Reflections of a (Former) Garden Center Merchandiser

Yesterday was my last day of employment as a rep/merchandiser for a company that provides huge volumes of plant material to a major (think orange) big box store here in New England. I started the position last April and had no idea of what I was getting into. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never loved and hated a paid job as much as I did this one.

Here’s the upside:

  1. I learned a lot about retail.  I’d never worked in a retail environment before, so I found it to be eye-opening. The systems and procedures that are used to market to the masses fascinated me. Now, when I walk through Macy’s perfume department all I see are neatly merchandised displays and what went into putting them there.
  2. I learned a lot about gardening!  Between the people who worked in the garden center and the company that I worked for, there was new information about plants coming my way every day. I have some new favorite plants and my knowledge base has expanded more than I could have imagined!
  3. I enjoyed the customers. It’s fun to help people with their plants. I could probably start a whole blog just about that. The questions are always interesting and sharing my passion comes naturally to me. This was definitely a plus!
  4. The exercise is great! I walked between four and seven miles almost every work day, usually pushing and pulling large carts of plants. The physical challenge of walking and lifting pushed me to be stronger physically and mentally. I lost almost twenty pounds and I feel better than I have in a very long time.
  5. The plant products are so much fun.. every day saw something new and interesting rolling in (literally).
  6. The merchandising aspect brought me joy. It was challenging and very satisfying to receive shipments of plants and then transform them into  displays or arrangements that looked great and made people want to buy them.
  7. I got to do a lot of deadheading, some weeding and some watering. You know how I feel about those tasks. 🙂
  8. The hours were extremely flexible.
  9. I worked with a lot of very nice people, both in the store and remotely. Merchandisers work independently, but I was in contact with people from my company every day. It was a good balance of human contact and independence.

 

The downside:

  1. Sometimes the retail aspect got me down. I was a little worn out watching what I consider to be an art form marketed on a big scale to make huge amounts of money.
  2. It’s really really hard, hot, cold work.
  3. A big part of my job was working with the store and my company to make sure that the vendors who we serviced (there were many) received the product that they paid for (merchandising of their plant material in the store). Sometimes it was very difficult to bring everyone together in that large space to get the job done and keep everyone happy.
  4. I had to throw a lot of things away. Cardboard is recycled but there could be improvement in this area. It hurt my heart to discard plants and plastic. That’s all I can say about that.
  5. The rate of pay for my work was very low considering the amount of hard labor and technical skill required to do it correctly. If I were paid more, the nine advantages above would have easily trumped the five disadvantages and I might have stayed longer. It’s humbling to think about the people who don’t have other options for work. Be kind, because you don’t really  know the story behind the person who’s trying to help you.

The bottom line is that I have kids in college and just above minimum wage doesn’t have much impact on our family budget. I’m moving back to the human services world to a full time (shaking in my gardening boots about the schedule) position with a company that I worked for over twenty years ago. I’m very excited about my new job, the people who I’ll enjoy meeting and working with and the challenges that it will bring. There’s even a big fenced in yard there that will be perfect for some gardening! I’m kind of leaving the paid gardening field but hoping to spend more time in my own garden again and maybe even more time on my blog.

I hope that this finds you, my blogging friends and readers, doing well. I’m about to plant a few bags of tulips (yes, there’s still time). I may even move more perennials around. Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re doing. I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch!

Enjoy everything!

Love, Michele

On Turning Fifty and Fighting a Cold

Wow, nine days can go by like nothing. I was just starting to work on a post about constructing our chicken coop on Saturday when I started to feel kind of sniffly. Within two hours I was in the middle of a full fledged head cold. Then my oldest son walked into the house to surprise me for my 50th Birthday… then it was my 50th birthday, and my cold raged on. So here I am five days later… fifty years and two days old, with memories of a great birthday, the cold still running my life and no blog post published for nine days… it happens…

About this turning fifty thing: I have a very good feeling about it. I’m pretty sure that I have become just a little bit wiser in the past fifty years. I know things that are important like when to step forward and when to hang back. I know more about how to bring out the best in my kids and how to get along with my husband about 95% of the time, maybe more. I know a lot more about gardening than I used to. I’ve learned how to cook, how to work and how to see God’s face in people who are having difficulty, even when the difficulty is with me.

I remember watching my mother-in-law turn fifty. Her youngest child was at an age where she suddenly had more time for herself. She became an artist. She painted and sculpted and shared her work in art leagues, and with friends and family. She traveled more and read books and started to have grandchildren whom she adored. It was fun to watch her enjoy life and accomplish things that she’d always wanted to do. I have the feeling that I may be headed toward lots of good, new opportunities and experiences too.

So, I’m sorry I’ve been gone from The Salem Garden. I’ll be back really soon with my chickens, my garden and all of the good experience that my fifty years have given me.

Lots of love to you all,

Michele

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