Enough Said

Enough Said
A sampling of my columns and why the hell is my picture SO big?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I am retail


I used to be embarrassed to tell people what I do. It’s a dead-end low paying job, I thought. You don’t need an expensive college education to do it, you don’t need higher education at all. My job necessitates long hours on my feet, if I am lucky enough to get long hours. I work nights, weekends and most holidays. I am treated as if I only matter in terms of someone else’s needs, and even if I am right, I am always wrong.
I am retail.
I am the face of every aspect of your life. I clothe you and your family and I enhance your home, I even run your home. You cannot live without me. For those of you who doubt my place in the food chain of life, I stock the food chain.
I am retail.
I am the dress you wore to your sister’s wedding and the suit you wore to your last job interview. I am the furniture you sit on and the sheets and blankets on your bed. I am your bed. I am the food on your plate and the plate. I am the towels hanging on the bar in your bathroom. I am the bar. I am your Huggies, your Kleenex and your Scotts. Like I said, you cannot live without me.
I am retail.
Who else am I?
Many decades ago, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I took a temporary job in retail. I’m still working in that temporary job and I love it. I’ve worked in linens, clothing, table top, cooking, bedding, food and pets. I’ve sold craft supplies, furniture, antiques and art. I have owned two retail businesses and a small manufacturing company. And I’d still be running those businesses if economics, illness and life allowed it.
From behind the counter and the desk, I’ve watched the American buying public change from interesting, honest and kind to over-rushed blurs who pay with plastic and sign by scribble. To them I am a faceless entity whose only task during the working day is to fulfill their needs. And that’s okay because that’s what I am paid to do.

On behalf of my fellow retail workers, let me say we are more than a name badge pinned to colorful aprons or matching shirts. We are just like you.
I have a wonderful family, live in a beautiful home and drive an awesome car. My children have college degrees, as does my husband. I would also have a fancy framed certificate except that the back half of my college education was spent in Africa. That was an education onto itself. I am more than what you think I am, if you think of me at all.
I am retail.
When you walk into a store consider who folded the sweaters, shirts and pants so neatly stacked on the table in front of you. We did that after they were left in a pile, again. The clothes perfectly hung on the hangers, we zipped, buttoned and hung them after someone left them on the floor in the dressing room, again.
Wait, you say. I don’t need you. I can walk into a big box food and clothing, grab a shopping cart, fill it, and self-ring my purchase.
Who dragged those carts into the store because they were left in the parking lot, again? Who unpacked and processed those items which filled your cart? Who ticketed them and put them on the shelf? You cannot live without our drugs, appliances, household goods and yard supplies. We are your computer, paper and printer. We are your phone. Do you hear us now?
We are retail.
We are proud.
 

32 comments:

  1. Well said, Carolynn. Civility and kindness are being lost in our culture. Thank you for the reminder that each of us contributes to the well-being of our society and deserves respect.

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    1. Well S.D. if you watch the news and listen to today's politicians you'd think kindness and civility were four letter words.

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  2. Important stuff, Carolynn. People are people, and what people do matters. The world doesn't work so well without someone doing cleanup, organization, caregiving, and other overlooked things.

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    1. You know Brigid you are right. It is important stuff. Sometimes we have to be reminded of that.

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  3. This is beautifully written. I agree that common courtesy has become an afterthought. Well done!

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    1. Oh Timothy, thank you for your kind words.

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  4. I have a daughter in retail, books and the connected cafe. Some of the stories she tells me about customer attitude.... So yes, I hear you.

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    1. I could sure fill you in on a few stories but when you deal with people's food, like your daughter does...OMG I could not do what she does. I'd probably spill a cup of hot coffee in their lap.

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  5. Very nice. This is why I always visit with the clerks as I am checking out. I ask how they're doing. Comment on something, a pretty blouse, pretty eyes, nice smile. Something positive. I figure they've probably been dealing with gripey people all day, including bosses, so it doesn't hurt me to find something nice to say and wish them a great day.

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    1. Julie, you are the light of our day. Give nice and you get nice back, almost always. If your day has tanked, nice can get you through. You are my kind of customer.

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  6. Ditto, what Julie said. I'm always friendly, willing to try and help as I get checked out (although I do prefer the self-check thing), and chit chat with whomever I'm interacting with in a store.

    However, and unfortunately...not all are like you 2N's. :) Some folks who are customer facing personnel in various stores act as if they'd rather have their legs chopped off than to say, "Good morning" in return to my greeting, or even "Thank you for shopping with us." Some (okay MANY) I've encountered act as if they're so pissed off I asked them something, or take on an attitude I'm bothering them in some way by wanting to get checked out.

    So. Yeah. I get it. Only, it definitely goes the other way too.

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    1. I hear you Donna and I'm not Miss Nice Nancy all the time. I look at it this way. I spend eight and a quarter hours on my feet, five days a week trying to be nice, informed, courteous and helpful. That's my job so I do it MOST of the time.
      A customer may interact with me for a few minutes, sometimes a matter of seconds. Is it that hard to treat me like the human being I am for a few seconds?
      If they are really bitchy, demanding and just plain not nice I KNOW something else is going on in their life and I'm the dog to be kicked. I take the high road, bite my tongue and move on.
      You are right it goes both ways. All I can say is if you are consistently treated poorly, don't shop where you shop, or complain to management.
      Years ago I was ringing a sale and being a bit offish. The customer asked if she had done something to upset me because of the way I was acting. I apologized. I told her my mother just called and my father was taken to the hospital because of a stroke. I couldn't leave until another manager showed up. The customer and I cried. My point, say something, you never know how it might change someone's day for the better.

