Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lessons From My First Week in Retail

I haven't posted in quite awhile. The reason for that: I got a part-time job to supplement my income. For about a year or so, my budget has been too tight and this was a step I needed to take in order to dig out of the hole and try to get on track for future goals.

After one week on the job, I'm incredibly exhausted. I've worked 6 days straight, 4 of those while working my full-time job too. My body is neither used to the schedule nor to the long hours on my feet. It's also been nearly a decade since I've had an hourly position, so I'm getting used to what that means in terms of breaks and such. Unfortunately, that's not something that was covered during training, so I'm having to just ask co-workers along the way.

This new job is in retail. I'm looking at it as a means to an end. Obviously, it's not making me will supplement my income by a few hundred dollars a month probably. That will allow me gas and grocery money until my car is paid off around March. The next month or two, however, it will get me out of a hole of short-term debt. Then, if all goes to plan, it will generally just reduce the financial stress that has literally kept me up at night.

I am a reflector by nature. I generally assume that most people who write blogs are. So, throughout this first week, I've been making little mental notes of items to think about more deeply. That is the list that I would like to share with you tonight.

Without further ado, here are some of the lessons that I've learned this week:
  • My heart is most definitely with my career. My full-time job is in my career, not this job. I am a volunteer coordinator in higher education. Without being too specific, I used to be a community service director at a small college in Appalachian Kentucky. I had that gig for seven years and loved my daily work (just not the politics). I now work for a statewide organization, coordinating full-time volunteers to increase service-learning throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. So, aside from the obvious part of just my heartstrings, what has made me determine that my career is the right one? Well, part of my volunteer coordination work is to design and facilitate trainings. I'm still developing my style and sometimes, admittedly, I throw things together simply because I run out of planning time with the million other things that I do. But, it's really sad when I'm sitting in training for the new job and am thinking to myself for 3 hours 'wow, I could do this training so much better!' Then, on the second night of training, we had to do a computer training with an interactive CD. I was sitting there thinking, 'I wonder how exactly they designed this CD because I'd love to have a training with this technology for my volunteers'. If I'm thinking about one job that much when training for another, it seems to me that my heart is in the work for the one my mind's on.
  • In this economy, there are a lot of professionals hurting. I have been surprised to find that I am not alone in working for this company as a way to supplement income. I've met several other woman who have full-time day jobs with firms and banks and then jet over to the mall to work part-time at night. While we are all thankful for still having full-time professional employment, it is telling of our capitalistic economy (in recession or not) that predominantly women are in such a position. It's quite ridiculous that one job - one that we're good at and are studied in - can't support us.
  • Building off of that point, there are a minority of people in this world who are rude and condescending. Most customers that I have encountered this week return the kindness and respect that we show to them. I did, however, have one woman who spoke to me like I was a third grader. This woman - get this - asked if we could iron a pair of pants before she purchased them. Then, she got mad and yanked the pants out of my hands saying that I was "making the wrinkles worse" when I was folding the pants to bag. She then said, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude. I know you're new and all." Excuse me? First, how do you know that I'm new? I didn't tell you that and I don't have a big blinking sign on my name tag. And, I quickly rang your order without having to ask questions of my coworkers or hesitating. Second, you're going to talk to me like that when you want a store to iron a piece of clothing before you purchase it? Take that item home and wash it before you wear you know how many people probably tried that on before you picked it up? Ewww. Anyway, don't assume that I'm stupid because I work at a department store. I have a bachelor's degree from a very good institution and I'm respected in my actual career field. You know none of this nor anything else about me. So STFU.
  • People go nuts - and cheap - when there is a sale. There was a major sale this week, along with a really good coupon. If you're getting a $75 suit for $15, don't argue about another 10% off. Seriously, it just makes you look lame. I mean, I like getting a deal as much as the next person, but let's just accept a really good deal while we have them instead of trying to gouge. I'd say 20% of the people I waited on in the past few days have been the type that argue about wanting to get an extra 15% off clearance items - like a $30 shirt that's already down to $3.59. Gimme a break.
  • People don't respect public places. If you bring a drink into a store, find a trash can...don't just put that down on the floor or leave the lid and straw laying around. If your kid knocks something over, try telling someone and apologize for your child's behavior, rather than just walking away without a word. If something falls off the rack when you are looking at the clothes, pick it up and hang it back up. This is not rocket's called common courtesy.
  • Some people do not respect time. If the sale ends at 1pm, don't come in right at 1pm and expect to be able to try on an entire arm's full of clothes. You had the entire morning to do that. And don't get pissy with me about this issue - I didn't program the computers. Also, do not come in 5 minutes before closing and then argue prices at check-out or expect to try on clothes. No employees are allowed to leave at closing until all customers are out of the store and the store is secured. You are keeping me from my life and are costing the company money for every minute you are keeping us past quitting time. Your one purchase is holding up hundreds of employees.
  • Criminals are creative. I won't get into this one too much because I don't think it's appropriate to 1) share the information provided to us nor 2) to give anyone out there ideas. But, I sat through a loss prevention talk that had my jaw on the floor. I mean, how do people even think of these ways to steal? I guess my mind just doesn't work that way, but I'm just incredibly taken aback by the creativity of these plots to shoplift and other various schemes to defraud stores out of money and/or merchandise. Honestly, it's shocking.
  • Older people are more willing to talk/share than younger people. I've had 2 women, in 3 days mind you, talk to me about their battles with cancer. One story was heartbreaking and the other was reassuring. Both of these women were over the age of 50. Thus far, I've noticed an overall trend that the older women want to talk and share bits of their lives with us. I suppose an argument could be made that many older people lack daily social interaction and feel the need to talk with someone. I'd make the argument that they are reminded of younger days...days when you had a 'relationship' with those who you shopped with. Younger women do not see stores in that light because, for us, it's all about getting in, getting what we want, and just quickly paying for our items. One of the customer service tenets for this company is to engage the customer in conversation. I've found that much easier with the older crowd.
  • I hate trying to explain my career. In a sense, I envy those who can simply say, "I work in a bank," or "I work for a CPA firm." How easy is that? No explanation needed, really. I've found it incredibly difficult to explain to people what I do. They ask, "where do you work." Oh, I work at the university. "Really? What do you do there?" Augh. No one seems to know that there are national service programs like AmeriCorps, let alone that there is an organized effort to increase civic engagement in the next generation. Why would they? I think I've only ever seen 2 commercials for National Service on TV in my entire life. And if they don't regularly watch cable news, they haven't heard of the Serve America Act. It's all just too difficult to explain to people who think it's crazy for people to take a year off away from school or work to volunteer. I really need to think of a way to explain it more succinctly.

So, there you have it! Those are the lessons that I've learned this week, my first week in retail. I hope to be able to write more - about the topics that I really take to heart - as soon as my work schedules gets settled down a bit. Right now, I'm taking as many shifts as they offer.

Until next time, take care of yourself!

1 comment:

  1. Wow Lee Ann. Thank you for such a thoughtful and insightful post. It is true that in this economy so many professional women have to find other jobs to supplement their incomes. It amazes me.