The holiday season has begun with the twinkling of beautiful lights, the chatter of happy crowds, the rustling of shopping bags and the sweet sound of music. For three Christmas seasons, I worked as a salesperson in a bookstore in one of the office towers in the financial district of downtown Toronto. I sold and suggested many books yet three things have stayed with me from that time: the many personal and private stories that people shared with me about the loss of a loved one due to death or divorce or the loss of a job or financial security as they looked for a book to ease their pain and provide much needed wisdom; the way I was treated as a sales person either as a servant or a respected resource depending on their mood and level of stress and finally, the look of pity and embarrassment from people who knew me from a previous professional life and wondered whether my working in this role was a result of a business or personal failure. Fortunately, this job was something that I wanted to do rather than something that I had to do. It was a great way to improve my sales and customer service skills so that I could do better work with my current and future clients.
As you navigate the crowded stores, each of the cashiers and sales people that you will meet and do business with has a unique story and reason for why they are working in a retail store this holiday season. Some are working because they are alone and lonely, others are working for the much needed extra cash and still others have been recently laid off from their full time jobs and could find no other work. These workers in particular are still in shock from what has happened to them yet are wise enough to recognize that they must keep working to maintain their self respect and peace of mind. Other sales people that you meet on the end of a phone line selling newspaper subscriptions or other media products may be working for similar reasons. When you encounter a sales person either in person or on the telephone, do three things: first, take a thoughtful moment and put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to be working long hours for minimum wage this holiday season; second, feel an abundance of gratitude for your full-time job or the financial situation that allows you the luxury of shopping or having free time to do what you want and third, shift your attitude to positive and put a warm and welcoming smile on your face and in your voice and kindly thank the salesperson for their offer of help or their call and wish them the very best of the holiday season. Treat them with respect and watch what happens next. You will not only feel amazing but you will also have made a lasting and significant difference in someone’s life.
Make the choice and the effort to be very kind and thoughtful instead of rude and thoughtless to cashiers and sales people that you meet this holiday season.