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  7. So nicely said. I too, go out of my way to connect in some way. I hope this creates the awareness for others to do the same.

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  8. Bravo, Carolynn. I long for the day when people would sit on the front porch and chat, much less bring some civility with them to their local store. I won't do self checkout because I believe (maybe wrongly, but I believe anyway) that it's taking three people's jobs away.

    I find a smile to be contagious 99% of the time. It's a personal challenge to leave a clerk happier after I'm through with them and I succeed. Great stuff here, thanks for the reminder.

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    1. John, thank you so, so much. Civility is waning these days and so is simple kindness. It's too bad because if there ever was a time when we needed them, it is now.
      We don't even have front porches anymore. Everyone sits on their back decks.

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  9. I love this, Carolynn. Thank you for sharing it

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  10. Great post Carolynn! This winter my 16yo daughter got a job at our local (what do you call them now, department stores?) ... Target-like store. She can't be a cashier until she's 18, so she's learning life behind the scenes as a "day porter." Talk about grunt work. She returns carts, returns merchandise that people change their minds on, does general light cleaning and yes, cleans the bathrooms. "People are disgusting," she tells me. This is true. It's sad when adults treat the 16yo helping them find the tahini sauce with undisguised disdain, but then again, sometimes she'll help an elderly customer load groceries into their car and spend 20 minutes over dinner telling about how she was personally introduced to each of the person's small dogs, or how an 80yo woman hopped into the back of her pickup like it was nothing. Often, people want to tip her, but it's not allowed. One lady gave her a bag full of nice clothes that she didn't want and was planning to give away. Sometimes people do take the time to thank her for going the extra mile, but not often. It's been a great education for her on so many levels, and I think she's much more aware now of how she treats others. =)

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    1. Don't even get me started about the bathrooms. The way people leave them is beyond disgusting.
      Your daughter is getting an invaluable education about people without the burden of a Psychology 101 student loan. Good for her.
      The kids I work with are amazing. Their energy and enthusiasm is unmeasurable and oh-so needed.

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  11. Nice perspective. I always make my 3-y-old pick up whatever she knocked off the shelf and put it back exactly how she found it. Respect is something I definitely want to pass on. I don't work in retail but I think all customer service positions can relate here.

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    1. Thank God someone is teaching a child to be respectful of other people's things. I commend you, and I mean that, I COMMEND YOU. Too often I see parents leave their little ones to play in the children department while they shop. It's scary and unforgivable in today's crazy world.

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  12. Awesome blog post, Carolyn. My son worked for three years as a full-time cart attendant for a national retail chain, which gave me a whole different view of parking lots. He had to drag the carts around the lot in every kind of weather, dodging cars and pedestrians, helping people load their purchases in their cars, and generally being indispensable while being invisible. To this day, everywhere I shop, I go out of my way to drag a cart or two into the store with me when I arrive to make the attendants' job a little easier. I'm also the one hanging the clothes I don't buy up where they came from or re-folding the pile of T-shirts after I dig through them. It's not like the Folding Fairy is going to wave her wand and fix it. Someone, like you, has to clean up my mess. On behalf of all of us, thank you.

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    1. Celia, and I thank you for doing what you do. You have no idea (or maybe you do) how much your actions help.
      Your son's job is one of the most difficult. Being a cart attendant is like working for the Post Office, In rain, and snow and gloom of night...or something like that.
      I need a folding-fairy for my laundry :)

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  13. Hear, hear! I have worked retail, food service, and education... I appreciate my helpers, servers, and teachers more because of it! Thank you for all that you do. :)

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    1. Hear, hear Peggy. Food service beats retail any day. Thank you!

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  14. This is why I am always kind to those who work retail. It is not an easy job, compounded by wages that aren't quite high enough. Who am I to make their jobs harder when I have it in my power to make their jobs easier (or at least more bearable)? I may not have the power to change their working condition or hours or do anything about the ache in their back, but I can offer a kind word, politeness and gratitude.

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    1. "...kind word, politeness and gratitude." You sure would make MY day.

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  15. Very well written, Carolyn. Articulate and heartfelt and a good reminder for all of us who tend to be a bit self-involved when dealing with the actual face(s) of retail. I always talk to people working retail jobs, and usually try to get them to laugh. Part of me considers it research for writing, but mostly it's the acknowledgment that I don't want to be out shopping any more than they necessarily have a burning desire to do what they're doing. Why not try to find some levity and compassion while we're at it?

    And yeah, like others, I've also been on the other side of it, smiling and answering the same damn questions all day long and never ever confronting customers who are so very wrong. You have my admiration and gratitude. And much respect.

    Huh. The preview shows me as "anonymous." Blogger really does hate WordPress login, I guess. It's me, KD James. :)

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    1. I love laughter. Make me laugh and I'll give you a discount and an extra bag.

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  16. How come I missed this awesome post? I read Janet's post on conferences and resolved to read everybody's comments "later"...This happens more often than not. But better late (really late) than never. I'm so touched by you, Carolynn. Everybody should read your post. We marginalize people who make our lives better, easier and more comfortable, instead of being grateful. Thank you so much for the reminder. People are people are people.
    No work makes anyone better or worse than another (unless one is a pimp, a mercenary or a drug lord).
    Brilliant post and so beautifully written. Please forgive me for showing up at such a late date. <3 <3 <3



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    1. Hey Lilac, I am so glad you read it. It sure was received well at work by the staff.
      And you are absolutely right, "people are people are people."
      Thanks so much for stopping by.

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