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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

Plenty of articles, books, and training manuals are written about Customer Service, Customer Is Always Right, Look after the Customer/Clientele/Guest etc. etc. How about the Customer/Clientele/Guest taking into consideration why the low paid shop floor assistant, inadequate training, overworked, bullied by nasty management, are sometimes like they are? Here is a list of why some floor assistance feel down and maybe not giving their 100% service. A smile isn’t always an indication of happiness, and after standing on your feet for ten hours, it’s an indication of madness verging on serial murder. After nine o’clock, customers should only approach a smiling retail employee at their own risk – or with a cricket bat behind their back.  You will make a lot of friends working retail, and you may even get some numbers from the customers you don’t want to drown like a bag of kittens. However, no relationship will be as important as your relationship with Dr. Scholl’s.  You will be annoyed by 40% of the customers you help and completely indifferent to another 50%. The other 10% are the customers that will save your life, giving you hope for humanity. Always focus on that 10%, if you can help it. People always say that they hate it when retail employees approach them or “bug” them. Trust me; they don’t want to talk to you either. When your bills are due, you’ll throw almost any morals and values you have out the window – even if you only earn UK£6.31 an hour doing it. You cannot live on National Minimum Wage. However, no matter how little you make at the retail job that’s killing you, you can always find a way to spend at least half of that income on booze, cigarettes or a short holiday. It will not numb the pain, but it won’t stop you from trying. The longer you work in retail, the more likely it is that you have a drinking problem. People always move at their slowest pace when there is an obnoxiously long line behind them. Even though it makes sense to have your credit card or cash ready for a purchase, no customer in the history of man will oblige to this courtesy, and soccer mom with a giant purse will always have her credit card in the most difficult to reach place. No one ever uses cash anymore, except when they have large bills that it’s difficult for you to break or an obnoxious amount of change they want to pawn off. No matter how unorganized your company’s policy is or how much you personally disagree with it, a disgruntled customer will always find a way to make it about you. The customer is always right – only because they are the ones with the money. Your boss will universally side with them. They are the ones giving your company money. You are only taking it to put in the companies vaults. 

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

A half-hour break will never actually feel like a half hour and it will seem like the shortest part of your day. However, during high-traffic times, a half hour will feel like Shoah. Depending on your state, you are supposed to get a fifteen-minute break for every four hours you work. It will almost never work out this way. This is technically illegal. You will forget almost every policy you learn in those annoying training videos and induction sessions because only a third of them will be actually enforced and the rest are common sense. On that note, common sense isn’t that common. You will understand this when you are forced to train new employees. You probably should not talk back to the customers, if you want to keep your job. However, if you do, make sure that your bosses think you are funny – or it makes you a great story when you’re unemployed. No matter how terrible your job is, your bosses will find a way to make it worse by selecting the most hideously unattractive uniform possible. Customer service is like being a bridesmaid/groom in a wedding – but without all the sex. You would think that the worst your job is, the more likely it is that you would want to leave work at work. However, truly terrible jobs can only be dealt with by endlessly complaining to everyone around you after work. Almost every retail or customer service job is The Office, and if you can’t figure out who the Dwight is, you are the Dwight. Bill Clinton claims to be able to sleep on four hours a night. You will never understand how that is possible until you have to work back-to-back doubles or have four weeks without a day off, and you still won’t know how you’re alive. The best thing about any terrible job will be the people that work with you – the ones who know what ‘bullshit’ it all is and vent with you during cigarette breaks. The second best thing about your job will be the discount, unless it’s one of those places that only give you 10% off. You should quit that position. A place that doesn’t value you enough to at least allow you to buy the articles you work to hock every day doesn’t deserve your egregiously underpaid labour. If you don’t smoke before you start working a customer service job, you will probably start. “A crying in the bathroom break” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Almost everyone you work with will have another job that they hated worse than this one, which will give them solace at the end of the day. They say, “It sucks, but it beats ________.” That blank is usually filled in by serving. I’ve never been a waiter, but it must be the next worst thing on Earth. Mystery shoppers give retail workers trust issues for life. Are you undercover? Is this a test? Are you wearing a wire? Blink two times if you’re wearing a wire. Oh, God, I don’t even know what’s real anymore!

