This is one of many True Story interview in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Deb and her time working at a sex shop in New Zealand.Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a magazine writer, sock monkey-maker, tree-climber and the youngest in a family of five. I’m of half Indian and half Chinese Malaysian descent but believe in my heart of hearts that New Zealand is my spiritual home. I turned 26 this year but my fave age is 23 because my birthday falls on the 23rd of Jan. For fun I like to dance around my apartment in my underwear, try new recipes and sing-along to anything muppet-style.How did you end up working at a sex shop?
I was kinda cornered into giving it a shot! I was studying at uni and because I was on an international student’s visa and lacked experience, I couldn’t get any part-time work to gain experience and make some extra money. One day, while I was walking home, I saw a sign in the window of an adult store nearby my flat looking for someone to clean the store an hour a day. It was literally 2 minutes away from my flat so I figured it was an hour of my life that I could easily waste watching TV so why not? (I found out later on that I was the most ‘normal’ out of the all the people that applied! Till this day, I’m still not sure if that’s a compliment. )
What was the day to day work like?
Well, I would go in for an hour at any point in the day depending on my classes and because I did it everyday, I would pick a different section of the store to focus on. Some days were spent wiping down counter tops and shelves, while other days were spent dusting display toys, blow-up doll boxes or DVDs. Oh and I should mention that because this was the seediest adult store in town, we had ‘viewing booths’ (customers could come in, pick a DVD, hire the viewing room for 15 minutes, do their business and leave) so I had to vacuum and take out the trash from those rooms everyday! Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t that disgusting. I made sure their was always a good supply of tissue and that the bin was close by.
What were the customers like?
They were really regular people! It’s easy to assume that only kinky-looking sex-crazed people would frequent an adult store but I met contractors, mums, businessmen and they were genuinely regular nice people.
What items were your best sellers?
For our female clientele – the vibrators and for the male customers – the blow-up dolls. I remember there was this guy who came in every week, we didn’t notice at first until he came in one day complaining that he broke his tooth from blowing one up and his mum had to take him to the hospital! We then checked our records and found that he’d been buying a different doll each week for around 3 months. He must’ve had numerous blow-up orgies!
Did you ever have any weird or creepy experiences working at the sex shop?
Nothing creepy! The weird/funniest thing that happened was when two nuns (fully dressed in their habits, complete with dangling rosary beads) came into the store and asked to buy vagina-balls. I had to keep a straight face while I recommended which ones they should get. Coming from a Catholic background that threw me a little but I found out later that they weren’t real nuns, they were dressed up to go to the theater production of the Sound of Music!
Did the people in your life know that you worked there?
Not at first! Most of my friends knew but I told my family that I worked at a video store. But when my parents came to visit, I literally told them in the taxi from the airport that this was no average video store. They weren’t mad (probably because they were just so happy to see me – my plan worked!) but I told them that if they wanted me to stop once they’d met my bosses, I was more than happy to do so. My bosses always, always, always looked out for me so I knew that meeting them would put my parents at ease.
Did working there affect your ideas about men or sex?
It affected my ideas about sex for a while. I became so de-sensitized! I had to watch and review porn so I could write summaries about them since we weren’t allowed to show the cover image of the DVDs when we sold it on Trademe (New Zealand version of eBay) so it wasn’t a turn on anymore. On the upside though, it made me realize that everyone needs a bit of outside assistance to make things more interesting in the bedroom so going into a sex shop isn’t something to be embarrassed about! It’s like going to a pet store to buy doggie treats – said treats might not be essential but useful nonetheless!
What advice would you give to someone who works in a sexually charged atmosphere?
Have a sense of humor! This will put your customers at ease – it took a lot of courage to come into the store let alone to ask someone for for help. Plus, speaking candidly can help you find out exactly what sort of help they need and offer said help without embarrassing them further.
You should also always trust your instincts. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, get out of there FIRST and figure out why you felt that way later.
Do you guys have any questions for Deb? Have any of your ever worked in a sexually charged atmosphere?