The air-conditioned showrooms, the colourful ambience and the variety that customers could bring to their profession — the job of a person attending to customers at the counters of clothes stores may not seem all that difficult.

But behind those warm smiles that customers are greeted with are tales of admirable patience, hard work and discipline.

K. Ramya's work day begins around 10 a.m. Employed with Instore, a retail outlet in T. Nagar, she says weekdays are relatively easy compared to weekends.

“Customers' interests come first. So there is no question of losing patience or getting angry. And usually, customers are also quite polite. They are happy if we understand what they are looking for,” says the 18-year-old, who has been working here for about three years.

Her colleague S. Kamakshi agrees. Though fairly new to the profession, she seems to have a clear idea of her role. “Our work is finding out what the customer wants and showing them all the options in that category.”

Everything is pleasant until the customer takes offence. “Some people do not like it if we tell them one size would fit them better than another. After trying out the clothes, they'll come back and tell us, ‘Yes, you were right',” says Kamakshi.

Apart from a basic salary averaging around Rs.3,000, such sales persons get commission based on the number of items sold from their counter. “Much of a store's success depends on people like Ramya and Kamakshi. So we know the value of their work,” says Bharat Shah, partner, Instore.

Standing all day, mostly during weekends, and opening and folding hundreds of clothes every day could be strenuous, one would think. But Ramya does not. “The place is air-conditioned and if you are systematic, it is not all that difficult,” points out Ramya, who takes home about Rs.4,500 every month.

However, there are also professionals with instant solutions at hand. At times of physical exhaustion, P. Palani, who works at the silk saris section of Pothys, quickly does a few yoga stretches and meditates for a few minutes. “We have been taught exercises for the back and knee, as we tend to strain them. Every time I sense some pain, I do my exercises.”

Quite a veteran in matters pertaining to silk saris, Palani has also mastered the art of marketing. “Once, a customer came asking for a golden coloured sari priced around Rd. 10,000. I understood her taste quickly and showed one special variety we had, which was similar to what Aishwarya Rai wore for her wedding. The lady was thrilled and immediately picked it up, paying much more than the price she had originally mentioned.”

Deepavali, Pongal and Christmas mean celebration time for everyone, but for professionals like them, these festivals only mean longer hours of work and missing the opportunity to spend time with family.

“During the first two years of my work, I felt bad about not being home during festivals, but now I am used to this and quite like it. Moreover, this is my job,” says Palani, who has been in this profession for over 15 years now.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012