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What You Can Learn From Working In Retail

Posted by Chanelle Schneider on November 13, 2009

At the pay desk

Retail – It’s a thankless industry. Between the elitist customers who look down on you for being a lowly salesperson and the family that does the same, you can begin to feel like you’re wasting your time in a position that has no potential to help you in your professional life. Well, you’re wrong. If you’ve been trying your best to get a so-called real job but feel that all you can get is retail, consider yourself lucky because you are now privy to the best on-the-job training for which you will not have to pay.

Your time spent on the floor of your retail store will give you countless hours of access to sensitivity, anger management, and customer service training while, also, developing your social skills, exposing you to deductive reasoning, working with a team, and developing your confidence. If you think these attributes are not important to your professional life, then re-read the skills and requirements that employers are looking for in their job ads.

You will begin to notice that people have a tendency to repeat certain actions. Take notice of these patterns because they can offer much insight. What follows is a list of some behaviors that you should take with you into your professional and personal life.

Read the fine print
When something is on sale, most companies list all of the exclusions in their marketing. This is the same for companies outside of the retail industry. Read through paperwork. Ensure you have full knowledge of what you are entering into. Don’t sign something without this knowledge.

Ask proper questions
Sometimes you can’t answer something for yourself, and you need help. It is perfectly acceptable to ask someone who is more knowledgeable about the subject for assistance. However, they cannot read your mind. “You know what I mean” will not always work. It is best to be clear on what you need so that the other person can adequately and efficiently serve your needs. Give the person clues to help them understand what you need.

Help yourself first
When was the last time you walked into a store that had no marketing, no price labels, and no item descriptions? Not recently, I would bet. How often do you bypass the marketing, price labels, and item descriptions to ask someone what’s on sale, how much something is, or what something is, though? In retail as in life, signs and labels are around to help you help yourself. People are much more willing to help you find a solution to your problem when it appears as though you have taken the initiative to educate yourself on the matter from the outset without expecting that you are entitled to receive the answers from someone else.

Double Check
You were taught this lesson in school. People make mistakes, but agreeing to their mistake will cost you in the end. After you have helped yourself, asked the proper questions, and read the fine print, ensure that all of the facts and figures are correct before signing your name.

Just because it’s on the front table doesn’t mean it’s for you
The first thing that you see is not always the solution to your problem. If you’re allergic to wool, would you buy a sweater without checking the fabric label? In the professional world it is necessary to dig deeper. Guarantee that you have fulfilled your needs before walking away.

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9 Responses to “What You Can Learn From Working In Retail”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chanelle Schneider, Moonflower Starfire. Moonflower Starfire said: What You Can Learn From Working In Retail « There From Here http://bit.ly/1pCGhI […]

  2. Sha said

    Sorry sweetie what you wrote is not helpful. I worked retail for almost 20yrs and the includes 7yrs in corp america. Working retail takes a fine set of people skills which people are so lacking these days. So when a person is so called looking down on you as a lowly sales person its not because of them thinking they are better. Its because most sales persons are idiots these days and people are tired of this mediocrity in customer service. We were always knowledgeable about the products each day when the shipment came in, that is what you do you are proactive in your knowledge. You do not wait to know something, you seek the knowledge. I had the best manager a person could have ever had with my first job. She taught me so much in how you are a person, that you are not just someone who works for the company. We were a family at that job and I will tell anyone that was the best job I ever had and I miss it so much. The sales persons of today are so lacking because they feel they are owed something. When you start something with the idea that it is only temporary you do not take it seriously enough and it will show in your work. No one is owed anything and young people who go into reatil with this idea I am getting something better soon will have a hard way to go until they change that attitude.

    • I appreciate your comment. However, I fail to see what was not helpful. Your statements: “You do not wait to know something, you seek the knowledge” and “The sales persons of today are so lacking because they feel they are owed something” appear to be the same message I wrote in this statement from the post: “People are much more willing to help you find a solution to your problem when it appears as though you have taken the initiative to educate yourself on the matter from the outset without expecting that you are entitled to receive the answers from someone else.” So, it seems we agree.

      The focus of my piece was not idiotic salespeople. To say that salespeople these days are idiots is a generalization that only serves to validate my point that people believe salespeople are unworthy of their time because they assume them to be idiots without giving them a chance. To further assert that “kids these days” are bad salespeople shows a prejudice against this age group, which only worsens the situation and suggests that it is only young kids who are incompetent salespeople. I was careful not to suggest an age group because there are people over the age of 25 working in retail. My statement about snobby customers and family was offered as fact and not intended to be a point of advice. If the advice that came after the first paragraph was not helpful, I’d be glad to discuss that. The purpose of this post was to give people who work in retail more insight into the transferable skills that they can learn not to cast them as idiotic children.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by WriterChanelle: NEW POST! [My blog] “What You Can Learn From Working In Retail” http://bit.ly/cU3u0

  4. Jara said

    I found this post very helpful, Chanelle. I like how you used retail as a starting point to make broader points about how we can use these skills in LIFE.

    E.g. HELP YOURSELF FIRST
    I am running across way too many people who are lazy. They would rather ask someone a basic question that put in any work to find out for themselves.

    And you already know what I think about “Read the fine print.” 🙂

  5. Jara said

    Oops, I meant to write “than”, not “that”. I didn’t “double-check” before hitting “submit comment”. lol

  6. Lauren McCabe said

    I’m a strong believer that you can learn something from any job, period. For example, I waitressed at a corporate restaurant and I learned a LOT about corporate culture– mainly that I do better in organizations that encourage individuality, rather than ones that order you to conform to their image . Each job I’ve held since has always been about how my unique interests can add to an organization– from teaching SAT classes for a company that encourages you to tell crazy stories to engage students, to my work now for an internet start-up that hired me off my mermaid travel blog. That waitressing job sure taught me a lot!

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