“What can I do for you?” she says, walking over to him.
“My mistress asked me to buy a butt plug.” he says.
She gestures to a glass case containing items for anal stimulation, explaining what certain items do versus other ones.
He makes a selection and pays for the item. “Do you mind if I wear this out?” he asks the woman.
“Um, sure. The bathroom is right around the corner.”
She looks at her co-worker and shrugs. “He was polite and nice enough so, I hope its ok.” she says after he’s closed the door.
People behind the registers at sex toy shops have to deal with more than just inventory.
Customers can display bad behavior at times. “People’s discomfort at being in a store like this can make them less kind. We’ve gotten harassing phone calls where the person, usually male, wants to know about the employee’s body while wanking on the phone.” Searah Deysach, owner of Early2Bed says.
“The worst thing a customer has done was a man took a toy from the shelf, went to the bathroom, used it, and then put it back.” Sarah Sloane, manager of the Pleasure Chest in Lakeview says.
“There was one time where a male customer was cruising the store for women. One of the employees asked him to leave. When the man verbally abused the employee, we called the cops. It’s rare that we have to do anything like that.” Sloane says.
“We get hit on sometimes.” Deysach says. “I turn the conversation back to them and say “let’s talk about you” when people want me to talk about my body.”
“It’s intense work.” Employees have to be good listeners. They have to be thick-skinned and comfortable talking to people about challenging things such as survivors of abuse who are getting back into masturbation again.” Deysach says.
Before opening Early2Bed, Deysach’s work experience was mostly in kitchens and offices. Her passion for sex toys inspired her to open the store. Her staff has consisted of dominatrixes, artists and people training to be sex therapists.
Sloane, worked in Information Technology, and retail along with teaching pleasure based sex education in colleges and sex shops.
“The work feels clinical sometimes.” Sloane says. “I don’t see customers at sexual beings. It’s not like talking to them about their bodies or what they like turns me on. It’s more like their sex is a third party, and I’m helping them find what they need.”
This environment can also turn the employee into a pseudo-therapist. “People come in and tell me about their cheating partners, or their physical issues. We also hear really wonderful stories too where people want to buy something for their partners to make them feel good.” Sloane says.
Knowing about health issues and anatomy is helpful when working in sex toy shops. “People are vulnerable when they come in.” Deysach says. “We had an OB/GYN send an eighty year old woman to us for a lubricant. I noticed she was nervous walking in the door, but eventually opened up and talked to me for forty five minutes.”
Jaren, (who asked that his last name be withheld) is a customer service supervisor, and former drag queen, who works at Tulip in Lakeview says “We ask a lot of questions. Oftentimes customers want the number one best seller. There is no best seller because everyone is different.”
Employees of the Pleasure Chest receive freebies from vendors and a fifty percent discount off of merchandise. “Most of the staff speaks clinically about their experience with items in the store.” Sloane says.
“The best part about the job is seeing the UPS person. I love sex toys. If I could research toys plus talk to customers; that would be ideal.” says Deysach. “I like helping people feel normal.”
“I love being present for the love and intimacy I witness when customers come in wanting to get something for their significant other.” Sloane says.
Fifteen minutes have gone by since the man with his new butt plug went into the bathroom. The employee decides to knock on the door.
“Hurry up in there!” she says.
“Ok, just a minute!” he says.
Minutes later he emerges, thanks the woman and walks out.
She goes to the bathroom to see if there are any surprises. “Nope! All clear!” she says to her co-worker, and they both exhale with relief.