The Horrors Of Retail
~ Columnist explains how being on the other side of the cash register will change you forever.
They say that the time you spend in college molds the person you become as a full-fledged adult. What they never say is where most of your information will come from: not from that professor with the argyle sweater and fake British accent, but from the characters in your day that aren’t trying to teach you about life.
In most cases, those characters will be composed mostly of friends and family. For me, it took getting a part-time job to uncover some of the more useful lessons in my arsenal.
Earlier this year, I earned the coveted position of “sales associate” at a retail store. I won’t tell you where but I will say it’s like The Sharper Image, except it rhymes with “crookstone” and it’s not as bankrupt. Name-naming aside, I will say the experience has irrefutably altered the way I go about my day. (Although I can see why anyone would think otherwise —oh, a college student with a part-time job, what an undeniably unique thing to be, I know.)
Firstly, I don’t trust anything anyone has to say to me anymore, not if they can benefit from it. It used to be just men that I mistrusted, following the universal girl guidelines and all. But now it’s everyone. Men and women alike, professions be damned; you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who’s just pimping their own cause.
No lying necessary, sales associates will take any detail their beady eyes can catch and use it as a jumping-off point; anything that can convince your hand to migrate to your wallet (or money clip if you’re stylish and/or Tony Soprano) and have you offering the green stacks of paper we trust have retained some value despite our modern-day interpretation of The Grapes of Wrath.
I notice you’re wearing a wedding band, sir. Here, try this automatic jewelry cleaner. Married, eh?
You must be stressed; check out this massaging neck wrap— it comes in blue! (or pink if you’re against designated gender roles). You probably have kids: here, we’ve got the best line of super durable Made-in-China indoor helicopters – they never crash.! And if they do, it’ll be often, and more than likely you’ll end up getting a plastic rotor in your eye. By the way, they only use 6 AA batteries (I always stick with the “alkaline” part– it makes them sound fancier).
The other thing working in retail has taught me is to be mind-numbingly anal-retentive. Every product in its place and a place for every product, they always say. At this point, I’d be happy to kill myself before I go anywhere near a Ross, where organization of the store floor takes a backseat to pretty much everything. I think that’s their motto, actually. Customers, when given the chance, will be children. Infants complete with a very limited knowledge of common courtesy and a wide variety of angered and confused facial expressions. And they will nine times out of 10, if you’re not keeping an eye on them, practice sick childhood tendencies to destroy their environments without remorse like angry kindergartners on their last day of daycare.
Have you ever grabbed an item in a store and then decided at the last minute that you weren’t going to buy it? What did you do next? Put it back in its place? If your answer is anything other than “abandoning it wherever my limb had the pleasure of reaching first” then you’re lying. You’re a liar and you’ve made the life of one of my fellow salespeople just a little more difficult. I hope you’re proud of yourself.
Aside from the fact that I’ve lost all respect for drug dealers and vending machines, whom, let’s face it, have it too easy, for all their work consists of nothing but waiting for the customers to come to them I’ve learned a great deal from my co-workers at “Crookstone.” It never hurts to learn how to manipulate people and communicate in the only language universal to all: money.