• Lori Turner

Too Old for Lulu

Too Old for Lulu by Lori Turner

My friend and I have been stay-at-home moms for a very long time. On a whim, both of us decided it would be a great idea to apply for retail jobs this holiday season. Holiday employment is awesome for people like us. It is temporary, fast paced, you benefit from a fabulous store discount, and if you really don’t like your boss, December 26 can be your last day. It was very exciting and almost a guilty pleasure to think about getting out of the school car pool. I fantasized about explaining to the working moms, “Yep, I can’t do the carpool this week I’m working.” It would be my new favorite excuse since they use it on me all of the time. Without me they’d be scrambling on the floor like kids after the birthday pinata bursts open and the candy falls out. My friend loves to cook. Not only does she cook, she adores and collects fancy utensils, knives, bowls, machines, and anything else she can get her talented chef hands on. It was only natural she applied at Williams and Sonoma. I thought it would be fun if we could work at the same outdoor mall near each other. We went together to drop off her application and I peered across the way and there was a Lululemon Athletica store. “Perfect! I will apply there!” I said to my friend. I didn’t know much about them other than they sold very expensive workout clothes. The cost of Lulu leggings is beyond anything I have ever purchased for gym attire. If I had a choice of buying expensive clothes versus my kid having an inheritance, the kid wins. My current gym clothes should be thrown away but I just can’t do it because they were a bargain! Yes, I am cheap and wear things until they aren’t “wearable” anymore. I excitedly applied online for the Brand Ambassador position. It’s just a fancy job title for a sales person.

I submitted my application online, and immediately received an automatic email. The next day, another email from the Assistant Manager invited me for a group interview listing the time, date and meeting at a local “hip” coffee shop. My career before becoming an Uber Mom was in Human Resources. The group interview at a coffee shop perplexed me for a moment. Back in the day interviews were conducted in some obscure office building. Usually, they took all day and by the time you interviewed fifteen people you couldn’t stand the sound of your own voice. The new generation of employers hold group interviews as a way to save time. If there are ten applicants for one position the Assistant Manager gets a good idea who is made for the job or not. It is very efficient and brilliant and I wish my former employer had done interviews this way! Also, the Assistant Manager required each applicant “teach” something to the other prospects. “Make sure to wear comfy clothing as we might do an activity.” Said the email. This was all new to me but I’m always up for something new and challenging. Yoga poses, dressing properly for a workout class, motivational speeches crossed my mind. This was so typical and boring I was hitting a mental block! I needed something that would set me apart from the others. Little did I know how much I would stand out without uttering a word.

Barre and Pilates classes are my favorite way to stay in shape. These classes are very popular and many women of all ages attend. I pondered what to teach my fellow Lulu applicants. The Barre class came to an end and I became curious about everyone’s gym attire as they put their weights away. I asked the women where they shopped. Some at TJMaxx, Ross, Costco and two women exclusively shopped at Athleta. Standing next to me, a very tall, young woman had on the Lulu leggings. I recognized the Lulu emblem on them when we were doing our high kick series during class. I explained to her that I was scheduled for an interview for seasonal work there and wanted to know her opinion to help me get familiar with the brand. Her response was, “She absolutely loved them!" She emphasized how expensive they were and washed them after every workout. They were the only leggings she owned because she was six feet tall and couldn’t afford more. “Good luck with your interview!” she said as she walked out of the room with those long Lulu legs.

After thinking about all these different women and their shopping habits, I recalled earlier in the month I watched a segment on CNBC (CNBC is a news channel about the financial markets) on generations such as Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials and their spending habits. Generation X also known at Gen X was my generation. I stopped folding the laundry and turned up the volume on the TV. According to the commentator dressed in a gray suit, yellow tie, and questionable comb over said we lived up to our name as the generation of “excess.” Apparently, we like to spend, spend, and spend some more. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/17/the-number-of-gen-x-gen-y-millionaires-is-growing-fast.html.

Generation X are people born between 1961-1981 and grew up with emerging technology accelerating like a jet dragster out at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Atari was the first computer and game system available for purchase by the public. The world would never be the same without Atari. If you didn't play Asteroids and Ping Pong, you were basically a loser and you'd better find someone in the neighborhood who had the games. Also, the first mobile phone was the size of a brick. Imagine holding a 'brick" to your head? It looked silly but only the wealthy businessmen had them and we all admired them. It made them look "successful." According to Jenx67, http://www.jenx67.com/who-is-generation-x, Gen Xers are rebellious, successful, college-educated, tech-savvy, and have loads of money. They are willing to learn and embrace current technology more than other generations. They are ambitious, driven and have no fear of taking risks. I’m proud to be a Gen Xer and felt it deserved attention. I envisioned I could make Lulu more profitable during the holidays by attracting women my age who apparently have all this extra cash in their wallets. Once hired, I would spend my own paycheck and apply the awesome discount and completely outfit myself in Lulu. It would be easier to justify throwing away all those cheap, frayed leggings that are probably inappropriate to be out in public. Everyone could see the great investment of expensive gym clothes. I should have known better.

Arriving at the coffee shop in my new interview outfit consisting of workout leggings, tee-shirt, and a jacket, I was ready to blow their expensive yoga pants off with my presentation. A smile on my face and ready for business, I checked out who could be my competition. There were only four other people waiting. Quietly, a woman with her laptop emerges from the group and sits down at a large table in the adjoining room. Without hesitation, three people, who I would later learn were all college students, followed her and I began to realize this was my group interview. The divide couldn’t have been more palpable. The only old lady, (that would be me) sat on one side of the table, while the other three sat across from me. The Assistant Manager lead the group by sitting at the head of the table. She asked us all several questions and we each took turns answering. The questions consisted of us describing a time when we motivated or inspired someone. We went around the table and by the time it was all over I was so moved I almost cried. It was time for our teaching moment. I volunteered to go first.

“I made it through the wilderness, somehow I made it through. Didn’t know how lost I was until I found you.” Blank stares. “Can anyone guess who sings this song?” I ask. They look at each other with their big eyes and grin at me with their perfect white teeth. Blank stares again. They had no idea. “Oh, this is not going well.” I said in my head. “Anyone know who Madonna is?” I asked. Blank stares. After my Gen X diatribe of market share, spending habits, MTV, the health influencers of the time such as Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton John’s music video Let’s Get Physical, I thoroughly numbed my audience with “excess” information. It was time for the others to give their lessons. One potential Ambassador shared how he has the secret formula for losing weight. Another Brand applicant’s lesson was about acceptance. She used an example of how she supported and encouraged a teammate to come out to her orthodox religious family she was gay. At about this time I realized that Lulu wasn’t going to hire me and I wasn’t keen on this new group interview format anyway.

After arriving home like a good Gen Xer does, I sat in front of my computer and researched Lulu a little further. In my zealous ambition and imagined expectations, I didn't understand or know Lulu's target customer. I came to the conclusion they have a right to market to whom they want and I have many options to work in other places. Needless to say, it wasn’t that big of a surprise when I received my polite but standard rejection email. Later on in the month, I walked by the Lulu store and saw one of the candidates, now a full-fledged Brand Ambassador working in the store. He was smiling and happily helping someone and I was actually very happy for him. Not all was lost. The purpose of walking by the Lulu store was to visit my friend at her employer, Williams and Sonoma. She now has the best utensils and her new toaster oven is better than the regular oven. I am so happy for her but I’m too old for Lulu and they are too young for me. Maybe Athleta will hire me next year.