The Running Business In The Time Of Corona

The progress of how things went at work is thus: First we went to no two people on shift, then Run Clinics got cancelled, then Run Club, then store hours got cut to 11-6 each day, and that brings us to now.

I had my first shift of the pandemic era yesterday and boy was it interesting. I thought it would be a ghost town because that’s what my last shift before the changes was like but it was worse. Not a lack of customers but actually an abundance – of returns.

Biggest day of returns I’ve ever seen, over 700 dollars in returns, and I was feeling like it reflected on me personally and like I was going to get in trouble for it but that’s irrational. Like, this is just business and I just happen to be the guy behind the counter today none of this is my fault.

And then I got a call from someone high up who grilled me about it as if it was exactly my fault. Not only the returns at my store but ALL OF CALGARY. Why is Calgary down? He demanded, why are multiple Calgary stores in the negative?

And when I debriefed the returns I’d dealt with that day he said multiple times, every time, “And you couldn’t talk her out of it?”

Which really disappointed me. Returning things is an anxious thing for customers and they want to be reassured that it’s totally okay and an easy process and you build up a lot of goodwill by relieving that anxiety.

Everything the company puts out talks about doing it for the community and it’s about life long relationships – which I believe in and I believe the founder believes in – and here’s this dude being a capitalist shark just seeing numbers and pressuring me to be a high pressure salesman.

We’re out here talking about how people are going to pay their rent and a wealthy man wants me to be shitty about someone returning a pair of shoes.

But you know what? He’s dealing with an unprecedented economic emergency too and probably has people breathing down his neck for answers it can’t possibly be his responsibility to provide.

He called me back and said it wasn’t his intention to grill me – the closest to an apology you get from guys like that – and while I was saying that yeah, you did grill me and it’s unfair he was like sure, sure, sure, I got other calls.

And he probably forget all about me. He’s a powerful guy and he’s got a lot of difficult phone calls to get through meanwhile I’m stuck with this interaction on my mind for days.

I had six customers that day and they all went well. They left happy and I felt I’d done them a service and was happy with myself.

It was 4 returns, a pair of sunglasses, and a hydration pack. And everyone wanted to talk about what’s going on, with the store, with gyms, with schools and hospitals. One person, the girl who bought the hydration pack (I knew all my returns were woman but I just realized all the customers I had all day were woman, odd?) said we must be doing great, with the gyms being closed. When I told her I had two of the returns tell me the exact same with – that with the gym being closed they didn’t need their shoes anymore – she was like oh that’s an excuse and went on to talk about how running is keeping her sane and she couldn’t live without it.

And she’s totally right. For people deep into running, it’s running that will get us through this. In times of oppressive anxiety running is freedom.

The impression I got from the people doing returns was one of deep anxiety. I think for some people – a lot of people – running is a middle class luxury sport and they feel guilty spending money on it in uncertain times. Imagine being a working mom out of work and while people are hoarding necessities at the grocery store you just bought new shoes. I can see the shoes would be an object of guilt.

And I’m sure that when this dies down and they need shoes again, it’s me they’ll think of.

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