For the last three summers I worked at a shoe store in a local mall. Whenever I would tell people I worked in retail, they would look at me with pity, assuming that I had a terrible job.
“Oh, I’ll bet you have stories,” they’d say. Or, “Well, I bet you really earn every paycheck you get.”
I’ve worked three back-to-school seasons, two Black Fridays, two holiday seasons, and countless buy-one-get-one sales. So yes, I do have stories. I have something of a treasure trove of stories.
I’ve had to tell children to stop running headlong into our wall mirrors. I’ve thwarted (and been thwarted by) my fair share of shoplifters. I’ve dealt with crazy coupon ladies. I’ve witnessed two kids walk out of our store with two handfuls each of our miniature plastic shoehorns.
But for every story of frustration, there are many more of satisfaction and fulfillment.
I see customer service as an opportunity to create. When a tired mother toting three toddlers would enter the store with a tired scowl, I’d have the chance to create a happy end to her day. When a rushed businessman would come in on his lunch break, I’d have the opportunity to create a quick, get-in, get-out shopping experience.
The most challenging experiences were also usually the most rewarding. When a woman would come in with a very uniquely colored dress–say, rust or chartreuse–it would be my job to create her outfit by helping her find just the right shoes to top off the look. For some strange reason it is thrilling to end a shift thinking things like, “I found shoes to match a purple-and-gold paisley cocktail dress.”
Each customer presented a unique challenge. I know I’ve met that challenge when a customer walked out of their store with a smile on his or her face. In those moments, each crazy retail story seemed a little more insignificant.