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Commentary: The Business

This General Manager from Kansas Imagines Her Last Day in Jewelry Retail

She might just laugh and dance and curse, she says.

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HOW WOULD I have known when I started my first career as an art teacher that 40-plus years later I would be contemplating, let alone writing an article about, “my last day in retail?”

But here I am …

I’ve often threatened my staff with the words, “Just wait and see what I say and do on my last day in retail!” I visualize being even more caustic to a customer than the customer is to me and saying what I’m truly thinking instead of putting on the fake smile and looking at this person like I really care.

I think about spitting on a customer’s jewelry when I give it back to them after they’ve licked their finger to get a ring off and plopped the disgusting, dirty thing in my hand. How much fun would that be? Yes! I can see it now! I would laugh and dance and curse and have a great time.

One of my most memorable moments was when a very wealthy older lady came in with her aide and a folder of outrageously expensive jewelry she wanted appraised. I spent close to an hour with her to decide which of the most important pieces were a priority and gave her a price. She gasped, “Well, honey. That’s just too much. I don’t want to spend the money on that!”

I couldn’t believe it. After spending so much time wading through her precious treasures (expensive, but honestly, truly ugly), I was astounded. Then the customer said, “Oh, I’ve taken up so much of your time. I need to give you something.” She then reached into her designer handbag and pulled out a purse-size pouch of Kleenex decorated with pineapples and a sale sticker for $1.95. I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. What this lady didn’t realize was that she truly gave me a gift. A story so outrageous, I laugh every time I think about it.

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So, here I am again, thinking about my last day in retail. And what comes to mind most often is the gifts the customers have given me over the years. The gifts of friendship, caring, compassion, and of course, laughter.

As my last day in retail approaches (someday), these are the true memories I will be thankful for. It has been an incredible profession, and I’m thankful to have been part of it, even with slobbery rings.

Robin Lies is general manager of Burnell’s Fine Jewelry and Design in Wichita, KS.

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