I'll start by telling you that I work retail. This time of year it is holiday retail where we offer free gift wrap. I work at a great mom and pop owned art gallery. I've been blessed to be there for over 7 years. In fact, this will be my 8th Christmas at my job. I love my job, but this time of year it can be stressful. So, I've decided to start my own Tuesday theme day called Tales from the Trenches. I'll give you some stories from back behind the counter. I'm full of retail stories! You see, prior to this gallery rep gig, I did the same thing at an even smaller art gallery that was about 35 minutes away. I was there for a little over three years before they went out of business. And with that background, let me give you a fun story from this week.
We were busy getting the store ready for our annual Christmas Open House. When this happens, the store isn't nearly as tidy as what it usually is. Customers go into hunter-gatherer mode and press on. We make it walkable, but we are stacked high in boxes and baskets of merchandise being displayed. My story is from Wednesday, the third day in a row that I pulled 12 hours all in the name of display. I was covered from head to toe in glitter, was beginning to tire and was at the front-and-center WOW! them-as-they-come-in-the-door display. One lady came into the front door to shop. She was less than wow'd. She complained about the works in progress and told us that we should be doing this "after hours." I told her that we wholeheartedly agree and that we had been there the previous night until 10 PM. She then told me that she wanted to see "our resin jewelry." (We have 60 cases of jewelry between the two stores and resin is used in a variety of applications.) I asked specifically what type of resin jewelry? "The resin jewelry you have!" Do you know the name of it? "No! I've bought tons of pieces here." Okay, Julia is working with a customer right now and she might be able to help you find specifically what you need. (Julia is our jewelry display person.) "Forget it!" Julia heard our discussion and gave a suggestion of something to look at. I asked for case keys and the customer barked, "You don't need keys!" Okay. I took a deep breath, walked her to the case in question and what I heard was "This isn't even close!" I felt beaten and even more worn. All I could say was, "I'm sorry Ma'am." She said, "I AM, TOO!" and walked out of the store. She upset me. All I was trying to do was to help her, which is what I thought she wanted. I had gone back to my display and Julia asked me about what had happened. I was telling her that I was trying to help the customer find what she wanted, but she wasn't articulating what she needed and the more I tried the worse it was and that she was just "flat out mean to me." Julia was discussing how frustrating it is for her to display while being underfoot of the customers. She was saying about how she just needed to "stop it" and the customer came in and said, "YES, because she's right here." Um, Ma'am, that isn't what we were talking about. A regular customer who knows me well was witnessing all of this and stopped to tell me that she was sad that I couldn't have said anything stronger to her than "sorry." In the end, the woman did have me get into a case for her and she did purchase a pin. I did not sell it to her. I did not want to sell it to her. I think that if I stood on my head and spit out gold coins they wouldn't have been the right color for her.
Lesson learned. Even if I see a customer leave and go to the other store, it doesn't mean that she stayed there. I told our seasonal workers that. I told them to let me be an example for them. I was only giving an honest overview of the story. No embellishments, no nasty words but just that she had been "flat out mean to me." I'm thinking that the customer heard and wasn't impressed. Maybe it made her stop to think.
Be gentle to the retail folk out there. I'm not saying that we are always sunshining examples of mankind, but most of us truly try. Especially this time of year. We can only take so many people complaining, looking at their watches, throwing money at us and being just generally annoyed for so long. Please o' please, be extra nice this time of year!