fashion

The perils of working in retail when you're an introvert by nature.

Don’t get me wrong: if you’re someone who loves fashion, working in retail can be a dream.

There’s the killer discounts, being surrounded by countless racks of clothing, and — we’re all thinking it — not having to really do much except unfold and fold clothing.

It’s great… in theory. But when you’re an introvert, retail work comes with many, many perils. Warning: The information below may cause feelings of anxiety.

1. Prepare yourself for the assortment of personalities that’ll come your way.

It’s overwhelming, guys.

I could usually gauge the mood of a customer as they walked into the store, but some people really mixed it up by being downright horrible human beings. This really threw me off my game.

NB: OK, so this one isn’t really tailored specifically for introverts, but acts as a general warning for all — people are mean.

working-in-retail-when-youre-a-born-introvert
Working in retail as an introvert can be... difficult. Image: supplied.

2. You have to continue conversing with the customer the entire time.

I'm absolutely fine talking to strangers, but only if I can escape after the first while of awkward, “Hi, how’re you going?” to then let them be free to explore the store.

This is a rare occurrence in the chatty world of retail, especially at high-end stores where they tell you to never stop engaging with the customer. “Act like they’re a good friend that you haven’t seen in a while,” they told me.

Umm... but isn’t that kind of intimate interaction inappropriate and uncomfortable for all involved? Am I supposed to hug you and ask how your mum’s going? Just because we work in retail, it doesn’t justify defying all the usual social norms such as personal space and PEACE AND QUIET.

Details: Mia Freedman, Jessie Stephens and Monique Bowley discuss whether “being an introvert” has become an excuse for crap behaviour.

3. You have to ask for their name and tell them yours.

For some reason whenever I asked for a customer’s name I sounded super creepy. Maybe that’s just a 'me' thing I need to work on, but I’m 99% sure this shouldn’t be a retail rule.

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It felt way too personal to be asking a customer, who I’d known for only a minute or two, what their name was. I may as well have asked for their bank account details and mother’s maiden name while I was at it.

Side note: The awkwardness quadruples when you forget their name and have to ask again/guess/call them “babe” or “hun.” I can’t pull off using those cute names and it’s oh so painful hearing the words come out of my mouth.

"B-babe... How're you going in there?" Absolute torture. Image: iStock.

4. You have to knock on their changeroom door.

This is where all the pain lies — especially if you mess up point 3.

Tip: PERFECT POINT 3.

You have to knock, ask how they’re going and if they need help with anything. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. If you don’t attach a name with this friendly inquiry due to unwarranted memory complications, one of two things happens:

1. No one replies because they think you’re talking to someone else. Although slightly awkward, this is definitely the better of the two options, trust me.

Or 2. Everyone replies and you just have to deal with it the way you think would work best. In my case, crawling into a ball and lightly sobbing seemed appropriate.

The only time I could relate to Kim Kardashian. Image: E!
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5. You have to do everything you would hate if it happened to you.

Me walking into a retail store: “Hi,” *puts head down to look at clothes without ever popping up for air, while simultaneously trying to look like I’m not doing everything I can to avoid their staring gaze.*

It’s a skill that’s almost as convoluted as that sentence, and it’s taken me years to master. Hit me up for detailed tips.

But don’t tell me you haven’t been there. You’d be violating the number one rule in the ‘Introverts Bro Code’ Rulebook if you were to do the same thing to your vulnerable customers - your brothers and sisters.

Oh the hypocrisy.

All I want to do is take pictures on my phone and send them to my friends undisturbed. Is that too much to ask? So many struggles so little time.

via GIPHY

It’s a lot to take in, I know. My heart is racing unevenly just recounting my battle with retail.

So go right ahead, my introverted friends. Step into retail's twisted, twisted world, but at your own peril.

Just be warned, it’s not a "cake filled with rainbows and smiles" experience.

Image via Giphy.
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