Saint: Someone Should Steal Away This Amazing Woman

Robert Terson

Friday evening October 26th, Nicki and I went shopping at the Westfield-Hawthorne Mall in Vernon Hills, northwest of Chicago—specifically at the Carson Pirie Scott department store; Nicki wanted to pick up birthday gifts for her mother, 87 October 28th. Happy birthday Alice!

While Nicki was rummaging through additional sweaters, I held onto the sweater she’d already chosen, as well as her purse and jacket (that’s me: the family shleper). I waited next to the service counter and observed the lone employee behind the counter, an African-American woman whose name I later found out is Saint; she’s a middle-aged woman originally from Mississippi.

I stood there and marveled at this amazing woman; I’m sure my mouth must have been agape. I’m going to be 69 in January, folks and I have never seen anyone in a retail capacity that could hold a candle to Saint. Everything she did—everything—was done so superbly it took my breath away. She was a sparkling diamond standing out in an industry noted for its mediocrity. Allow me to list what impressed me so:

1. Her ability to function all by herself while taking care of a slew of customers, treating each one as though she/he were the most important person on Earth, including the person on the telephone she was attempting to take care of too. Watching her move about from task to task, from customer to customer, was like watching Picasso paint one of his masterpieces.

2. A level of enthusiasm I have never seen before—ever. Saint was downright bubbly, not just smiling but beaming; and I could tell that it came to her as naturally as other people breathe.

3. The warm, friendly, way she spoke to her customers, the complimentary language she used, which made each individual feel so good about their purchases; believe me, you could tell. You may think I’m exaggerating a bit, but trust me, I’m not; I was observing like a hawk, so intrigued was I. I’ll proffer some examples: “Oh, what a lovely blouse, it’s beautiful.” “Lovely lady, are you using your Carson’s charge for this?” To the customer on the telephone: “Please bear with me; I’m still trying to find out the answer to your very important question.” To the manager who came by and wanted to know if Saint needed help (Are you kidding? I thought. Look at all these people she’s taking care of!): “Oh no, I’m fine,” she said. “I’ve got this covered easily. You make sure everyone else gets the help they need, Dear.” (Her name is so apropos—I’d wager there wasn’t another employee in that store who would have turned down help in that situation.) To the woman who requested an extra box: “Of course, it’s my great pleasure to do that for you; is there anything else I can do for you, lovely lady?”

Saint obviously loves her work, and there was no way she was going to go about that work in other than the AAA fashion she was performing it. After she took care of Nicki and me, I told Nicki I wanted to speak with Saint for a moment, that I’d join her in the shoe department in a few minutes. I then told Saint how much I admired her and listed all the reasons why I did. I could not compliment this woman enough.

I believe Saint may be the most underpaid human being on the planet. I believe she should be training every other salesperson-employee Carson’s has, instead of just waiting on customers. I believe she’d be worth a fortune to Carson’s in that capacity, or any other retailer who’d be smart enough to steal her away from Carson’s. Her level of education doesn’t matter; her experience doesn’t matter; nor would any other “logical” reason matter; what matters is her amazing ability to connect with a customer and provide that customer with the kind of purchasing experience that’s going to keep that customer loyal and coming back forever.

So, if there’s a retail HR person reading this, I suggest you run over to Saint’s store and steal her away. If you’re a Carson’s honcho, beat them to the punch—if you lose Saint, you’ll be losing a Treasure you’ll never replace.

What about you and your business? Do you have a Treasure like Saint and are oblivious to it? Are you paying someone minimum wage who could be earning a fortune for you? You just might have a Saint in your midst and not realize it…