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Retail This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     To work retail is to learn humility. September 18 marked one full year that I worked at Wilson's Leather as a sales associate. If you walk into my store, I will be waiting to whisk you off in search of the leather coat of your dreams. Retail is something I excel at, and it has taught me about life in many forms.

By nature, I am not very confrontational, yet the first time a customer tried to belittle me for something that was obviously his fault, I nearly screamed at the injustice. I was ready to grab his collar, pull him close, and not-so-nicely explain to him that it was his fault his layaway had been canceled and send him off with a sarcastic "Have a great day!" Instead, I forced a smile and asked, "What can I do to fix the situation, sir?"

This happens frequently in retail, and continually forces me to realize that I am merely a "service" to my customers. Being in an imposed status, lower than the social comforts of my middle-class life, I learned respect not just for my customers, but also for all human beings. I consider myself lucky to have learned my lesson in humility early.

Life is a hierarchy, constructed of classes of people from different backgrounds. On any given day, a good sampling of all these types of people come into my store. There are the "rushers" who emit pompous self-importance in their hurried, long strides. Buying what they came for, they shrug off my feeble attempts at conversation. Others stroll from store to store with upturned noses at those trying to help them, buying without regard for the high prices. Emotions down, and esteem dropping, I ring up my greatest sales of the day with the deepest feelings of dissatisfaction. I can learn everything about these two types of people with one over-priced sale.

There is another type of customer, my favorite, who creeps into the store, quietly moving from one coat to the next. If I try to coax information from them about what they want to buy, I receive a meek smile with a few mumbled words that sound like "I'm just looking, thanks." Once, I helped a woman in her 30s. Although she spoke little English, I gleaned that she wanted to buy a present for her husband but was not sure she could afford it. I explained our layaway process, helping her understand that she could take three months to pay. When what I was saying dawned on her, a glow radiated from her.

She was so incredibly thankful and told me, in great detail, about how she worked two jobs to be able to afford the coat. When she left the store, I went on to help another customer feeling fulfilled. The comprehension of the mutual dependency of the social classes is vital to the understanding of and having the power to respect each individual. This not only leads to a more complete understanding of life, but also to a greater awareness of my role. Retail introduced me to a new way of viewing life; a way of better understanding myself and those around me.

Although my purpose in having a job was originally to earn extra spending money, it has added significantly to my education. Retail teaches humility.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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