In some retail business environments, an article of clothing which covers the the front of your torso and is held on by narrow strings of cloth. It is meant to:
- make you instantly recognizable as an employee
- protect some of your clothing from dirt and wear
- (in some cases) provide convenient storage for small work-related items
Hello, my name is... *cowers in fear*
The apron typically displays the wearer's first name on it, either written directly onto the apron with a permanent marker, or printed on a clip-on nametag.
Dislaying your first name to total strangers can be disconcerting, especially if you are accustomed to a special title or form of address due to your professional or cultural background. Still, it is part and parcel of your job to accept being addressed by your first name while working with customers. Some people do seem to latch onto your first name with a sense of instant comfort; it gives them a sense of personal connection which you should foster. Sometimes, if you do your job well, they will remember your name and your manager may receive a very nice letter about you.
On the other hand, wearing an apron can make you a target for the road rage type of customer. This person might be angry at you for any number of reasons, including but not limited to your own error, an item or service's quality or timing, his own lack of planning, or the simple fact that it's Tuesday and it's 43 degrees Fahrenheit outside. You may or may not deserve to be a target. Regardless, the apron makes you a sitting target, and you must not fight back. If you wear an apron, you must know how to deal with angry customers. If you're skillful and/or lucky, you can sometimes salvage the situation and produce a happy customer out of the ashes, but don't count on it.
Apron decorations and accessories
Your name (if shown) should always be legible and visible, written in letters large enough to be seen at a reasonable distance. Letters 2 - 2.5 inches, or roughly 4-5 centimeters tall, are about right. Beyond this, your company might allow you some artistic leeway in decorating your apron so long as it is in good taste. Writing/drawing on the apron is one way; embellishing a hand-written name with colored markers or graphic art is another. Small pins are also popular: your own personal jewelry, or pins that your employer or vendors gave you.
Other accessories are possible. These might include but are not limited to:
- your wristwatch, which you've buckled onto an apron string to protect it from incidental damage
- fabric patches or paper cards protected by plastic; these might denote awards, training certifications, or display a license to use heavy machinery like an order picker or forklift
- business cell phones. These are typically carried by managers and department heads, and sometimes by some regular employee who is covering a department (or two or three) during an understaffed time. Exactly where and how you hang a phone on your apron is somewhat gender specific. In general, though, beware... as wearing a phone on the floor is another way to become an even juicier target.
What do you have in your pockets, Preciousssss???
The apron usually has at least two pockets across its bottom hem, intended to hold useful items. These items might include pens, notepad, a box cutter, or other things depending on your job function. The pockets also might include personal items such as lip balm or contraband snack items. One word of advice: Never carry anything in your apron you would mind losing or being damaged! Trust me when I say that; I ruined a very expensive calculator one day while lifting a box.
Many vendors produce convenient product knowledge cards or pamphlets meant to inform you and help you to better sell their product. In my experience, if you know your job, you will know most, if not all, of that information already. If you cart all that apron bloat around, you are not only lugging a hefty weight but putting yourself at advanced risk for apron splatter (which see below). If you come across something that's vaguely interesting, though, you might want to tote it along for reference or handy reading.
If you carry many pens/pencils, a box cutter, or similar small slender objects, then a narrow pocket meant just for them is extremely useful. Without such a pocket, these items a) easily get lost in the wider pockets, and b) have an unnerving tendency to flip right out of your apron at some inopportune motion and go flying everywhere with remarkable speed and noise. This event, (which can happen to all/any items contained in an apron, not just pens or whatever) is often referred to as apron splatter.
The etiquette of apron splatter
If you are a victim of apron splatter, be extremely careful not to cuss if there are any customers (or managers) anywhere near earshot. In a busy area, an aggrieved "argh!" had better suffice.
If a nearby fellow employee falls victim to apron splatter, it is socially correct to commiserate and help him or her pick up the mess so long as you are not immediately engaged in customer service.
If you fall victim to a special subcategory known as restroom apron splatter and some item falls in the can... please don't fish it out unless failure to do so will damage or clog the fixture. Just don't. Take off your apron first next time, why don't you? Also, don't tell anyone. We don't want to know.
Storing your apron
In almost all cases, aprons must be stored at work (see below). Opinion on storage method is divided. You may have several options depending on your employer:
- Hang it up on a hook in your locker room. Handy if there are enough hooks and your buddies are polite enough not to a) knock it to the floor, b) move it somewhere you can't find it, or c) steal from it.
- Stash it somewhere "secret" but very convenient. This might seem a good idea, but remember this: Your apron may be found and confiscated by a manager. And guess what, your name is on it...
- Store it in your locker. The wise choice. Most people find some highly individual way of folding up their apron to minimize the chance of apron splatter upon unrolling it later.
What sanitation? There is no sanitation! Aprons get dirty quickly. Pockets collect the most incredible crud, and shaking them out is of dubious usefulness. For security reasons, most companies do not allow their employees to take aprons home for washing. If this is the case, then once the apron has gone south, you must destroy it and get a new one.
If you can't sew, you can still modify your apron's pockets with a stapler. Be sure to put the stapler head on the INSIDE of the pocket while you are stapling, so the two folded-down staple prongs wind up on the pocket's exterior. That way, you are less likely to cut yourself up when you reach into your pocket.
You can cut the apron strings and re-attach them in various ways to suit assorted body shapes and fit preferences. (For example, some people can't stand to have something tight around their waist.) I've seen one person replace her apron strings very effectively with clip-on suspenders.
Again depending on your employer, your management may allow the tradition of apron graffiti. An employee gives notice; they might be transferring to a different site or leaving the company altogether. If they wish, they can set out a clean apron in the break room about a week in advance, and tuck a marker in the pocket. Other employees then write signed messages or make other embellishments -- even tucking greeting cards or other small items in the pocket -- thus creating a lasting keepsake for their departing friend.