After a year of working as a sales associate at a well-known, fast fashion chain in downtown New York, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad customers. A good, appreciative, understanding customer can make even the most stressful, cramped, miserable days of retail (which, let’s face it, are many and close between) feel like a stroll through a well aerated, uncrowded, naturally lit park. Well, almost.
I’ve had ladies shriek with delight when I’ve handed them the store’s last pair of suspender tights that Rihanna wore. Or the flag-print hotpants Rihanna wore. Or anything Rihanna wore. Many customers have specifically requested my name following our interaction, so as to tell my higher-ups how helpful they found me (though sadly, I do not work on commission). One customer literally jumped up and down hugging me when I returned from an arduous journey to the stock room and back with last season’s faded pink skinny jeans that were no longer on the sales floor. “I hope you’re here next time I come,” she squealed, “I’m going to ask for you!” To which I replied, “For my sake, let’s hope I’m not.”
So what, you ask, has caused this level of embitterment? Sure, I have first access to the latest in high street togs, get a decent discount on overpriced merch, and am often in close quarters with the stars of the Disney Channel and Gossip Girl. (For all of those wondering, Blake Lively and I share the same jean size and thus could technically become BFFs and share each other’s clothes.) But I’m also the theoretical punching bag for all those miserable shoppers for whom ‘retail therapy’ doesn’t quite seem to be doing the trick. I’m the under-appreciated, underpaid housekeeper for the many customers who see a day of shopping as a time to exercise their inner Blair Waldorf to my pathetic Dorota, minus the witty rapport. I’m a swollen-footed human labrador who never tires of fetching size after size of makeup stained skater dresses for the young girls with mothers sitting nearby, paralyzed by the comfort of their cushioned seats. Designer Donna Karan recently said that everyone with fashion industry ambitions should start out in retail, because “that’s where you really get to understand what you’re doing and what your job is.” My job? More like my indentured servitude. I am the many, the humble, the retail worker.
But I’m not going to take it anymore! The time has come for us sales associates to rise from the trenches of the storage cellar and take a stand. I’ve comprised a short list of shopping rules for all of you who still prefer leaving the comfort of your laptops to venture out into the real world of retail. From proper shopping makeup to fitting room etiquette, it’s all in there. My advice? Read it and memorize it. Better yet, forget about going green for just one second and print it out. Then pop it in your purse for future reference. You’ll be amazed at how far a little courtesy towards us ‘little people’ can get you– Hey, if you’re really nice, we might even put that floral maxi on hold for more than twenty-four hours! Read on.