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Your Money or Your Life?

June 1st, 2007 at 09:08 am

I almost quit the Souk last night. I've been on an abbreviated schedule with them for the past few months, so I feel culture-shock each time I walk in the door.

I guess I'm just not there long enough to keep that mental barrier between myself and the customers. Typically, it's not too much of an issue: I'm a "pleaser" in terms of my temperment -- I really want people to be happy with what they're buying. Plus, the customers at the Souk tend to be well-behaved, so it's generally easy to stay friendly and upbeat,

But there is a real barrier between their role and mine, and we are both aware of it in very different ways. My job is to sell as much product as I can. Part of that is by actually getting you what you want. So if a person comes in looking for a dromedary, she needs to leave with the dromedary. And if I'm doing the other part of my job, she'll also leave with a new bridle, some feed and a new riding habit to complete the ensemble.

That direct relationsip between the customer and the employee help create the initial sales. But the ability to generate future sales comes from the buyer's desire to return to the store. Customer loyalty is a key aspect of a business's success, and both the store and the customer know it.

Most customers intuitively know this, but they tend to just want an easy shopping experience. They want to know that llamas are in Aisle 3, but phosphorus-doped semiconductors are sold in Aisle 4, right next to jumper cables. They want clean shopping carts and 40% off coupons, and extra TP in the men's room. This, I can handle.

But some people see a socio-economic chasm between themselves and the employees. Understandably, wenching isn't exactly a great career choice: it's low pay, no part-time benefits and high turnover. But it's a steady paycheck and it's not going to haunt me if I ever run for president. And there are quite a few wenches that have paid for college working at the Souk, so I get a little annoyed when people treat me like I'm stealing televisons for crack money when I'm only mucking camel stalls.

Generally, they show this attitude in small ways, but these little discourtesies, those minute displays of bad manners are wearing me down. It's the petty things, typically from customers with control issues that feel they need something to prove. So when I say, "llamas are in Aisle 3, but you'll have to go to Aisle 4 for wombats," they look straight at me and say, "Don't tell me I have to go anywhere!"

But yesterday I had a customer really treat me like a wench. I got the blow-off, the curt tone, a little stonewalling and the thing I hate most in life: sending me off to get the item for him instead of coming with me to get the item himself. The Souk is laid out like a souk: all the merchandise out for people to see. I like to escort the customer to the stall, so he can see all of our wares, not just the item he came for. But it's not in the job description, so when he sent me off like some 17th century scullerymaid, I had to really stop myself from walking right out of the door.

And it made me realize: I just don't want to have to work this hard. I really don't. I don't want a lifestyle that requires me to earn a second income to keep it up. I know: every job has a required amount of kowtowing, but I want to feel like I'm doing it for a real purpose, not because I want a new bright shiny toy.

I have to reflect: how can my consumption better reflect my values and goals? I had a crap shift, and thought about quitting all night. But I'd gone out to eat several times last week, and bought a few presents for myself and I needed the cash. So I swallowed some choice words, and I stayed.

But it's a funny thing: I don't even remember what I ate last week. But don't think I'll soon forget that feeling of being embarrassed, and frustrated and really -- just trapped. Plus the negativity I had for the rest of the evening because of it.

The job at the Souk has been a real blessing. But I have to remind myself to be aware of why I'm doing it. What is the money really for, and what am I sacrificing to get it? Is it worth it? For last night, no. I could have eaten sandwiches instead of pizza and tacos and then I could have stayed home last night instead of working.

I don't want to keep making those mistakes. The next shift at the Souk should be for debt-busting, or business capital, or for more quills and scrolls for my next appointment with the Guild. Not for thoughtless activities that don't bring me any satisfaction.

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