Lessons from my retail sales experience

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I am of the opinion that at some point, everyone in America should have to work in the retail industry. Some things can only be learned from experience. Retail is a wealth of experience.

My first real job was in a small clothing store in Midway Plaza called “Lots to Love.” If you aren’t familiar with it or couldn’t guess from the name it was a clothing store for plus-size women. Plus-size was not the politically correct term back then. We thought “Lots to Love” was a perfectly adorable name for such a store. Heck, it beat “Silvia’s Stout Shop.”

My second job was gift wrapping at JC Penney. I loved this work, enjoyed the people and was proposed to by some guy from the Middle East. I was only sixteen, he didn’t speak English but his interpreter told me he liked my pale skin. I was horrified but told the interpreter to tell him I respectfully had to decline, being in high school and all.

After the gift wrap job I moved on the the big time, McDonald’s. I hold the status of having mopped the largest McDonald’s dining room in the South. I worked football Saturdays. Since our location was a few blocks from the stadium we were busy from the first egg McMuffin until kick off.

I also worked at Sears and then off and on at Gayfers in the summer and holiday seasons between college semesters.

I tell you all this to give you my retail resume. I know a little about what I’m talking about.

What bothers me about people without retail experience is simple. They don’t usually think what we do is important, until they need something.

Here is what I absolutely abhor about retail. Please keep in mind I am referring to behaviors, not people.

Finding items in the wrong department. Don’t kid yourself, we know it didn’t get there by itself.

People disregarding the announcement that the store is closing. We need for you to go home so that we can do the same.

People talking on cell phones in the store. I have actually had to wait for a customer to finish a phone call before she could tell me what she needed….all the while holding up her pointing finger mouthing, “just one minute”. Whatever happened to talking to the person who is standing in front of you and telling the phone call to hold on for “just one minute.”

Complaints that it is June and we have Christmas items out. Believe me, we are not happy about Christmas in June either. It is the nature of the beast. If it didn’t sell in June it wouldn’t be out.

Next time you are in your favorite store, think of all the people who arrive early and stay late so that you can shop for your Christmas ornaments seven months out of the year. Put something back in the right slot, shut off your cell phone and leave when they start blinking the lights. A retail worker will thank you.

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