After almost two years of being unemployed, I recently got a new-ish job working retail. Previously, I did inventory for a consumer electronics store where I didn’t have to interact much with customers for nearly five years and was unemployed for nine months prior to that. So I guess I haven’t had real customer interaction in almost eight years.
I say this is a “new-ish” job simply because it’s the company I worked for prior to my five-year inventory stint. If I’m honest, it’s not a terrible job. (I say that now, but this weekend is the weekend before Christmas, where tensions will be high, as well as traffic, and more than a few customers.) A friend from my previous days at the company, who to my surprise, is still there and had been promoted to store manager, offered me a seasonal part-time position with the intent to be kept after Holiday, so I figured why not. It’d get me out of the house, (where work-from-home jobs are tough to come by,) and I’d get back in the swing of things as far as interacting with the public, something I’ll need if I plan to travel.
I seem to be the “go-to” for coverage if someone calls out, which isn’t awful and I don’t mind, because my friend knows I could use the extra money. The guys I work with are all right. We chat about video games and how ridiculous some of the merchandise we sell is. For instance, we have a small army of 3-foot tall “Pickle Rick” plushes from the show “Rick and Morty,” which, aside from being nightmare fuel, are enormous, heavy and nobody seems to want them. These are generally the focus of our ire. We left one of these Pickle Ricks on the back counter behind the registers last night and this morning when I came in, our manager, wearing a broad ear-to-ear grin, said, “I hate this.” There was also a threat of a group text this morning saying, “Good morning, everyone! You’re all fired!” We really don’t like the Pickle Ricks.
After nearly a decade of being squirreled away either at home or in an inventory room, interacting with the public is a trip. At holiday time, confused parents come in, unsure of what in the hell their kids have asked for, looking bewildered at the overabundance of pure stuff my store has to offer. Even I have to admit that it’s a little overwhelming. For a small store, it’s full of all the pop culture and video game paraphernalia that, to the uninformed, could be incredibly intimidating. (I’m not even sure that the staff knows fully what all we have there.) But, you have to smile whenever one of these parents come in and do your best to help them, because good for them for trying to be understanding of their child’s hobbies.
The downside of working with the public is when a customer enters the store intoxicated. “Contact highs” are a thing that happens, particularly when the customer has a lot of questions or needs help. (I was told to go sit down after an interaction with a customer who entered the store surrounded by a Pigpen-esque cloud of what I could only think was a weapons-grade strain.) Drunken customers are also a thing, and if there’s more than one, a loud thing. (An example from last night: a pair of gentlemen, openly drinking from small bottles, began cursing and tossing out racial slurs, horrifying the other customers in the store.) The drunk ones tend to be more unpleasant to deal with than the high ones. Thankfully, these kinds of customers are more the exception than the rule, but they’re not the easiest interactions.
As a whole, working with the public is an interesting thing. For the most part, people are genuinely thankful to be helped, while some others treat you as if you’re subhuman. I do find people to be largely fascinating, though and each individual interaction is a little adventure.