Here’s the thing about working retail. There are a lot of people very good at what the job entails. Social. Chatty. Patient. Perky before coffee.
Three out of four aren’t bad. I get it from my mother.
The other thing about working retail is that not many people start with the intention of turning it into their career. In New York, it’s a bit different. In New York, to run your own store is a very prestigious. It’s a mark of capability, and a very stable, lucrative living if you’re good at what you do.
Most who start the climb up the ladder, however, have dreams of private offices and power, a fluffy salary and a secretary to do the hard work. And fetch the coffee. There are no customers to deal with. There is no stock to be unpacked. There are no subversive, catty conversations around water coolers during which the greatest overthrows of power companies have ever seen are seeded. At the top of this ladder is a corner office with a view and a team of people at which you’re allowed to bark orders.
Then you sign off on what everyone else has accomplished and call it a week.
It is the end that justifies the means, right? The subversive water cooler tactics? The fuel for the willingness to work the longer shifts, deal with the difficult clients, smile bigger when the Corporate Partners are in town.
Here’s the problem. And I’m not talking smack about anyone here at PUMA City, because everyone seems to be diligent, dedicated and motivated by all the right things. But it does so put into perspective issues I’ve been grappling with since immersing myself in the professional retail arena two whole summers ago. People who do this for the wrong reason.
The people who climb by shoving others down. The people who think the higher the rank the smaller the workload. The people who can’t wait to sneer down at all those they surpassed.
I go to work in the morning because I liked what I do. I like being busy. I like feeling like I’m part of something, a team, contributing. I like business, and the strategies and the logistics and the operations. I even like the angry customers, because if I can talk them through it, if I can hear their frustration out and help work them to a resolution, if we can hang up the phone with a smile on their face, or send them from the store with a more ideal product than what angered them in the first place… I’ve made their day better. I’ve helped.
I don’t want to climb this ladder because I want less work. I want to climb this ladder because I’m here now, I have a taste for the bigger picture of what this company is capable of. I’m watching real-live role models strategize and make decisions and interact with one another, with us.
I have an insatiable desire to now climb this ladder steadily, preparedly, because I want to do this work on a deeper level. More. I want more. I want more angry customers I can comfort and please. I want more problems that need perspectives, teamwork, collaboration. I want the long hours involved in a project like this, and to go from stock room office to tiny cubby, from tiny cubby to medium cubby. Eventually, I want to walk down the hall and greet Cate Hewett as a respectful colleague.
When I grow up, I want to work harder than I ever have at a job I love a little more every day.
I know, it sounds too good to be true. With this company, though, I don’t believe it to be impossible. What can I say? I believe in fairy tales.
I also want a pony, still. Always.