5 Bad Habits Working Retail Taught Me
Hi, My Name is Kathryn Huber, and I am an ex-retail manager.
I worked in retail for over 12 years. I worked in stores that sold everything from candy to bridal gowns. I was there to serve any and every person that walked through my doors with a big smile. Throughout my career I became bitter, unhappy, and over all depressed with my situation. Between the crummy hours, and the abusive customers, I started to lose my faith in humanity. If you know me now you know this doesn’t sounds like me at all and THANK GOODNESS. So here is what I had to unlearn to be the person I am today. These are some of the worst habits I learned from working in retail.
DISCLOSURE, I wasn’t always unhappy with my job, in fact for the most part because of my helping nature I liked working retail. There were many wonderful things I learned from the amazing people I worked with and from working retail itself.
1. The ONLY Way To Succeed Is Through Success
I worked for several large chain companies (one that I am thinking of specifically) that measured success by how the store out preformed last year. In fact when I worked for a small business that didn’t use this metric I was lost. I did not know what to strive for, if we were not trying to beat last year. It is important for companies to track their progress and an easy way is to track that progress is using numbers from last year. Since leaving retail and moving into the Life Coaching space I have learned that most people learn better from their failures than they do their successes. The most successful companies and people started out failing. Look at Oprah, and Steve Jobs, look at Colonel Sanders, and that guy that invented the light bulb. They all failed many times before the where huge successes. Hell even WD40 wasn’t perfected for until the 40th try. Retail taught me that failure was bad and the only way to success was success at any cost. This is not how the real world worlds.
2. Holidays Are For Spending Money
If you work retail or are living in the modern day world you know all of the buzz around buying things during the holidays. I spent so much time in the store working during the holiday season I missed out on a lot of family time due to my schedule. Even after leaving the retail world I now feel the need to purchase or get the deals during the holiday season. Sometimes I even feel like it will be a bad holiday if I don’t spend loads of money. This is a bad habit especially if you don’t have tons of money to spend. The holidays are about love and spending time with those we love not about spending money and getting and receiving presents. The holidays for many retail workers are a very stressful time even when they are supposed to be the happiest.
3. Kicking & Screaming Gets You What You Want
This one kills me. We teach kids when they are young not to throw temper tantrums. However now with a culture that has been taught “the customer is always right”, we allow grown adults to bitch, moan, throw a fit and treat employees like crap because they are dissatisfied. This is the worst habit that retail is teaching people. Let’s look at this example, if your neighbor walked over to your house and started screaming at you because one leaf off your tree blew into their yard, what would you do? What if they threw the leaf in your face and then started to threaten you by saying they were going to call the cops? What would you do? You’d probably close the door, or even call the cops yourself as they were acting foolish. Yes, I have had many objects thrown into my face, my life be threaten, and several people tell me they were “going to inform my manager”, or better yet threaten me that I will lose my job and they would call the Better Business Bureau on me. This habit we have taught to people is part of the reason we can’t get along in this country. We expect people to be respectful even when we aren’t ourselves. When you have a problem we need to address the issue by going to the person with respect. Not surprising at all they are most likely going to want to help you the best they can because you were respectful with them.
4. Money Is More Important Than EVERYTHING
I worked for a company that didn’t care how you met their standards they just cared that at the end of the day you were successful in their metrics and they turned the biggest profit possible. Of course no company is going to tell customers this because they want you to trust them enough for you to give them your business. However this is what many companies teach to their employees. I saw employees, managers, and high level management make decisions to get money over doing what was right. These choices may have not been completely wrong but was at best in the gray area. This of course is not how all people in the retail industry feel or operate, but it is in my experience pretty common. It is hard not to pick up habits like these when you are immersed in a culture that cares more about the bottom-line than the customers or the employees. Now I am not stupid and I know businesses are there to make money. But in reality when you go home at night it’s not the money that you make, or the bottom line that you defend that is going to keep you warm, give you fulfillment, or bring you joy. In my opinion companies would end up making more money if they built their business culture to provide employees, customers, and investors joy and fulfillment.
5. NEW Is ALWAYS Better
When you work in retail NEW is always better. This seasons stuff is better than last seasons. This model is way better than that model, and we always have to set a trend. When I worked in retail I always felt like I was trying to keep up with the Jones. Many times I struggled with debt because I was always trying to sport the latest trends. I did this to encourage customers to trust me to help them pick out the better or more items. With the mentality NEW is ALWAYS better there is also the factor of waste, what do you do with the “out of trend” items you own?
Now I am not trying to give retail a bad name, nor am I trying to complain about my time there. I learned a lot from retail like, how to handle unhappy customers, how to manage employees, and how to train effective employees. Change is coming in many different parts of life and hopefully one day these 5 bad habits retail taught me will be a thing of the past. But until then we as the consumer have to encourage change to happen. We need to support companies that teach good habits. We also have the responsibility to act a certain way when we do shop. Just because we can get away with throwing a fit doesn’t mean we have to.
Here is a short list of things that you can do as a consumer to encourage companies to teach good habits:
When you are unhappy do not throw a fit, simply state your problem, and ask for the solution you want. Once you have done this be willing to compromise and be flexible with the solution.
Make it your responsibility in your experience in a store. Take interest in employees that you are trying to help you. You are going into their store for a reason let them to their job and help you.
Don’t shop on holidays. I am a big believer in this one, if we shop stores will be open and there for you are causing someone to miss out on family time.
Shop at places where you can find used goods. We don’t always have to keep up with the Jones, and don’t forget the Jones donate their best stuff to places like Goodwill and even use Consignment.
Shop locally. This doesn’t just mean the small businesses on Main Street. Your community members are also those that work at large retailers. Instead of ordering online shop at the mall or other local stores because you are supporting your neighbors by shopping in a store.