Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'd rather be appreciated than rewarded

I work in a retail store anywhere from one to three days a week.  It's a store that operates on the principles of fair trade and sources all its products, almost 95% of which are handmade by women, from  countries such as Thailand, Peru, Sri Lanka, Paraguay, Colombia, Kenya, the Philippines and East Timor.

The handcrafted goods, including the very popular owl shaped shoulder bags, waste paper baskets made from recycled telephone books and spider-weave table runners are each uniquely made and are an absolute delight to our customers.  Sadly, although our store is located in an expensive suburb and on the main drag, because it's not part of a big shopping complex, its clientele are mainly passers-by. Which means, we don't get as many as we need.

Yesterday, what with the rain playing cheeky on and off games with us, we had a total of twenty customers.  Hardly anything to crow about although we did have a fifty percent conversion.  The manager attributed that to me insisting that I have a way with people.  The truth is, I do enjoy engaging with them and I smile a lot and I am known to say some rather strange and unexpected things that seem to  make people smile and often explode with laughter. I don't plan any of this, of course.  It's just a natural reaction to people:)

For instance, I was serving a couple of girlfriends not long ago.  It was a day for girlfriends.  There must've been at least four pairs that day,  Anyways, I was serving this lady whose friend had come in a week or so ago on her own looking for some amethyst earrings for a friend.  Apparently, it was the friend's birthday.  Well, sadly, we didn't have any amethyst earrings although we did have amethyst necklaces which was not quite what this lady wanted to give her friend.

When this lady and a friend turned up at the store I wondered if this might be the friend she'd been wanting to buy the earrings for and when I had a chance, I quietly asked her.  I think she was chaffed by the fact that I remembered her and her thwarted intentions.  So, knowing I was in the good books, I naturally gave myself freedom of speech.

The lady's friend had decided to purchase a shoulder bag and when the two of them came to the counter to pay for it, I asked the friend if this was her first time at our store.  Yes, she replied.  To which I said with deliberately muted excitement and a hint  of gravity, "Ah, a virgin".  Well, you can imagine the uproar that caused.  The friend just could not stop laughing (and laugh she did, all the way out of the store some ten minutes later) while everyone else in the store (it's quite a small one) pricked up their ears hoping to catch more juicy tittle tattle.

Well, the stage was set.  I launched into the story of how I'd come about this particular phrase.  But perhaps I'll leave that story for another post and continue for now with how my 'personality has changed over the years - from someone who used to keep her gaze toward the ground and hope and pray that no one would notice her to someone who is just looking for an opportunity to smile at people.  If you knew me, I mean seriously knew me, you'd know that that has been a change of galactic proportions.

I've noticed that I tend to smile at bus drivers too these days.  The other day, one of them commented on it.  And the day before, on my ride back from my Monday evening Buddhist class, which incidentally is about the nature of reality (yeah, heavy stuff), I noticed a sign on the bus.  Well, actually, I'd noticed the sign several times before but only took the time to read it properly that night.  The last thing it said was: Reward the bus driver with a smile.

It made me wonder of course, as you must know by now, about several things.  Like, do I really believe in rewarding anyone?  Do bus drivers feel 'rewarded' when someone smiles at them or do they just feel nice?  Why do we buy into this concept of 'reward'?  Isn't it rather limiting?  Couldn't we just appreciate?  Couldn't we be encouraged to 'appreciate' rather than 'reward'?

In my mind, appreciation is such a natural response which is based on enjoyment rather than 'e-value-ation.  Reward, on the other hand, connotes a certain amount of evaluation and encourages us to think and respond in terms of 'degrees' of value and other such discriminating and restricting concepts.

What do you think?  I'd love to know :)

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