Thursday, August 5, 2010

(2) A Good Salesperson Doesn't Giggle

Ok, so when I said "barely hanging on to a crappy job," what I actually meant was "I will hang on to this crappy job until I either break down in tears on the sales floor, or until I've come to the point where I know if I don't quit I WILL embarrass myself by breaking down in tears on the sales floor." As I've probably already demonstrated, I'm not exactly the sales type, but this is precisely the job I found myself in when we got to Vancouver. Yes, most of my working life I've been a Retail Sales Associate, but working part-time at a chain store in a suburban mall is nothing even remotely close to working in sales. A full-time Retail Sales Associate position in a gift/random crap boutique in a trendy Vancouver neighborhood: now THAT'S working in sales, regardless of how the owners describe the job.

When we first got to Vancouver my boyfriend's job offer fell through, and while we waited for THAT crisis to sort itself out (we knew there WAS a job, just where and when Luke could begin it was a big question mark), I flung resumes out like confetti in hopes that someone would pay me to do stuff so that we could buy some furniture, and possibly some food (and let's be honest- some beer too). The first, and only, job offer I got was from this boutique a few blocks from our beachfront apartment (I know, right? Sounds too good to be true! Just remember that it's tiny and we have no furniture. Makes more sense now, right?), and somehow I managed to convince this owner that I can EASILY make a living chatting up random strangers and pretending they're my best friends.

It's funny how my awkwardness actually comes across as energy and confidence when you first meet me. I smile and nod and make lots of eye contact, and usually people take this as encouragement to keep talking. My nervous fidgeting somehow comes across as an untapped wealth of energy that says, "YES! I am ready to jump up and do your bidding!" And that nervous giggle is, for some unbeknown reason, charming. All I can say is that I'm thrilled that I have just enough confidence to look people in the eye, and that my Mom bought me all those nice dresses and MAC makeup. Otherwise I think I'd be screwed. This interview was actually more like speaking to some philosopher for an hour than it was actually interviewing for any sort of job. This man was convinced he could read me like a book, and he spent 40 minutes giving me odd life lessons. And then I was hired. Ok then... Something tells me this may be fairly typical BC behavior.

So this "sage" co-owns the shop with his wife, who had a deep-seated hatred for me right from the start. I asked her a grand total of three questions in the first hour I worked with her, and apparently that made me an idiot. In all fairness, I WAS a bit of an idiot when it came to selling; it's not like my degree in English helped me to develop fantastic social skills. If anything, my degree has inspired me to be a social recluse. I mean, how awesome would it be to live like those hermits in the King Arthur stories? These knights would come along with some mortal injury or devastating heart break, and those hermits always knew what to do to get them back on their feet. The knights would hang out for awhile and then eventually be on their way, and I bet those hermits just sat around laughing at the complicated lives of the knights. Plus everyone respected and valued the hermits. So awesome.

So... clearly no social skills. Anyways...

I was given several tips about how to sell, but my general approach was to say "Hello (insert additional generic greeting and comment about the rain, and occasionally, the lack of rain). Isn't that (whatever item they were absent-mindedly touching) SO cute?!" Then my inner monologue would tell me that I was way too enthusiastic about said object's level of cuteness, and  should definitely shut up while I'm still ahead. Then I would back away, smiling awkwardly. It's who I am. I'm bad with people, and the only reason why I'm not worse off is because of my tendency to giggle when I'm nervous. The only time this "ploy" doesn't work is when someone is angry or upset with me (I say "ploy" in quotes because I really do wish it were some sort of tactic, but it's really just a reflex). Even when Luke and I argue I occasionally get in trouble for laughing at him. You'd think he'd accept the fact that it really isn't something I control- we've only been together for five years...

But this woman found nothing cute or charming in my awkward-greeting-this-is-nice-giggle-while-backing-off approach, and figured that if she demeaned and embarrassed me in front of the other employees I would stop grinning like an idiot and turn into a selling machine. I knew it was only a matter of time before she fired me- the woman had so little faith in my abilities that on my 6th day of work she felt the need to explain to me what the fridge, microwave, and garbage bins in the back room were for. I'm socially inept, not brain dead for god's sake!- and so I decided to quit. I actually wrote out everything I would say to her husband when I called. It was a tale of heartbreak and woe in which I was innocently belittled by a horrible witch woman, but it all hinged on him asking "why?" when I said it just wasn't working out for me. I hyperventilated for like three hours before making that call, and all the man had to say was "Ok, thanks for calling. Bye!"

Despite how much of a loser I felt like for being so unsuccessful at such a simple job, I didn't feel horribly guilty for quitting because I was probably making Luke miserable too. Plus he had FINALLY started the job he should have started a month beforehand.

The resume confetti continues to fly.

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