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

The only thing more proficient at making gigantic messes than an unsupervised kid is said child’s careless parents. At least toddlers have small hands and undeveloped brains — these grown, full-sized humans are capable of misplacing, unfolding and tossing aside at indefensible rates. Contrary to popular belief, when customers request something and the employee tells them it’s not in stock without walking to the back, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. It’s just that the back room is less like Willy Wonka’s factory and more like a janitor’s closet. Sometimes you’ll play along, heading to the back and pretending to check on a product that you know isn’t there to make the customer feel better, using that five minutes as a bonus break to rummage through social media on your phone. You repeat so many phone greetings, generic customer service lines and corny salutations that they’re embedded in your brain for life. No good deed goes unpunished. You help the blatantly clueless customer with ten minutes left in your shift and they’ll have endless questions and requests that keep you 20+ minutes after. More often than not it seems to work out this way when you make an effort to be helpful and like, actually do what you’re being paid for.  Stealth texting is a craft and you will master it until eventually you’re a retail texting ninja who holds flawless, typo-free conversations with friends throughout shifts.  Your ability to withstand rejection is incredible because most of the time, pitching up sells or offering people special cards that’ll save them 10% on this purchase results in a quick, resounding “no,” yet there you are, asking another uninterested customer 15 seconds later. There are songs that others enjoy but you’ll hate for life because they’ve been playing on a loop every shift and are basically the soundtrack to your misery. Not to mention the fact that every December, thousands of retailers permanently ruin Christmas music for their employees. Many nightmare customers simply won’t ever understand how horrible they are. The only medicine for treating rude, impatient, unpleasant shoppers would be to force everybody to work retail for at least a year so they can experience the struggle in every season. Back to school retail is intense, but nothing compared to the cutthroat holidays. It’s a lot easier to be understanding and easygoing with employees when you’ve been on the other side of the spectrum. You’ve got to have some guts to attempt stealing because good Lord, there are cameras everywhere. And it’s not just like 240p footage being taken; I’m talking high definition, capable of reading the tiny label on your shirt type recordings. Even if you get out with some goods, there’s a high chance your picture will be pasted for employees to lookout for. You’d never try to stop these people yourself because: o People stealing things tend to be desperate/dumb/unstable — all scary traits.

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers 

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o You don’t get paid nearly enough to play security guard with someone else’s money. Wearing a nametag makes people think you have way more power than you do. Just because I fold the jeans doesn’t mean I can give them to you 75% off. Nothing more frustrating than people asking for hook-ups (discount) that you yourself don’t even get as an employee. You won’t get paid like the CEO, but you will take complaints and verbal abuse for him/her. People will become hostile with you in regards to issues you have no hand in establishing or eliminating. Those responsible in corporate are probably on a retreat, golfing or laying in the sand listening to crashing waves while the common employee folds, lifts, hangs and cleans up to the sweet sounds of criticism and Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve for the fourth time today. There’s a uniquely disrespectful, helpless feeling that is only experienced when a customer comes in a few minutes before closing and shops leisurely as if your personal time is worthless and you don’t mind staying late. They don’t realize you can’t even begin several closing duties until they’re done. Or even worse they know it but simply don’t care. People will look down on you because of your job and they may not directly say it, but you can always identify when it’s happening. Black Friday isn’t some fun, festive day to save a few bucks on a TV, it’s more of a showcasing of how terrible some humans can be and how low many will stoop for worldly objects. It’s essentially impossible to be spontaneous or make plans during the months of November & December because your employer wants your existence to revolve around pushing sales and being available at all hours. A social life is non-existent during the holidays.

When you work retail, whether it’s working the floor at a convenience store or a big box store, working the register at a family business, or taking orders at a fast food restaurant (I know that’s more hospitality/service-oriented, but it’s still the same set of skills I’m talking about), you start gaining the one thing that I think is really important for everybody to understand: The ability to read the customer. If you’re unable to read the customer, to adjust to a customer’s response in real-time, directly in front of your face, I think you’re missing out on something that makes every great businessperson truly exceptional. We’re living in a faster world, and if you can’t reverse-engineer your customer's finish line in order to make him/her happy, you’re going to have a very hard time breaking through the scale and the speed that we’re now dealing with thanks to the “stream economy.” As somebody who likes to yap – and let’s be honest, I love to yap. I love to talk. I love to hear myself talk. I love to be heard – It’s shocking to me how much I like to listen. To be honest, I used to struggle with it. “Why the heck do I like to listen so much?” And then it dawned on me (which probably prompted me to write this article): “Oh… I’m a really retail orientated person.” I had no choice. Customer walks in and I had to listen. Long before I dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

