Thursday, August 23, 2007

All on account of... my name

This week's chilly weather reminded me that my autumn wardrobe is looking a little sparse, so today I did some shopping. Lately I've been having a lot of luck at Esprit -- and ladies, you know how it is once you break the sizing code at a particular store. "Their V-neck T-shirts fit me in medium! I will never shop anywhere else!" So I headed there, bracing myself for their aggressive sales staff. From what I can tell, Esprit employees get a commission for being helpful ("If you need anything, my name is X"), but they are also restricted to particular areas of the store -- a kind of zone offense approach to retail. You can tell when you've crossed a boundary, because the salesperson who has been following you will suddenly turn his attention elsewhere, and a new store employee will hurry to greet you, and the whole thing begins all over again ("Can I help you find a size?"). I really prefer to be left alone when I'm shopping, but since I was holding a bunch of things I wanted to try on, I took the first salesperson up on his offer to open a dressing room for me. I handed him my armful of prospective purchases and told him my name, and he walked a few feet (to the edge of his designated sales area, presumably) and handed them off to the next employee with the instruction, "Put these in a room for Mollie." And she said, "Is that M-A-L-E?"

Now, I don't expect people to be able to spell my name, but their first guess is usually a bit more in the ballpark. I don't often run into someone who is completely unfamiliar with the name. But neither salesperson seemed to have encountered it before, because when the second one ventured this spelling, the first one shrugged and said, "I guess." I wasn't technically included in this conversation, just standing close enough to overhear, so I wondered whether I should intervene. I tend to let people go with "Molly" when it's not important, and in the grand scheme of things, what gets written in dry-erase marker on the door of my Esprit dressing room is not important. But in this case, I thought I might have trouble walking into a dressing room labeled "Male." Before I could speak up, though, the second salesperson walked off to seek the advice of a third salesperson, who guessed, "Maybe it's M-A-L-I"? Not bad, but it's actually a little more Irish and a little less African.

I walked into the fitting room area just as the second salesperson was about to start writing on the door. She looked relieved to see me when I told her my name, and as she let me into the room she asked, "Is it M-A-L-Y?" At that point I wondered whether I should tell her the whole truth, or just the standard spelling. The latter might have been more useful down the line, but I decided I would have felt funny dictating the spelling of my name incorrectly. Especially if she later ended up reading it on my credit card. (For what it's worth, the person who checked me out had no trouble with the name.) So the next customer named Molly who asks for an Esprit dressing room might wonder why they've spelled her name with an "I-E."

Bonus link: this all reminds me of one of my favorite Simpsons moments. I could never find a mass-produced personalized souvenir, either!

1 comment:

Sarene said...

Try having a name like S-A-R-E-N-E. Everyone's initial attempt at spelling it has been S-E-R-E-N-E.

For the record, I too have never been able to purchase a mass-produced name souvenir :-(

Oh, and I used to have a friend named M-A-L-I. But M-A-L-E? That's definitely a first.