Working with the General Public

There is a new Gyro shop down the street from my store. It  has the most amazing food. It has a tiny weeny little space with a walk up take out window. I have been watching the progress of their business since they opened just a few months back. The location is excellent; just a few yards away from a very busy cross town bus stop. I watch the woman working at the window. She always has a smile on her face. I ask myself everyday what is behind that smile? The constant barrage of customers she deals with hour after hour on a busy day, separated by a small counter must be, in my mind, exhausting by the end of the day.

We ran into each other on the subway and rode to work together. She told me she is having so much fun working at the gyro window.

Her sincerity stayed with me. I questioned myself. Could I still be having so much fun by the end of my day?

What I have discovered with working in retail over the years, dealing with the general public is much much more than just putting my hand out for their credit card. Over time, a parade of regulars become part of my day, part of my business and part of my life. Some exchanges are very business like, others become endearing and special. Obviously, I have to stand my ground with the occasional mentally ill person or the shoplifter that keeps eyeing me.

Other times, I am included into the lives of my customers. I feel honored. We have over time created a camaraderie that is special between us. They share a little of their life. A great trip they just took. Family visiting. An awesome play I should see. Other times, someone has had a very bad day, or week, or month. They confide in me. Again, I feel honored. This can be difficult. I remember vividly, many years ago, a regular customer of mine told me she was dying of cancer. She wanted to choose an outfit from my store to be buried in. As she tried on different outfits, I watched her husband hovering outside my door. He never took his eyes off her. It was heart wrenching. When she left, I went into the storage room and cried. I never saw her again.

The reason I am writing this is because of my past week. A very sweet woman came in and bought a sweater. She started to share with me her current loss of a loved one. She was in so much pain. I had no words to comfort her. I gave her a hug. I hope she comes back, not to buy anything, just to get lost in my store of knicknacks, listen to my music and try to not to think.

Working in retail is difficult at times. It is also a pleasure. It is an open window to the public, good and bad. I guess, depending on your own disposition, it is up to each one of us how we absorb and deal with it.

My friend working the gyro window at the end of my street has a constant barrage of characters everyday, a flash mob of the general public…..I really believe she has the a strong disposition for working her counter. We all need that.

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