After serving in the National Guard during the Vietnam era, Sal Panicci, a Jersey boy through and through, worked a variety of jobs, all of which led to layoffs and instability. It was the prescient day he spied an ad in the Newark Star Ledger for a management trainee. It didn’t mention the company, but Sal couldn’t resist.
“It was really Toys R Us,” Sal recalls. “And then he gave me a day to think about it. So, do I want it? Do I not want it. My unemployment at that point was about to run out, so I guess I wanted it.”
And that began a journey that took him to several stores in the highly successful Toys R Us chain, mostly in northern New Jersey but also New York. Every store was different, the market, the employees, the customers. But none was as rough as the Brooklyn store. Customers with attitude got it thrown right back.
“There’s such a difference between city New Yorkers and borough New Yorkers. Can i say ‘go fuck yourself’? We had a lot women in management positions in Brooklyn and they took no bullshit from anybody. The more a customer demanded something, the more management said no.”
One of the biggest toy crazes of his career, Cabbage Patch Kids, brought out the best and the worst in customers. One man dove over a group of shoppers to grab a doll. A woman begged for twin dolls for her soon-to-be-born twins.
Sal brings back a lot of the nostalgia of the toy store along with some insight into how retail employees survive jobs that can be daunting. Check out our conversation on Type. Tune. Tint. and the video below.