Lessons from the Jewelry Counter

I was good at everything except jewelry. That didn’t stop them from working me in jewelry, of course, but I could never understand why, when I was so good in every other department, they scheduled me for jewelry. Every time I saw jewelry on the schedule next to my name, my stomach would knot up with the dread of being asked about the quality of pieces, repairs, and finding ad items. I don’t wear much jewelry, and know next to nothing about any of it. I was completely out of my depth – I knew it, and so did the customers.

I begged my managers not to schedule me for jewelry, and most of the time they didn’t, but most of the time wasn’t good enough for me. One day, I was unexpectedly dropped into jewelry and I told the manager on duty that she could put me somewhere else or I was leaving. Thankfully, she was gracious about my being fed up and put me at customer service, because if she hadn’t, I would have walked out and never looked back; I hated working jewelry that much. I worked jewelry a number of times after that, but that day, I wasn’t having it that day.

I have this thing where I like to be good at what I do. If I can’t do it well, and with confidence, I don’t want to do it at all.

I’ve switched jobs since, but today I realized, there’s a jewelry counter in every job. Today, I got cussed out by a customer.

A few weeks ago, I had some responsibilities added to my position – responsibilities I immediately knew would take me out of my depth. I wasn’t eager to assume them: going forward, instead of taking messages for a certain department, I was going to be the one to get answers for customers … about things I hardly knew about myself. But, I thought, I might learn something from it.

And I have tried. I have tried learning to whom I should direct which questions. I have tried to smooth over choppy situations with customers where things both could have and should have been done much sooner by the department.  I have tried to escalate questions I can’t find the answers to, so I can learn the answers.

But sometimes, I’m not able to get answers. Not for lack of asking, but because no one can be bothered to answer their customers, much less me.

Yesterday, I told a customer I would get him an answer. I contacted the appropriate person, and she gave me some information, but I didn’t know what to do. I forwarded the information to someone who would know what to do about it and get in touch with the customer, or at least tell me what to do about it so I could get in touch with the customer. Neither happened.

So today, I got cussed out. And all I can think is this is bullshit.

And it is.

It. Is.

Customers don’t care that my niece had her eye removed because of blastoma or my mom has ALS or that I’ve been feeling like shit for the past month or that I’ve been trying to get answers for them. Neither do the people I work for.

I’m good at helping people, but I’m not going to be good at this unless I can get answers for the people I’m trying to help.

I’m not going to be good at this.

Then I remember the jewelry counter. When I moved out of state and came to a new store in that company, I intended to keep it under my cap that I knew anything about jewelry. Unfortunately, within weeks, my new managers found out, anyway, and I was back working in jewelry.

This time, I just bit the bullet and did what I had to do.

And that’s what I have to do here, too.

I have to accept that I can only do what I can do, and that it may not be as good as I’d like it to be, because I’m not the only person things depend on.

I’m not the only person things depend on. Even if I was, I can’t possibly excel at everything.

So I’ll just keep my head down, be who I am, and do what I can.


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