Guess I’m feeling nostalgic for some old school humor. Virtual candy corn to anyone who can tell me who said that famous phrase ( as in, my title).
But that’s beside the point. My computer has been cranky the last few days – it’s probably just feeling jealous over my impending Kindle Fire purchase – so I haven’t been able to post. Plus, there’s been the NaNoWriMo prep – which is not going as full-throttle as I’d like. That issue is primarily due to the excruciating day gig that has been testing my patience and self-control this week.
It’s not so much the actual job itself, it’s the humanoids that I sometimes come in contact with. I am in retail, and as my daughter once said, “It should be a requirement of everyone before they can graduate that they spend one week working in retail and food service before they are set loose on society.” I don’t think that people truly recognize how they look to others. It’s as if some sort of courtesy gene evaporates once they set foot on the carpet of a retail establishment. It becomes all about them and their need to fondle and molest the merchandise at will, and be the entire focus of your attention, even if others are also clawing and scraping for your time.
One of my “skills” as a retail goddess is to be completely earnest and sincere in helping even the most challenging of customers. Somehow I can smooth it over when one customer interrupts another customer as if they didn’t exist. (Remember, it’s all about them and their burning need to try on that shirt – Right. Frickin’. Now. ) For example:
Customer One: How much is that shirt?
Me: It’s on sale for only $9.98.
Customer One: That’s great! Would you happen to…
Customer Two (bursting in as if they were the only person on the planet currently, and I am their robotic slave) I want to try this on – Can you let me in the fitting room?
Customer One: (Gasps and looks indignant)
Me: Of course! I’ll be with you in just a moment. (To Customer One) I’m sorry, you were saying?
And varying versions of the above scenario. The one that sends one of my managers over the edge is when a customer loses the ability to form complete sentences. They are so overwhelmed by the amazing bargains, or the shopping frenzy – we are still not sure – but it involves the customer waving an item of clothing at us as if they were surrendering their country, and it is the flag. Sometimes the waving is accompanied by some odd gestures that point around the store as if their finger was a dowsing rod. Some have even been able to bring forth one or two words such as “dressing room?” or “here?”
The other one that happens quite often has to do with the utter lack of faith the customer has in your knowledge of your profession. It’s not university level work here people – literally it is not brain surgery – and since I spend about 40 – 50 hours a week immersed in the merchandise, I have a fair idea what’s going in with it. Now I realize they have been in my store for almost ten minutes now, but I might know a smidgen more. God I wish I could say this stuff out loud. And keep my job. Here is this example:
Customer: Do you have this shirt in an extra large?
Me: I’m so sorry, it has been very popular, I’m afraid we’re all out. I could order it for you though.
Customer: No, I don’t want it that bad. But are you sure you don’t have it?
Me: Yes I am. I noticed we were running low, so I went to see if we had any more in the back earlier, but we’re all out.
Customer: Are you sure there aren’t any more in the back? It’s an extra large I’m looking for.
Me: Right. Uh, no, I’m sorry, there aren’t. But like I said, I could always order it for you.
Customer. No, I don’t want it that bad. But maybe you could just check in the back, just in case. I need an extra large.
Me: Yeah, see, I already checked this morning, but let’s go check the stack out here – sometimes people put them back in the wrong spot…
Customer: No, I already checked, there aren’t any there. But could you go check in the back?
Me: (on the way to the back) That was an extra large, right?
Here’s the thing; sometimes we have no idea how we really come off to other people. Our communication skills are rudimentary and lazy at times, and sometimes our sense of “me,me,me” can leave us acting a bit, well, rude. And I’m sure that many of the people I encounter that act like this would be horrified if they knew how they really came across. Obviously, I don’t expect anyone to bring me flowers and fall all over themselves being polite. Just common courtesy – to me, my staff, and the other poor customers waiting their turn to get help.
As writers, we also sometimes fail with our communication. In the same way a person’s interactions can be jumbled, or our true intent misconstrued in an email (that’s why we have all those cute emoticons so people know we aren’t being big meanies or smart-asses!), our meaning might get lost in the shuffle if we aren’t clear with our writing. It’s obvious to us what we mean – why don’t those silly readers get it? Reading out loud, rewrites, writing groups, critique partners – all of these things help to keep our intent on the right track. Keep us looking mah-velous. Because if you can’t get what you really mean across to your readers, you’re in big trouble. Even the emoticons may not be able to save you.
This is a shout out to Carol Deminski for taking the time to critique one of my short stories. 😉