My first day at Macy’s, August 15, 2015.
It has officially been 3 months since I quit my job at Macy’s and I can honestly say that I couldn’t be happier. After contemplating it for months before, I decided to take the leap and close the door on something that has been SO crucial to my growth for the past 3 ½ years. It’s extremely bittersweet, but take it from me, when you feel like something is weighing you down, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. At some point, you must rid yourself of the things that you feel are holding you back.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel like working in retail is something that everyone should experience. There are things you learn when working in customer service that you just simply can’t learn anywhere else. And while it may drive us all crazy sometimes, I think we can all agree that there are some extremely invaluable takeaways and memories that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.
So in honor of my time at Macy’s, here are 10 important lessons I’ve learned in retail:
1. I learned things about people
Fresh out of high school when I first began working there in August of 2015, learning the nature of people was to me like a culture shock. There were just certain behaviors I expected from adults and reality proved the complete opposite.
I had to learn to orient myself in situations where people were yelling at me about coupons, cause apparently people don’t understand the concept of no, sorry, it doesn’t work on that (like it states in the back but okay).
The oh so seriousness I’d expected from the “real world” was now replaced with the realization that grown-ups are just like children, with real feelings, real emotions, and real frustrations, no matter how misplaced.
2. I learned things about myself
I was extremely shy when I first began (I know, hard to believe, right?) and had trouble approaching customers/ telling them no. But as time went on and I gained a pair, I learned that I have VERY little tolerance for stupid questions and/or people trying to pull one over on me. I learned how to assert myself, in addition to being more confident. I also learned how to pick my battles which brings me to my next point:
3. That everyone has bad days
Working in retail, as we all know, involves dealing with difficult customers, and it can sometimes literally be the most frustrating thing ever that someone you have done absolutely nothing to can act SO nasty toward you. However, I had to learn the importance of not taking these instances personally because you have NO idea what is going on in someone’s life that is causing them to act that way.
This in no way makes it okay, but it’s important to acknowledge that we are all human, we all have bad days, and we’ve all taken it out on the wrong people. I learned that sometimes it’s easier to show some compassion, be the bigger person, and pray that their day gets better.
4. That haters gonna hate
There are two types of people in retail: people who are working there temporarily until something better comes along, and people who will be there forever, and the latter are typically (not always) the hardest to deal with. How do I know this? In my entire 3 ½ years at Macy’s I dealt with the Macy’s Forever Employee From Hell (and several other smaller offenses). I mean to the point where my mother had to come down and defend me and HR got involved (that’s a story for another blog).
I am in no way bashing Macy’s employees or people who work in retail full time to make a living, but otherwise the ones that are working there AND unhappy with how their lives turned out AND feel the need to take it out on other people. I learned that sometimes people will be upset with you because of the things that they lack, and that haters are pretty much inevitable no matter where you are in life. I’m not going to act like I was always the bigger person because I absolutely wasn’t but I did learn that it’s not worth it to give your energy and attention to such things.
5. That life happens
Piggybacking off of my previous point, with working with so many women from different age groups and walks of life, I learned that sometimes life does actually happen. I’ve met some people who were there by circumstances, and some people who were there because life just didn’t quite work out as planned. I listened as they complained about life at home, and prayed for colleagues as they were going through divorces/deaths in families. And from all of this I learned that sometimes you don’t get to call the shots, that sometimes you don’t get to run your life but that sometimes life runs you, and you’ve just gotta do what you gotta do to roll with the punches.
6. Never buy anything full priced
Not gonna lie, Macy’s made me bougie, but if I learned anything, it’s this: you can almost always find it for a cheaper price.
7. That there’s something to learn in everything
In retail, you have to find the positivity in things, otherwise you will always find yourself bitter and upset. I think one of my favorite things was being able to constantly learn from my customers; the good and the bad ones. Like with coworkers, you get to meet people from different walks of life, all of which come in with the power to change your perspective.
For example, after multiple unpleasant customers, the uplifting spirit of another customer might remind me to remain positive, or a customer’s success story, like finally getting pregnant after trying so many times, might remind me the power of not giving up. The comings and goings throughout the days in retail taught me that there’s something to be learned from everything and everyone.
8. How to have thicker skin
Macy’s being amongst one of my first jobs, I experienced things I had never experienced before, one being racism. A particular incident that comes to mind is when a customer decided to mutter that she was “N****** Broke.” I was absolutely mortified (and ready to throw hands), but what that experience taught me is that you cannot control the actions of others; some people are just ignorant and miserable and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
However, what you can do is control YOUR actions and how you let it affect you. So while that incident was extremely upsetting, I learned not to give people the satisfaction of getting to me. That when people waltz in with the sole purpose of stealing your joy, to decide for yourself to protect your peace and walk away.
9. Your coworkers become your best friends
I think one of the most valuable experiences I will take with me are the relationships I’ve built. When you are around a group of people 24/7 they suddenly people become your friends and your confidants–you might even go as far as to say you’re a family. Being there 3 ½ years, my coworkers were there to witness various stages of my life. They watched me grow from a clueless teenager with no life experiences whatsoever to an educated almost college graduate.
I think that’s one of the best parts about the workplace, you’re forced to be around a group of people you most likely have absolutely nothing in common with, and as a result, build life long bonds and memories you will probably never forget.
10. That life goes on
writing this post is like an act of closure for me. So many people will call it just a workplace, but for me it was so much more than that. It was a home, a place of comfort, a place of familiarity, and leaving for me was like a removal of a sense of security. But that’s what life is about. We learn and we grow and we GROW OUT of things and it teaches us that some things aren’t meant to last forever. That life changes, and life happens, and so do we. That you’re allowed to walk away from things that are no longer serving you a purpose. And one of the most valuable lessons Macy’s taught me, is knowing when it’s time to walk away.
So, in the words of Andy Bernard from The Office, I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them, because that’s what you were for me, Macy’s. An easy time, a time of reflection, and a time of growth. Thank you for a great 3 ½ years, for the people who have been there to watch me grow, and for teaching me so many things about life, people, and myself.
My last day at Macy’s, January 17, 2019