Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What about retail?

I’m actually formulating some interesting ideas thanks to comments and e-mails from yesterday’s readers and to a long conversation with my friend M this morning over a latte at Peregrine. But as promised, I will logically explore some options as I continue this thought process.

I’m probably one of the few people my age who can say I never worked in a clothing store, a grocery store, a bank, or a real restaurant. I don't even know what it would feel like to work on commission. The closest thing I ever did in the way of retail to the public was making Barbie Doll clothes when I was about 14. I offered 10 outfits for 10 dollars, which took at least 10 hours to make. So I was making just a little more than I could have as a babysitter. But I loved designing those doll clothes and it took next to nothing in the way of materials to cover all those plastic curves. I also did a limited amount of sewing for humans, but was less intrigued when it involved following a pattern as opposed to creating something original.

I should mention my 3-month stint in college working in a bar, where I worked practically under slave labor for crusty old Dick, who was more concerned about the fact that I was not putting a big enough head on the beer than paying me a decent hourly rate that might make me want to stay on. The thing I hated most was the disappointment when I had waited on a large party only to find that they had left no tip -- NADA! Or dealing with an irate customer who didn’t like the sandwich he received.

Some retired people (who have been highly paid professionals) gravitate toward jobs in retail, where they can simply walk away with no thought about anything other than the hours they just clocked up. I love reading about the escapades of Merle Sneed, a fellow retiree of a comparable age who now works at Ace Hardware and who ponders things like the guy who didn’t lock up properly or the other guy who chased down a shoplifter.

But as hard as I try, I can’t picture myself working in a spice store, a fabric store, a pet store, or a bank. I would probably get an ulcer from having to smile while dealing with incompetent or otherwise difficult people. I would probably chafe under the supervision of someone half my age. I would like the aspect of not having to take my work home, but I’m afraid I would draw little pleasure from the hours on the job.

As we explored my talents and interests this morning over coffee, my friend M suggested I could make tailored clothes for professionals. My limited experience with sewing for people would suggest that sewing for profit usually results in not much profit and sewing as a job is not the same as sewing as a hobby.

I am actually thinking of an idea that involves serving the public and doing something I love to do that leaves unlimited room for creativity. So retail may not be totally out of the question, but we’ll see. Later in the week I’ll share my plan with you, my faithful readers who never seem to tire of all this wheel-spinning in an effort to find happiness and fulfillment!

(Photos are from last night, picnicking outside the Botanical Garden while waiting to attend a free concert of the Navy Commodores on the Capitol Steps.)


Blogger Terry said...

I spent many years in retail and I really loved it. It depends, almost entirely, on what kind of store you work in. I managed the gift/book store at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for a number of years. The customers were a delight. They were on holiday, having a good time, buying frivolous things that made them smile. Very few crabby customers. I then owned a small fabric/quilt shop. Adored my customers! They brought their projects to share, they let me help them choose fabrics and colors and loved hanging out in the shop so much that I finally opened the classroom one day a week for people to come and work on things together. We had a wonderful time. I still miss it, despite the long hours and hard work.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

P.S. I should also mention that the MOST fun job I ever had was doing the displays in a department store. It was also the lowest paying job I ever had after babysitting. But everyday was like playing house--making displays of linens and dishes, dressing mannequins, setting up little vignettes in display cases and doing the window displays was the best, though these days few big stores have display windows anymore. I still dream about that job. Low stress, regular hours and very creative.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous lr said...

How about making Halloween costumes for 3-8 year old types? You could hand them out to your reading group or another shelter. Or make costumes for a preschool.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why don't you volunteer to help people read.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Terry -- If I lived anywhere near you, I would not have this dilemma. I posed the question to my friend M today as to whether there was a local group like your group of craft people who get together to make things and learn from each other. That sounds like the ultimate in fun to me!

You have done so many interesting things in your lifetime.

LR -- I fear my days of making costumes may be over until I have grandchildren. My shelter doesn't accept outside donations of anything other than money unfortunately.

Anon -- There is a big need especially in our area of people to help with adult literacy. That is a great idea I may follow up on.

9:58 PM  
Blogger karen said...

I've been enjoying all your last posts! Dying to know what you decide to do..

9:32 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Karen -- It's an interesting thought process. I feel quite lucky not to have a starving family while I figure out how to put food on the table! I love the idea that is forming. Just hope I can bring it to fruition.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I don't think you should feel like there's a deadline and you need to make an immediate decision. It's more important to weigh the possibilities and come up with something you're more likely to enjoy.

Having said that, I always liked working retail. I worked at a hardware store, like Merle, and I was an excellent cashier!

11:25 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- I have tried to put myself behind the cash register of a store and instead of enjoying the experience, I see myself looking at the clock to see when I can go home.

I could possibly see myself in a place like a quilt shop, but I don't have enough experience to give other people advice.

I have also made some inquiries about working in a cooking store. That I might really enjoy, even the cash register part, where I could talk to the customer about what she was going to do with whatever she bought.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I wouldn't discount the quilt store. Having spent a good deal of time in them, I have found that there is often an "alpha dog" person who is the quilt expert and a person who does the cutting and ringing up and while ready to discuss, is more social than expert. I prefer to talk to the secondary person, because I have my own design opinions. Some of those alphas are highly rule-bound, but you know me... rules are meant to be...

I was thinking that you might enjoy working at one of those "closets" that help low-income women pull together interview outfits for entering the professional world. This would certainly put your experience the in the workforce into good use, as well as sewing skills! In our area, there is also one that helps low-income girls get prom dresses.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

Barbara retail can be tricky. Having the attitude that you can walk away certainly helps.

I'm fortunate that my boss is a sweetheart and I get satisfaction from the job.

10:30 PM  

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