The art of SHART

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Working a retail job during the Christmas season requires several different attributes in a person -- sensibility, humanity, affection, rationality and truth (SHART).

If you are seriously thinking about becoming a part of the retail world, remember all of those characteristics are extremely important in succeeding as an Employee of the Month recipient.

Not everyone has what it takes to be a top-notch salesperson, and managers will take notice when customers leave the store with a frown or bloody nose.

Now I will admit working two retail jobs has put my SHART to the test, but I really think it's taught me how to be a better people person. Past job experiences have prepared me for the holiday season -- and by holiday season I mean the time of year when rude, impatient shoppers are out buying their best friend Lucifer a Hamilton Beach 12-speed BlenderChef.

By the time this column is printed, those of you new to retail are probably thinking, "But Christmas is over!"

Trust me, it goes well into January.

You've got dozens, perhaps hundreds of returns; people begin using their gift cards, and some simply start their Christmas shopping all over again.

That's why I have come up with some tips to help my fellow retail employees get through this hellish chaos that ensues from the birth of baby Jesus:

1. Stay cool and calm: This may sound easy, but you'll encounter some shoppers who have absolutely no respect for SHART, which, in turn, can make you forget the importance of it yourself. Even if someone makes you angry, just take a deep breath and do as you're told. Remember, you work in retail -- be as emotionless and superhuman as possible. If a customer wants you to "just grab that armoire from the top shelf" down for them, grit your teeth and bear it. The worst that could happen is management will have to scrape you off the floor with the spatulas from aisle five.

2. If you don't have an item in stock, always say you can order it. They may be asking for a Q-tip Elvis Presley used in 1956. In fact, they'll probably say they saw it in a sale bill, or that "one of their friends got it here." After an exhaustive search in which you knew nothing would be accomplished, just look at them with a smile and say, "We can probably order one if you want me to check."

This makes the customer realize more of their valuable time will be wasted, so a simple "No" usually follows. Now you can finally get back to that puddle of vomit you were mopping up before they rudely interrupted you.

3. Retail always makes for good stories. Just know that society would not be able to function without workers like us. And we would have no stories to tell our friends and family if there were no society. I've learned that if I have a bad day at work, I can almost always laugh about it with my coworkers a few days later.

You probably already knew everything I taught you today. If so, I congratulate you. It's obvious you were born with a soul full of SHART. You deserve a raise, my friend.

Contact Sam at sdereign@ semissourian.com.

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