Just a Thought… The Other Side of the Counter

I worked retail my first job. And let me tell you, it was a life-changing experience. I experienced a plentitude of the rainbow of life working retail. Ladies changing behind the racks, men with false teeth joking about shooting people, the endless questions over a return policy… I got it all. And it got me thinking–what’s life like on the other side of the counter?


As a customer, you walk into a store with an agenda: you’re there with a purpose, whether that’s to get an item or to browse until you’re satisfied. But on the other side of the counter, you have a job to do. You need to service them as quickly and helpfully and efficiently as possible. You have no idea what plans they have for what they’re buying–and you didn’t spend their trip with them. So when someone gets cranky because “no, that’s not really on sale” I try and cut them a little bit of slack.

But the empathy has to go both ways, I feel. How many times have I walked into a fast food restaurant, waited twenty minutes in a line for food that–let’s be honest–isn’t really worth all this trouble and then faced down an employee without thinking? After I started working my attitude towards the whole system changed. I smiled a lot more, tried to be a bit politer. Yeah, I know there are nice people who do that to me too–and I find them a little odd–but I like ’em a whole lot better than the ones who practically throw a fit over the transaction.

There’s that old adage, life is always greener on the other side. Well, I don’t know that anybody has ever envied someone on the other side of the counter. But it’s certainly eye-opening to think about what life’s like there. From both sides of the counter. Here’s my quick list (heh, it’s not even Thursday) about what I’ve learned from my dual role as consumer and employee.

On Employees:

  1. They really are the very ultimate bottom of the totem pole. They won’t know the answers to any really tricky questions. Get a manager.
  2. If an employee has given you a firm, straight answer on a policy, don’t heckle them about it. It’s likely they can’t do anything more about it than you can.
  3. Calling them by their name after reading their nametag might be sweet the first few times, but it just gets weird after a while.
  4. If you’re understanding with them, they will like you 2000% more, even if you have a difficult situation.

On Customers:

  1. Ladies buying for weddings will often be stressed out to the max. Be nice to them.
  2. Even when they’re doing giant returns.
  3. When someone needs to break a hundred, they often came just from the bank. Don’t evade policy–but they’re probably not criminal masterminds, either.
  4. No, customers don’t forget how to read when they enter a store. It’s kinda the store’s fault to if they put X% off in font 50 and everything else in 10.

Working retail has changed my view on working in general. I wouldn’t change it for a thing, but I have changed my views on what the other side of the counter’s like. Just something to think about.

Thanks for reading,




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