18 December 2004

More of me than I thought

I suppose it was just a matter of time until I realized this, but I seem to have an alter-ego.  There's been a few events in the past week that have led me to accept this, and now I just have to figure out how to control it from showing up at inopportune times.

When you see me out and about, you may think I am me, but in fact you may actually be dealing with...MR. RETAIL

Now I know I spent almost twenty years of my life working for a retail drug store in just about any way that one can, culminating in a long, wacky stint in management, but I've been done with that for almost two and half years.  You'd think I would have come to terms with Mr. Retail then, but I didn't.

When I spent 50-60 hours per week working at a store, I found that whenever I went shopping I was in-an-out, finding and purchasing my items all in a single bound.  I rarely if ever paid attention to what was going on around me while a customer, unless something was actually happening to me that was so hideously wrong that I had to speak up.

Now I find that it's different.  Now, every time, without fail, I cannot go into any type of retail establishment without analyzing everything.  Is it a good idea to have the pharmacy at the back of the store?  Do they really need seven cashiers when there are only six people shopping?  How are they going to sell all those ugly green pie plates?  What's a gerkin anyway?  It goes on and on.  

The realization that I might be obsessing just a tad about this came to light this week, when it took me seven separate store visits to get four 5x7 reprints made from a negative.  Most of the blame for my odyssey lies with faulty equipment, with a small portion going to human incompetence.  Stuff happens.  Still, I can't remember how many times I placed myself on the other side of the counter during all this, thinking about what I would have done and said differently, when I was trying to get someone to fix the problem.

I've thought about it constantly since then, and have analyzed every single second that I've been in a store since.  All of the sudden, everything is moving at a thousand miles per hour.  Just like it used when I was operationally responsible.

I've been out of the game for two years, and during that time, never once have I said that I regret leaving.  I still don't.  Ask me if I want to go back to work in retail and I have two words for you:  hell, and no.

So why now?  Why am I thinking about how they can schedule properly this time of the year when I go buy a single gift card at Target?  Why do I keep track of how long it takes me to check out at Kohl's?  I walked down an aisle at a grocery store today and thought to myself "wow, someone really needs to spruce up the frozen dinners."

When I was a manager, I used to tell people that retail wasn't just a career, it was a lifestyle.  And it was.  I found that if I was going to be a success, I had to dedicate myself to working hard, which mostly meant making sure I devoted a ton of time to my work.  One of the things I realized when I left was that I had reached an incredible level of burn out.  I looked forward to recapturing a lot of time when I stopped working in retail.

Lately, I have noticed that time seems to be going by faster than it did when it seemed like I spent all of it at work in a retail environment.  Maybe it's just a coincidence that I have this thought right before I start obsessing about the retail world again.  But more likely, I am reminding myself exactly why I don't do this anymore:

Because I turn into MR. RETAIL

His official motto shall be "You can take the boy out of the store, but you can't take the store out of the boy."






sistercdr said...

My dad owned a grocery store, and I spent my share of years in retail, including management, as well. I hate shopping because of it, and I do the same thing.  Years after Dad's retirement, he still loved going to grocery stores and critiquing them as he shopped.  I'm guilty of that as well.  I think that once that seed gets planted, it stays.

lilis8604 said...

Don't feel bad. I work at a fast food restaurant and every time I eat anywhere else I think of the things that would be done differently if it was me behind the counter rather than the other person.

lamove04 said...

I have done my time behind a counter and always am inwardly critiquing the performance of any "customer service" person.  I think it's one of those things, like never forgetting how to ride a bike.  It's the same with working in any office environment-- until you do it, it's hard to imagine it.  

Enjoy the Holidays, Jim!  --Albert