Apart from being a personal stylist and makeup artist, I have another job. I work in retail at a prestige homewares store.
I am a veteran of many retail Christmases.
During the year, I love my job, I love helping people, I love being out and about in the slipstream of life, and my part time retail job affords me to enjoy little luxuries that I wouldn’t otherwise indulge in (like a DKNY handbag..).
But this time of year really tests my determination to stay in my job, along with my ability to stay sane, which apparently, hangs on tenuously at the best of times.
Retail assistants have to work longer hours at this time of year. This is an expectation, not an option. We are processing more than double the amount of customers than usual, we are unpacking double the amount of new stock, we are trying to keep our shelves filled so it doesn’t look like the bakery from Sarajevo (pictured), training new casual staff AND we are TRYING to be nice to customers and give what we hope is a level of service that is considered to be excellent. Everyday, without fail.
When everything is said and done, at the end of the wash up, Christmas is about you, the Customer. Without you, we wouldn’t have jobs, without you, we wouldn’t sell the stock that comes in to store, without you there’d be no presents, no economy, no Christmas. And you thought it was all about Jesus right? Actually, Christmas is about retailing.
I’ve outlined what Christmas would be like without you, the Customer. Have you ever given a thought about what Christmas would be like without us, the humble Retail Assistant?
Firstly, the store would not open at 9am sharp. If it did, there’d be no-one to show you where the yellow polka-dotted spatulas are kept, or wrap your glassware, take your money or suggest a ‘suitable gift for Aunt Mary the spinster who doesn’t cook’ that is within your budget and in keeping with her colour scheme.
There’d be no Christmas music playing, there’d be no-one to wish you “Merry Christmas”. Yet, it often feels that we are the most under appreciated people at this time of year. I say ‘feels’ because that is my perspective, and it may not be yours. Have you ever thought that we have families that we’d like to be spending time with, shopping and lunching, just as you are doing? Have you ever thought that the online purchase you just made may be contributing to the closure of real life shopping centres with shiny floors and bright lights, because you can get that item $10 cheaper online than from the store just down the road from you? Have you ever thought that the loud conversation you are having on your mobile phone is happening in my workplace where I have to function everyday? Have you ever thought that when you are rude to me because you are disappointed or frustrated that it may hurt what is left of my feelings and affect how I view humanity in general?
Well, this is part and parcel of being a retail assistant. We are often overworked and under appreciated, not just by customers but sadly by our own employers, who often take our labour and good will for granted and expect us to be on time, pleasant, efficient, make sales and give our customers good if not great service, and yet give little in return, knowing that if one of us were to leave, there’d be 100 willing people ready to take our place the next day.
While you’re out and about this Christmas Season, shopping and crossing off your list, spare a thought for the person behind the counter. Whatever you may think about the service they are giving you, they are most likely doing their best in trying times. And remember, Christmas starts in your heart, just as charity begins at home.
Be nice. Smile back. Be patient. Be kind.
Merry Christmas one and all