Retail job sparks equity epiphany

By Jetta Harris

TV anchors are not more important than the rest of us. They are not better than the homeless, non-English speakers or minimum-wage workers.
Hope Woodside, Fox 13’s evening news host, walked into my store a few nights ago and shopped for apparel. I casually greeted her, and we both went on with our tasks; I did not realize the person I was greeting was a technical person of interest. As my colleagues noticed who the woman in the leopard print skirt was, they flocked, swarmed and surrounded her with comments and outfit ideas. I, on the other hand, began helping a conservatively dressed mother and daughter. The mother did not speak English, and the daughter served as our interpreter as I helped them find the items they wanted.
As I ushered the mother into the fitting room, I was beginning to feel guilty for not giving more assistance to Hope Woodside. How did I not notice her? Before I could find her again and offer my opinions, I had begun assisting another customer. I continued to grab sizes for the mother and daughter and helped them pick out clothes for a son, too. Suddenly, I had a realization: Hope Woodside is not more important than the mother and daughter with whom I could barely have a conversation. Her needs are not more important, and she should not receive better treatment. Would she spend more money? Maybe. Did she? No. I ended up helping the mother and daughter select multiple items, and Hope didn’t find much.
Patrons in public should be treated equally, regardless of status, and the employees attending to them need to acknowledge fair treatment. As a retail employee, and a minimum-wage one, this incident reminded me that I need to care for all my customers equally. I have since noticed that my equity epiphany is not present in other situations, but I’m hoping it can be.
In service jobs, think about the people you are serving; think about them as people. Each person requires your assistance to meet his or her needs, but one person’s needs do not override another’s. Judging by outside appearance, status, career or language capabilities is not the way to establish customer priority; it’s a way to leave your goals and your customer’s goals unmet. Did I want Hope Woodside to feel unattended to? No. But did I want the mother and daughter to feel that way either? Absolutely not. Did Hope and the mother and daughter get the assistance they needed? Yes, and it was an equity epiphany that brought success.