Dear retail customer,
In my ten plus years of retail, this will be the second year I am able to celebrate the holidays without the hustle & bustle of working in a retail environment. I want to start this post by saying how much I adore working retail, how much I miss my staff, and how much I respect those who can successfully manage a storefront both with & without a family to maintain. But this post, however, won't be for you. This post will be for your customers, those we've all loved so dearly from day one. So, please..read on and allow me to explain a few things about the holiday season from a retailers' standpoint.
Oh my gosh how I have always loved talking with you one on one while I worked so many days and nights. Even at nine months pregnant, I still looked forward to meeting every single one of you day in and day out. You see, what you didn't know is that I worked 60 hours at times, often times not even clocked in, to make sure that YOU were happy. That's right: we're not all evil.
When I was in a retail environment, not helping retailers build their business like I am now, but in a physical real environment, I loved it. I would wake up excited to meet you and leave feeling my heart torn when you told me the stories of what you had endured recently. If you lost a loved one or were going through a divorce, I was there with you. We might not have known each other on any other level other than those few moments we spent together, but my heart was with you. Those who truly understand the industry don't do it for the money. I managed a staff of 15-20 at times and I never did it for the money. I truly loved what I did, for both the customers & my staff. I bonded with our police officers, I remember each and every one of my favorite customers who truly wanted to know how I was doing and knew me by name.
When you came into the store angry over a torn shirt, I felt your frustration. Heck, I did whatever I could to make it better sometimes breaking the rules as much as physically possible without losing my job. I wiped pee up off the floor (because not every customer was as nice as you), I've held the hands of drunk girls late at night who should've been home in bed, and I've styled tweens for their very first homecoming - man was that an amazing feeling. To help a young girl struggling with her confidence find something that makes her beam with excitement is a feeling I'll never forget. When you came back to me days later to thank me and show me homecoming pictures, you made my life.
My favorite moment, ever, was when I helped someone pick the outfit they would be engaged in. She called me days later crying with tears of gratitude. You see, not all of those who work in retail hate their job. Many of us TRULY have a passion for it and, once you're done with it forever, you miss it.
I miss my staff terribly. They all became somewhat of my daughters and I went through some of their biggest ups and downs with them. I still talk with them and keep up, and I will always love them like they're my own family. We spent hours at night painstakingly tearing the store down to put it right back together so YOU could love it the next day. We listened to music and ate and had fun. We've worked thefts, we've had death threats because of it, we've babysat, we've hand-held, and we've worked our butts off.
So while I personally won't be in the physical retail industry this year, all of my clients and friends will be. They'll be working as hard as they can beginning last month to make sure you find the perfect gifts for you and your family. That's right: the holidays for them began months ago traveling to markets & working longer hours. I get the phone calls from them, upset, because you're upset. I get the text messages of panic wanting to make you feel better and not knowing what to say. So, I ask a few things of you if you've never worked a day in retail:
1. Please be patient. It's hard and I mean really, really hard to wake up and know you're going to be yelled at because stress levels are high. It's hard to leave your newborn like I had to and it's even harder to stand on your feet for 8-14 hours a day all while looking cute. It's tiring. I was fortunate that my employer loved me & worked with me like a daughter, many aren't so lucky.
2. Retail employees are upset, too, only you won't know it. They'll hide in the stockroom to let their emotions out, so please be as nice as possible. If I noticed my girls starting to cry, I'd hurry them off into the back to help talk it out. Customers don't want to see you cry.
3. They want to be at home on holidays, not helping you with putting shoes on. While they love their job, they want the holidays with families. Even though you're ready to hurry out to your Thanksgiving dinner, remember they're still there until closing time and a few hours afterward to get ready for Black Friday.
4. When you shop Black Friday, know that many college-aged retail employees never had the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones because the travel was too far and they only had one day off. Be patient.
5. When you have an issue and are upset, please ask for the manager or the store owner. Don't immediately take your frustrations to the internet or leave a bad review. While the owner can assist you and make it better in minutes, that review will cost them multiple employees and their reputation.
6. Help them help you. If a pregnant employee is carrying a ladder, help them. If you see someone shoplifting, please alert staff. Many times these retail associates can lose their job if they don't see theft. Also, if you see someone struggling with an assailant, call the cops. I've had my life threatened, it's not fun. These young associates have to walk themselves to their cars in the dark late at night and you don't want them to be confronted when they're alone. If you find sensors hidden, turn them in. You won't be accused of theft, just explain to them where you found them. It saves them the trouble and the store owner the embarrassment.
7. If you need help, ask for it. Retail employees can't read your mind, although they wish they could - trust me. Ask if they can spare a moment to help you out if you need to find a gift or an outfit. My girls would've been more than happy.
8. If you knock something down, please oh please pick it up. I remember being on my hands and knees at 9 months pregnant picking up after teenagers and wanting to cry because my feet hurt so bad I couldn't bare the thought of standing back up.
9. Read the return policy and know what you're signing to save the trouble. Get the gift receipt, most stores don't keep up with every purchase. It'll save you a huge headache.
10. Enjoy the holiday shopping experience. There are a lot of people who've spent hours and days upon months of the year working to make sure you do.
As we go into the holiday seasons, I wish you nothing but the best. If you're a retail owner or employer, leave a comment saying hi! If you're a customer, I'd love to hear the stores you love that have AWESOME customer service!