Diane DeMasi

Freelance Writer & Author
So Your Character Needs a Job – Merchandiser

So Your Character Needs a Job – Merchandiser

This is a new segment to my blog. I hate my characters to have the same old jobs and yet, I struggle to locate new positions where their work can be either a hindrance or a necessary component to the plot. Let’s face it, if I have a character stumbling across dead bodies on a regular basis she can’t work in Accounts Receivable tucked into a corner every day, she needs to be on the move. Likewise, I can’t have a working mom busting out two minimum wage jobs a day living in a high rise in Manhattan. And she can’t keep missing work if she wants to keep a roof overhead. Can you tell that’s a pet peeve that some characters seem to live paycheck to paycheck, yet are off running all over Dodge trying to solve a mystery?

These posts will cover different job positions, misconceptions (there may be a mobile Accts. Rec. job out there, I don’t know), the most typical drama the job yields – let’s face it every novel has to have conflict, and what we all need to know the most – Where would we be most likely to find the dead body?

Today’s Job Scoop is that of Merchandiser – specifically Greeting Card Merchandiser

This job is good for getting a character around. She can be in towns all over her service area. Unless she’s the main gal, it won’t be full time. So she’d have to have some money stockpiled or have a husband or alimony to pick up the slack.

This one is personal as it’s my part-time, get me out of the house, bring in some steady pay, job.

WHAT I DO:

From home, I log into the company website and download my service calendar so I know what accounts need to be serviced and by when. I usually plan my route for the month in one sitting. Since we have accounts ranging from Mom-and-Pop stores to corporate stores, my truck gets a good dose of wear and tear. I have accounts in large cities and small towns, like twelve heads of cattle and four people small. It’s a gas station so the pass-through traffic is their target market.

At accounts, I go to my racks and tidy them up. Many people failed Memory Match as children – cards are scattered into different categories. I pull shopworn cards bent, smudged, and teethed. Yes, people seem to think greeting cards make wonderful teething toys for their children.

Once the rack is organized again, I pull outdated designs and credit those along with the shopworn cards. I locate my last order and put it out. I write a new order for low pockets or designs that we no longer carry. Then I write credits and deliver those to the receivers and throw out my garbage. For new accounts, I assemble racks anywhere from on the floor while dodging customers and carts to the stockroom while dodging forklifts and u-boats.

TYPICAL DRAMA:

Clients who want new cards, but haven’t paid their last invoice.

Employees who treat me like a nuisance – they hate seeing the cards in their area.

Missing boxes of cards which means I dive around stockrooms and field “Ma’am, can I help you?” questions from employees. Once they find out I’m a vendor they leave, apparently I’m not worth the help or they’re waging bets on how long before I find my box. Or they’re laughing that I have hopes of finding it.

Listening to other employee dramas. Sometimes this is on the floor, sometimes this is in the back. Most of the time they are unaware of all I hear.

HARDEST PART OF MY JOB

Dealing with unclean stores and shop owners who want new cards, but don’t want to pay for them.

Or working seedy areas: I had an area that was very, let’s say neglected. Yet the store I serviced had a half dozen black Cadillac Escalades, Lincoln Navigators and Lexus cars in the parking lot. I always felt the need to bob and weave my way into the store. I never asked questions, I kept my head down, got in and got out.

MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

Some people think I have good contacts. When in actuality I have managers who think so little of me, that they are fine making me wait for thirty to forty minutes to hand them their credits while they dilly-dally around. It takes seconds, “Here’s your credit.” Handoff items, “See ya!”

PAY

Not going to make a living at this job unless you are the main rep for the area. I’m just a contracted position for a smaller area from my boss. I work on average, five to ten hours a week. After the wear and tear and taxes, not really sure I’m making that much. But it brings in enough to pay for extras the boys need for school.

BENEFITS

Free greeting cards. I’m pretty much set for life. Too bad I’m inept at planning in advance to send cards. We also get bonuses once in a while, my boss is pretty awesome that way.

WHERE WOULD YOU FIND A BODY?

The trash compactor. Most of the places are open by the time I arrive and customers are in and out. So for me to find a body it would have to be the trash compactor.

CREEPIEST MOMENT

I have a gas station/ convenience store/ truck stop that is in need of TLC. The first time I serviced this account the owner sent me to the stock room to look for the cards. I went to the back and it was dingy and dimly lit. My box wasn’t there. I went into the next section which was even dingier and more dimly lit. There were no exits doors, just one entrance in and out. The dark room was maybe 15X20 ft. and the prior room was probably 30X30. When I came out of the back dark room, there was a man blocking the entrance, just staring. It felt like an eternity but was probably ten seconds before he left.

If you have a unique job, please contact me, I’d love to interview you for this segment!

Interesting Study Done, They Just Found Your Father in the Swimming Pool, by Margot Kinberg over at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.

3 comments found

  1. Hi Margot. I enjoyed hearing about your job. You got me thinking that an on-site computer repair guy would have similar opportunities for a good mystery…and I happen to have one of those in the family. Thanks.

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