We are on the cusp of another Valentine’s Day which means the staff at the Tool Shed have been working extra hard to help our customers. Some are looking for the gift for a friend or lover, while others are looking for a new addition to enjoy solo. Lingerie is flying out the door. Sexy games are hard to keep in stock. And all dildos great and small are finding new homes! This coming weekend will likely be our busiest of the year, with wait times at the door and lines at the register (you can avoid this by ordering online for pick-up at the door).
As we gear up for the Valen-palooza, I’m sharing some real facts from behind the counter of your favorite, local sex toy store. Big thanks to my co-workers for contributing to this column, and for being the best damn team in the city.
Frequently, customers will ask us what it’s like to work at the Tool Shed, sometimes hoping for shocking answers or funny anecdotes about previous customers. While our work is quite different than a lot of “regular” jobs, it’s also very much the same. We each have our regular schedules, we need to be there on time (and stay for our whole shifts), we have to keep the store tidy (and even tidier than usual during this pandemic), stock the shelves, put away inventory, and you get the point.
So let’s take a closer look. Working in a sex toy store: What it is, and what it isn’t.
• It is not embarrassing. People ask us, “Is it like, so embarrassing to work here? What do you tell your family about your job?” My family all knows where I work. My kids were teenagers when I started here, and even then I was honest. I have no reason not to be. Being a sexuality educator working on the front lines in a sex toy store is good, honest work.
• It is fulfilling to teach about sexual health and wellness in real-time while working with customers. We definitely work with customers every day who are just coming in to get their next favorite vibrator, butt plug, or riding crop. But we also work with folks who want to know more about how their bodies work or who need information about their personal wellness.
• It is not a great way to meet future long-term or short-term partners. This is another comment that’s made by folks who have never worked in our industry. When we’re at the Tool Shed, we’re not thinking about our next big romance or sexual adventure. We’re mostly thinking, “Should I sweep? Does that person need help with lube? I need to put out more backstock.”
• It is challenging to dismantle the systemic, cultural shame that surrounds all things sexual, and which most of us are carrying all the time. It feels like we, as humans, run into that shame every time we turn around. We learn how to celebrate our victories while still knowing that there will be more work to do tomorrow.
• It is not hot/sexy/erotically stimulating. While it might feel that way to our customers when they come in the store, it definitely doesn’t feel that way to our staff members.
• It is great geeky fun to learn about new, exciting tech being utilized in the sex toy industry. I mean, there are some seriously exciting innovations happening particularly in the field of teledildonics.
MKE SEX BONUS! Since we’re heading into the busiest weekend of the year, here are some tips to help you start your sex toy shopping trip.
• Do get ready for your shopping trip by doing some research before you come, and asking your partner (if applicable) about potential gift ideas.
• Do have an idea of how much you want to spend, and feel free to share that information with us. We stock sex toys at a variety of price points so that folks can find something that works for them regardless of their budget.
• Do ask the staff questions in the plainest language you feel comfortable using. We know a lot about sex and about sex toys, and we’re happy to share that knowledge with you.
• Do take your time while shopping, and make careful choices. All sales are final, after all, and we want you to be happy with your purchase.
• Don’t loudly announce “I’m so horny!” when you walk in the door. You may well be horny, but not everyone else who is shopping wants to know about your libido. Though we sell items for private, sexy times, our store is still a public place. Everyone should behave like they’re in public.
• Don’t flirt with the folks working in a sex toy store. We’re at work, not at a club, and we’re not even thinking of our own sex life at work. Because we’re at work.
• Don’t flirt with other customers who are shopping at the same time as you. At best, it’s tacky. At worst it’s harassment.
• Don’t try to return a sex toy because you changed your mind/didn’t like it/regret spending the money. Did I mention that all sales are final? We can’t resell our products once they’ve left the store because no one (and I mean No One) wants to buy a used sex toy!
The Tool Shed is open for in-store shopping with a very limited capacity of customers people at a time. If we are at capacity when you visit, we’ll take your phone number so you can sit in your car until there’s room for you in the store. We expect to have a waiting list all weekend. Consider utilizing our no-contact pick-up option if you’d like to avoid the wait.