Ever wonder how a person gets training to be a celebrity? If you have any aspirations of becoming famous you would do well to take a job in retail. There’s an old stereotype about young actors working in restaurants but again it’s good training. Here are the reasons why:

You’ll lose the shyness. In order to sell things you have to go up and talk to total strangers…some of whom are exceptionally strange. You’ll be exposed to a wide variety of personality types and character quirks, many of whom you wouldn’t otherwise meet. You’ll be forced out of your own little social circle as you greet and become acquainted with the general public. It’s made up of everybody, just like the people who chase after celebrities. 
You’ll learn to be presentable. Unless the job itself is working with grime (and I don’t know of any kind of retail that is,) you’ll be expected to always be clean. You may have to wear a uniform or follow a dress code. Most companies expect you to be their face to the public and tend to discourage things like body piercing, tight clothing, and excessive facial hair. These standards are seldom written in stone but disregarding them lowers your chances of getting hired in the first place. While you can dress and appear however you want once you’re famous, it’s usually not the case in the non-celebrity world. Freedom of expression also includes that of the employer who may not see an ideal employee in someone who looks scary or even just odd. A good estimate of what’s expected can be found in how current employees dress.

You’ll learn some constraint. Don’t even think about applying for a job when drunk or stoned. Even one drink will leave a detectable odor on your breath. What you do in your own free time may be your business but if it’s still affecting you when you go to work you’re making it your employer’s business. Why? Because customers will run from an employee who stinks or acts impaired. And they may not come back.

You’ll become a fairly good judge of character. Being in constant contact with a wide variety of shoppers can’t help but hone your people skills. As a ‘sales associate’ or whatever your company calls its staff, you’ll also learn patience with people. Most stores have been remiss in not correcting the old ‘the customer is always right’ policy to recognize some customers are abusive. With the recent shortage of workers a few enlightened (if not desperate) employers have begun to enact a zero tolerance policy towards harassing their workers. Losing staff because of nasty customers (who often don’t buy anything anyway!) is an expensive bit of bad business.

You’ll learn how to take people’s money. Seriously. Take payment in the wrong way and you’ll offend people. When someone hands you their cash/credit/debit card for goods or services it’s not only payment, it’s an assumption of trust. From assuming you have provided quality goods or service to counting change correctly to securing their credit card number against fraud, customers expect you to be trustworthy…you were hired partly to handle the company’s assets, after all.

This leads to the opposing point of view…customers who gave you their money–even thought it went to the company and not you personally–now feel they have a tiny bit of ownership of you. It goes back to the idea of money representing their personal efforts and personal contacts. The worst salespeople dread this but the best turn it to their advantage. Here’s the scenario that often results:

You’re in a café or restaurant. A customer comes up and asks you if the product they wanted has come in yet. A bad salesperson growls, “I’m eating, leave me alone.” And the customer does, for good. A good salesperson finishes chewing, swallows, and answers the question as if it had been asked by a good friend. Imagine the same scenario, but it’s a famous celebrity and someone asking for an autograph. The nasty response would get the celebrity a bad reputation and perhaps a tabloid exposé.

(A friend once asked me why they always approach with questions while you’re eating. I suggested that since he was sitting down with cutlery, they might have a chance to escape if their questions made him angry.)  🙂

You’ll also learn that your skills are transferable. For a long time a cash register was the same basic model with keys and buttons. Someone in retail today might encounter anything from an antique cash register to a computer that monitors inventory levels and gives access to the cash drawer as a ‘point of sale’ or POS machine. Even restaurants often have a computer instead of a cash register. Like many things in life it’s simply a matter of knowing which buttons to push.

A bit of advance here to many of the companies using computers for POS machines-you’re losing a lot of time and productivity to emails. It’s foolish to think that every department has to send a message to every store every day. This is quick, easy, and cost-effective to fix! Before a head office email is sent, all department heads should already have their final say. Otherwise store staff will be running in circles trying to resolve conflicting emails and make everyone happy…except for the customer who gets ignored.

You’ll learn how well or poorly a company runs based on whether or not everyone does their job well. As a celebrity you’ll be better prepared to deal with either. Now, about that autograph…

Thanks for reading.  🙂
Phyllis K Twombly

About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her Stage32.com account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

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