A few days ago I was in one of those moods- the kind when anything mildly unpleasant would inspire a long rant in my head. In the last few weeks I’ve felt over-worked (almost all my sales staff got typhoid one after the other and one of them quit with just 3 days notice before New Years), and I’ve had a couple of incidents with customers asking for discounts or telling me why my clothes aren’t nice. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t spend too much energy thinking about these, but I’ve been over-worked and short staffed. Context is important, right?
When I go to work every day, and especially at my store, I try to be “switched on”. This means immersing myself in my work and trying to treat each person and situation with the best attitude. However, being switched on can be exhausting. It is exhausting because it requires so much energy to be constantly enthusiastic and lively and energetic about your work and your interactions. Even if you happen to be totally hyper and cheerful by nature I’m sure many hours of being switched on at work will take a lot out of you.
Being switched on brings out the best in me but since it leaves me so drained, my “switched off” state doesn’t always showcase my best side. Take for example the case of customers giving me feedback I don’t like hearing. I actually happen to ask pretty much anyone who walks into my store for feedback (maybe at some deep, sub-conscious level I’m begging for flattery), so I shouldn’t resent it when they tell me what they really think. When I’m “switched on”, I am really receptive to feedback. I know what to listen to and what to tune out, and sometimes it can be a really interesting exercise to try and analyze why that customer feels a certain way about my garments. When I’m not switched on (and during these times I really shouldn’t be at the store but like I said, we’re short staffed right now), constant negative feedback hurts. It can be difficult to listen to, and in my mind I start off with my sarcastic, funny come-backs. Hey, don’t judge me for being human, and at least I don’t say them out loud!
Another example: customers asking for discounts at the store. I’ve grown to learn that regular customers want to feel appreciated in some way for giving me business over time, and first time customers- well, let’s face it, most people love a good deal. When I’m switched on, I apologize for not being able to give a discount. I tell customers very politely that I can understand their point of view but to please also consider that I am struggling to make this company swim and I still haven’t reached a point where I can give out discounts. When I’m tired and completely out of it, these requests feel like I’m being taken advantage of. For all my politeness and great service and free alterations (yes, that’s right) I have to lose money as well? That just can’t be fair!
So aside from the negative consequence of saving my worst side (and no, it’s not a conscious decision) for my “switched off” state- which my family and close friends have to put up with- there is another more frustrating problem: I am never allowed to be switched off. You see, once you’ve set a certain standard, it’s too much to expect people to put up with anything but the “switched on” state. Sometimes I feel I have to walk this really fine line with little margin for error. I am never allowed to have an off day when I’m feeling low on energy or just grumpy. Take this blog post for example: a few days ago I wrote a post about specific incidents with customers- it was more of a hilarious rant rather than an angry vent, but then I decided not to post it because there’s my reputation and the store’s reputation at stake. People who have only seen my switched on side might get offended.
Sadly, the switched on state is limiting. I am not allowed to be who I really am (funny, sarcastic, impatient, goofy, honest, up-front). If I’m interacting with someone on my wavelength then I do let my guard down a little, but most people who come to a store are not looking to get chatty with the owner on a personal level, and keeping everything on a business level means that I have to shun my goofy, sarcastic side lest I offend anyone. And when I’m not at the store, I still have to stay switched on because a customer may have my cell number, or a customer will ask the store to call me- I have to be prepared at all times for requests about custom-tailoring, discounts, and once in a while a screaming session about something that went wrong at the store.
This post is a plea to all my customers: understand that it takes so much effort to do what I do only because I put my whole heart into it. If I wasn’t this passionate and caring about my work, it really would require a lot less energy. My intention is to give you the best possible shopping experience, and to learn from you- what you buy as well as what you don’t buy. How else will my business grow? But also understand that it can be exhausting to do this without being myself once in a while, or bringing in some humour to keep things light. In fact, I would even argue that it’s the only thing that will keep me sane.