Monday, October 10, 2011

Rant From an Angry Retail Worker!

I firmly believe that EVERY person should work retail at some point in their life, preferably around the holidays and for at least a month. I have this belief because of how people treat retail workers. I am at my second retail job, I won't mention the names of either store, and customers treat workers horribly. Now, I know there are some wonderful customers who have fun conversations with workers and treat them with respect. However, there are an abundance of jerks who think they rule the world and are better than workers. The treatment goes far beyond the rudeness however. Therefore here are my guidelines for retail customers:

1. Reply to us when we greet you!

We don't really care how you are doing today. We don't care if traffic was bad or if your mother-in-law hates you. We are paid to serve you and, in doing so, ask you how you are when you enter the store. Therefore, when  we ask "Hi, how are you today?" you could at least respond in some way or form. A simple, "Fine, how are you?" would be great. Heck, I would even accept a smile and a nod! Walking away or averting your eyes is rude. Are you allergic to human interaction? Will it melt your soul if you ask how we are? I don't think so and don't worry, we won't tell you our life stories like some of you do (see below). It won't kill you: SAY HELLO!

2. We are NOT your therapists!

Therapists are paid good money for an hour of their time. In comparison to the average retailer's wage therapists probably get between 5 and 15 times what a retail worker gets in an hour, maybe more. I am not complaining about wages. However, I do not get out of bed in the morning and paste a smile on my face so you can come to my register or approach me in a store to tell me about your marriage problems, your daughter's marriage problems or your current problems with work. I do not mind listening to people's problems. My trouble comes from the people who spend 10 minutes complaining to me about it and then snap at me. I am not the reason your life sucks, go fix the real problem instead of bitching to me.

3. We are NOT punching bags!

I don't care if the last person you talked to slit your tires, stole your candy bar, took a piss on your shoe and then proceeded to light your newly cut hair on fire, it wasn't me! Therefore, do not come up to my register and cut me off when I am asking the questions I am forced to ask. Also, don't snap at me when I offer you a promotion. Snapping, "No!" before I can even finish a sentence is rude. I know my parents taught me better than that and even if your parents didn't you should know better. You don't cut off a doctor prescribing medicine or wave your hands madly at your massage therapist, don't do it to me. If you want to beat up on someone then go buy a nifty little punching bag. They even sell the "kiddy" versions with Spiderman or Barbie on them since you are acting like a 3 year old. I have had a customer physically hit me so maybe these handy little inventions could release some tension.

4. We are NOT stupid!

OK, some of them are. I will admit it because there are stupid people everywhere. However, I am not stupid and I do not wish to be treated like I am. Don't talk to me in a condescending tone and don't assume I am a loser because I run a cash register. I have a Bachelors Degree in English Writing and am working on a Masters in Library Science and I just so happen to run a register to make money in the meantime. I work with some very wonderful, intelligent people and we don't appreciate being talked to like we still eat paste with kindergartners. I once had a lady show me one of the then-new dollar coins with the Presidents on them. She showed me it and said in a patronizing tone, "That's John Adams. I bet you can't tell me which president he was. He was fourth." I looked at her and said, "No, actually he was second. His son was sixth, you may be thinking of him." I then rattled off the presidents in order up to about the seventh one just to annoy her. I may not be a genius but I graduated with High Honors and I know a lot of smart workers. Don't treat us like idiots just because we have to scan your merchandise to make a buck.

5. Stop talking on your phone for 2 minutes!

This one is simple. Don't come up to my counter, hand me stuff and proceed to have a full conversation on your phone in front of me while holding up that pointer finger that says, "hold on. Please wait for me to finish my very important call so I can give you a few seconds of my time." I know sometimes emergencies happen but I don't need to know about your problems with Sally from the office that you are annoyingly telling whoever is on the other line. Also, it inhibits me from asking important questions that could speed along our little meeting or, heaven forbid, save you money. The world won't end without the phone attached to your ear. People lived for centuries upon centuries without a device attached to their ears, try it for just two minutes.

6. We have no control over merchandise!

I know it is horrible when we run out of an item or when we don't have a wide enough selection of something you find important but I don't have any control over that. Most of the time, the store is corporate owned which means merchandise is sent to us, we put it on the shelves and hope it sells. We don't control quantity, half our stuff is ordered by the computer, based on when it's sold and I can't magically pull a limited edition ornament out of my butt! I once had a lady tell me I was despicable because the thread size had changed since she bought her sewing machine 20 years ago! This is not an exaggeration and frankly I was shocked that it took that long for thread size to change. She thought I had made that decision and kept telling me I should have kept it the same. This actually made me laugh. Listen, if I had control over things like thread size I wouldn't be wearing an apron and hauling boxes! Also, we have absolutely no control over when holiday items are released. Yes, sometimes ornaments or holiday plush start coming out at the end of September or early October. I have no urge to buy this stuff this early either but some people do and they have to put the merchandise idea into customer's minds. If I had it my way, Christmas items wouldn't be put out until at least Halloween ended if only so I never again have an elderly man tell me, "That's just disgraceful to have ornaments out this early." Once again, I just put out the stuff I am handed!

7. We CAN'T have more people working!

I constantly hear, "You should have more people on the floor!" Well, I am sure my manager would schedule much more people if they could just so she wouldn't have to hear that. The little known fact is: we have a strict amount of hours allocated to us so the company doesn't go under from having countless people work therefore spending more money than they are making. SHOCKING, I know!

A few other simple things: It's not cute when your kid screams for 10 minutes and you do nothing. It's not cute when you let them break things. It's not cool to continue a full shopping spree when you enter the store and I tell you politely that we close in five minutes. You should have come sooner if you want a shopping extravaganza. Also if we have more than one register and I am standing at the one at the back then yes, I do need you to come to my register, not the blatantly empty one in front of you!

This may all sound like common knowledge. Heck, this may all come as a huge surprise to you. Either way, learn to treat retail workers with respect. It is not our fault that someone yelled at you all day, that doesn't give you the right to take it out on us. We have very little control over our merchandise, deal with it. If your whole life is ruined because we are out of a coffee mug then you really need to reevaluate your life. Once again, I think every person should work retail in their life, if only so they show respect to the people behind the counter. But hey, who I am to make these decisions, I'm just a lowly retail worker. ;)



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  2. God, do I rembember those days! Worked at CVS for 6 years in a rich, uptight, and snoby town. Once had a lady tell me off because the lip stick she purchased got on to her cheek and "burned her". Yes it left a mark behind, but it's my fault because.....?

  3. Exactly! If you created that lip stick would you really be serving her? No! They seem to forget we have nothing to do with creating the product. Thanks for the comment! Good to know I'm not alone.

  4. Got a laugh of your post! The important thing is you are doing your work well and you try to be patient in various misunderstandings with customers. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience.

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  5. I totally agree with you.

    This sites got a lot of good stories to I Wish I Spit In Your Food

  6. How aboutthe coworker who takes customers 5 minutes before their shifts end. I lost a bigsale because my greedy coworker did this. I told her she could stay and close and I left.

  7. How aboutthe coworker who takes customers 5 minutes before their shifts end. I lost a bigsale because my greedy coworker did this. I told her she could stay and close and I left.

  8. Hi Jill,
    Great post about the trials of a retail worker. I edit WorkersWrite, a website where workers tell stories about their working lives. I'd like to reprint this post on the site. Of course, we would credit you, and link back to your site. Please let me know if that would be okay. Thank you!
    Rose Imperato
    Editor, WorkersWrite