Saturday, May 21, 2011

Retail, Retail, Retail (Also Goslings!)

picture is in no way related... but baby goose! Look at his cute little face!
So my sister reminded me that I hadn't posted since last Wednesday. I thought to myself, that can't be right... tried to do math in my head, finally just brought up the blog to check, and wow. Okay. So it actually has been since the 11th.


That's quite a while. I really dislike going more than a week. Mostly it's been a combination of my days being full of reading, which is not exactly exciting to write about, or work, which I try not to write about if I don't have to. What I can tell you about work, though, is that if ever you send your 11-year-old daughter up with a 20-dollar-bill and give her your order and then tell her "order whatever you want" while you sit out-of-earshot...

don't seek to blame us when your daughter orders a Frappucino with three different 50-cent add-ons. Turns out that those things are expensive, and also clearly marked on the menu. Please do not act as though we're trying to be deceptive and trick your daughter into buying costly things. She came up with that order all on her lonesome.

Also, saying, "Well, this time I suppose I'll accept this," doesn't actually mean anything. I understand people who get worried, anxious, or defensive when we actually accidentally overcharge, make the wrong drink, make the right drink the wrong way or any number of problems we are actually responsible for. I will go out of my way to make someone a new drink that is exactly to their specifications. That's on us, and it's on us to fix our mistakes.

But seriously, we made the right drink, as it was ordered. We made it the right way. Your daughter read the menu before she ordered; she knew the add-ons cost money. Either discuss ordering cheaper drinks with your daughter or come up with her to the register next time.

 Picture still not related. But look at their cute little feathers!

So that's work.

Well, it's not all work. There's a lot of good things.

But that woman's little hissy fit, and the hissy fits I have seen since I started in retail to begin with, continue to bother me.

In Old Navy the other day I witnessed a woman drive the poor lady working the register close to tears just picking at her about how she didn't seem cheerful enough. The cashier looked a little out of sorts to begin with, and by the time this lady got done with her, she had to step back and ask someone else to take over so she could just sit down, out of sight somewhere. In the end, the woman used the line that has most made me grit my teeth in all my time in retail...

"I used to work in a clothing store, you know! I know how you're supposed to be acting!"

I seriously don't get people sometimes.

When I'm a shopper? I'm a very understanding shopper. If my cashier is a little down or, you know what, even if they appear to be a listless, emotionless robot? Doesn't bother me. I don't really need them to smile their brightest and wish me the bestest day. It's nice, and I do appreciate the effort, but I'm not personally offended if they don't.

I know what it's like to have to come to work when you got three and a half hours of sleep the night before for no good reason, when you're on the verge of tears due to illness or worry or fear, when you're so sick you can barely stand. I know how hard it is to continue to grasp onto the tiniest handhold to get through your day... how time crawls or eventually slows to an absolute standstill.

I like when cashiers are happy, because it means they're probably having a pretty good day. And I like to see that. I try to be courteous, and kind, no matter what. I don't go into any store within a half-hour of their closing time unless dragged by well-meaning friends or relatives (who then take it upon themselves to explain to the sales associates in JoAnn Fabrics about how uncomfortable I am... Mom).

I don't even know anymore. I have like fifty pictures of baby geese.


Working in retail taught me a lot about retail, and who I am as a customer, and what I expect both as an employee and as a shopper. I've never understood people who work retail and then are harder on the associates than they were before. You've been there. You know how five awful customers in a row can make you already defensive and worried when a sixth walks in.

You know what it's like to be so sick you really should be at home, but you can't afford to lose a day's pay, so you stand on your feet for eight hours anyway on concrete tiles and pray you make it long enough to go buy Nyquil after work. You know that the service industry is overworked, underpaid, trying to make a living on scraps of income that would have been unimaginable to our grandparents.

My experience in retail has made me easier on service industry employees...

Sometimes, I don't get people.

I finished reading Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. I think it should be required reading.

Between that and Malled, that I wrote about a couple of blog posts ago, it's giving me a lot to think about. I know that blogs, on the whole, try to write only positive things. I understand why that is a good draw, if one is looking for a large audience; your readers would rather laugh with you than worry with you, I think. But sometimes, I am not always thinking positively.

Trails of thought like the one above come and go pretty often for me, and have for a long time. I don't dwell on this, exactly, but it does pop into my head every time I am out trying on clothes in Old Navy or JCPenney's or any number of places and see someone giving the poor customer service rep hell for no reason other than to take out their own bad day on someone who is paid less than they are. Every time a customer talks to my coworkers or I like we are year-old illiterate monkeys.

Every time in six years I've witnessed a manager, a supervisor, a keyholder, anyone at all have to grit their teeth to be polite to someone who is clearly trying to see how far they can push before we explode and they can complain to corporate about the "rude employees" to try and get a free gift card for their 'troubles'...

These thoughts pop into my head.

Seriously. Their little beaks!

And they develop, over time, into this almost-cohesive thoughtful post.

Which I write, when I realize I haven't written in days.

And then I go make little cooing noises over adorable pictures of baby geese, or something.

Or what really happens, which is that the cat realizes I haven't petted her for a whole four hours now, and that is not acceptable.

Currently she is staring at me with her absolute saddest "nobody loves me" look.

Maybe she's just worried she can't compete with baby geese.

Their little running feet! Okay, I'll stop now.

I want to tell the cat not to worry; even I can't compete with the startling cuteness of baby geese.

I should have another post up for you tomorrow! Jason and I are headed to downtown today to hang out at the Greek Festival. Let me tell you how wonderful it is to live in a town where the words "Greek Festival" have absolutely nothing to do with fraternities or sororities or college.

Instead... FOOD.

Food and jingly coin-skirts. And Greek coffee, gritty and scalding hot, sweet and cooked over an open flame.

  And I promise, absolutely no meditative ruminations on what it means to work in the service industry into your actual adult years. Not tomorrow.

Because I have a four-day weekend, Saturday through Tuesday, and I am not going to spend it thinking about work.



1 comment:

  1. I like how your experience in retail has made you more understanding of the folks in those roles. Because I spent 5 years working at McDonald's, if I'm talking to someone in the retail/food-service industry, I do my best to be the nicest person they talk to all day. I've been in those situations where one person can either completely save or completely ruin your day, so I try to come down on the right side of that. Good for you for doing the same thing, sis!

    P.S. "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture" is totally going on my reading list. Thanks for the suggestion!


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