental and poorly written..way too many pedestrian cliches lacking depth or insight. as i recall she pissed off a lot of people myself included. looks like she's done it again...

I worked at store 364 for 6 months about a year ago and this article is 1000% TRUE!! No need for her to "look at herself" as one person commented!! I LOST money working there and it was the biggest waste of my time ever! As a result I would NEVER shop at or recommend Nordstrom to anyone!!! Worst job ever!

You LOST money working there? Really, you mean that you actually had to give them money in exchange for working there? WOW, I find that entirely hard to believe!!!

tom, I suspect that was a bit of a hyperbolic claim. She undoubtedly meant that she gave up something else to work there and ended up earning less. And when she compared the promises, implied or real, offered by Nordstrom, to reality, can claim that. I'd suppose that it is not anything easy or simple or obvious to do. We see that there are some real supporters of that retailer, but that not everyone can handle the demands, and that those demands can at times be overwhelming.

"tom, I suspect that was a bit of a hyperbolic claim" Gee, ya think??And my response to her was pure, unadulterated sarcasm. Personally, I think the fact that it took her 6 months to figure out it was the "worst job ever" tells me all I need to know about her.

BTW, my wife has been shopping at Nordstrom since they first opened a store in SoCal over 30 yrs ago. And it's STILL her favorite store

tomjohnston, I'm certain that if your wife lived in the deep South a few decades ago, she would have just "loved" her favorite store, based on the service offered and the willingness to wrap purchases, and all that jazz. But this isn't there and then, and Nordy's has some steps to take 'fore the walk matches the talk.

I have no idea what the purpose of your comment is. Maybe "Nordy's has some steps to take 'fore the walk matches the talk" to suit your particular expectations, but that's not the case as far as she's concerned. I don't think my wife has ever had a "purchase" wrapped, so I guess that's irrelevant. According to what she just told me, she can count on one hand the times she's had a problem with a sales person, with fingers left over, and she's NEVER had a problem with a return. I don't know that she buys anything but clothing or shoes there, but she seems to like what they have. If you don't like 'em, don't shop there. I guess maybe we are just not old enough to know what it was like a few decades ago in the deep south.

"...she's NEVER had a problem with a return". Well, therein lies the proverbial rub. As implied in the article, and verified by other posters, the store penalizes sales associates who happen, either by choice or by chance, to be on the receiving end of a return. So an employee, most likely the "fresh meat", could conceivably step up and take a return within minutes after starting a shift, and wind up being hit with the return, regardless of whether or not that employee had anything to do with the original sale. Not a work environment that commands respect, and one has to question its legality. Nice way to start the day, too.

Great Article! This Co. Doesn't care about their employees at all! Recently they "re structured" the west coast region and basically laid off multiple employees that have been there for over 30 years. The only way to keep you job was to Move to Texas. :-/

I used to work for them as well, and this is exactly how it goes down! So glad I'm out!

Retail sales isn't for everyone. You can either hack it, or you can't. Many people make darn good livings in that awful hellhole.

Great story! Hopefully, you can make money with your writing and not have to waste any more of your time in retail. You are very talented!

I worked at Nordstrom for 7 years! 6 of those years as a Personal Stylist by appt. only based in Women's Collectors and Couture! I think her article was great! Hate to break it to everybody but,it's the truth that many of the managers have huge ego's, are stressed from upper management and instead of training or helping the employees in the department they just ridicule them! Not all managers are like this but,I saw many great people never get the proper training or the chance to shine and it left them down about working in retail commissioned environment! This story could be about Saks,Neimans,Bergdorf or Bloomingdales! The Nordstrom sales people going off should step back and realize this is her story not your story or experiences! I never had these experiences,was extremely successful but,I saw people go through this experience in multiple stores all the time! Nordstrom and all of its competitors look at it like this "What have you done for me?" And anyone who doesn't see that way is blind! If you are a top tier sales person or a mid level sales person or brand new it doesn't matter it's all about that moment! If you had a $6700 return that cost the store it's day you will not get a pat on the back or a smile but,(which it shouldn't be looked at that way since you aren't the only employee with returns that day or selling for that matter!) the next day is day 1 of anniversary sale and you do $77,000 in combined presale (back in the day) and appointments all of a sudden all hale the king! That's retail folks!

You sound like a spoiled little girl who has never worked a real job in her life. I'm honestly surprised anyone would hire you after reading this. You have to clean your department and count money bags? And face the bills!? Oh the horror! And tying a bow and folding boxes is soooo hard, isn't it. Dreadful... And you can't seem to manage to wake up in time for your job, your mommy has to wake you up? There's so much, I just can't even continue... You need a reality check babe. Take some pride and accountability in the work you do. And grow up. I feel like this is the reason for the title of our generation being "Generation Entitled." And yes I said our, because I am apparently in this generation, but I honestly can't stand the lack of credibility and work ethic I see in so many of my peers. Guess what? You can't just stand around complaining all day and expect management to pat you on the back afterward. Working a real job is WORK. And a grown woman doesn't expect mommy to wake her up, doesn't need someone to show her how to tie a damn bow (we learned this when we switched from velcro to big kids shoe laces, c'mon now), or expect everyone else to clean up the messes.

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