Everyone should work in retail at least once

By Madison Fraser | Reporter

As I begin my search for what I call “real world” jobs, I realize most of my experience comes from retail jobs. As someone pursuing a degree in journalism with five years of experience in retail jobs, I know that is not necessarily impressive on a resume. However, after all of those years in the service industry, I am confident that the experience I’ve gained means more than a job requiring me to put my pen to paper. Why? Well, the life I’ve lived in retail and service has provided me endless opportunities to further my journalism career because of the stories I am able to share and the relationships I am able to form. With any career, retail experience can absolutely help you further succeed.

I completely believe that, at some point, a person should experience what it’s like to work in retail. As a society, we are completely consumed by material products and because of this, we take advantage of the fact we are constantly being served on. The retail business is a must-have industry in our culture. We, the American people, are obsessed with buying things. From clothes to electronics to cars to houses, décor and groceries, we are always ready to lay down some money.

There’s good reason we have a shopping addiction –– it’s fun and comfortable. When we walk into a store that’s familiar to us, it’s almost as if we’re walking into our own homes. For example, the smell of candles and soaps when you walk into Bed Bath & Beyond and the smell of pizza or popcorn when you walk into Target are feelings and senses that are important to us when we shop because they remind us of home. However, more often than not, what we don’t take into consideration are those who are constantly making sure our shopping experience is meeting our exact desires.

As an experienced retail employee, I know the hard work, long hours and missed holidays that go into making the shopping experience one for customers to continue to cherish. However, I know not all battles can be won. At one of my jobs, I handled returns at the customer service desk. In one specific transaction, I had to be completely understanding of the fact that the customer’s candle was now defective after it was burned completely down to the end of the wick. Another time, a customer put a pile of old, ripped towels on the counter and asked to exchange them. Because of the store’s amazing return policy, I had to accept them, even though I couldn’t fully comprehend why someone would want to return towels they received from a registry more than five years ago.These specific situations made me completely change the manner in which I spoke to a customer service representative again because I had real knowledge of what they go through in their job.

It wasn’t until my most recent retail position at a popular local market where I realized just how important and impactful retail could be. In this business, it’s all about delivering an appreciated product to ensure customer satisfaction that will evidently continue the flow of revenue. However, when you step out of that mind frame and engage in a more in-depth connection with the customer, they are guaranteed to be more pleased overall with their experience, and your job becomes much more appreciated.

Taking this thought process and applying it to all careers across the board is extremely relevant. I honestly can’t say for sure that as a journalist, I would know how to connect more with my subjects and deliver a more meaningful article if it had not been for the “defective” candles and old towels that were tossed over the counter at me.