Terrah Short earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy (Analytic) with a Minor in Disaster Risk Reduction from Western Washington University in March 2017. She is a product of a working single father and the Puget Sound area of Western Washington in the United States of America. Here we talk about retail.
The interview started on a large number of North Americans who work in the retail business, where a wide smattering of brands will attract poor and rich customers alike.
The first question was oriented around the basic function of the retail industry to provide a fundamental backdrop for the conversation. Short described the basic function, in her terms, one of the middlemen who keep a steady flow of the demand and the supply of the store.
The roles can include a manager, an assistant manager, or simply cashiering, stocking, and cleaning the store. Shorts background has been as a cashier and an assistant to the customers. It is about customer relations, customer service, and having consumers leave with positive affect at the end of the transaction.
Then, of course, there are negative aspects of the work. Short relayed how she experienced, while on shift, being yelled and cursed at, even having items thrown at her. These did not happen all the time. But they do happen and this can be an upsetting aspect of the life experience for her.
She noted how some customers feel the right to grab or touch her. Those individuals tend to be older and white men.
When I asked about the positives, Short opined, “Working my first job, which was in retail, an older woman came into my work and myself and another coworker helped her find the things she needed. We were an office supply store, and she was so grateful for our demonstrated commitment to helping her, when she had many questions about the products, she made her purchase but told us to wait a minute. She went out to her car and brought in two hand-made teddy bears. She said she made them and loved to give them to people who deserved them. We were so warmed by this gesture.”
She continued to note that those experiences of providing genuine service to people can be extremely rewarding moments on the job. Those are times in which she feels happy for the happiness of the customers, as this is a moment of genuine recognition of service to the community.
On the whole, the customers end to treat others with civility and respect. Then, sometimes, consumers may simply be having a bad experience or a bad day. That is where experienced retail staff come into situations and work to mitigate them.
Short, on code of conduct and ethics, explained, “Basically, be courteous, follow company policy, try to provide genuine service, and make it a positive experience to the best of our abilities. One thing I have noticed as a trend is giving more authority to retail workers to stand up to the abuse we can sometimes have from customers, especially women and minorities.”
As the retail is done, I asked about some of the minimum tasks and responsibilities of the new employees. She described how there is a general being thrown in with a minimal amount of hands-on training.
She continued, “An orientation that packs a lot of information in a short amount of time, cheesy corporate videos we have to watch, and maybe a couple hours of training and shadowing, depending on the time of year and how busy we are. At times new folks are just bodies when there’s going to be a busy time and availability is minimal. But most often, rookies/newbies are given the responsibilities listed in the job description right off the bat. This leads to a sink or swim environment, in my opinion.”
To close the interview, Short spoke to the transition from basic skills building to more advanced ones. Part of this is becoming more efficiency an productive in the work. Another is simply maintaining a positive and consistent response or feedback from the customers. These can be noticed by managers who then, may, promote the individual with the, at the present, lower rank.
“A lot of the time, you can be excellent at your current position but your availability isn’t right for moving up. There is upward mobility in many retail jobs, but often it means little pay or benefits increases for quite a significant amount more work. It really depends on the corporation or business, as well. However, I find that retail workers build an incredible amount of skills that can bleed over to other types of jobs or future schooling opportunities,” Short concluded.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Preamble, Article 16, and Article 25(2).
- Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960) in Article 1.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) in Article 3, Article 7, and Article 13.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).
- Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979).
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).
- The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the optional protocol (1993).
- Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), Five-year review of progress (2000), 10-year review in 2005, the 15-year review in 2010, and the 20-year review in 2015.
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), and the UN Security Council additional resolutions on women, peace and security: 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), and 2242 (2015).
- Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000).
- The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa or the “Maputo Protocol” (2003).
- Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence or the Istanbul Convention (2011) Article 38 and Article 39.
- UN Women’s strategic plan, 2018–2021
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- 2015 agenda with 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (169 targets for the end to poverty, combatting inequalities, and so on, by 2030). The SDGs were preceded by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2000 to 2015.
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Image Credit: Terrah Short.