could spout about what Chinon would go best with that dish, I had to hear what dish they were going to serve. Long before I could go on about what they should buy for the wedding reception, I had to know how many people were there and, more importantly, what their preferences were. And so, my co-workers, colleagues or associates I implore you to recognize the world we’re living in; to recognize that the consumer will always be right forever. I implore you, if you’ve never worked retail, to try and find a situation that allows you to do that. I implore college students to highly consider taking a summer job stocking shelves or working a register. The soft skills (which are, in my opinion, hard skills) that you will learn in that job will be transferable to everything you do for the rest of your life. There are a ton of reasons to be kind to the retail workers you encounter on a daily basis, but you’d be surprised how many people are blatantly rude to them. I worked in retail for a few months in various places and I cannot tell you the number of inconsiderate or outright mean customers I had. It was rare that a day would go by where I didn’t have at least one rude customer. I had a lady call me the forbidden “C word” because we were having a Buy One Get One Half off sale but she only wanted one item so insisted she should get it half off and I told her I couldn’t do that. Trust me; I know how hard it is to work retail with an ever present smile on your face while people treat you like you’re barely human. These are a few reasons to be kind to retail workers. So to summarize the problems that bug the Shop Floor Assistant, or Cashier, or Shelf Stacker, or Merchandiser Facing Person, or Warehouse Operator, or even the Shop Floor Cleaner in the Retail Trade (same goes for those poor souls in the Hospitality, Tourist, Service Industry)…………………..

THEY EARN LOW PAY FOR LONG HOURS OF WORK

One of the best reasons to be kind to retail workers is that they do a lot of work for very little pay. A large majority of retail workers only make minimum wage or just slightly more than that, and if you’ve never worked retail, you’d be incredibly surprised by how much work the job actually entails. A typical day can involve anything from unloading 50 lb boxes from the delivery trucks, taking every item off of shelves and cleaning the rack before replacing the items, sweeping large areas, mopping (usually several times), standing for 8 to 12 hour shifts and let me tell you, they don’t always get breaks. They have to clean up spills and messes that customers create, and if you work in a clothing store, the task of reorganizing and refolding clothing after customers have trashed the shelves or racks is never-ending. During various holiday seasons the long hours and exhausting work are almost unbearable.

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers THEY DEAL WITH IRATE CUSTOMERS ALL DAY

I am not exaggerating at all when I say there are days when it seems like everyone in the world is having the worst day ever and their scapegoat of choice is whatever store associate they happen to come across. There are a lot of college educated retail workers out there who get talked down to like they are idiots by customers who automatically assume they are stupid. I have been called any number of names; I have seen a half hour long confrontation with a woman who refused to believe anything a shop floor assistant said because of his age, she was adamant that he didn’t know anything because he was half her age. She wanted him to take exclusive products (watch collection) out of the normally locked cabinet. He told her he could show her 3 articles at a time and that it was company policy not to leave the entire open cabinet open and exposed. She said, and I quote, “Well you’re obviously an idiot. Hold old are you; 12? Only an ‘efing idiot would think I’d try to steal a cheap gold watch.” After five solid minutes of name calling he asked her to leave several times and another shop assistant went and got security when the woman attempted to slap him because he told her she needed to leave the store. While you may feel that you're having a bad day and something about your cashier, associate or clerk may irk you, please don’t take out all of your frustrations on them, they don’t deserve it.

THEY DON’T MAKE THE MERCHANDISE YOU BUY

At every single place I’ve ever worked, I have had several customers yell at me because something broke, didn’t fit correctly, was manufactured wrong or they damaged it in some way. In most retail stores (unless it is a locally owned store with handmade products), the goods are manufactured by companies unrelated to the store. No one who works at Primark is making the clothing, so if it rips or tears, why would you go back to the store and yell at the sales associate? This may sound ridiculous to you (and it is), but I assure you it happens EVERY day.

