Monday, December 17, 2012

Lessons Learned from The Trenches of Retail

This time of year makes me think of plenty of things: holidays, snow, spending time with family, new beginnings, chocolate (okay, honestly, I think about chocolate all the time anyway), and retail. I worked in retail for a short period of time, many years ago, and during the holidays, no less. The experience was quite... enlightening.

I worked at a lingerie store that happened to be situated in an outdoor shopping center, just downstairs from a bar. This meant that closing time on the weekends was usually unpredictable and often entertaining. Like the time a rather inebriated fellow came into the store, took one of the false breasts out of the mannequin's bra, and waved it around while loudly proclaiming, "Look, it even has a nipple!" Um, sir, please hand me the boob. Thanks.

There were two types of men who would come into the store: those who knew what they were looking for and felt comfortable, and those who were as terrified as anybody facing down a hungry tiger. I always pounced on the latter because it was so easy to convince them that they needed to buy things in addition to what was on their list (hey, it was my job to sell, sell, sell). Those customers were easy to spot. They'd take two steps into the store, freeze, and stare around with their mouths agape like they'd fallen asleep in bed and woken up in the middle of a foreign country.

There were stingy customers, people who tried to pull scams or steal, and regulars. Some customers were polite, others were rude. The ones that bothered me the most? Those who would ignore me to answer their phones without even an, "Excuse me." I'd always leave them and go help somebody else.

So I always try to be extra polite this time of year when I go to the store. The people working there are tired, frazzled, frustrated, and their feet hurt. A smile and a few kind words go a long way to giving them the little extra pep they need to make it through the end of their shift or until their next break.

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