Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...Unless You Work Retail

I love Christmas. I love going to Christmas Eve service, I love decorating my house, I love watching the TV specials. I love spending time with loved ones and buying them gifts. I love it all, or at least most of it. There is one part of Christmas that people seem to overlook: the retail worker! Yes, that person that helps you find those perfect gifts for your loved ones. For some we are the ones you pass without saying much. To others we are the ones who help you track down the one item you have been looking for. And then, there is that group of people to which we are the human punching bag, the person you yell at and, sometimes, the person "who ruined Christmas!" 

Who would actually tell a worker they ruined Christmas? You'd be surprised. This is just one of the ridiculous things people say to those who 'serve' them around Christmas. So, in honor of all those retail workers out there, including my co-workers, who have been facing, and will continue to face, the horrors of Christmas shoppers, I present to you: The 5 Most Ridiculous Questions/Comments/Actions I've Witnessed SO FAR This Year! (In no particular order)

1. Are these all the personalized ornaments you have or are there more in the back?

This sounds like an innocent question but let's examine the situation. Imagine: You walk into a store and you see a spinning rack of red ornaments imprinted with names. Oh so pretty, right? Yes, so pretty. You spin the rack and look for the name of your family members. Yes, they have David. Oh, they also have Abigail. Wait, where is Madysen with my special spelling? And where is Timmy, not Tim or Timothy. Excuse me miss, do you have more of these in the back? Now, I want you to stop and think for a moment. If I had more of these ornaments, more besides the names on the rack, would they really be in the back room where I can't sell them? This rack is set with ornaments that are emblazoned with the name of the ornament, BEHIND THE ORNAMENT,  for easy searching but do I have any DIFFERENT names in the back? Oh wait, let me check...NO! I do not have a giant box in the back of ornaments I am hoarding because I like the different names, nor do I have a machine that instantly imprints your many obscure me, I wish I did as my best friend's name is Kortnee (note the unique spelling). We get the ornaments that are sent to us and the special rack with those chosen names on them. I don't handpick the names and I don't plot for your name not to be there because of a sick twisted need on my part. Trust me, I have been the person for years going, "Where is Jill?" when I look at personalized items. You'd be surprised how unpopular that name can be. We specifically sell blank ornaments so you can take a red writing sharpie to them if you so desire. And yes, I know "it's not the same" but staring at me blankly after saying this WILL NOT make your ornament magically appear. I'll tell ya what, next year I'll get little elves and set them up at a table in the back ready to print any name from the thousands of names in the Baby Name Book and we'll get you that ornament. Until then, try Google.

2. V.I.P Gifts Are NOT Made For Your Personal Gift-Giving

Our store gives out special V.I.P gifts every year. There is ONE per customer with the purchase of $50 or more and we usually require a coupon with it that was sent in the mail to certain customers. This year we got extras, since we are a test store, and gave them out to anyone spending over $50. This V.I.P kit included a cute cookie jar, candle, ornament and candy. It was adorable and it sparked insanity! Some customers were surprised by it, not having received a coupon, and some happily took their expected one and left. Then there were the crazies. These people asked if they got a cookie jar for every $50 spent. So, if they spent $150 they got three, right? NO! What part of V.I.P, one per person do you not get? We had a few people who didn't get this and one who earned herself the title, Crazy Cookie Jar Lady. I will admit, we were not very creative in her name but she was not very creative in her tactics. This lady spent $150 and asked for three. Why? Well, she has three daughters and two couldn't go without...well, then don't give them a FREE V.I.P gift for Christmas! She threw a fit and somehow managed to get two. Then, not happy, she went home and changed her clothes and came back an hour later in a track suit. I wish I was kidding. Now, here's where she made the mistake. If you are going to try to get multiple free items, don't complain loudly the first time you come in! My manager of course remembered this lady because she threw a fit. Track suit or not, she remembered this woman because she made a fuss. I remembered her because, aside from the cookie jar, she made a point to tell me, and two other workers, about her bad experience with a store 3 years earlier while we were trying to help the store full of customers. This was one of our busiest times of the year and we all remembered this lady because she kept throwing her tantrums. So, she came in her track suit and purchased 150 more dollars of merchandise and asked for a cookie jar...we said no because she already had one. She responded by having me put an ornament on hold for her at another store. When she got to that store she complained that we hadn't given her a cookie jar. This was mistake number two! If you are going to go to multiple stores to get a free item, don't complain about another store. We will call that other store to either find out if you are lying or to ream them for poor customer service. Just purchase your items, get your free crap and move on. In a three day period, this woman visited our store four times that I witnessed and went to two other stores. How many cookie jars did she get? Two! Why? Because we had an alert up for her after her first fit. She spent at least a hundred dollars every time. Another stupid thing! If you need fifty for a free item and you are doing it just for that item, why spend two or three times that much? Well, this lady returned the next week to return $140 worth of her purchases. Guess who got to do the return...Yup, me. And this lady was even stupider than I originally thought. She returned about ten ornaments and they were all multiples. Who needs three 2nd Christmas ornaments? Nobody. She tried to convince me she forgot what she bought. Lady, we all know you just bought them to get a free cookie jar. So what have we learned? 1.) Free items are not gifts unless you have ONE person to give them to. 2.) If you want more than one free gift, don't draw attention to yourself. You won't stick out from the other hundreds of customers unless you tell thirty minute stories and throw a hissy fit.

3. "You'll be out of a job soon!"

