Friends said that the "to be continued" ending to "The Road to Retail I" was frustrating, that cliffhangers are not appreciated. (I was touched.)
It was held off the press because light-speed revelations were in process about the road to the road that led to retail, and it all needed organization, sue me. (Thank you so much for reading my shee-yat.)
After a six-year tenure, Tuesday was my last day on the job. I wondered why I hadn't left clicking my heels, saying: "You are embarking the road to where you belong!"
Why did I feel sad when my soft-spoken friend at the cologne kiosk asked me why I was leaving? Why did I tear up when he added: "But we will miss you, Mar-gar-ret." I mean... thank you. I only bought one bottle of cologne in six years.
Think of "The Road to Retail I" as Star Wars. Now we are going back to Phantom Menace (the new first episode.) Confused?
The Force be with you...
"When I try to fix family feuds, I find that I set the healing process back about six months," a friend said. Like my friend, I suffered fix-it compulsion, and I enjoyed the same after-fix depression. If any good came from my fixing, it was the catalyst for rationalization (like egging on a bad comedian.) "See? My fix-it remedy worked."
The Origin of the Fix-it Habit
When I was young, my mother explained that the distressing violence, flared tempers and harsh words in and outside of our home did not tell the whole story.
"People never hear the good things that are said about them," she said.
Oh wow, that is an easy fix! I thought. So in sixth grade, I wrote a poem about the world being a beautiful place in which to live, and I believed each word that I wrote. The odd paradox was that it was also the most fu*ed up year of my childhood in every possible way. (My poem was printed in the school yearbook that year and my childhood buddy, Susan, still sings it to me as a means of taunt.)
It became my goal to recognize and tell others the good things that were said or believed about them, you know... heal.
In hindsight, it would have been helpful to learn real, effective communication skills rather than validating the planet. To make matters worse, the launching pad for Operation Validation was my own hellacious self-esteem. It was impossible to put my finger on why, in my every-thing-is-beautiful world, I felt like road kill.
Fix-it Personalities Collide
To widen the field of confusion, I received unexpected gifts at various times of my life from a loved one. Each gift was followed by a period of shunning that averaged months to over one year. This cycle helped me to associate kindness and generosity with extreme loss, and made me hyper aware that one false move could change life as I knew it.
Armed with this information and my people-pleasing interpersonal skills, retail was a natural fit, so much better than court reporting.
Customers loved me. I was the one person they'd encountered in their day, or maybe their life, whose face lit and heart raced when they described a need.
"Nobody gets into retail on purpose, Margaret. Get out while you still can," my friend said. "Look what happened to me," he continued, "I started working around retail, and next thing you know, a management position opened up and I was sucked in."
Never one to cave to a career warning, I boarded the management wagon.
Before I'd arrived to management, people blew dust off relics in the attic and discovered our company's name on it. Score! That product was exchangeable for store credit. But now I was among the managers when the company first announced the change to the return policy. I had to explain that without a receipt, there was nothing I could do. The screams and shouts hover over the register through this day.
Within two years, the policy lightened again. Returns without a receipt, though, needed to make sense. For instance, product needed to be resell-able, the "defect" reasonable, and no fossils.
Yesterday, for my last day with the company, I experienced a freak resurgence of hope (the kind that leads to drinking.) I planned to leave on a high note: heal every divide, close plan deficits, balance the New York State budget and fix relations in the Middle East.
The customers, once again, did not follow my script.
"Margaret, do you have a minute?" our new manager, Pat, asked. "Sure." I stepped closer, honing in on a 3G Helicopter box, like a paleontologist seeing a baby dinosaur. How many years had it been since we sold that model, one and a half, two years, three?
"This helicopter doesn't work," the woman said.
"Oh. We haven't carried that helicopter in quite some time."
"Well, your company's name is on it, and it's broken!"
The thing flew into extinction. Of course, it's broken.
"Do you have a receipt?" I asked.
"No, and it just needs a new rotor."
I rubbed my forehead, like Detective Columbo. I only had a couple of hours to go, maybe I could stretch out the transaction until six o'clock.
"This helicopter hasn't been sold for over one year maybe two or three," I said. Even if you had a receipt, we do not sell this design anymore and the full-year of protection against defect would have ended."
She snatched the helicopter from the counter, turned and walked away. "My son's out a helicopter then!"
One hour later, I had not yet sold a chair or reached sales plan, but I did have another customer who had not one, but two broken helicopters in faded red boxes, like they'd been sitting in a window for five years.
"My sons purchased these two helicopters with their own money and now they're broken."
"Did you buy a flight plan?"
"We bought the unlimited protection on them. They were exchanged three times for breaking already!" Her two sons and husband spread out across the entire counter.
Please, God. Let them give me the dignity of a receipt.
"Do you have a receipt?"
"No, we don't have the receipt, but it's your product, has your company name on it. We just want an exchange."
"Do you have the credit card that you purchased them on?"
"I think you purchased them about nine months ago," the husband said.
"Nope, it was a lot longer than that," the wife said. "For gawd's sake, we just want store credit."
And I'd like a new rear bumper on my car. Do you think I will get that for free?
The two helicopter customers were like props, sent to remind me that Miss Fixit needed to let go. It was time for me to move along. It was now Jay's turn to sell the chair, or Pat or John, or maybe Brian would sell his fourth in two weeks.
And with gratitude for the six-year journey on my retail road and for the friends I have made, I accepted the nudge from the finger of fate and said goodbye...