Secrets of Victoria's Secret, Revealed by Ex-Employees
Most people know Victoria's Secret for employing some of the most beautiful women on the planet in pursuit of getting the rest of the women on the planet (and the men awkwardly shopping for them) to purchase various sexy underthings. However, most people don't know what it's like to work there.
As a three-year veteran Victoria's Secret sales associate, my retail job involved mundane tasks like folding clothes and ringing at the register. But friends, boyfriends, and family members bombarded me with other inquires: how many boobs do you see a day? Do you think it's creepy when men come in? What's it like working there?
To offer some insight that goes beyond my personal experiences, I enlisted the help of four former VS sales associates who worked alongside me (and equally despised using the word "panty"): Julie (three years at two different stores), Jane (five years), Caitlyn (two years), and Cassandra* (two years). Behold: behind-the-scenes shocks, perks, and "secrets" of the most famous lingerie shop around.
Working the fitting rooms is a nightmare
Brooke: "Some very weird stuff went down in those seemingly glamorous fitting rooms. We're talking girls conducting lingerie photo shoots. Men trying on bras and… simultaneously touching certain body parts. Couples attempting to have sex on the velour benches. There's no way that would happen at The Gap -- Victoria's Secret's innate sex appeal makes people extra frisky. There's a reason you have to be 18 to work there."
Cassandra: "It was too close for comfort at times -- some women had NO shame. They'd be ass naked and call you into their 2x4 rooms, ask for a bra measurement with their boobs out (something that's supposed to be done clothed), then have you watch as they tried on 10 different styles of lingerie. Such experiences left me with a vehement fear of being touched by strangers."
Julie: "It was unbelievable how much expensive merchandise was just carelessly left in piles on the fitting-room floors. The closing shift associate zoned there had to put every last lacy corset back on a hanger and would often have to work late. Cleaning up after adults isn't in the job description and it felt degrading. I'm now overly conscious as a shopper to re-hang anything I ever try on."
VS workers absolutely play favorites
Julie: "Victoria's Secret is a high-end store, so it does attract some elitist clientele. But the clients who treated me with respect -- that's who I would scour the stock room for in search of that lime-green demi bra in a 34C. If you're rude, I'll tell you everything we have is already out so I don't have to walk back there in heels."
Brooke: "We weren’t allowed to gift wrap at the register -- it holds up the lines -- but if a client was chatty with me, sometimes I'd do it anyway. I remember one mom was shopping for Pink sweats to surprise her daughter because she had just gotten into college -- coincidentally, the school I went to. So I happily wrapped her gift with a big bow. Connect with us and keep our jobs interesting -- putting sensors on bras all day gets mind-numbing!"
If you're not nice, they'll use their headsets to warn each other
Brooke: "We used our headsets to do merchandise checks in the stockroom, as well as to let an associate in another zone know if we were sending a client her way. But if said client was testy, we'd give comical warning. Like, 'Julie, there is a woman who both looks and barks like a Pomeranian looking for a black Angels bra in a 36D.' We'd do it for laughs because every employee on headset could hear it."
Assisting male clients is the easiest (and most fun)
Julie: "Men who came into Victoria's Secret usually looked lost -- our sexy merchandise and confusing sizing isn't exactly in their wheelhouse. I wasn't dating anyone at the time, so it was sweet to see a guy do something to make a woman feel sexy at the expense of his own comfort. I enjoyed chatting with these men about what they thought was hot, or what their girlfriends liked, or what the special occasion was. Then I'd picture my next boyfriend doing the same for me. Sure, it was my job to help them pick out ladies underwear, but these guys trusted me to help them make very personal decisions; it was flattering in a way."
Brooke: "Women know the lingerie ropes and sometimes didn't want our help, while the male clientele were the easiest to upsell: 'How about a garter and thigh highs to coordinate with that corset?' or 'That style thong comes in five colors -- why not treat her to all of them?' They couldn't wait to get out of there and I found they usually listened to me. Associates didn't make commission, but I would make a game out of it because big sales meant Starbucks gift cards from my manager."