Yup, I had this yelled at me one night. Why? Because our policy changed and we could no longer return ornaments. We could only exchange them for equal or greater value because Corporate changed the policy. So, when a man came in with his ornament and his receipt and I told him this, he immediately rose his voice. "It doesn't say that on the receipt!" I replied politely, I'm sorry sir but you did buy the ornament after the new policy was enacted so I can't return it. "That's ridiculous!" Well, he went out to his car to tell his wife and came back in to pick out a new ornament. He returned to my register where I told him he would have to fill out the paperwork on the receipt, name, phone number and so on. He waved me on and I did the exchange while he continued to yell at me. One of my co-workers watched me and I am sure I had a blood vessel bulging on the side of my head as I kept saying, "I'm sorry but we have to do what corporate says." He told me we should be ashamed of ourselves and that our cards are overpriced. Then he declared, "they keep raising the prices and, soon, no one will buy these stupid cards! Then who will be hurting? You! You'll be out of a job soon!" He apparently has never watched how many cards come to our registers. Trust me, my job is safe! After his tirade he said, "I'm sorry, this isn't your fault," but he did so while still yelling! Then I gave him the paperwork to fill out and he left the phone number blank. We need the phone number in order to process everything. I tell him this and he says, "I don't have a phone number. I don't have a phone." I'm about to say something when he picks the pen back up and says, "Ya know what? Here! They can call me and I can tell them what I think about their policy!" Ok, great. Tell them, not me! That is, if they ever call you, which they won't! They don't care about your fifteen dollar ornament exchange. He left declaring that he was going to call the hotline and complain. Please do so that I don't have to listen anymore! I looked at my co-worker and she asked how I didn't scream at the man after he degraded me for fifteen minutes. I honestly didn't know the answer. I wish he was the only one who has done this but I've had loads of people like this, one who wrote down a number then walked away saying "That's not my real number!" Well, the joke was on her...I had her number in our system for our rewards card. Don't tell me your number is unlisted when I can look it up on the computer. Oh but don't worry, I won't have a job soon anyway so your number is safe. ;)

4. "I Got My Coupon in the Mail After My Purchase, Can I Return Everything to Get My Discount?"
Really? You want me to HAND TYPE everything on your receipt so I can return your fifty items then retype them in with your 20% off coupon and you can get a few dollars back? I've had this happen twice now this week. I don't know why I keep getting so lucky but the crazies seem to flock to me. The first one called ahead and we relented. She had purchased about $200 worth of stuff, went home and her coupon was waiting in the mail. My manager oked it and she came back and I got to key in the codes for over fifty items so I could return it all then repurchase it with a coupon. This took 45 minutes of my time. How much is 45 minutes of my life worth? Apparently $26. She was nice enough about it but I think that bothered me more than yelling. She kept saying, "I am so sorry about this." Well, if you were really sorry then you wouldn't have had me do it!  The second person had around fifty items too and my manager tried to spare me this time. She said, "Well, do you have the merchandise with you?" in hopes of him saying no and figuring it was a lot of work to type it in. He said no and asked if I could just type it in...So, apparently you know how much work this is and you don't care if you torture me, you douche bag! We inform him it will take time and he says that's ok, he will shop some more. So, I get to typing. He ends up spending so much more that he owes us seven dollars. At least my time was worth $40 dollars this time but still, if you are going to spend that much money anyway, why make me return a whole different purchase? The lesson: USE YOUR COUPONS ON ITEMS THAT YOU PURCHASE AFTER YOU GET THE COUPON! Common sense has been lost on this world.

5. "Do You Have A Box For This?"

We don't have a box for everything! This may seem small but there are only so many times a person can take being asked, "Do you have a box for this?" I know it would be easy if we had a box for everything. You could buy it, take it home and wrap it nicely without a problem. The only problem is, where would we put all of these boxes? Think about. We can't display hundreds of boxes, there is no room. We already keep thousands of boxes in the back, we can't keep them for the smallest things or least expensive things. Sure, we have some under the counter but not for the giant train you are purchasing! And certainly not for the odd shaped snowman who is too tall for your average coffee mug box. It's impossible to have that many boxes lying around. The other day I had a lady purchase one of our giant piggy banks. They are maybe a foot tall at the most but they are wide and don't fit any of our boxes under the counter. I told her they don't even come in boxes; they are one of our items that come individually wrapped in bubble wrap in a giant box. She asked if she could have the bubble wrap...I had to take a second before answering just to control my, "REALLY?" look that was sneaking onto my face. I told her we throw away the bubble wrap when we take the items out to display. She told me this was a waste of bubble wrap and that we should really keep it. Yeah lady, we don't have space for 10,000 boxes but I'll get right on the storing of random sheets of bubble wrap! 

The sad thing is that it's not even December! I'm sure I'll have more to report by the end of the season. Until then, take a moment and think about how you talk to your local retail workers. Take another moment to think if your questions/comment/actions are crazy. Remember, if you have to ask they probably are. 

Have a great Holiday season everyone! I'll be back with more just as soon as that crazy cookie jar lady finds another deal! 


  1. Ah, the mythical back room! It's endlessly huge and holds everything a customer could ever want, including a bathroom, pharmacy and free food.

    I've done Christmas in retail before and I think every person who shops should have to spend a holiday working retail. Hang in there, kitty! You can do it!

  2. May I write an appendix to this called "Be Nice to your Food Service Workers???" I have a WHOLE other list to I could add to this