Christmas in Retail: A Bookseller’s Experience

I have a story for you, but like all good stories some background detail is needed . . .

While I have the honor of working at O’Connor and managing this awesome blog, I also have a part-time job in retail, at a bookstore to be specific, and I am coming up on my 6th holiday season working in books. While I love working in a bookstore and I love the holidays – when I think of the combination of the two I cringe. I used to love working during the holidays, my spirits were high and I could smile at anyone –  but after 6 long years of customer service it’s become harder to enjoy each year when my cozy sweet store becomes full of racing & harried people that can’t take a second to smile or say “thank you” for helping them.

Photo via www.mediatinker.com

Now to my story, just last week I had a strange experience leaving work that has blossomed into a great lesson and something I’m humbled to share with you. My tale starts simple enough:

I was off work and walked out the doors of my store. I waited for several cars to pass by before there was a small break, I stepped out in to the street.

The closest approaching car zoomed toward me, slammed on their breaks just next to me and you know what the driver did? He looked at me with outrage and disgust – like stopping for me was a complete waste of his time.

My first thought was: “He doesn’t care about me.”

“What did I do to him to deserve that?” I wondered, walking to my car. I began to feel more downcast with each step; his reaction devalued me as a person, I was just a stranger passing in the street and he would rather be at the stop sign 3 seconds earlier than allow me safe passage.

His rudeness hurt. I had just spent the day working, serving & caring for people I didn’t know because it’s part of my job & I like giving my best. I thought about the smiles I had helped bring to my customer’s faces that day & on other days, too. I work hard to give great service but that rude driver changed my motive – I no longer just want to give great service or be helpful, I want to show my co-workers, my customers, and strangers that I VALUE them. Do you believe every life has meaning? I do, I don’t always know what it is & sometimes it can seem as if some people live in pointless ways, but how dare I rely on my poor judgment to determine the value of a stranger in front of me?

The rude driver gave me a passion to show value to others, to do what he couldn’t, to help heal the wounds that he and others like him have created.

I realized have the power to make someone in an instant, feel valued or worthless. The power of a smile, a patient action, the kind wave of a hand.

Via www.mediatinker.com

I think that going into the holiday season having endured that lesson & gained a new passion is going to make the customer-craziness much more bearable. After all, they’re not just “crazy customers” – they’re real people with families, loves & souls, and gosh, I forget that way too easily each year.

In talking about books and this festive time of year I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail“. In it, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), is telling Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) that he didn’t mean to put her sweet little book store out of business. He says, “It’s not personal, it’s business”. Take a moment; have you ever treated a store employee with that attitude, or as if they are only as valuable as the results they give you? I’ve had many people treat me that way and almost always for reasons out side of my control.

I love Kathleen’s response, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”

 

Go make someone feel valued, be personal, smile at them and enjoy their smile back.

Also, this is how I look as I write this to you . . . (not really but it’s how I feel I look, I hope that counts!)

kathleen kelly
Photo Via www.decorology.blogspot.com

 

When was the last time someone made you feel unimportant?

How did you respond?

What are some ways you plan on making others feel valued by you over this next month?

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I'm Molly and I write for the blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
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  • Anne Collins

    Hi Molly
    I hope you get 99% nice customers this holiday season at the book store.
    You’ve Got Mail is among my top 10 movies. I have it in VHS AND DVD at both our house and our summer place. It HAS to be, because I can never be sure when I need that fix!

    When I am the most unkind it seems to be when the cash register needs new tape in my line or I get the “Trainee” who doesn’t know what to do. I hate that lack of patience that I exhibit, but have to say it comes out sometimes.

    And you are absolutely right. We have the power to make our world better or worse. Selfishness or self-centeredness is always the culprit when I act poorly. My agenda, my deadlines, my time, my schedule are what always get in the way. When I think about things like: How is that person feeling? Does she or he need encouragement or possibly a prayer? When I am thinking along those lines, I wouldn’t dream of being rude or abrupt.

    As far as shopping, we have such simple needs and wants, we don’t do much. And the greatest blessing is that my daughter will shop with me for the kids so I end up buying the “right thing” most of the time. I hate giving gift cards to young people. It is practical, I know, but I want to see them open up a wrapped gift.

