Retail: Heroes on the Floor

Mark Espinosa

I’ve always thought that the hardest part about being a “caped crusader” would be having to maintain a secret identity. (Also, wearing a cape. I look horrible in capes.)

Can you imagine how complicated your life would be if you actually were a superhero? One minute, you’re flying across rooftops defending the city against those who would like to see it burned to the ground or covered in stale cotton candy. Then, the next minute, you’re having dinner with your stepparents and you got a ham burning in the oven. I imagine that having a secret identity would be an almost psychological imperative for anyone having to deal with such epic daily madness.

Having a strong support team can truly make the difference. Because of the nature of our industry, the boundaries of comfortable communication can often be very hard to identify.

Without a small part of yourself existing on your own terms, your brain would probably melt from the constant attacks from flesh-eating death robots from Planet 6. Even though their super hero shenanigans are for the betterment of all of humanity, it would definitely take its toll. I hope Batman doesn’t hear me say this, but, in a lot of ways, working in the sex toy industry feels a lot like being a superhero. You’re out there doing the job that no one else is equipped to do and you’re doing it because you’re one of the few with the proper training and the determination to do it right. (You also have this secret part of your life that some people in your personal life might not know anything about.) While, the daily battles that individuals in the sex toy industry face aren’t as monumental as preventing an asteroid from colliding with our planet, the ones that they do come across can, sometimes, can feel equally as Earth-shattering.

The overall impression of a “sex shop” that everyday, ordinary human beings have dreamt up in their minds can, at times, be both a blessing and a curse. It’s truly an inspirational moment when a customer comes into your business and feels completely comfortable sharing some of the most intimate details of their personal lives. You’re able to truly connect and make a significant difference in someone’s life. While those moments make you feel like you can leap a tall building in a single bound, there are other moments that make you feel like you’re dangling haphazardly over a vat of acid. These other moments usually occur when a customer crosses boundaries with their communication or feels that the environment has awarded them with the ability to act inappropriately. A lot of the time, this situation occurs from a lack of understanding about what is and isn’t appropriate at your friendly neighborhood sex shop. Simply addressing the situation can usually get the interaction back on track. Then, there are times when a simple explanation isn’t enough… It’s the occurrences when your retail associates are purposely being harassed that prove to be the most demoralizing.

It’s easy to forget the numerous hardships experienced by our super heroic sales associates battling away on the front lines. The mighty heroes making sure that giant mutated cat monsters don’t wipe out our entire civilization, but, also making sure that people aren’t mixing oil-based lubricants with their latex condoms. Sometimes, the task of defending the world against poor sexual education requires more that just one individual. It requires a collection, or a “league” of like-minded heroes, uniting together under one cause. Having a strong support team can truly make the difference. Because of the nature of our industry, the boundaries of comfortable communication can often be very hard to identify. It also makes us a target for those who would take advantage of our willingness to discuss sexuality.

There’s not many other professions where you can expertly assist a couple through their first time experience of purchasing a butt plug with absolutely sensitivity and finesse, while, simultaneously having to battle cultural misconceptions regarding your “moral questionable” career choice. Some heroes train most of their lives in order to counter such attacks. It makes me wonder how much customer interaction training do most companies offer nowadays?

What a lot of people don’t understand about sex educators is that we get more sexuality training than most doctors. We obsessively study up on product materials, ingredients and the human anatomy. But, how many shops are teaching their staff the appropriate way to navigate a potentially triggering customer interaction? The customer may “always be right” but, that doesn’t give the customer the right to over share information and pry into our personal lives. It’s important for retailers to set up a strong support system among their staff. Does your business have pre-established code words or non-verbal communication signs that allow your employees to signal for assistance from a nearby coworkers? Do your co-workers engage in mental assistance after a negative experience has occurred on your sales floor? It’s important that your employees know that they are safe when they are on the sales floor and know that their management will back them in particularly complicated situations.

You’d be amazed how beneficial having a company-wide meeting regarding how to handle these situations would be for both company morale and motivation. Remember, sometimes, what makes a hero, truly a hero, is the people standing at their back.

As National Sales Manager of Pleasure Works Wholesale, Mark Espinosa believes that as the industry progresses alongside communications technology, it’s important that we always remember that we get to say that we “give people orgasms for a living!” So, why not have a little fun in the process?