Lessons in Love and Retail

Retail taught me a lot about myself

It may come as a surprise to those that know me, but I was once a painfully shy person. I would shun the sun, if a woman walked up to me I would make a b-line the opposite direction. No, I didn't like strangers and I didn't like the unknown. Therefore, I had few options when it came to making friends. So my circle of friends was quite small. This was obviously a huge obstacle in meeting women, since I didn't really have the confidence to talk to them.

So when I was hired as a customer service representative at the local Wherehouse music store, my friends laughed. “Dude, you HATE people and you HATE STUPID people! How are you going to last a whole shift doing customer service?” My friends were right! What was I going to do??? I grew more and more nervous as my first shift drew nearer. I wanted to call and quit before my first shift even started! That's how apprehensive I was about this job and the possibility of meeting and dealing with so many new people. I was a total wreck!

In the coming months I began joking and talking with people; I let loose my randomness, which fell on confused ears more times than not. But that was okay, I was becoming more comfortable with me.

Then a funny thing happened. Without realizing it I developed the subtle art of flirting. Though, I was kind of flirting with everyone, guys, gals, co-workers. I had to dial it back as some crazy girls started to stalk me at work and some guys at work just never really got comfortable with me… But that was cool, I'd never been stalked before, so I could deal with my co-workers being creeped out a little bit!

I ended up working at Wherehouse for five years and became a store manager and managed as many as thirty people. During that time I learned a lot about relationships.

  1. Small Talk is a Useful Tool – I learned that small talk helps break the ice and can get the ball rolling when meeting someone new; it helps make someone feel more comfortable, or make YOU feel more comfortable. I was required to talk to everyone that came through our door. I learned to “chat up” with a variety of people young and old, crazy, normal, fugly and pretty (according to my own effed up sense of beauty).
  2. Say Hello – I was required to say to everyone; it was pushed on all of us Wherehouse employees. Many who work in retail know what I'm talking about. I used to be irritated by it. But it's probably one of the single most important things I picked up from retail: Saying “hello” to EVERYONE. It helped to keep me from standing against the wall when out in a new place and socializing with strangers. You don't always have to say it either, I learned to say hello with my eyes, though some people say that my “hello” gaze is downright creepy. Thanks mom!
  3. Everyone Likes Receipts – When you go down to the local porn shop and buy the newest and hottest selling toys or lotions, you want to buy them with confidence; the same is true if I intend to buy a 27″ iMac to watch the newest and hottest porn on. It totally makes sense! Just does. What I learned early on, with my first girlfriend, was that we have a need to invest ourselves, with confidence, in those we develop feelings for. Don't vomit, now! What I mean is that we want to know what to expect; what we're going to get from the person we're getting acquainted with, whether they are a FWB, BF, GF, WTF or none of the above. When I got together with my first girlfriend, Jane, I believed that it was for the long haul. I really did. But I never “checked the receipt.” I didn't read the small print that I was there so she wouldn't be alone… Lesson learned. So in the future, yeah, I ask for receipts and I give them out, too. You should do the same.
  4. Yes, They ARE Flirting with YOU! – When you don't put a lot of stock in who you are, you might avert your eyes more, make less eye contact. More than that, you miss the queues that people might just be flirting with you. Yes YOU!! When I got into the swing of talking, joking and flirting with the random stranger I took notice not only because of how new it was, but because of how positive most everyone was and how receptive they were. I felt pretty awesome and, at times, I even felt a little funny. However, I was still lacking confidence! I was seriously unable… no, I was unwilling to acknowledge that a lot of girls/women were quite taken with my newly acquired flirtation skills. There were three women in particular who were fairly aggressive, but I just never took the queue. One gal would come into my store about every day I worked. She'd rent a movie, or buy a single and would chat with me and hang around for an hour or so… I didn't get it. I never asked her out. Another gal did the same thing and would probe into my relationship status. One of my co-workers even told me she was interested. However, since I lacked confidence, I never pulled that trigger. There was one other lady, however, I didn't do anything about her clearly on purpose. She was a man eater, kind of like the lovely @missmelisamae, except this lady had no physically redeeming qualities that I could… appreciate. I suppose that last example doesn't fit. Well, nevermind, it was more a plug for Melisa, go check her out!
  5. Go Above and Beyond… Within Reason – There were so many times where I'd go above and beyond for a customer looking for music or movies. If we didn't have something I'd call around, have it shipped to my store, or I'd just drive and pick it up myself, even hand delivering it to customers' residences! I loved my job, that's why I did things like that, no one told me to. There, however, was one guy that made me rethink that blind “let me help you because I can” motto. Let's call him Captain Ass Hat of the Light Brigade, Mmkay? Mr. Ass Hat came into the store looking for something for his wife. We didn't have it and neither did a dozen other places that I called or that the Mr. Ass Hat checked out himself. I told him I'd place an order and pick it up from our distribution center (over an hour drive for me, mind you) and drop it off at his place. The order took longer than usual to get to our Distribution Center, by about a week. Still, I went to Ass Hat's home and dropped off his order. I was greeted with:

Author profile

Alex is the founder and managing editor at the Urban Dater. Alex also runs: DigiSavvy, for which he is the co-founder and Principal. Alex has a lot on his mind. Will he ever get it right? If he does, he'll be sure to write.

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5 Comments

  1. Worthy topic!

    My first real job was at "Ruby's", a 40's diner. I wore my pink and white striped uniform proudly–at 16 I was excited to be a part of something. The job taught me how to make Oreo Cookie Shakes, what's more awesome than that?!

    More importantly, I learned that wait staff truly have thankless jobs. Ppl who throw tantrums and berate their servers are deplorable and should have their coconut heads cracked together. Society as a whole could benefit greatly from starting with a customer service position like this…

  2. I think customer service jobs make you a more outgoing person too. The most important point you made was about saying hello but with your mouth and your eyes. The more approachable you seem, the better your chances of meeting new people.

    1. You're right, PS Jones. Really. That's a key that I've over looked in the past. When you're happy and smiling and having fun, people are drawn toward you, they want to be a part of the fun!

  3. This post totally made me think of Empire Records. After seeing that movie I always wanted to work in record store. Instead. I got greek food and a call centre. Fuck Me. I want your life learning experiences instead please 😛 great post!

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