Thursday, January 28, 2010

Retail Hell Part II

Okay... So my last post outlined the annoyances of working retail.  Mainly obnoxious, inconsiderate, and sometimes downright disgusting customers.  It's not uncommon to find half-chewed food lying on the floor, dropped and left there by someone's child.  I'm not sure how someone can walk away from that... I'll bet they also do the same thing if their dog shits on the sidewalk.

Anyway... So this elderly lady--I think she may have been French, but I'm not sure.  The accent wasn't all that clear--just definitely not American.  She came in looking for one of the new Zero Water filtration pitchers she'd apparently seen on TV.  It always amuses me when the customer looks at me and asks "So, what can you tell me about this?"

My answer, if I'm being honest, and I really can't help myself, is "Pretty much what it says on the box."

She seemed a bit disappointed, but not upset.  We just sell them, we're not given any training on the items we sell, or a free trial to see how they work.  I opened a box and looked for some documentation at her request, but found none.

So I pointed to one of the PUR filtration pitchers and said "That's the one I have.  I imagine it works pretty much the same way."  More or less.  I have one of the flavored pitcher ones, though we haven't bought any more of the flavoring since we first got it.

I explained how it worked and showed her the display model.  She wasn't interested in the flavorings, but seemed to really appreciate that I didn't know something about that particular item.  She thanked me for my assistance and sent me on my way.  As far as I could tell she intended to buy one of the PUR pitchers because, first of all, it had documentation, and, second, it had been personally recommended.  I certainly like it.  The amount of water I drink has gone up considerably since we got it--mostly because I can't stand the taste of chlorine in water.  Comes from growing up drinking well water for a good part of my childhood.  City water tastes like crap.

I like helping people find what they're looking for.  It's one of the things that makes it worthwhile.  And one of the reasons I know the store as well as I do.  Yeah, I know sometimes people are just out buying crap they don't need for whatever reason, but that doesn't matter as much as the feeling that I'm making someone happy.  It's especially gratifying when I help a parent or grandparent find a particular toy for a grandchild for their birthday or Christmas.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I'm told "You've just made a kid's Christmas."

That's why I do it, and why I'm as good at it as I am.  It's also the reason that everyone assumes I'm a supervisor when I'm not.  I'm a trainer, which at my store is just a glorified sales floor employee.  I've trained the vast majority of new hires, including many of the supervisors, and yet I'm just another peon.  But what makes up for it to at least some degree is knowing that my co-workers trust and rely on me.  They know I won't bullshit them, even if that's the manager's plan for the night. 

Like tonight, for example.  She tells me at closing "Oh, I'm letting them think we might be going home early so they'll work faster and we can get a few extra things done."

I looked at her and said "I didn't think we were, so my team doesn't think so either."  I know her well enough to know better.  If she expected me to play along with her deception I'm reminded of a line from a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  "She don't know me very well, do she?"

I don't lie to my people.  I don't manipulate them either.  If they work a little harder for me, it's because I respect and trust them to do their jobs.  And that's a lesson a lot of my so-called superiors could stand to learn.  But much of corporate America is really about exploitation, and exploitation often requires some level of deception.  Trying to trick people into giving you something to which you're not really entitled is a kind of fraud.  Earning that sort of regard, respect, and reward is something else entirely.

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