punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

When I worked at a book store...

I am reading a book, a gift from my friend Neal, about working retail. I like the book, although as a former retail manager, I can see what the author's problem is and why he was so miserable. I have always had good customer response on average. My first retail job, I was working Crown Books in McLean. Good ol' #803. I recall the first day I worked there, I was told by an employee, "Remember, Grig: Customers are SCUM. They suck, they whine, and they are STUPID!"

"Wow," I recall thinking, "you must be terrible at your job." And I was right, he got canned after Christmas. It was that over-reaction of his that launched my determination and resolve to have a stronger and more positive attitude. Unlike everyone else, I never let customers bother me. I realized that 99% of the customers out there were nice and polite, and the 1% that weren't, I got even with by being even nicer because there's not a DAMN thing they can do about it. It was like a sick twisted sense of control. The meaner you got, the nicer I was. I got stronger in the face of adversity. It was like I won either way. And by being nice as much as I could, that other 99% started to form a positive loop that could last for hours. Like a combination of riding a wave and successfully growing a very rare and fragile orchid.

And this affected my whole outcome about the human race. I learned:

  • The world and its people don't owe you anything: respect, politeness, care, or friendship. You have to earn it.
  • Treating people like how you wish to be treated doesn't work out so much if you hate yourself.
  • Mean people are rare, it's why they stand out so much. Don't believe me? Count them one day in a ratio of non-mean customers. I'd be surprised if it's more than 1 in 10 unless you are mean first. Don't take them personally, it's part of the process to make you stronger. It's a test.
  • Customers are not part of the same mothership, so don't expect the lesson you teach one to affect anyone else. But the next customer is always a chance for a fresh start. You make a choice with each new face that comes up to you. Choose wisely.
  • A nice act will affect one person who will affect 2-3 people. A mean act will affect at least one person and those around them, who will piss off the next 10 people they see, and those people will piss off 4-5 people, who in turn will probably piss off another 2-3 people each. That's why it's easier to be mean, and why it's the chosen tool of cowards and the lazy. It's also why it's so weak, easily spread, and usually without any real value. Being nice is hard work with little short term rewards, but over time, makes you a hell of lot stronger and in control of your life.


That being said, I enjoy humor at the customer's expense just as much as anyone else. We had a huge work table in the back room of 803, where someone had written this skit in permanent marker:

Employee: May I help you?
Customer: NO I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP LEAVE ME ALONE!!!
Employee: Okay, sir.
Customer: [10 minutes later] I can't find anything due to your stupid shelving system!
Employee: I suggest you eat this, sir:
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
[pause for reload]
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **
** BLAM **

The "pause for reload" is what really made it funny for me. This ended up as a Prune Bran skit as well.

I hope all my friends who are still in retail remember to "pause for reload" this coming Black Friday.
Tags: crown books, customers, work
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