Saturday, March 3, 2018

The few, the proud....

the North Americans working at Selfridge's in Oxford Street were a unique bunch. There were only a select few of us in the induction room, but we were, by far, the most talkative, sort of, 'go-getters' of the lot. When I say, 'go-getter', I really mean 'chatty Kathy-types'. The Selfridge founder was an American businessman by the name of Harry Gordon Selfridge, so I guess it only seemed right that I apply to work there. That and I had no other job prospects at the time.  

I recall the induction (what we here would probably call a 'training') as being more of an indoctrination and for almost 7 hours we were treated to information on how Selfridge's Co. became the money-making monolith it is today and how to keep it that way.  It sure fostered my commitment to the 'team' to learn that I, at six quid an hour, would be helping to ensure Selfridge's earns somewhere in the range of one billion pounds that financial year.  Ugh.

Interestingly, the induction leader failed to mention that HG Selfridge, after having lost his fortunes from both the crash of '29 and due to his free-spending ways, died in dire straits in 1947. 

Harry Gordon 'There's no fun like work'. Selfridge

During induction, I had been fortunate enough to sit next to a lovely man from Manchester who had just spent three years in Salt Lake City, Utah before moving to London for work. He and his American partner intended to move back to SLC as soon as they were able. Knowing a little bit about Utah, I would think that being out and proud in Salt Lake would not work too well. The Mancunian found Mormons to be 'very accepting' people. I sure hope he's right. And, he told me, that there are lots of gay Mormons dotting the landscape of Utah. Safety in numbers. 

Walking down to the employee locker rooms (where the wait-list for an employee locker was four months) after induction in a herd of other employees, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation of a few nattily dressed young men (presumably from the men's finery dept., or whatever it's called). One was telling the others of a particularly thick-headed customer that he had been dealing with during his shift. The employee telling the story slipped into an accent that could have passed for American. Then, by way of making an excuse for the customer's denseness, he went on to say that the guy was from the states. Yes, that explains it all doesn't it?

I like to think that I did ole Harry Gordon proud when I reached out, tapped this employee on the shoulder and said in my Californian best, 'Nice American accent!'  His friends fell out laughing while he mumbled something to the effect of: Oh, the shame!


  1. Smiling. At your triumph and at the memories. I worked for a time in a department store selling women's underwear. And there were stories...

  2. I'm not sure why I can't reply directly, E.C., but, yes, I'd imagine you all had great stories in the ladies' undergarment department!

  3. I didn't know Selfridges was American in origin. Harrods is now Saudi I think. I heard that it is the only posh shop in London that allows haggling over prices - so long as you are Arab.

  4. Hi Bea,
    I know you’ve been visiting my blog but how come I’ve not been here before, Have you been closed to commenters in the past?

    I loved Selfridges when we lived in London, although John Lewis is my absolute favourite.

    I have frequently come across the British ‘sense of humour’ when it comes to making fun of foreigners; have often made them blush too when replying in like fashion as you did.

  5. Blogger seems to be acting up as I can't reply directly to anyone.

    Yes, Tom, Selfridge hailed from these shores. Weathly women from oil countries would come to the London in summer in order to shop and to avoid the scorching temps of their home turf. I recall having to serve observant women alcoholic drinks in water glasses. Maybe that charade was meant to fool god?

  6. GrĂ¼sse Friko! Good to see you around these parts!

    I have not intentionally closed the comments section, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. :)

    I'm more of a John Lewis girl as well.

    I recall once waiting on a German family at a diner in Berkeley, CA. The wife had ordered a 'small' beer. In America, it's not always clear what the beer size will be, unlike in DE. I brought the woman her beer (approx. 330ml). Switching into German she said, 'Aber das ist ein winziges Bier!' I responded in English: I'm sorry, shall I bring you a larger one?
    Sie wurde rot. :D

  7. I had never heard of Selfridge's until the PBS series a couple years ago. Jeremy Piven plays Selfridge. Great show if you get a chance to check it out.

  8. Thanks for the tip.I wonder if it's on Netflix...?


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