I only have 12 days left in retail sales (hopefully forever!) and as my time here comes to a close, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned in my years here.
For the first time–when I finished college and started working at the cell phone store–did I really understand how different from me some people could be.
I had been, up until that point–unbeknownst to me–cradled in a cocoon of moderation. I grew up in the suburbs, went to nice schools, took vacations with my family every year. We went out to eat a few times a week and had practical cars. We exchanged thoughtful gifts at birthdays and Christmases, but didn’t really ever shop much otherwise. We weren’t poor, certainly, but we weren’t uber wealthy either. We were fine, happy, content and fulfilled. I was never denied anything, but I think that’s because I was raised to be grateful, never craving extravagances. Whatever. “Normal.”
Fast forward to my time in sales at the cell phone store. Let me tell you, I have learned that this is the perfect breeding ground for young, arrogant, “hotshots.” That’s not to say I haven’t made some great friends here–I have. But the turnover is very high here at the cell phone store and for the most part, people come and go and rise to glory and then crash and burn really quickly. That’s the nature of sales, from what I’ve seen.
For the most part they’re hiring very young 20-somethings who have been sold the dream. They come in, sell-sell-sell without regard for ethics and without a care in the world, start making $60k, $70k, $80k (which is more than anyone they know), work countless hours, get completely lavished with praise, and then get burnt out. In a year they’re threatening to quit–the success has gone to their heads and they think they deserve “better,” but the company doesn’t care. Young little hotshot is easily replaceable. He leaves. Or he stays, his performance plummets, he realizes he hates his job and the hours, and he leaves.
This is they cycle I’ve seen. I think it speaks volumes that I’m by far one of the most seasoned veterans, and I’ve been here less than 6 years. I’ve met young hotshot after young hotshot.
At first, I was completely shocked by their lifestyle. Corvettes, BMWs, Denalis and Cadillacs. Seriously. Lunches out every day, nights out at the club weekend after weekend. New Rolex watches, Coach purses, the latest Jordans once a month. Packages upon packages of their online shopping being delivered to the store. It’s like a textbook case of conspicuous spending. I had never witnessed anything like it. You’d think we were talking about high powered executives. No! These are the 20-something kids selling you cell phones.
Talk about a case of living with The Joneses. I spend far more time at work than I do at home. Like it or not, at work we become like family, and get to know each other very well. I used to think I was normal middle class, maybe even upper middle class. Then, I realized I was weird in ways I had never known. It’s weird to have the same little Corolla year after year. Before I worked here I never would have thought that. It’s weird to bring my lunch to work. It’s weird to not go out to the club every weekend and it’s really weird to have an alpaca purse. It’s been isolating, really. After they invite me out and I turn them down a few times, they stop inviting me. I don’t blame them.
I never became like them, and even though they were coming and going, I always felt like an outsider. Until something happened. I came upon a realization. I realized that when it had been twelve days since our last paycheck, no one could afford to get lunch or go for coffee. I learned almost all of my coworkers had taken out loans and withdrawals against their 401ks. I learned they were well versed in owing the IRS money (they were eager to help me with this). I learned they had literally no savings and were denying their children dance lessons and puppies, not for the sake of minimalism, but because they couldn’t afford it. They didn’t go on vacations, not because they wanted to work more hours, but because they couldn’t afford it. They continously leased those fancy cars, and for the most part they couldn’t afford to own homes either. I overhead one coworker bragging about paying $900/mo for his car note, and literally the same day yelling at his wife for spending more than $150 at the grocery store.
AND SO, IN TIME, AS I GOT TO KNOW THE JONESES, I REALIZED I DID NOT WANT TO BE THEM.
And so for today, what I’ll say I learned about being in sales is, NOT to not try to keep up with the Joneses. No. Get to know the Jonses. You won’t want to be like them.