Thursday, October 29, 2009

3 Minute Therapist

Everyone's heard the phrase "retail therapy". Most everyone's probably guilty of the crime every now and again... break up with your boyfriend? buy some new shoes. lose your job? buy a new dress. instant gratification, and there's nothing quite as refreshing as feeling great and getting complimented in a new outfit.

I always understood the concept, but mistakenly thought the "therapist" behind retail therapy was the expenditure of hard earned money and the buying of clothing or household items that seem to redeem your sense of value and self worth.

that is, until I worked in retail (for three + years)

now I understand that as the sales clerk, I am the therapist. Especially in small business, where the success of your business is hinged on your great customer service and helpful, happy, pleasant employees. I like to call myself a "three minute therapist". People come up to the counter and dish their lives greatest woes or biggest joys to me in three minutes... while I'm asking about their day, ringing up their items, wrapping their gifts, and bidding them adieu.

two weeks ago, I was sitting in the store on a rainy tuesday when a woman walked in with teased blond hair, misinformed blue eyeshadow, and a long leather jacket. She was staring at me when she said, "I... have a little problem. Your fence is ok... but my car..." and then she started crying.

I followed her outside to the front of the store, where her car was perched precariously on top of an iron fence outside of our store... fence wedged between the back bumper and the back tire so she couldn't move backwards... and she couldn't move forwards. She continued to cry and said, "I just don't... know... what... to... do"

Quick thinking as I am, I realized that every thursday morning we have a very steady Dad's group that meets. I popped my head into dads group and they all looked up at my invasion as I asked timidly, "Could I get an opinion on something? A... a car thing?" Two of the dads hopped up immediately to our rescue and ran out into the rain to look at this messy situation. We all knew it was bad. My new friend continued to cry, and being the prepared therapist that I am, I patted her wet leather-clad back.

In timing I can only describe as 'divine', my favorite mailman Gil (complete with an amazing handle bar mustache) walked by, in his safari-style rain hat (reserved only for heavy precipitation) and said, "you know what I would do?" and then described to the two dads, my new friend, and myself in complete detail how to jack up the car and rock it off the fence. Which is exactly what they set about to do.

One dad got the car completely jacked up, and the other dad kicked with all his force to free the car from its entrapment on a steel ball topper on the fence. The woman stopped crying and hugged each of us- twice- before leaving. The dads returned to their group... soaked... and I went back to work, a therapy session well done.

I was all-too-pleased to come into work a few days later and see that she'd left a letter for "the automobile angels" highlighted in pink highlighter. I have yet to give it to the dads. but it is thursday.

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