After dropping out of college in 1973, I took a job selling women’s shoes in the mall. In my brief career as a shoe salesman, I learned three important lessons:
• 1. The best salespeople were artists who danced with their customers-always anticipating their next move.
• 2. I was never going to be a great shoe salesman.
• 3. The Golden Rule works-even in a sales situation.
The assistant manager of the store where I worked was a master of his craft. He could find any shoe in the store with only the vaguest description and always had two alternatives to suggest if a customer’s first choice was unavailable. He could handle half a dozen customers at once-circling the room taking sizes and requests, picking up the discards, darting into the stockroom to emerge moments later with dozens of shoeboxes that he dispensed like a blackjack dealer lays down cards.
There was a problem with the assistant manager’s management.
There was a problem, however, with the assistant manager’s management. In theory, sales people took turns waiting on customers. In practice, the assistant manager took the customers who looked the most prosperous. Anyone he judged to have little buying potential-or worse, wanted to return something-he’d hand off to one of the rest of us. Sometimes he would take two or three customers in a row before giving one away.
He was taking money out of our pockets, and it wasn’t right for him to treat us differently than he’d want to be treated. I tried to talk to him but got nowhere-he needed the money. I tried talking to the store manager. He was sympathetic, but not willing to press the issue-after all, the assistant manager was his best salesperson. There just didn’t seem to be anything I could do in the face of the assistant manager’s aggressive tactics.
An “equal share of unlimited” seemed better than a “smaller part of scarce.”
Eventually I upset myself enough that I thought I’d better pray about it. It seemed to me that I had two choices: I could see us as competing for a limited number of customers and accept that the more powerful person would always take more. Or I could focus on spiritual facts that named us both as equal recipients of God’s unlimited goodness. An “equal share of unlimited” seemed better than a “smaller part of scarce,” but it was tough to hold on to that idea while watching the assistant manager in action.
I asked a friend I often turned to for spiritual guidance what was the spiritual opposite of the aggression I saw in the assistant manager.
“Acceptance,” my friend said.
“Acceptance?” I thought.
It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear-it seemed so turn-the-other-cheek-and-get-slapped-again wimpy. I was looking for something bold and powerful.
“Accept that God’s will is being done,” he added.
Oh. That acceptance. I was going to have to think about it.
Oddly enough, when I thought about it, acceptance did seem to be the right answer. I realized that I’d been thinking I had to fix something that was broken-another person, myself, a situation-when what I needed to do was accept that the law of God, good, was in complete control. I felt relieved.
Apparently he’s found her wanting on the “I’m going to buy-o-meter.”
But, I’m back at work the next day and nothing seems to have changed. The assistant manager is sizing up a woman entering the store. I can almost hear the gears turning as he does the calculations. Apparently he’s found her wanting on the “I’m going to buy-o-meter” since he’s signaling me to wait on her.
She has a list of shoes she wants to try on, but half an hour later, despite a growing wall of rejected shoeboxes, there’s no sale in sight. The assistant manager motions me over: “Cut her off. She’s running ya.”
Privately I agree with his assessment-I’m waiting on one of those incomprehensible people who actually enjoys trying on (but not purchasing) shoes. But I decide to stick to God’s promise that His will leads only to good. It was my job to help people buy shoes, and I certainly wouldn’t want a salesperson to tell me that I was taking up too much of his time if I were buying shoes. So, I keep bringing out boxes. I didn’t let go of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (See links below.) Obeying the rule meant everyone would be taken care of.
An indecisive hour later (maybe more, maybe less, I don’t know), it feels to me like she’s tried on every shoe in her size-in addition to having indulged in some serious wishful thinking regarding the physics of foot compressibility versus the elasticity of shoes.
And she still can’t decide among her favorites.
So, she buys them all!
(It was the biggest single sale in my career as a shoe salesman.)
Article by Christopher Michael, from Spirituality.Com