Yesterday I worked in a retail store. It’s part of the holiday tradition at the corporation where I work. During the holidays, employees from the corporate headquarters can volunteer to work a shift or two in one of our stores. It’s been a few years since I’ve done a holiday helper shift. So, I was nervous as I woke up for my 8 am arrival at the store.
Thanks to some recent self-reflection, I realized that I should approach this year’s volunteer efforts by being completely transparent about my lack of experience. I’d ask for help. I’d be honest about what I didn’t know how to do. And, I’d welcome directions from those who know more than me. With this in mind, I began to relax.It proved to be a great approach. By the middle of my shift, I was having a lot of fun.
Then a line began to form. The customer at the end of the line looked at me with a frown as I asked her and other customers if I could get them a drip coffee or a pastry. (Both of these are things I know how to do in the store.)
“You only have ONE REGISTER open?” she asked, still frowning.
I looked over at the registers. Indeed, only one was in use. My immediate reaction was to start apologizing, to look for the shift supervisor and ask her about opening another till. But before I let my nervousness take over, I stopped. The shift supervisor knew what she was doing, and didn’t need me to ask her about opening more tills. And, really, the line wasn’t that long. So I took a leap.
“Yes!” I said smiling. “Only one register, and I’m from the corporate office so you don’t want me anywhere near that other register.”
What was I met with? A huge smile and a conversation that lasted for a few minutes. The woman asked me what I did for the company and why I was there volunteering. Did everyone have to do it? And, by the way, what is the company’s policy and procedure for maternity leave? Soon she and another woman were talking about Canada’s progressive approach to family leave and I was nodding from behind the pastry case.
By the time she was ready to pay, I dare say this customer had enjoyed herself. And I felt great about having used the skills I do have (a little humor and some honesty) to make the most of what could have been a tense situation.
After she picked up her pastry (warmed by the new expert planted at the warming oven…me) she smiled at me again.
“You’re doing a great job. Really.”
Whew — it’s safe to say that in my four hour shift, this helper learned a lot.
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng