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"Do you have what it takes?" the signoutside a local sporting goods store asked in bold letters. I was applying for apart-time sales associate job, and, of course, thought this was a mereadvertising strategy, but really I should have taken it literally.
Myfather, who had warned me about working in retail, said, "Retail is quite aride, and I am not sure you can handle it." I have always admired my fatherand tried to live up to his expectations. When he tells me I probably cannothandle something, I just have to go out and try it.
So, I applied for thejob with determination. In the beginning I thought I just had a menial job, andwas only in it for the astounding $6.15 an hour. I soon learned that my job wasmuch harder than I thought and my pay consisted of minimum wage with a bonus oflife lessons, which weren't advertised on the application.
As usual, mydad was right. Working with the public is quite a trek that comes with plenty ofups and downs. Through my job I have met many interesting people. One night, tenminutes before closing, a man came in with an older woman. He assertively walkedup to the shoe wall and started examining the merchandise. I approached to see ifI could help.
"I need a comfortable pair of shoes with removablesoles that will last me three years," he said. Although it was a ratherstrange request, I tried to respond to the best of my ability by showing him apair that seemed to fit his criteria. I told him, "They last a long time,they have removable soles and they are so comfortable that doctors recommendthem." I managed to get through half my speech before he interrupted.
"I could care less whether doctors recommend them or not,"he said. "I am going to jail for the next three years, and I need acomfortable pair of shoes to last my entire sentence. Just get me those in a size12."
I stood in silence before realizing he really did want theshoes. I ran to the back, hoping we had the right ones. I returned as quickly asI could with his shoes, and was delighted to hear they were perfect. That man wasonly one of many encounters I've had on the job.
We also sell collapsiblechairs and tables that are set up outside the store so people can try them outwhile the employees try to lure customers into the store. One day I noticed anelderly man sitting there. The manager motioned for me to go out and try to makea sale. This man, however, was more than just a prospective customer.
"I need help finding a pair of shoes for my grandson, who is comingto visit this weekend," he told me. The simple task of buying size six crosstrainers had a deeper story. The man began to reminisce, saying, "Mygrandfather always brought me a pair of newly shined shoes whenever he came tovisit, and I want to keep the tradition going." This man's stories, in turn,reminded me of the time I spend with my grandfather and the many simple butmeaningful traditions we have, including going to the bakery for Italian pastriesevery Sunday after church.
This man enjoyed sharing one of his cherishedmemories with a shoe salesperson. Most people come into the store and just snaptheir fingers for me to get them shoes, but he was nice enough to share hisfeelings.
Working with the public provides lifelong lessons, whether Iwant them or not. Through my job, I've learned that people from all backgroundsneed the respect they deserve. I've learned that if we are willing to listen toothers we can learn a lot from them. My advice is always to have your ears openalong with your heart so that you can fully enjoy what others have to offer.Whether it is a simple but funny joke, a comment that catches you off guard or alesson you will cherish for the rest of your life, always remember tolisten.