    To a person, I hope and pray that I am kind, patient and cheerful in the stores this year.

    Love you
    Anne

    • Anne,
      Yes it is remarkable what a difference a mindset can make, how consciously considering the feelings or life of the stranger in front of us can revolutionize the way we treat them. I think this is true even of the people on the road though it is much harder when traffic becomes a factor ; ).

      Thanks for reading, writing, and sharing your love of “You’ve Got Mail” with me! I’m not surprised that such a kindred spirit as you would love such a wonderful movie.

      Hope you get to watch it soon!!

  • Molly,

    OK, I admit “You got mail” is not in my top 10, sorry, but you are! Thanks for reminding us that we are all connected and with extremely little effort on our part we can make a difference in this world. Just last night I went to the store to get one brown onion for dinner. In a rush I grab it and shoot for the 15 items or less check out aisle. Of course there is someone in front of me with more then the allotted items , with coupons and a story to tell at every turn. As I wait I see people that came after me getting checked out before me in other stations. I start to get mad and irritated as I listen to what I consider trivial conversation at my expense. Trivial to me but most likely not to the woman in front of me. As I start to boil I remind myself that it is OK, I can give a few extra minutes and just smile. So I do and my whole demeanor changes just like that. That was all it took just a simple shift in me and I feel better and the woman in front of me senses my new energy, turns and apologizes to me for the delay. Again I just smiled back and allowed her to continue. We have the power of choice, make it one that benefits all.

    Chuck

    • Chuck,
      So great! Your initiative to change your attitude was noticed by the lady in front of you – our attitudes have incredible power to touch, effect & impact others. I was thinking that if you hadn’t changed your attitude, you may have gone home and complained to your wife about what happened and even though all you want to do is vent over something that you have a right to be frustrated with – what you’re really doing is sharing your frustration and giving your wife something to be upset about instead of just happy that you are home with the onion.
      I know for myself I need to vent sometimes and get parts of my day processed verbally with my husband but if I can prevent a lot of these frustrating moments the way you did, I will have less to complain about and less to pour out on him. I generally dislike when people complain to me, of course there are always legitimate reasons and those I’m sympathetic to, but I’m thrilled that in this instance at the store you were able to transform a small but irritating part of your day into a victory!
      Thank you so much for sharing Chuck!!

  • Jeff

    Molly,

    I absolutely love this about you. Your love for books, stories, meaning in life and people. Your sweet heart has touched me as your “pop” in so many ways as you have lead me into movies and sentimentalities the way only a daughter can. I think I am going to post this reversal of the quote you used in our office. “Its not business, It’s personal”. I like that allot. Thank you for your continued training of me as a father, friend and fellow creature beloved by our Creator.

    Jeff

    • Oh Dad,
      What a great idea!! I love the reversal of that phrase and I think it truly sums up what not only O’Connor, but what you & so many of our other co-workers are after. I most especially see that gift in you and it inspires me continuously as I serve & interact with others.
      Thank you for your very sweet & wonderful words. I’m so happy to have a family that enjoys sharing, that genuinely listens, and most notably, a father that will watch “You’ve Got Mail” with me any time I need to see it.

      You are a gift!

      • Jeff

        You know in many ways you are Kathleen Kelly, yet you work for “Fox Books”!? I love saying that to you….

        Jeff

  • Lori

    Molly,

    Isn’t it sad that our society seems to value people less all of the time? I had a similar experience this morning. I was walking the dogs and was at a break in the street. A young man came racing down in his car, looked right at me and kept going. I would say whenever I wait at this break, only about 40% of drivers stop for me to cross.
    I was raised with manners. You slow down to let people change lanes in front of you. You wave at others when they let you in front of them. Manners and value seem to be out the window, especially at the holidays.
    I respect you for not allowing his rude actions to negatively affect you for long.
    Thank you for the excellent reminder to value others, especially your elders since I am one now!! 🙂

    Lori

    • I think it’s incredible how much the scuffle and hurry of life consumes us and disillusions us into thinking that our tasks are so much more important than the people we pass. I sometimes wonder if the people we are hurrying to see or do something for, if they saw us hurrying to get to them, would they still want us to come? I want to be a kind person to everyone I meet, to be consistent so that when I do have bad days it surprises or demonstrates real strain in my life.

