By Anna Tabet |
I may have entered my summer dreaming of a beach vacation, but in reality, I spent it pacing the aisle of a store in a bright red apron asking people if there’s anything I can help them find. While I admittedly may have looked and sounded like an overbearing Mrs. Claus, my summer experience did not differ much from that of my peers. Many students know the struggle of working retail to sustain their years in college; but I quickly realized that it may not have been a struggle that everyone, at some point or another, has faced.
I witnessed and dealt with many, lets just say, interesting customers over the span of three months. From watching customers throw items on the floor and walk away from them, yell at me for another store’s carts being near their car in the parking lot, and allowing their dog to take a bathroom break in the center of the floor, I concluded that a good portion of the people that shopped at retail establishments have never once worked in a customer service job.
After coming to this realization, I began to daydream about what a glorious world we would live in if everyone was required to have a retail job at some point in their life. Could you imagine? Customers would thank associates for their assistance without a hint of sarcasm in their voice. If they decided to unfurl an entire rug, they would roll it back up instead of leaving it draped over a nearby couch. And they definitely would not decide to start climbing the shelves to reach a basket that is the same color as the basket that is currently in their possession.
The world, without a doubt, would be a kinder and less chaotic place.
Sadly, I don’t foresee a future where everyone is required to work a retail job. So, instead of trying to pass legislation that solidifies my dramatic idea, I’ve decided to lay out the concrete benefits I’ve experienced from working in retail to encourage others to take part in it.
Right off the bat, it provided me with experience of how to communicate with people with all different kinds of backgrounds and needs. Retail environments really do pull in a wide variety of people that you naturally would not interact with. I truly left my job feeling as if I could hold a conversation with virtually anyone. If I could help Susan find a collection of pillows with a color between red and burgundy, then really anything is possible.
I discovered a new level of patience that I didn’t know I had. I’ve never been one to self-identify as a patient person and this quickly became an issue as customers tend to have a very specific vision of what they want and very little time for you to be able to assist them in finding it. After my first week, I believed I could direct a classroom of screaming preschoolers without batting an eye.
Every time I enter an establishment, I’m now more conscious than ever of my ability to leave places better than how I found them. While seemingly a concept that baffles many, it doesn’t require too much effort. Doing something as simple as complimenting a worker on their outfit, smile, etc. will exponentially affect their mood for the rest of the day. I still remember the customers that would ask me how my day was going or would cheer me on until the end of my shift. And honestly something as small as picking up an item or two that you found on the floor will save an employee a couple of extra minutes of cleaning after the store is closed.
You don’t need to work a retail job to definitively be a better person.
But I believe that having the ability to understand or sympathize with the struggles that those attaining minimum wage in the workforce endure will create healthier and happier work environments. Let alone better customer service.
So even if I didn’t convince you to print out a job application for Macy’s, maybe try and consider what an associate is going through before throwing that bath towel that you decided didn’t match your sea-foam green color palette on the floor.