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

THEY HAVE TO BE POLITE NO MATTER WHAT

No matter how rude or mean a customer is being, the sales associates are taught to be nice. This is, at times, one of the most frustrating parts of the job. When someone is very publicly yelling at you, berating you and calling you names, it’s very difficult to stand there and apologize for whatever the issue is even when it’s not your fault. You have to paste that smile on your face and use a calm, cool and collected tone while you ask the irate customer what you can do to make everything better for them. Without a doubt, there are cashiers or associates who will snap and argue back and they are nearly always reprimanded for it or may even lose their job.

MANY ARE PUNISHED FOR NOT SELLING ADD-ON ITEMS

I knew an associate who worked at a particular store (which I will not name), they had to sell warranties on all electrical products of the items that were purchased. If they didn’t sell a warranty on at least 40% of their items every day, the following steps were taken:  A verbal warning  A written warning  They had to write an essay detailing what they were doing wrong and what they will do to achieve the goals set out for them  They had to stay past the end of their shift until their percentage reached the level that was required (which could often result in working a double shift). If they failed to reach 40% for the month for 3 months in a row, they were automatically terminated.

The same types of policies are in place at multiple stores. At a chain store that sells girls accessories, they are expected to sell 6 items in every sale. If they fail to average 6 items per sale, they don’t get their annual raise. So when the cashier tries to push extra items on you, trust me, they know it’s annoying and they feel stupid doing it, but it's their job, so don't yell at them for it. I don’t like trying to pressure people into a purchase and neither do most other retail workers, but they don’t like being punished either.

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

THEY ARE FORCED TO ASK THOSE ANNOYING QUESTIONS

At one store I worked in, the cashiers were told to continue to ask questions until the customer said “No” THREE times. I argued with management about this at EVERY meeting. I strongly feel that by the time a customer has to tell me “NO” 3 times, they are already very irritated with me and just want to leave. The pitch was supposed to go something like this: “That dress you’re buying is beautiful, but it would look even better with this blouse, I’ll add them to your purchase.” The customer would say “No thanks.” The cashier would say “Oh come on, you can’t get just the dress, the set is so beautiful together!”

The customer would respond with a more stern “I said no.” The cashier would persist with “Are you SURE you don’t want the blouse? Think of how amazingly they complement the dress you’re already going to buy!” At this point the customer is no longer smiling, has lost the excitement of purchasing the beautiful dress and is ready to just leave, having bought nothing. I really don’t think pestering a customer is the way to get them to buy more products, but someone in the hierarchy (most likely a university graduate with no shop floor experience) thought this was the way to sell………… I’m far more likely to be a repeat customer if I’m not annoyed and harassed by the cashier, but again, they have to ask these questions or face being written up if they're caught not following the insane procedures. AND if they did agree to purchase the blouse, Shoes were the next plug article………. And to add to the struggle, it’s at this end point the cashier had to ask them 3 times if they wanted any company store card……. With electrical goods it was a warranty, and then the store card……

THEY HAVE TO LOOK BRIGHT EYED AND BUSHY TAILED WITH LITTLE SLEEP

Most retail workers don’t have a set shift that they work every day. There were countless days where I worked from noon until 10pm, then had to be back to work for an early morning shift of 6am to 4pm. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely cannot go right to bed as soon as I get home, I need some time to wind down. So ultimately I’d end up with a

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Customers don’t Really Understand Retail Workers

possible 4 hours of sleep before heading back in for another long shift. I always tried my hardest to keep that smile plastered on my face, but in reality I was dragging, just dying for a few minutes of sleep in the middle of the day. I know I had many co-workers who would get scolded for “looking tired” throughout the day, but it’s hard to keep your head up at all times when you’re exhausted. And for those of you who may not know, some retail employees have to do a store cheer first thing in the morning. In the area where I now live in, there are very few jobs, so one takes what they can get, which is usually a retail position. I’ve been out of that line of work for about a month now, because I was laid-off (that’s what management called it, I call it ‘being fired’ but I am not to worried, because I an over 65 years of age, one thing certain - my stress level is much lower than it used to be. For the first time since I was a teenager, I am able to actually enjoy myself working in the garden instead of being run ragged and just waiting for it to be over. The next time you’re having a bad day, be conscious of the way you’re treating the people around you. If your cashier isn’t the ray of sunshine you’re expecting, don’t take all your problems out on him or her. I’m not saying cashiers have the right to be miserable to their customers either. No matter what has happened during the day, the cashier shouldn’t take their problems out on the customers. What reasons do you have for being kind to retail workers?

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