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Tax-Free Weekend: You shop, I drop

Tax Free Weekend.

These three little words strike fear into even the most seasoned retail workers. A weekend of crowded stores, no parking, screaming children and difficult transactions has been called the missing level in Dante’s Inferno by all who work it.

Just as I did the two previous years, I spent this year’s Tennessee Tax Free Weekend catering to the whims of some very picky customers and continuing my collection of stories that should be worthy of a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

On Tax Free Weekend, also known as a sales tax holiday, Tennessee (and several other states) does not collect sales tax on many items of back-to-school clothing, school supplies, sporting goods and computers. With the local tax rate of 9.25 percent, it’s a huge incentive if you’re buying. But I wasn’t.

On the first day of a shopaholic’s dream, I was at work for less than an hour before a ring of shoplifters struck the store, a bouncy boy cracked his skull on a shelf and one pigtailed cutie lost her mother in the mayhem.

Still, this was a vast improvement compared to last year, when a woman took a big step toward delivering her baby when her water broke while waiting in line at the register.

My first job of the day was the impossible task of tidying the store during our peak hours. By peak hours, I mean there are so many people in the store that you can’t see the table underneath the jumbled mess of purses, toys, clothes and the occasional dirty diaper piled on top.

After folding three shirts and finding the 10th pacifier of the day, my assistances was needed in the fitting room, where I was supposed to offer my fashion perspective as the resident “hip, young college girl.”

Ironically, despite working retail and attending a liberal arts college, I know nothing about fashion, and I do mean nothing. Last year my roommate taught me what a pencil skirt was.

During my stumbling attempt at fashion advice, one screaming tot escaped the clutches of his worn-out mother. The chubby youngster immediately grabbed a few pricing signs and shoved them in his mouth.

Snack in hand, the boy continued to run around the store, ripping tags from clothing, knocking over signs and avoiding capture. His gleeful screams echoed off the walls.

This screaming vandal was not the only customer to throw a fit during that weekend.

Two days later, I was at the register when I encountered the grumpiest man ever. His sour look reminded me of a boardwalk caricature and his demeanor rivaled that of Oscar the Grouch.

Long lines, a picked over inventory and strollers filled with crying babies gave this grump all the ammunition he needed to throw fit worthy of a 2-year-old.

What began as a normal transaction quickly took a turn for the worse when I asked the gentleman, “Did you find everything all right?” His response, “Humph.”

This man found a way to complain about everything, from believing all the prices rang up too high to my voice being too soft. In his mind, this was a conspiracy to make him spend more money.

My fellow employees laughed as they watched the spectacle of Negative Ned versus Annoyed Autumn.

Next year, do yourself a favor and stay home on Tax Free Weekend. If you don’t, you just might find yourself the subject of my next bestseller. OK, my first bestseller.

Autumn Allison, Vision managing editor, is a sophomore journalism major.

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