What to Learn from Working in Retail

By Amanda Cohen on May 12, 2018

For some of us, summer is officially here; for others, you only have a couple exams and/or papers separating you from a sweet summer vacation. However, with summer vacation comes summer jobs and many of us are familiar with the summer retail job. Retail jobs are a blessing and a curse; they are a blessing because you are getting paid and you are learning a ton of life skills. However, the curse is that you will have to deal with some rude customers and will probably be at the bottom of the food chain in terms of your position. If this is about to be your first summer working in retail I would like to impart some wisdom to you; working in retail: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Image via. https://pixabay.com/en/shop-store-open-shopping-retail-2607121/

One of the most important lessons you can learn in retail is respect. If you thought in the past that you were kind and gracious to retail workers, waiters, etc., I promise you will want to be even nicer from here on out. Unfortunately, I can guarantee that you will have at least one rude customer each day (probably more than that). Whether you accidentally pull the wrong size or if they were just generally impatient, you will learn two major lessons: (1) patience is a virtue and (2) be nice to any person, especially people who are trying to help you.

Let’s start with patience. When dealing with an indecisive customer or a rude customer, you are going to need to take a deep breath and be patient. If the customer is kind, this is easy, but if the customer is rude you will really just need to suck it up. After dealing with this, you will learn to be nicer and more grateful for the people who work in retail.

Another situation that becomes quite the learning experience is when a customer is not just rude, but downright mean. If you come across a customer (as described above) and you don’t think that cleansing breaths will fix the situation, get a manager or someone who his higher up than you.

This brings me to my next lesson in working retail: your superiors, although frustrating at times, can and will help you. Because of this, it is imperative that you treat them with respect. Remember how you were always taught to respect your elders? Well, take this lesson and apply it to your superiors (even if your superior is not that much older than you). In addition, not only learn to use your superiors, but also be sure to learn from them and ask them the fun question of the lessons that they learned while working in retail over the summer.

Another motto that we’ve all heard from a young age is to treat others the way that you want to be treated. This definitely is a lesson that will be reiterated throughout your time in retail. You will, at some point, come across either a customer, a manager, an HR representative, or all of the above who will not abide by this motto when it comes to speaking to you.

However, if you treat these people in the same way that they are treating you, you will most likely lose your job and will, therefore, lose your spending money for the summer. Kill them with kindness. When they’re rude, remind yourself how you wish they would treat you, and abide by that. Don’t go off their actual behavior, go off the behavior and courtesy that you wish that they had. I know Drake had a different version of the motto when he came out with the infamous sound The Motto, but my motto will forever be “treat others the way that you want to be treated.”

Image via. https://pixabay.com/en/fashion-clothing-shop-clothes-1031469/

All in all, working in retail builds character and it gives you a newfound respect for different people from all walks of life. Even if your retail job is just a summer job, be sure to take it seriously and look for the little details that can help you grow as a person. You can gain just as much knowledge from working retail as you would from working in a fancy internship.

Just to break it all down once again: (1) patience is a virtue, (2) be nice to any person, especially people who are trying to help you, (3) ask for help and learn from your superiors, and, last but certainly not least, (4) treat others the way that you would want to be treated. It takes a lot more effort to be rude to somebody than it does to be nice, so don’t waste your energy on negativity. I also hope that everyone working in retail this summer is offered a nice discount! Good luck and happy summer to all of my readers!

I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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