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Monday, July 5, 2010

Things I Can't Say in Retail, A PSA

I have to be NICE.

My job requires a certain degree of "customer service," which does not entail inaudible, frantic screams directed at particularly mind-blowing customers. But since most of you (*shifty eyes*) don't know where I work, I shall unload the things I keep bottled up inside all day in hope that you read this and take pity on the next poor, unsuspecting retail employee you stumble across.

#1) Don't pick on us. You KNOW, by our company's policies, (hell, by EVERY retail store's policies EVERYWHERE) that we are NOT ALLOWED to fight back. Picking on us, being mean to us, getting angry with us, or yelling at us are just cowardly reactions to problems that are NOT OUR FAULT (see next #). It's like picking a fight with a tree and calling it a "glorified twig." The poor tree can't fight back! What'd it ever do to you? Go pick on someone who at least has the freedom to stand up for themselves. All we can do is smile and nod and count to ten over and over and over again. And then say really mean things about you when you leave. Because we do. Do you really want to be THAT guy? No, I didn't think so.

#2) MOST OF THE PROBLEMS YOU ENCOUNTER ARE NOT OUR FAULT. Let me say it again. MOST OF THE PROBLEMS YOU ENCOUNTER ARE NOT OUR FAULT. That sweater you had us special order for you from another store that didn't arrive yet because the %$#@ idiots at the other store put it on the truck instead of in the mail? NOT OUR FAULT (granted, it is the fault of the %$#@ idiots at the OTHER store, but not the %$#@ idiots at this store). Those shoes that have been marked down three times because we've had them for two years but don't have your size anymore and can't order more because they were discontinued a year ago? NOT OUR FAULT. Those crazy popular shoes you waited until the last minute to get only to find out we only have a size 4.5 left and you need a 2? NOT OUR FAULT. Yelling at us, getting snippy with us, or otherwise treating us like slaves will not magically make these items appear. So chill.

#3) Contrary to popular belief, we, as retail employees, are NOT out to single-handedly prevent you from acquiring the items you want. This is not a war.

#4) We are NOT babysitters. I repeat: NOT BABYSITTERS. Again, just because you KNOW we are required to be stupidly nice and not yell at your children does not give you the right to dump them in our store and wander blindly whilst they tear all the balls out of the ball pit, strip the mannequins, and wail on the punching bag display. I understand your children are quite energetic and getting them to SIT DOWN while you shop is very, very strenuous, but hey, you are the one who decided to reproduce. You deal with the consequences.

#5) Contrary to popular belief, we, as retail employees, have better things to do than shop for you. If you call our store to see if we have ONE item in stock, that's fine. But if you call to see if we have FIVE OR MORE items in stock and if we could set them out for you and maybe put your name on them so no one else buys them and okay, thanks, I'll be in sometime next year to pick them up? Unless you're willing to slip us an extra $50 for our time, get off your tush and come shop for yourself.

#6) We do not control the prices. Of ANYTHING. Especially in corporate-owned stores. Arguing with us, trying to haggle, or threatening to "talk to the manager" will not make the $79 shoes $69. Nor will telling us that we need to lower our prices because we just lost a sale. Consider us the messengers, bud -- don't shoot the messengers. We are merely the angelic apparitions sent from the big bad vendors to inform you of THEIR pricing decisions. If you want to blame someone, blame Nike.

#7) I like people. Really, I do. A lot of the people I've encountered in my retail stint have been very enjoyable individuals who have happy, polite, controlled children and who can have calm, rational "Oh-you-don't-have-this-in-a-large?-That's-okay-don't-worry-about-it," conversations without resorting to obnoxious eye-rolls or swearing. I like these people very much. These people brighten my otherwise cloudy day. These people are also the ones who see the unruly customers and give me those "I am SO SORRY" looks that make me giggle. You don't want to be on the other side of this exchange, folks. It's much more fun to be the giggler or the look-giver than the person who makes the other customers feel uncomfortable. Trust me.


This all rose from something completely unrelated to my job, actually. I was at a restaurant the other day with a friend, waiting to check out, when an older gentleman (not sure what he wanted) started yelling at the cashier and telling him he couldn't do his job. The gentleman proceeded to tell everyone he encountered on the way out of the restaurant that the cashier couldn't do his "damn job." This really irritated me. As someone who has far too many years of experience in customer service, I find it incredibly cowardly when someone loses their temper on us. There is never any reason to be that vocal or just plain mean with someone (as I said above) who cannot, under penalty of being fired, fight back at all. If it is truly an issue, contact the manager. Do not publicly berate the employee (especially when he is a terrified, prepubescent teenager). That will not solve the problem.

So here's a stupidly long blog post just to say: tell a retail/customer service employee they did a good job. Here's to a group who has been stomped on for too long -- hooray, customer service employees! Hooray!


Adam Heine said...

Yeah, this is why I can't work in retail again. I've met too many customers to believe that they are ever, EVER right.

Same thing happens in Thailand, often between foreigners and Thais because Thai culture says, "Stay calm. Don't yell. Don't cause anyone to lose face." while Western culture says, "Yell and scream and demand your rights." There was a guy at Immigration yelling about something. He said so everyone could hear, "This is unacceptable! This would never happen in America!"

To which the calm Thai official replied, "Sir? You're in the Kingdom of Thailand now."

Unknown said...

Ahhh retail and customer service, two of my worst nightmares. I used to work at this tourist park where I had to dress up like a woman from the 1850s and call every man "sir" and every woman "ma'am". Cue, nothing but sexism and abuse from 99% of people.

You poor thing :( if it helps, I'm glad you've got us to rant to, and keep up the awesome salespersonness!

rebel_of_nowhere said...

I would never have the patience to do that.

And WHY must little kids be so LOUD!?

Jill Wheeler said...

Ball pit? Mannequins? Punching bag?

WHERE do you work?

I wanna come visit.

But, yeah, customer service sucks. And, really, EVERYTHING is sort of customer service. Even teaching. Well, especially teaching.

Kaity Hall said...

Hooray, honey! You tell 'em! As a former, and quite possibly future, retail/customer service employee I totally and completely agree!


Dara said...

Oh, how I agree with every point you made.

Being a secretary for a real estate company and answering the phones is very, very similar. I have people (mostly other agents from other companies) call and complain and yell at me because an agent in our company didn't do something right. Or an agent from my office calls and complains about some corporate policy that I have nothing to do with...and then I tell them "You know I'm just the secretary."

My favorite calls are from people wanted me to give them the lockbox code to a house so they can look at it themselves without an agent. Um, hello, that's ILLEGAL. And then they get mad when I can't. I sometimes have to turn away from the phone to laugh because of it.

Kathryn Rose said...

Oh Sara, I'm sure those people will always be there. I remember doing customer service when I was in university and all that could keep me from going insane was "There's a lesson here: I do NOT want to be like that person." But sometimes... you just want to strangle them! Hang in there! :)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

You definitely hit the nail on the head with your description. I worked in retail for several years, and I definitely encountered the types of customers you described. It's like they don't have anyone else to take out their bad moods on, so they take them out on retail employees. I couldn't stand customers like that.

Wyman Stewart said...

Maybe if retail workers wore police uniforms you would get some RESPECT.

All that retail anger converts into driver anger once they're behind the wheel of their car, but I bet if the police stop them, they show a little RESPECT; unless they want to go to jail.