When I was in my early 20's I worked in a vitamin store for about 2 years. It was an interesting experience where I learned a lot about health and nutrition. The couple of years I spent working in a vitamin store was really the start of my career and a life long passion as I went on to become a personal trainer and study the health and wellness industry more.
When you work in retail, you get a little bit of downtime where things are slow. Most people will just stand around talking or playing on their phones. I spent all of my down time reading every book we had, and when I wanted to know more to see if what I was reading was true I would look up studies when I got home thanks to the magic of the internet. I really was fascinated by the whole idea of preventing disease and aging, and looking for natural ways to treat illnesses.
I immersed myself so much that I think my customers picked up on how much knowledge I had and believed me when I made recommendations. That trust allowed me to make a pretty decent living, but also meant that some customers shared a little too much information. Here is a few examples of strange customers I met while working in a vitamin store.
Vaginal Dryness Lady
When you work in a vitamin store, I learned that people often see you as an alternative to a doctor. But you're not and can't legally give any real medical advice. I tried to always frame things in terms of "what a customer told me worked for them is...". Despite that people will come to you with problems and surprise you with their openness.
I had one lady wait for other customers to leave, then sheepishly waved to me as she stood by what could be called our "sexual performance" section. Usually this is the place you would see guys hanging out (more on that in a few). I walked over and asked if there was anything I could help her with. She looked around the store, then leaned in and whispered "do you have anything for dryness".
I totally misread the question and thought she meant like lotion or something. So I suggested some vitamin E oil or a good natural moisturizer and started walking over to that section. She stopped me and said "No! Vaginal dryness." I was a little bit floored and surprised that she would be that open.
I thought for a minute and couldn't really suggest any herbal products that would help. I did mention that we had one product targeted towards women, but that honestly it didn't sell well and the feedback wasn't that great. I then told her that quite often those kinds of problems are more psychological than physical. Maybe some candles and good conversation would help. It was the best I could do in the moment!
We had plenty of guys come in and shyly look in the performance section. If they asked questions I always tried to make them feel at ease. I actually always thought it was cool that they were trying to find a way to please their partner when they were having problems. That takes a lot of guts to walk into a store and put yourself out there like that.
Of course, we always had the "stallions" who tried to show off. One perfect example was a guy who waved me over and confidently asked what the reviews were on a particular sexual performance product. I told him that most guys who bought it come back and buy it again, so it must be working for them.
He loudly said "well I already last for 3-4 hours, so I'm just looking for something to add maybe an hour to that". I secretly rolled my eyes and said "well I guess that will do the trick. Meet you at the counter" and walked away. I can't stand a show off and we had more than a few of these guys who tried to impress me with their implied virility. What ever guys, not the way to introduce yourself.
Women Can Be Cruel
Just about every guy is going to have a problem "getting it up" at least once in his life. It's not a big deal unless it's a recurring problem. Too much booze, stress, work, and many medications can cause the problem. I'm not a doctor, but a quick search found that a big cause of erectile dysfunction is mental health issues and performance anxiety. I know that's probably the cause for one couple I met working in a vitamin store.
One day I saw a couple standing by the performance section and they were there for a while. I walked over and asked if they needed some help. The wife loudly stated "what do you have to help him, he can't get it up" and laughed. I felt humiliated for the guy. How embarrassing.
He half raised his head and confirmed her statement. I suggested they see a doctor and make sure it's not a serious medical issue. I wanted to say to her "well I wouldn't be able to get it up for an emasculating woman like you either!" but held my breath. Definitely not they way to treat your guy when he is having issues in the bedroom.
Vitamin stores get plenty of what can be called the hippie type. I actually was able to have good conversations with them and even learn a lot from them as they tended to be really knowledgeable about herbs and natural remedies. One herb they were always familiar with was pot. They always smelled like it, though they tried to cover it with incense and patchouli. But I could always smell it - sometimes to the point of becoming nauseous. Not to mention, way too many hippies seemed to bathe only once a week. Pot and body odor makes for a wicked combo.
Probably 50% of my customers were bodybuilders who were almost always male. Sure I had a few women come in, but the vast majority of body builders were men. And they are extremely knowledgeable, I would even say that many of them could have been doctors. They knew every mechanism, contraindication, and side effect of every weight gain and strength building supplement you could show them.
They could also tell you their current weight, goal weight, body fat percentage and anything else you could ask to a tee. It made me realize that men are as obsessed as women are with body image, but the media doesn't talk about that. I would see huge guys who would still feel like they weren't big enough, or some how would be much more attractive if just one more ab showed or their arms were just an inch bigger. Body image is a big problem in our society for men and women.
Aging and Maintenance
My final observation from working in a vitamin store is about aging and maintenance. In short, the key is to start early. Maybe it's not popular to say out loud, but I saw more men working to maintain their appearance and health than women. Sure it's a small sample size, but I would see men in their 20's coming in to look for health promoting stuff even if their primary motivating factor was "getting big" they were doing something.
Most of my female customers were mid to late 30's trying to reverse the aging clock. They were always looking for cremes or lotions or a magic vitamin that would fix the years of chemically processed hair or yoyo dieting. It's a lot easier to slow the aging process than try to reverse it. Make health a priority when you are young - before aging problems pop up.
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness.
She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.