Tuesday, 7 September 2010

One Simple Rule

Since working in retail, I’ve come to realise there are two different kinds of people in this world; those that intend upon making the lives of shop assistants a complete misery, and those who don’t. Being part of the management team at the store I work in means dealing with all those ridiculous and outlandish complaints, usually regarding our returns policy. With such a job as mine, you come to just expect these kinds of things and it’ll happen wherever you go, you end up just getting used to it. For those customers however, surely they’re just making their days more difficult and inflicting that on other people? For the matter of a few quid, is it really worth it?

Last week I got a visit from my old manager who still works in the chiropody centre I used to work in as a footcare assistant. A few months ago we were approached by a group called ‘Bounce Back’, a weekly meeting for women who have recovered from breast cancer and want to meet with others in the same situation, and had arranged to go to one of the meetings to give them a bit of pampering, check their feet and hand out a few freebies. I volunteered with my manager to go along and help her, even though I found the whole prospect a little daunting, I thought it might be quite interesting. One of my grandmothers has in fact had breast cancer in the past and recovered from it, and sadly my other grandmother passed away having had lung cancer three years ago. In spite of all the constant hospital appointments, nerve pain and emotional exhaustion this has caused these women I met, it seems they all share the same viewpoint in that (for want of a better expression but I think this one explains it effectively) you’ve gotta grab life by the balls when you’ve got the opportunity. Having been faced with the prospect that they hadn’t got much time left in their lives, and fought that with every last breath, these women really know what it is to feel alive.

One of the women has had both of her breasts removed due to cancer, and was having a giggle with the other ladies about her ‘new boobs’ she bought that day, the old classic chicken fillet. Another that I spoke to lost her husband four years ago, and was diagnosed with breast cancer a year after that. After such a tough and lonely time, she decided she really needed to make the most of what she’s got now, and is currently on her fourth holiday this year to Spain. If I have half the courage these women have if God forbid I ever have to go through the same, I’d be seriously lucky. Not necessarily the courage to really get out there and make the most of it, but just the energy and vitality to laugh in the way that I saw them do so that night.

Going back to the topic of customers, in the job as a footcare assistant we often had women in going through chemo looking for comfortable shoes to wear. I often found these some of the nicest and most grateful customers I’ve ever had to deal with, and sadly most were not as lucky as those ladies in the Bounce Back group. We had a few people in who were terminally ill and they knew exactly how much time they had left, and still hopped about full of the joys of spring. Now I obviously don’t know what each individual customer has been through, and I do know that everyone has bad times. I also find that in most cases the customers who really kick up a fuss seem to be perfectly well-off individuals, and I just don’t get what it is that makes them think that complaining to such an extent is going to get them anywhere, especially for what it’s worth in a shop that sells clothing, which usually amounts to the maximum sum of £50.

These two polar opposites in customers have really made me think about the attitude we take in such situations, or even generally in life. This just boils down to the simple fact that it takes nothing to be kind and fair to someone, and in most cases it can be rewarding. If someone terminally ill with cancer can manage to bring a smile to a strangers face, then why can’t the rest of us? 

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