“In the brand trenches, sandwiched between multiple competitors, and backed by Generals plotting at HQ, they strive to wrestle the requirements of the flocking public into bespoke solutions.”
A frontline homage.
They pepper your day with pleasantries, and yet they’re not your friend. They are experts in their field, but they’re mostly under-utilised. They drive the economy, but they don’t own the infrastructure.
They are behavioral psychologists, textile and consumer goods experts. They are world travellers, undergraduates, and thrill seekers. They strive to listen, interpret, seek solutions, and make modern life bearable.
They prostrate their brand allegiances, hoping to curry favour in the new fiefdoms of capitalism – the retail business. They dream about coachloads of eager customers, and feverish nightmares about banking discrepancies.
They are retail staff.
In the brand trenches, sandwiched between multiple competitors, and backed by Generals plotting at HQ, they strive to wrestle the requirements of the flocking public into bespoke solutions. Presented in a moment, before your very eyes.
In the same way the masses try to extract knowledge, answers, value, and sometimes, additional discounts, so too does the humble member of retail staff attempt to negotiate the myriad signals and clues, to recommend product, service, and clothing solutions. They are full of relevant and connected knowledge to the brand they represent, and willing to share and enthuse about it with you, the perfect customer.
They are courteous, attentive without being obsequious, swift at recommending and finding solutions to your requirements, and reinforcing the relevance of that selection to your needs. They are invisible, and yet essential. Don’t piss them off.
If they ‘get it right’, and inject humour rather than sarcasm, you the customer gets a double win. +1’s as Google now calls them, decades after the phrase was coined for going above and beyond. Even with limitations surrounding the systems needed to process transactions, when at the top of their game they transcend the mere exchange of coin, and embed in the territory of mood enhancers. Making the ordinary extraordinary.
And nothing so crass as recompense, pay, hourly rate, even sometimes commission, gets in the way of their greatest reward – your genuine thanks for a job well done. Maybe mentioned at the time, or rarely as an A-grade essay (or more likely email) to Ivory Towers. Recognition, the lifeblood of any service culture, is (nearly) all the reward that is wished for.
It has been my very great pleasure to work with some very fine retail staff, both in the recent past, and formatively, in London. They know who they are*.
Respect to them, their professionalism, their humour, and their relentless sentencing in support of crimes against fashion. A doff of my cap to creative competitions instigated in quiet moments. Coffee runs, missions, and discussing philosophical topics of the day. The Press daily trivia quiz, overcoming earthquakes, and being pistons in the high performance machine that is the consumer economic mirage.
43words ©David Binstead 2012
*A, S, M, J, K, and B.
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