      Thank you for all your kind words Lori & the shared experience. I hope I would stop for you : )

  • Carrie Bayer

    Molly, I’m so sorry this guy made you feel so bad. But, it’s a reflection on him instead of you- you did nothing wrong but he was rude, scary & dangerous. Unfortunately, many people subscribe to his ways. Hold your head high knowing that you are a great person who does all she can to uplift & enrich others. I was made to feel unimportant this year & there was nothing I could do about it. It was demoralizing & upsetting. The one person who could have come to my aid instead chose not to. I was left completely defenseless & it was very scary. I did my best to be a big girl & find the lesson in all of it but to be honest, I’m still confused by the whole thing. All I can do is let it go. Thank you for such an honest blog! XOXOX Carrie

    • Carrie,
      It is scary – I hadn’t thought of that exactly but you’re completely right in your use of that word. All it takes is one person to devalue me on the freeway and want to cut ahead and I could be seriously hurt or worse. I know you’ve seen so many accidents where people have shown clear inconsideration for others or even themselves. It’s incredible the risks we take when our minds refuse to process the value of others outside of ourselves.
      I’m sorry that you’ve experienced a moment recently like this, too. We shouldn’t. I hope there is something in that moment for you though – I know for myself I thought, “That man may not like me, but God has never felt that way about me. He would never have done that” – what a beautiful thought.

      love you Carrie!

  • Hi Molly –

    I have the ability to take everything personally, I have a huge EGO! I am insecure and I am super sensitive, I am pretty much a big OLD baby. So my learning lesson I have to keep learning is called “receiving the contributions”. This is how is translates to me, no matter what happens to me, or what someone says to me, I able responsible to figure out what is the lesson I am learning beyond the words or actions someone gives me. The other mantra I love is, ” your response will determine your experience”. I try and uplight people by listening with empathy and giving them positive feedback as much as i can. I also try and be as honest as I can, even when you know someone does not want to hear the truth about something, I think that helps build a personal relationship, we can be truthful and it can lift someone up if they have any self awareness. Great Blog Molly!

    • Neil,
      Listening is so important and I’m sure you encourage and lift people up each time you open yourself up to hear them out.
      I love your other mantra, that our “response determines our experience” we reap what we sow and in terms of people it’s one of the harder but most important lessons. I know that I have that power over people and even myself. The way I initially approach or think of someone can completely change my attitude toward them.
      Thanks for sharing your wisdom Neil! Great thoughts!

  • kari Leslie

    Molly,
    Isn’t it amazing how bad behavior seems so much more exaggerated when someone is behind the wheel of a car. It’s almost as if all humanity, kindness, and manners are blown out the window as they speed along with obvious hostility in their actions. So dangerous!! You’ve tapped into something here. We have, as a collective whole, gotten away from valuing people. There is so much joy to be had in making a total stranger feel important and valued. Thank you for being a light in a very dark sea of strangers. If I didn’t know you and you were helping me at “Fox Books” I would want to be your friend. “Go to the mattresses Molly Keating!!” Make it personal!!

    Love you sweet girl!!
    kari

    • Yay!! Kari you are so sweet and I love your references! Thank you so much for making me smile with that!!

      We are kindred spirits!!

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Hi Molls:

    You and I have talked about this at length.

    How we respond to someone’s unsavory attitude or action carries a big responsibility. In the most blessed season of the year, we will always find folks that are rude, unkind, stressed, over worked or have no job at all. Our purpose is to be kind, but our initial impulse is to throw out some form of personal retaliation in the form of a thought . . “you jerk”. Have I done this? You bet. Am I working on this? Everyday.

    Our perception of others leaks out and we often times become “the jerk”, as well. You mentioned the value of others. Every human being, every human being, has worth. Our purpose is to remember that.

    You helped to bring it home, once again, that what we do with situations can make or break not only their day, but our day as well. Make the moment count.

    Nicely done, Mollly

    AP

    • So good! I know I can preach all of this and just as easily become the “jerk” to some poor soul. It’s in all of us but that doesn’t mean we should just let it out to wreak havoc. The work done in controlling that instinct is work done in love for people and what better work is there?

      Thank you so much for reading & writing back. Love hearing from you always!