Friday, December 18, 2009

Why so mean?

I worked in retail for about 6 years. Only one customer has ever made me cry.

I had a good conversation with one of my coworkers about the incredibly rude comments she has sometimes received from visitors. Many of them made my jaw drop. This conversation left me wondering: How can people be so mean? How does ridiculing someone else for their career choices make people feel better?

With all of my retail experience, I feel that one of the good things I do for the world is to generally be nice to clerks and cashiers everywhere. In my own retail career, I have been yelled at when we're out of organic lemons and only have conventional ones. I have been yelled at for helping another customer (who was first in line), or for answering the phone, or for not pulling every string in the book to get a regular the type of rice milk they wanted on the shelf. I have watched grown men yell at Boston Market employees for putting the baked apples in the wrong container. I don't know how all this anger helps. So I try my best to be the best customer I can be. I was waiting at the post office one day during lunch time. There was one employee working, and I could tell that he was exhausted. When it was my turn, he apologized for my wait in a dejected tone. I met that apology with a smile and told him it was no problem. I don't understand how being rude helps the situation at all.

I have a theory that everyone should have to start their career in retail. There's something about shopping that puts customers at their worst. They are often upset with the cashier when the cashier is only passing along information from a manager or other supervisor. It is generally not their fault that they are out of size small polo shirts. You learn to see the world this way quite quickly in retail. You learn that you are more likely to go out of your way to help the nice customers who are understanding and calm, and that you will do whatever you can to not have to check out the customer who has already thrown a fit in the baking aisle. You learn that many customers will treat you horribly. I still don't understand why it is that way, but it is true.

I feel that I have a unique outlook on life. My mom used to be a waitress, so I know to never tip less than 20%, no matter what my service was like, and to speak to the manager if there is a problem (especially if the food arrived cold or something like that--this is generally not the server's fault). I worked in retail as a lowly sales clerk, so I know to smile when my checkout person at the grocery store seems frazzled and to engage if they initiate conversation. I know to say thank you and to make my displeasure known as calmly as possible. I truly believe that people will treat you nicely if you treat them with the respect they deserve.

The absolute bottom line is that everyone makes choices about their employment. Some have more freedom to choose than others. Some have to take jobs for the benefits, not their passion for that particular job. And sometimes people truly enjoy their work. I know that some folks looked down on me for spending my first year out of college working as a clerk at the local health food store. But I truly cared about my work, and I learned so much about natural remedies, healthy food, organic produce, local meat, and about myself and my needs in the workplace. Making snide comments about a person's chosen career is not ok. I challenge you to help stop this negativity. It's as simple as smiling at the person bagging your groceries. (in reusable bags, I hope :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I have become a terrible blogger. This fact has slowly crept up on me, and I am now fully ready to acknowledge it. I love reading blogs, and I could probably do it multiple hours a day. I like reading well crafted and interesting posts...and I used to like creating them myself. Recently, I've been happy to let that slide, and I'm not sure why. So, I decided to let my mind wander and ramble until bed time.

Today was a good day. It started off with orange juice and cereal with almond milk while reading blogs, which is a pretty standard way for me to start my day. I wore a new sweater to church (which is a story in itself--it was given to me for free by one of my summer camper's moms this past summer), and we got there 10 minutes before the service started to encounter a packed house! Today was the children's Christmas program, which means that we got to watch a literal host of angels, the cutest Mary & Joseph, and 4 narrators in very jaunty attire: 1 santa hat, 1 tan fedora, and 1 classy purple velvet dress with sash (these 8 year olds have better style than me!). We got through the donut line early enough to have cake donuts (obviously the most popular ones).

I had leftover lentil soup with a cheese quesadilla for lunch, and shared an apple. (cut into slices, which is really the only way to eat an apple, in my mind. Old habits from having braces die hard.) We ordered some Christmas presents, bought bus tickets for our upcoming Christmas travels, and then went to do laundry. (All I want for Christmas is on-site laundry at my apartment!) Eh, it's not too bad, since we generally do it at our old house and get to chat with old housemates. Upon returning home, I called my parents and chatted for awhile. James made pflinzen for dinner (Russian pancakes, which are the same as crepes), and I indulged in crepes with cream cheese and blueberry jam. Spent the evening getting stuff ready for tomorrow and packaging the mint chocolate cookies I made for the cookie exchange at work. I'm excited to see what kinds I'll come home with!

I can't believe there's only one more work week between me and a 2-week Christmas break that I feel so lucky to have. While tomorrow is a hectic day of back to back meetings and leading a new presentation for our visitors I've never taught's my last Monday at work for two weeks! :) I am also chipper because after a week of sub-zero temperatures, highs were in the 40s for the past two days--amazing what a difference that makes.