For my Christmas job, Macy's assigned me to the wine and liquor department. I soon
learned that those people in the back room on the banks of telephones were taking orders
for cases of liquor to be delivered to various dress factories for their Christmas parties
(Macys being on 34th Street was right in the middle of the garment industry).
Several of the whiskey suppliers offered stims to the retail salespeople in order
to "stimulate" more business. Usually a nickel on a bottle, but that translated
to sixty cents a case. I managed to get myself transferred from the front counter to one
of the telephone lines and when a secretary called to order five or six cases of blended
whiskey, could easily switch her over to Four Roses or Calvert, or whatever else was stimmed.
They didnt care (or know the difference) as long as it was delivered on time.
As a result, my first weeks paycheck, instead of being the
forty-six dollars and change I was hired at, came to over a hundred and a quarter. The
second week it approached two-hundred-fifty. On Monday morning of the third week, just
before we opened for business, the assistant buyer of the department gathered all the
employees about him. Standing on a chair where he could be seen and heard, declared that
he wasnt going to name any names, but that Macys had a reputation for
delivering to the customer exactly what the customer wished to order. He wasnt going
to pursue the matter any further, but he expected his message to get through to everybody.
It most certainly got through to me and I doubled my efforts to make
more than three hundred dollars for that week. Of course, it was common knowledge among
the other salespeople what I was doing, some of the old timers had been with Macys
for many years, and were just working to make a living and get their pensions, which were
rather generous. It was still an era of that very dear thing weve lost in the past
several generations called corporate loyalty.
When I went home with my first paycheck and showed it to my father, he
could hardly believe it. In 1948 he was taking home a salary of about five hundred a week,
a small fortune then. When I hit more than three hundred several weeks in a row, he just
shook his head in bewilderment.
We never got another lecture from the assistant buyer, but when
Christmas season was over and they were starting to let people go, he took me off to a
corner one day.
"Mr. Jason," he said, "the buyer and I have had our eyes
on you almost from your first day here."
Oh-oh, I thought,
Im really going to get it in the neck
"Weve spoken with some of our superiors." It was more
serious than I imagined. "And," he went on, "We want to know if youd
like to stay at Macys and enter a junior management training program?"
I looked at him for a second or two. "Thats very nice of
you, but, you see, Im an actor, and I just needed this job to tide me over."
"We imagined you were in theater and, frankly, I had a feeling you
might not accept. If you change your mind, heres my card."
The best part, beside the money, was that Id begun to learn about