What I Learnt in Retail (Nutshell Edition)

7 months ago, I left the world of retail having spent almost 5 years in varying roles in store operations. Today, whilst going through some paperwork, I found a few thoughts I’d written down the week following my last shift. I’d completely forgotten I’d done it and in all honesty, had done so in a rather absent minded way. The list is as follows:

Things I learnt in retail:

  • Your general aptitude drops.
  • People are generally mental, you just have to wait to see in which way.
  • There should be no shame in working in retail
  • Fire alarm sounds, store is evacuating. “What about my shopping?” It’s not yours yet.
  • However, you’re looked down on in retail, mainly by mothers who don’t want their children to be ‘thick’ or ‘failures’.
  • You have to commit your life and first marriage to retail management.
  • Some of the nicest people in the world are in retail.
  • Some of the most frustrating people in the world are in retail.
  • There are a lot of people in the world who don’t know how to communicate.
  • Never have people with such great drive and those without any co-existed so closely.

That last one was the most interesting to me 7 months on. To those who knew me at that time, whether through work or other means, I don’t see myself as having been a negative person. There was stress in the role but a I genuinely don’t think it leaked out into the rest of the world. I am one to try and compartmentalise issues in life pretty well and apart from the big, big things, I think I do this pretty well.

You see, I don’t regret my time in retail. It was granted, a bit of an alternative decision at the time but I brought great things out of it. Some of my defining strengths were built-up in retail and there were people there who nagged, bossed or encouraged me enough to learn some pretty big life lessons. I was able to go to some sensational events, rub shoulders with the company’s upper echelons and have some conversations that did well to ground me. Yes, there were customers who annoyed and frustrated but there were also those that did well to humble me – made me realise that my situation was far from awful.

Essentially, this post is not a rant or gripe but points more towards you and I in the present. Next time you go to your grocer of choice, try not to think about how busy it is, the prices or how the shelves are untidy. Think instead that it is a real person you’re talking to, at their place of work and it isn’t your shopping. Well, not yet.

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