My Journey Into the Dark Heart of Retail

On cultural appropriation and boxy tank tops at The Limited

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readJul 10, 2019

--

Illustration: Clémence Gouy

At 16, I believed I had a remarkable gift for retail. Hope, my manager at The Limited, thought otherwise.

“Why didn’t that customer buy the shell?” Hope asked one day, after she saw me returning the stiff, boxy tank top to the rack. “I thought she loved it?”

I pursed my lips. “She… didn’t like the color.” It was a blatant lie. My actual conversation with the customer had gone something like this:

Customer: “What do you think about this top with these pants?”

Me: “Ermmmmmmm…”

Customer: “You don’t like it?”

Me: “If looking like a maraca is what you’re going for, then by all means.” I shook an invisible set of maracas to illustrate my point.

The customer looked at herself in the mirror, her slim, long legs clad in a pair of capris the color of old wood, topped by a boxy red textured shell that made her look exactly like… “Damn, I do look like a maraca. Thank you.” She peeled off the top as she went back in her dressing room.

“No prob!” I called, continuing to neatly fold T-shirts even as I did God’s work.

I’d impale myself on a wire hanger before anyone bought a mock turtleneck on my watch. ”Those things are mocking us,” I’d intone, wise beyond my years.

Needless to say, The Limited and I had very different ideas about what being a “good salesperson” was all about. I believed it was my job to send every person I helped out that door with outfits that made them look fierce. Or at least as fierce as was possible from a store that sold pastel skorts.

Which is why, if a gal tried something on that made her look like an egg enmeshed in the doodlings of a serial killer, I’d let her know. I’d ruthlessly diagnose any and all camel toe. And I’d impale myself on a wire hanger before anyone bought a mock turtleneck on my watch. “Those things are mocking us,” I’d intone, wise beyond my years.

I had customers come from other stores to try on their purchases for me so I…

--

--