Lessons from Retail

part 1

I work at a Banana Republic in downtown San Francisco to supplement my less-than-lucrative literary life. But I don’t want all the time I spend at the Westfield Mall to be merely about money, or honing my pleasant phone voice and folding skills. So I think while I’m there, too.

Recently we had an especially busy day at the store, with not enough employees on the floor. Days like this result in messy piles of skirts and shirts, two racks of clothes in the fitting room waiting to be replaced, and disheveled hangers in the sale area. The store was still open, but some of us were already charged with the duty of “recovering,” that is fixing the rooms so that by closing time they meet the BR standard.

The other workers and I have often shared stories of one particular frustration that we’ve all felt during these times. You could have newly finished board-folding a stack of particularly finicky cardigans, and moved on to start on the next table, only to look back and watch in horror as a customer flings your time and focused energy aside. Wrapped up so carefully just seconds ago are now-strewn sweaters. You might run over and ask the customer if she would like help finding her size, but often it’s too late, or she “doesn’t mind doing it herself.” And you just wait for more of your work to crumble, until the store closes and then a panicked race around the rooms commences as the minutes diminish and managers frown.

This ironic and silly-if-it-weren’t-so-aggravating occurrence made me question what we do at the store every day. Banana Republic is a business that strives to make more money all the time. Making sure the store looks pleasing, having the sizes easily findable and styles well organized helps the company accomplish its goal. We do all this so that the customer will buy more. But in the constant push to do our job (please the customer) we get frustrated at that same customer for the exact thing the whole store is set up to do.

We lose perspective. With a small-minded focus on one particular job, or goal (a stack of cardigans), we lose the sense of our larger goal. With our myopic view of the job at hand, it’s easy to become irritated by every disturbance. I believe, by stepping back and realizing the bigger thing of which we are a part, we wouldn’t feel so vexed by each customer who doesn’t treat our folding with the respect it deserves.

Spiritually, we are a part of the biggest plan imaginable, one that is not skewed by our society’s passion for material things. But similarly, I believe by looking widely at the whole plan and the steadiness of Him who is in charge of it, we may feel less affected, less overwhelmed, less discouraged, by every trial that upsets our little pile of sweaters.



4 thoughts on “Lessons from Retail

  1. It’s good to know that you are maximizing your time at BR.Thanks for the personal perspective and the lesson that you derived. Surely, you also have some customers who try to refold their looked-over-but-not-being-bought inventory. I am a fan of hyphenated adjectives and you do them so well!

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