Everyone knows that working in any kind of customer service position can be a frustrating nightmare full of rude people, unreasonable demands, and never seeming to be able to fulfill some people's every last wish, but what I find the most difficult more than anything in retail (as someone who was recently hired at their first job ever) is speaking to customers period. Really. If I had a dollar for every time someone walked into my work while I stared blankly at them scrambling for something to say, I'd have enough money to buy the merchandise myself and actually meet one of my selling goals for once.
I've embarked on a journey of Wikihow articles and Youtube videos trying to find the best strategies for selling in retail, and all of my ventures have been very unsuccessful. Every article says to never ask "how can I help you" because a person's instant reaction will be to say "I'm just looking". Well then, what ARE you supposed to ask? No one can give me a solid answer other than talking about the weather or complimenting them. I'd rather just leave people alone, but when no sales means no hours, I have no choice but to be that annoying sales person with boundary issues that awkwardly greets everyone who enters the store, tries to sell the customers everything we have when they obviously only came in for one thing, and be the loudest person in the room (which, as an social anxiety-ridden introvert, is horrific.)
I'm constantly being asked "why are you so quiet?" Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that whenever I go shopping, I prefer to be left the hell alone. But, of course, in retail, you CAN'T leave people alone because there are actually people who like to be talked to when they enter a store. (I know, I was shocked too when I found out.)
Why would anyone want a complete stranger to approach them when they fully know that person is only speaking to them because of the money in their pocket and not because they actually care about you or have any desire to genuinely connect with you? If I walk into a store, I will see something that I like and buy it, or I will leave if I don't. I don't need some sales associate telling me about products that I can plainly see, or if I pick out something to buy to have them try to sell me a million other things that I don't want. Now, for the first time, I am finally that annoying sales associate, and it is the most humiliating and uncomfortable thing I have ever done.
People say I'll get used to it and that dealing with customers gets easier, but even if it does, I don't enjoy the feeling of knowing that I'm persuading people to spend their hard earned money on things they don't really need. I hate the feeling of walking up to people the same age as me and seeing the "don't talk to me or approach me" look in their eyes and having to do it anyway for a paycheck.
Retail may help me overcome my shyness, but it'll also make me feel like a pushy, impatient workerbee that doesn't know societal etiquette when interacting with other human beings.
Maybe retail isn't a long term career path for me, but I can at least say I have 10x more respect for the people who shamelessly do it while judgy customers who've never been in their shoes ridicule them for it. For all my fellow sales associates out there, I know your pain and have felt your weirdness, and I hear you. I will never judge any of you again.