Why am I such a scrooge?

The holiday season has begun and yet again this year I find myself struggling to find where I fit in. My mom got sick when I was 12 and I have such a short window of ever remembering a good Christmas. I remember the ones that were sad, lonely, and devoid of much joy. My mom was sick or we did not have money for food and bills so gifts, Christmas, and Santa were not top on the list.

Somehow my dad loved Christmas and yet what I saw of that was the love of decorating, the ambience that made it seem that all was well when really it was not. I am torn by my ghost of Christmas past, and how I really have never gotten into the Christmas spirit since I was 12. It has always felt forced and fake to me. I have been at other Christmas’ as an adult where the kids involved ripped their gifts open and only asked for more. It rubbed me the wrong way and I vowed to never breed that in my family. I either do not want to celebrate it the way the rest of the world does, or I want to create a different story. Chris agrees.

Added to my ghost of Christmas past — is that Nico’s birthday is on Christmas. Due to my past I would rather spend the day celebrating him and his birthday than Christmas. Yet, how do we do that when others in our life might not understand where we are coming from? I have long had the opinion (and have shared in other blogs) that I do not want to lie to Nico about Santa. I think there is a way to keep the world magical and real and not lie to our children. How do we ever expect them to trust us if we lie to them? Magic can happen with honesty. Did we all just get sucked into the story of Christmas? The one that circles back to Black Friday, retail, and consumerism? Or is it about spending time together, shared experiences, and giving to others? How many of us actually do that during the holiday season?

Gratefully, Nico will not know the difference this year, but next year will be different. This year (whether his birthday, or if we decide to do an actual Christmas) he is delighted to just have us open a box from Amazon Prime — even if the box contains batteries. Even better when it has a toy truck or school bus.

Call me extreme, but this momma is torn on what to do and how to bring the true spirit of Christmas into Nico’s life.

Are you the scary customer?

I cannot say I am always the nicest customer. After working in customer service for so long I have a shorter fuse. I know what it takes and now have high expectations for what a customer experience should look like. These days my husband makes the calls pertaining to our accounts. He has a lot more patience than I do, and I often am – well to put it nicely a bit too blunt over the phone.

I recently finished reading: Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly. It is a good memoir of Caitlin’s experience working in retail between 2007 and 2009. She is a freelance writer, who needed income during the economic downturn, and she chose to work at The North Face store near her home in New York City. Her job paid between $9-11 an hour with no commission or benefits (since she worked part-time). She was also provided a uniform for her job (many retail jobs do not provide this for free). Her book was a reminder to me to watch how I might treat retail workers, whether at the mall, grocery store, boutique, etc. Caitlin is a journalist so she already had experience working with strangers and the public, asking questions, and connecting with them. I loved her fresh approach to how she interacted with her customers. We could stand to remember this when dealing with our co-workers, family, and friends.

“I lived for these moments. Retail, at its rare best, allows total strangers to quickly connect and converse meaningfully. It’s really, often, about trust, the merchandise and the sales floor merely the means through which two people, however briefly, can slow down long enough to discover and enjoy common ground. It wasn’t an accident that after a twenty-minute conversation with me someone would easily spend $400, or much more. That person had received my careful, individual, and undivided attention, a rarity in any store. A rarity anywhere, really.” page 86

Throughout her book she shares how the corporate offices did all they could to cut back on their sales staff to save money. The less they paid their sales associates, the more profit they made. The less associates they had on each shift, the higher their profits. Many had little to no training, and no thanks or gratitude from management or the head corporate offices. Associates were constantly on their feet, in sometimes horribly ventilated storefronts, with short breaks, annoying music, and irate, rude, and aggressive customers. This all leads to extremely high turnover. By the end of Caitlin’s 2 year stint at The North Face she says the following:

“Now, though, I also carefully and consistently thanked anyone doing a service job well, from grocery baggers to gas station attendants. I viscerally appreciated how grim it could be, how little many customers thought of them, and how hard and poorly paid was the work.” page 205

I vow to curb my frustration, whether with the store, retail worker, or with something in my own life, and not take it out on the individual working in the store or over the phone that day. If we were all to do that, we could make a change in how retail workers experience customers. They do not deserve our frustrations, anger, or scorn. Often, the retail worker has no control over the issues we may have with their company. Much of the time, store management and corporate headquarters do not want to hear the complaints or comments their sales force has heard from customers. The best way to communicate issues that might be widespread between many stores is to contact the corporate offices to voice your concerns.

Are you like me? Do you need to think again about how you are treating retail workers?