Inspired by this photo, I thought I would write a little blog about why I think that people should work in retail, or a difficult customer service job at least once in their life. I think that a lot of British consumers take a lot of granted and although I loved meeting new customers and making people happy everyday I was faced with some people who came in to speak to staff like s**t knowing they could pick a fight and not get any aggro back. Although this is a soul crushing part of the job it is in fact what shapes you as a person and young professional.
To go over some of my experiences;
I have been shouted at, sworn at, spat at, insulted, had things thrown at me and told I am stupid and that’s why I should stay working in a shop, I have cleaned up puke and wee. Been told that they feel sorry for “people like me” (whatever that meant).
I have worked with customers who are old , young, disabled, drunk, high – and more. I have met the challenges head on and yeah, there have definitely been some tears but I have come out on top (or feel as though I have).
In many industries resources are tight and more and more employees are having to hit the ground running, train on the job and have to battle through each day feeling pulled in all directions. But here’s why I think everyone should have to work in retail/customer service at least for a while on their road to success, whether they want to be a head honcho of a company or someone behind the scenes doing the little things that make it all tick over.
1. The people (staff and customers); Yes you come across some absolute idiots anywhere you work but the team you work with will always pull through and back one another up. Some of the best people I have met have been my retail colleagues and even if we don’t always still keep in touch I have big respect for them! They may not be wiping bums or cleaning toilets (OK so some of them have come close to bum wiping and have cleaned toilets) but they have big hearts as well as drive and determination.
2. Retail can make you or break you; it tests your limits and makes you see that what you thought was impossible is actually possible. There will be days where you have a cheeky sob in the stock room but there is always tomorrow.
3. It makes you ambitious even if you hate it; it lets you realise what you do and do not want in a job. It can help you see that the only way is up and out.
4. Some customers are just down right rude! If they had to be in your shoes, on your feet all day selling things you have little or no interest in they probably wouldn’t last as long. I often thought that if each nasty customer had to deal with what I dealt with, they would never treat a member of staff badly again. It promotes humility and respect for your fellow human.
5. People push their luck in customer service situations so you learn their trick and know how you can weedle your own way. It helps you become more confident if you aren’t happy with the service someone is giving you (“What do you mean it won’t be delivered today?! I paid for next day delivery! I expect to be compensated!”) This is not to say having worked in customer service gives you the right to be nasty to staff in return. NOT COOL!
6. It sorts the men from the boys (or the girls from the ladies), you can have someone who thinks they are the bees knees in school – straight A’s! But it helps you see that not all intelligence is about grades! It shows you the value of common sense.
I suppose points 4 and 5 are the ones I feel most passionate about. I think retail/customer service really cuts people down to size. And although I know what I am writing here won’t illuminate the idiots of the world who just want to go and upset someone I still think people should take it on board. Everyone has bad days, the difference between us is the way we deal with it. And there is never an excuse for taking stuff out on staff be that in a shop, restaurant, airplane – whatever!
Please tell me if I’m wrong, as always I’d love to know your comments