Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Things Retail Taught Me

Last month, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and decided to vent my frustrations to you in the form of an open letter.  Well, I feel so much better you guys.  It's 2014.  I think it's only fair for me to show you how much I've spiritually grown by making a list of five things that my shitty retail job has taught me.

1.  How to talk to idiots:
Perhaps you're waiting for your cup of Starbucks when you run into an idiot.  It happens when you least expect it, really.  The grocery store, the hot tub, the marina in San Francisco, and sometimes even in your own home.  However, in these particular scenarios, you are able to ignore the idiot and even throw your coffee at the idiot if necessary.  Unfortunately, in the work environment, I am forced to treat idiots like normal people.  In fact, my manager insists that the customer *and* the idiot are always right.  Let me tell you, it's not always easy.  Sometimes it's straight up painful as hell.  But I must say, after civilly dealing with idiots for 8 hours at a time, I feel myself grow a little bit.

2.  Turning on a smile even if you don't feel like it.
Chances are that you'll go through a break-up at some point in your career.  This is something that everyone experiences, except for that one high school couple who limits themselves by never dating anyone else.  They stay together for years, get married, stay in the same town they grew up in, and eventually fantasize about what their lives would be like had they ventured outside their comfort zone a little bit.  I digress.  What I'm trying to say is:  real life is going to happen while you're on the clock.  You might total your car or realize you're more broke than you thought.  However, when bad news hits, you still have to show up for work.  And you can't cry while you're at work either...not without freaking everyone out.  Your personal life cannot mesh with your work life.  You hear me?  They just can't.  Working in retail, or any job for that matter, teaches you to put your best face forward even when you don't feel like it.  You may even find that working takes your mind off of whatever bad news you're dealing with.  You're stronger than you think.

3.  Sorry, sorry, so sorry.
Let's face it, the customer is not right 100% of the time.  But in the retail environment, we are taught to treat the customer as if they could do no wrong.  You want to return that pair of underwear that you've clearly worn?  Sure!  You want to get a 20% discount on that book because the white pages look slightly yellowed?  Eh, that's pushing it but okay.  Whatever they want, we give it to them.  Humans are a bunch of spoiled jerks.  Nonetheless, when someone asks me if we carry a book that we don't have, I apologize.  When our price doesn't match the online price, I apologize.  The place looks like a tornado hit it because your kids are running around throwing shit everywhere?  I'm sorry.  I have become extremely comfortable apologizing, which I have realized isn't an easy task for many people.  Sorry I'm not sorry.

4.  People come and people go.
You might work with someone who could turn out to be one of your favorite people.  More often than not, this person will leave.  It's not the end of the world.  You can be real life friends, which isn't paid but it's something.  It will be sad to see your favorite coworker go but you should be happy that your friend got out of the retail world.  Let their escape inspire you.  Don't be that guy who stays at that miserable job for five years just because he never tried to reach for something better.  Retail should be your temporary stop towards something fabulous.  I'm just sayin.

5.  Lower your expectations of people.
If I expected my customers to treat my work environment like it was their home, I would be extremely let down 99.9% of the time.  Most people will shift into animals and make you feel like you're working at the San Diego Zoo.  It's just something that can't be explained and will probably never change.  I blame it on bad parenting, but what can you do?  The damage is done.  Why people think it's okay to hide their dirty Starbucks drinks all over the store is beyond me.  Yesterday, a kid put his piece of chewed gum inside a book.  Lower your expectations.  When you realize that people aren't going to live up to your standards, you'll be much less disappointed.




  1. I am in complete agreement here. I remember working a retail job in college where this lady made a huge purchase. It was a couple hundred dollars in price and she had written a check for payment. Now, there were signs at the registers saying if a person wanted to return something they wrote a check over $100 for, we would return their payment after the check cleared. This was also repeated on the back of all the receipts. Still this lady comes in and wants her money back. That's totally cool. She just needed to give me her address so we could send her a check in the mail. She had made the purchase earlier that day; there was no way her payment had cleared yet.

    Well, this lady was not happy because we did not make out check policy obvious enough for her. And she was screaming at me, so I brought our floor manager. And then she screamed some more, so we got the store manager. And then she screamed some more and stomped out.

    She was terrifying.

  2. yes yes yes! i don't work in retail, i work on a petting farm, but i mean, i've learnt the same things working here! people can be so lovely, or they can be the absolute cruelest. oh well, a jobs a job, right? :) x