Workers frequently get harassed on the job
Brooke: "Horny teenage boys loved to come in and bother us -- they'd pose for photos groping the half-naked plastic mannequins and try to steal their wings. One time, a 14-year-old boy who could barely see over the cash wrap informed me he wanted to buy lingerie for his 'future wife' because I looked just like her. Meanwhile, his friend was hiding behind the panty bar filming it on an iPhone. They thought they were hilarious."
Jane: "We dealt with a lot of prank calls. If I had a nickel for every time I picked up the phone and a giggling human asked me, 'So, what is Victoria's secret?!' I would have been making way more that $7.50 an hour."
Intimate-apparel shoppers share intimate details
Brooke: "Shopping for lingerie is very different from shopping for corduroys. Undergarments are sexy and personal -- and clients are giving employees a peek into their personal worlds just by entering VS. The intimacy of the experience and the store makes people feel comfortable oversharing. Some women would describe the fantasies they wanted to play out with certain outfits, or give TMI medical explanations about why they can't wear satin 'down there.' Men would ask me my bra size ('You're built just like my girlfriend!'); I've seen guys buy bra-and-panty sets in two different sizes, ask for separate bags, and smirk at me because I was now in on their sordid affairs. It wasn't all bad, though. Some clients shared enriching stories about needing new intimate wardrobes after losing weight or surviving a battle with breast cancer."
They HAVE to berate you to open a store credit card
Julie: "Our managers would hover over us to make sure we asked every single person who entered our store, 'Are you shopping with your Angel Card today?' And if the client said 'no,' we had to push it three more times. It was awkward and pissed a lot of shoppers off -- I can't say I blame them. No means no!"
Brooke: "A lot of foreigners would agree to open Angel Cards after we sold them on all the coupons they'd subsequently get in the mail. Many of them didn't speak English and I'd wonder if they knew what they were signing up for. Not paying your bill on time can destroy your credit and it felt morally wrong to mislead people just to get our store numbers up."
There's a zoning policy (and hierarchy)
Brooke: "Contrary to popular belief, we aren't personal shoppers. But so many clients expected to be hand-held by the same associate as they perused six rooms' worth of lingerie. I recall one woman calling me rude for politely handing her off to another associate in the Sexy Little Things section, but I was just doing my job. Employees are trained to stay in our assigned zones to prevent shoplifting."
Julie: "There was definitely a hierarchy within zones. Employees with the highest sales numbers were put in the front of the store by the signature Body collection because it got the most foot traffic -- one time I was zoned there and got sent home early by my manager because my conversion rate was slacking. Being in the Pink room was exhausting -- you’d spend hours folding itty-bitty thongs, only to watch a client pillage the panty bar display looking for a size small when we only display mediums. The beauty room was boring because no one wants your help picking out perfume; I'd end up using all the makeup testers to pass the time."
Cassandra: "Working in the stockroom was my favorite. It was just a matter of organizing merchandise, checking out the new product, steaming silk robes, and best of all, not interacting with needy customers. Plus, we could snack, gossip, listen to music, and wear yoga pants [instead of the designated 90% black business suit dress code]."
All VS employees have extensive lingerie collections
Caitlyn: "I would spend my entire paycheck at Victoria's Secret. On a slow day, it was so easy to window shop while you worked the floor -- and our 30% employee discount made me feel OK about buying everything."
Jane: "We received a lot of the newly launched merchandise for free and got paid to learn about each one. It was corporate's way of making sure we were experts on each bra, scent, and lip gloss -- which was fine, because even if it's an off-color like purple, it's still a free $50 bra!"
Julie: "The semi-annual sales were hell on Earth to work because shoppers would ransack and trash the store -- but as a thank-you for working hard, our managers would open an hour early the first day of the sale to let us shop and get first dibs on the best merchandise."
Sometimes they work until 4am (and kind of enjoy it)
Caitlyn: "Floor sets would take 12 hours -- working them were the best of times and the worst of times. We'd close the store, order pizza, and dance on the hot-pink carpet to music. But once midnight hit, we'd be hopped up on Red Bull and still elbows-deep in G-strings, dreading working the floor again the next day. But those were the nights that really brought us together as teammates and friends."
* Names have been changed
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