The Worst Habit You Develop When Working Retail

What are some bad habits that come with working retail? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Alecia Li Morgan, Former Store Manager: Starbucks and Victoria's Secret, on Quora:

Having a 'Just Say Yes' mentality.

I could have a chicken and egg conversation here about all of this, but the bottom line is whether I had this already or whether working for Starbucks instilled it in me (it could be a little bit of both, and maybe all successful retail workers have this trait lying in them waiting to be fanned into greater existence). One of the worst habits I have, even five years since leaving the field, is a tendency to 'Just Say Yes.'

Even when I don't want to, or when it doesn't make sense. Even if it's probably not even helpful for the other person!

When you're working in customer service or a customer-facing role, you realize quickly that the client may not always be right, but as long as you want their dollar (Gary Vaynerchuk's answer to Is the customer always right?), they have to be, in some ways. Every retail worker I've ever known has talked about the various forms of training this to validate this. With Starbucks and VS, it boiled down to a Just Say Yes mentality. So requests, complaints, ridiculous return reasons, could escalate to epic proportions and we just had to keep Yes-ing and to smile away. It makes business sense most of the time. Even in life, it does make sense to say Yes as much as possible, if your intent is to get people to feel overall pretty positively about you.

But this means I end up saying yes to a lot of things I'd rather say no to, by instinct. Here are just some of the ridiculous things I've said yes to this year (and yes, I wanted to do most of them, it's just logistically, I really should have said no!):

  • Driving four hours round trip to see a friend's child perform for two minutes of a half hour program, taking along my two younger children, to all of our misery and regret.
  • Single parenting for a four-day block during a week when I had already agreed to take on a significant chunk of extra work hours to cover for a colleague on vacation, while my husband had a long weekend to relax and hang out with his family in AZ. (This should have been scheduled better on my end, but still, it worked for everyone else's plans, so I Yes-ed.)
  • Taking on various projects for my youngest son's class despite being the 99% caregiver to my four children and working just about full-time besides.
  • Countless airport pickup and drop offs for various family members so they wouldn't have to pay for parking or an Uber, frequently hauling all four kids with me to do so.
  • Hosting every big family event at our house in the past year (Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving) - while I like this, it's tough for me to do, again mostly alone because of my husband's work schedule, etc., with four kids and a job.
  • Rarely turning down extra jobs or tasks related to any of the projects I'm currently working on, even when I know I have no more time on my hands except sleep time. I absolutely will cut into my sleep time to say yes to a work project. (I don't foresee this changing, it makes sense to me, but still, I also have a policy of not saying no!)
  • Waking up every morning quite early to get some work done, then make breakfast for the kids, lunch for the kids, dress them all for school/dropoffs, then make a full, hot breakfast and a packed lunch for my husband every single work day, while he sleeps until his alarm, gets up, dresses, then takes both and leaves for work. (Really, things should be more evenly split, but I'm stuck, again, in a very service-oriented mindset!)

The list goes on. Taken singly, any one is not bad, but you should know for the small handful I've listed, there are at least twenty more that I cannot list. (Because I don't want anyone who follows me and who might be interacting with me on these to think I resent them or the things mentioned!).

Retail is great. Everyone should work in customer service at some point, and I firmly believe that. But getting out of a Just-Say-Yes mindset to re-achieve some balance in your life is hard, really hard.

Tip your barista a little extra today, because that smile and welcoming attitude are going to have some cost for her throughout her life!

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