I have been working in retail for about 5 years (you can also refer to my LinkedIn for proof *wink wink*). My first job was at Barnes and Noble, I also took up a crossover position at Banana Republic, and finally ended my retail “career” at a children’s clothing store called Hanna Andersson. I feel like retail has taught me more about people and life, than any other life experience I’ve encountered (to a certain degree).
How Not To Lose Faith In Humanity
The companies I’ve worked for did not hire me as just a Bookseller, Brand Ambassador, and Sales Associate, they hired me as a retail therapist. I am told I have that face. You know, the one that says “I’m a good listener, tell me all your problems, and I won’t judge you” type of face.
Side Note: In actuality, when you’re a stranger shopping in my store, I really don’t want to hear about how someone stole your parking spot and now your whole day is ruined (I just want to listen to my own thoughts, where I’m wallowing in self-pity and telling myself I need to do something that will do a better job at paying the bills). In reality, when you’re a stranger shopping in my store, I AM judging you! It’s just a natural thing that human beings do. We form opinions based on first impressions. End Side Note.
That’s how I was in the beginning of my retail days. As days, weeks, months, and years went by where customers would continuously be rude, vent, and laugh with me (and at me), I began to realize that we all want the same thing. We all want someone with an objective POV to just listen to us. We want someone to be there for what we feel that day and in that moment.
Not to say that there weren’t days where I wanted to completely give up on humanity…Like yelling something at the top of my lungs about how disrespectful and rude everyone is when they don’t even know me, when they don’t even see how hard I’m trying to help them and be there for them. I would then drop the mic *drops mic,* flip over a table (in this case, it would be the store’s portable folding table), do a little boogie, throw up a peace sign, and walk into the sunset with my sunglasses on and a venti iced green tea lemonade in my hand.
Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.
– M. Gustave (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
(Although rudeness should never be an excuse to mistreat someone you don’t know, because we all know what it means to have manners, I thought this quote fit in nicely to my experiences in retail)
Retail is tough. It has taught me to be patient, to be kind, to channel my inner peace (this kinda sounds like the Prayer to Saint Francis….ohhhh boy, did it take me a lot of prayer and believing in a higher power when I came across just straight up mean customers who thought they could change a 30 year policy, or yell at me when they couldn’t get their way, or scold me on how to do my job when I’ve been doing my job for 2 years). Retail has taught me to show compassion, and if someone wants to complain to you about their day, to really listen (even when you don’t want to). Because maybe they don’t have anyone else to talk to. Maybe they’re stuck staying at home all the time, isolated from the outside world on a daily basis with no outside communication, unless it’s the occasional mall outing when they decide they have time to shop and be amongst society. We don’t really know. I don’t think anyone ever really knows. Retail has taught me to be there for people, and that I can feel guilty, but I shouldn’t feel guilty for things that are out of my control.
People just want to talk, strangers just want to share, and individuals just want to be accepted.