Having the opportunity to spend time working in a retail environment during the holiday season gave me a new perspective and an appreciation for others. The experience reminded me of the importance of continually seeking out new and different opportunities since the rewards are great and there is always something to learn.
In particular, I certainly gained a greater appreciation for those who work retail - it is both physically and mentally exhausting, requiring people with a high-level of professionalism, responsiveness, as well as superior multi-tasking and customer-service skills. I had the pleasure of learning from a great management group and was proud to work alongside a committed group of team members. Thanks to LL Bean for being an excellent employer and for bringing their retail store to the Paramus Park Mall. This is a company that understands that treating your employees well leads to dedicated workers who perform at a higher level - LL Bean is to be commended for their strong leadership and their pledge to customer satisfaction.
Another important observation I was able to make while servicing the many customers who came through the doors at LL Bean is that the senior population of Bergen County is in full force, is quite active, and should not be overlooked. From the fellow employees who were clearly post-retirement (again, kudos to LL Bean!), the elderly couples shopping together, and mostly those shopping alone, it was quite eye-opening for me. I was especially moved by those seniors who were on their own for various reasons. Here are two examples that I found especially emotional.
In one instance, a man came in to exchange pajamas he had bought for his wife - I checked the rack and found we did not have the size he needed so figured it would be a simple refund. However, by engaging the man in conversation, I learned that his wife had Alzheimer's, he was her sole caregiver, and he saw a glimmer of recognition and happiness on her face when she tried on the comfy, velour pajamas. I tried everything, from climbing to the top of the wall of back stock to make sure the item wasn't hiding, to begging the main warehouse to check yet again, to calling every other retail store to try to find the elusive 'small' pajamas. It was so difficult to maintain my composure as I watched him walk away and have to go home without those pajamas, which would have given them both at least a moment of pleasure while in a very difficult situation.
On another day, a woman customer was shopping for a coat and was initially somewhat brusque and seemed to be one of those 'difficult customers' that those in retail are sometimes challenged with. I sensed something behind the defensiveness and continued to try to provide the best customer service and determine what she needed. By gradually getting to know the woman, I learned that she was on her own, long retired from teaching, and was frustrated by how things had changed and was afraid she was being left behind. I took the time to get to know her, find her something appropriate, and here's where the rewards are obvious - she touched my arm as she was leaving and told me how much it meant to her that I had taken the time to help her shop. This brusque, defensive woman become someone who I would have liked to get to know better - I got the feeling she had a lot of wisdom to share! And, when I found out her name was the same as my late mother's, it was even more of an emotional encounter for me.
Let's not forget that there are opportunities all around us to learn, to find personal growth, and to help others. And, although we all feel we are too busy, it's important to reach out to others and to listen - although you may feel you do not understand their situation, an attempt to relate and a kind word might mean the world to them.