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6 (Pleasantly) Surprising Lessons I Learned Working in Retail

6 (Pleasantly) Surprising Lessons I Learned Working in Retail

I’ve only been working in retail for almost three months, but the experience thus far has left me with lessons to take with me for the rest of my life. Here are the top six most important life lessons that have led me to grow as a person in the past three months.

1. Your opinion is valid — and believe it or not, it matters.

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I was always the type to invalidate my feelings and my opinions, so I just never expressed myself. I always told myself: “Why bother? It’s not like anyone cares.” The past three months in retail have showed me that it’s all in my head. Customers have asked me to for my opinion on outfits, and how something fits them, and whether they should go with this color or this color.

When I first started working, I was always baffled when customers asked for my opinion and help on an outfit; often times, I caught myself asking “Oh, me?” I was so used to always giving my opinions and feelings no mind because I just figured they didn’t matter, but they do.

2. No one is out to get you. Stop taking everything so personally.

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To me, everything is personal. If someone points out my mistakes, they must hate me and have an intricate plot against me. I remember when I first started working, every time my bosses gave me advice or attempted showing me how to complete a task, I always assumed it came from a place of belittling me. I thought to myself, “Wow. They really must think I’m stupid.”

Working in retail taught me to accept criticism — and just because someone gives you advice does not mean they are belittling you.

In reality, I was new to the job and they were just explaining to me how the job works. I’ve learned not to take it personally when customers get irritated for something that is not in my control. Just because the shirt doesn’t fit, or the price isn’t what they wanted, doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me. Working in retail taught me to accept criticism — and just because someone gives you advice does not mean they are belittling you.

3. It is okay to make mistakes.

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Do you know how difficult it is for a perfectionist such as myself to hear that they did something wrong? It’s tough to hear that you put the sensors in the wrong place on the jeans, or that you forgot to size the tags on the dresses you just processed. But I’m human. I make mistakes and as tough as it is to accept that, it’s true. Mistakes are a part of life and they don’t make me less of human. It’s okay to strive for perfection and make a few mistakes on the way.

4. Patience

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First off, let me say that you will get annoyed by your customers. Some customers will ask you to take down 30 different shirts or dresses off of the wall, just to tell you they don’t want them. Some customers will try on millions of different outfits in the fitting rooms and leave every single item in the fitting room. Some customers will bring the items out of the fitting rooms and put them on random racks; you see them do this, and they see you see them. They will look you in the eyes and deliberately put items on the wrong racks.

Patience is the most important trait you need for life, and in this case, retail jobs.

Some customers will even leave bloody tampons in the fitting rooms (trust me, I wish I was kidding). Most customers will bring their annoying children into the store and their children will mess with anything and everything. Customers will bring food and drinks in the store (even though there is a clear sign outside the store stating to not bring food or drinks into the store) and then they will spill their food or drink and have the audacity to pretend like nothing has happened.

Some customers will literally come in at 8:58 P.M. and say, “You guys haven’t closed yet, there’s two minutes left,” and take their sweet time leaving. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. All you can do is take a deep breath, grit your teeth and simply say: la hawla wala quwatta illa bilaah (there is no power and no strength except with Allah) Patience is the most important trait you need for life, and in this case, retail jobs.

5. People Skills

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Okay so I have mad social anxiety. I do not know how to communicate with people and I am extremely shy; I prefer not to be seen or heard. The first night I worked, one of my bosses approached me saying, “Everyone here, including customers, thinks you’re very shy and that makes it easier to walk all over you and pull something over your head, don’t let that happen.” That next weekend, my other boss says: “I know you’re very soft-spoken, but girl, you gotta learn to raise your voice and speak up.”

They probably only said it in the context of work, but I took those words and I live with them every day of my life. I’ve forced myself to greet every customer in the loudest voice possible; I’ve gotten used to going up to customers and saying: “Would you like any help? Are you finding everything okay?” This is why I say that getting this job is one of the best things to happen to me, because it has forced me to break out of my shell.

6. There’s always something nice to say.

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As mentioned above, customers value my opinion; therefore, I’ve had to learn to always find something nice to say: “Well, I don’t think green suits you, but that dress compliments your figure so well, so I’ll bring a few different colors for you.” Maybe these are backhanded compliments, but I’d rather give the customer something to feel good about themselves than nothing at all.

When you always force yourself to find a positive thing to say to someone, you help yourself become a little less negative.

Giving people nice compliments makes them feel good and they begin to warm up to you. Plus, when you always force yourself to find a positive thing to say to someone, you help yourself become a little less negative.


 

Even with all of the negatives, working in retail is great. It increases your people skills and your confidence in yourself. Working in retail has benefited my life in so many ways and has allowed me to grow immensely. Plus, that employee discount is pretty great as well.

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