Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Entreaty: on behalf of Shop Girls everywhere

Working retail you see the best and worst of people.  Mostly, I think you see the worst.  It's quite hard to maintain a cheerful disposition when 9 out of 10 people ignore you when you greet them.  Even more so, it's infuriating when people treat you like a lesser human being, simply because you work in the store that doesn't seem to have a fountain pen in the EXACT shade of indigo their heart desires.

What it amounts to is: people who work in retail have a really good grasp of "first world problems."  I spent half an hour with a (very nice) older woman who was trying to pick the perfect place-cards for her Thanksgiving dinner.  She agonized over matching the color of the paper with a pen color that would "compliment the italian vase" she was using as a centerpiece.  Really, it was agonizing for her.  She was stumped.  She needed my counsel, my guidance.  At one point I thought she might need to sit down she was so overwhelmed with the decision.  I helped her, as best I could, because that is my job.  She was one of the "nice" irritating customers.  Meaning, she was kind and her heart was in the right place... but she was still infuriating.

I work at a paper store.  I happen to love paper, and I happen to love paper goods.  Most of the time, I really like what I do.  I get to help people design invitations and announcements for their life's milestones: weddings, birthdays, holidays, soirees, graduations.  Some of those people are simply delightful and it is my pleasure to be at their service.  What I hate are people who are so unhappy they feel like you should be as unhappy as they are, and they set out to make it so.  I really have to put a cap in it when someone unloads on me about how difficult it is to choose between "peach" and "champagne."  Sometimes I want... well, sometimes I want to say a lot of things.

Sometimes... I think these people need a little perspective.  Daniel Tosh, of Tosh.0, has a great stand up comedy bit about how we Americans have a game show called "Survivor" in places around the world where native peoples have had to survive "for real" for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  We reward people for staying alive for our own entertainment.  We give them a million dollars, actually, for doing what other people have to do because that's their way of life.  Perspective.  This is a random statistic, and I don't know that it's entirely true, but supposedly the amount of money that Americans spent on Black Friday 2011 was very near the amount needed to provide clean water for all impoverished nations.  Is your life so very awful, being that you can't have exactly what you want when you want it?  Is the despair you feel when you hear the words, "No, I'm sorry, we must be out of that..." really worth a tantrum?  Can you remember the last time you might have been less than polite to someone in my shoes?

I understand that I need these people in order to have a job.  I understand that they feel like they need things to fill up their empty lives.  I understand that we "need" them to buy things to keep the economy from collapsing.  But I'd be a lot more understanding if the next time you need my help selecting a color of pen, picking out stickers, or finding the right wording to announce your marriage, that you bring your BEST side with you into my store.

Think about your attitude the next time you shop somewhere.  Anywhere.
I know, I complained on Valentine's Day.  But Shop Girls are people, too.

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