What Retail Can Give You
I am thankful for my retail job, as tired as I am almost daily because of it, I have received more than I could have imagined from what one may see as a boring, unimportant place of employment.
I am grateful for the customers the store brings in; I am grateful for how it challenges me to be more communicative and organized; I am grateful for what it shows me about the power of my own voice; I am grateful to see how just a store can make a somewhat large impact on a person’s life; I am grateful for how it’s changed me as a person, an employee and as a friend.
I have learned how to be more confident and open. When I first started working, I really kept to myself. I honestly think even when I started to finally talk to customers, they definitely knew I was new and wasn’t quite comfortable with my retail voice. I would go up to every customer and ask them the same thing ‘Hi! How you doing? Can I help you with anything?’ Which is a great way to start, but if you say that to everybody, it gets sooo repetitive. Now I am more comfortable starting a conversation with more specific statements, related to them as an individual, or what the store has to offer.
From this I have loved the customer interaction that has built many loyal customers.
I never forget the customers that come back again and again to not only shop but to just say hi (I honestly feel that a retail store, especially a clothing retail store, is there to not only sell clothes, but to give people the attention and nurturing they may be lacking in their own life outside). These customers usually came in at first either saying something like ‘oh…I’m just looking’ or they would come in with purpose to buy and share their story.
One of my favorites (I do love so many) comes in and buys bags and bags of clothes. These items aren’t for her though, they are to send to her family in Poland. I had noticed she had an accent when we first met and I didn’t recognize it as Polish; I thought it was German. But then as we continued to talk, she expressed that she’s originally from Poland. I thought it was so sweet to have somebody in the store that held a unique story. I also loved that both her and I shared a similar heritage.
She comes in again and again (sometimes even three days in a row) to chat with us and buy even more clothes for her family (we have great discounted items). We’ve actually gotten pretty close; she started bringing me pierogies and other treats from her culture. She’s one of those customers, I just will never be able to forget.
The interesting cases are when people come in and are in a horrible mood. I so often wonder why they even come in if all they want to do is create a ruckus. But now I know. All they want is attention. They are suffering. They are lonely. They are broken (just as you and I are) and want to be loved but don’t know how to get that without being rude and making a scene. It’s an unfortunate case, but happens more often than an outsider might think.
Some of these cases just end in a ‘Thank you for coming in!’ and we never see them again. But sometimes, they come back, just wanting more attention.
One lady came in and started arguing with me because we didn’t say hello to her as she walked through the entrance. It was an extremely busy day and we were trying our best (most of us anyways) to give our customers the care and service they desire.
I told her I was sincerely sorry. She walked out and I thought I would never see her again.
Low and behold, she came in during spring. I saw her and recognized her right away. At first I was extremely annoyed and didn’t understand why she was coming back. But I wasn’t in the mood to be upset with somebody. I was in the mood to kill negativity with kindness.
I gave this customer soo much attention. I checked on her every 3 minutes probably. I offered suggestions, got her sizes and told her she looked beautiful. That’s all she needed to hear. She needed to hear that she was beautiful. She needed somebody to offer her suggestions that they thought would compliment her. She wanted a friend and somebody to combat her low self-esteem. She left that day with some pants and a feminine sweater (pink, with short-cut bell sleeves) and just beaming with light. She left with a smile and a confident step, which made me feel so good.
She comes in probably once a month now and I always know to give her attention which she graciously accepts and gives me back. She no longer is a customer I dislike. She is a customer I look forward to seeing. She has made me realize and look at other customers in a different way. In a kinder way. Everybody needs a little something different when they walk into a retail store. But most want attention and kindness; which they may not receive or give themselves.
I would say that I have always been a pretty organized, self-motivated person (sadly, more so in past reflection, it stems from perfectionism). But since working retail, and being a manager, I have built stronger assets of organization and multitasking.
In school, I think it’s easier to be organized and self-motivated. You go to school. Sit in class. Do a test or two. Go do a sport. Come home for dinner. Study and do homework. It can be seen as having a pretty organized life. It’s all kind of set for you; when you are doing those tasks, you can basically solely focus on the task at hand.
When you’re working retail, it’s a completely different story. Customers are coming in wanting to talk and need help finding something. Coworkers want to talk shit about what’s happening in their personal life and at work. The phone is ringing off the hook. And you also have to remember to do the tasks that are due that day like markdowns, store-set, emails, etc. etc. At first it’s like what the hell, people think retail is easy?! It’s a lot to handle. But then somehow, you learn how to adapt your mind, your behavior, to think having all your millions boxes opened at once and somehow, you don’t forget to do even one important task that is due by the end of your shift (and if you do, you try not to take it too seriously). And when you sit in the car you feel as if a bus has hit you smack dab in the face. But you go back and do it again and again and again. And you go back with a smile on your face and a heart that is willing to give all it has to your customers and coworkers.
See being organized and being self-motivated is totally different in a retail world. It’s something that takes practice and patience.
I have also learned that you really do the best you can, and if somebody sees your work as not being good enough, you try not to give a fuck. It’s easy in retail, especially in an all women’s retail store, to get caught in competition. All manager want to be seen as the best of the best. So they end up speaking about others in a way that makes them (as they believe) look better. I have learned (but still have to work on every shift) to not take what other people say so seriously (in relation to both customers and coworkers, but referring to coworkers now). I know I do a good job and work my ass off. I know what I was told to do and what actually went down. What matters is that you know your good work ethic and how great the store runs because of you. If another doesn’t like that kind of greatness being directed towards yourself, remember you have something they don’t attain.
When I look at another person, I see them as more of a person now. A human that has feelings and hurts and trials and everything else that gets set in our paths. What they say, how they look and negative energy they may be permitting I feel is the way they are coping with their journey. It may not be fun to be around somebody, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve kindness. Of course there are limitations and only so much one can do, as just one of millions on this earth, but in general I think it’s important to not feed rudeness or poor personalities with cold judgement back. I strive for this during my shifts at work, but also with outside interactions.
So there you have it. Retail is fun and rewarding and something I think so many people should have experience with. It’s tiresome and annoying and takes strength that sometimes is hard to attain. I leave and reflect with a thankfulness and feel blessed to have been given this position in a store that I love. I hope that I spread as much kindness and love that I feel in my heart. I feel for every person that walks into the store; even if they barely say a word. I wish them a good day and bid them farewell with an intention of contentment and peace. I do this as well to my coworkers that may pros at gossip and shallowness, but are truly beautiful when their ‘center-self’ is shown. It doesn’t matter what somebody is going through, whether it’s a large battle or a small rock they need to throw out of their way, everybody deserves love.