I’m a bit tentative about this post because I don’t want it to become a whiny rant about the nonsense that I have to put up with at work. No one wants that. Still, I think that there are some things that the public should know, it might even be helpful, so I’ll walk the fine line between sharing and ranting and hope that you’ll forgive me if I cross over it.
1. You really will get more from being nice. All of my coworkers agree – we are much more willing to help a pleasant person than a demanding one. When I have someone who is treating me with disrespect, or who is pushing for something unreasonable, or who is obviously trying to take advantage of us, then I dig in my heels and am more determined than ever to say no. But if I have a customer who is polite and considerate, I’m ok with giving him/her all the help they need. This applies to everything, returns, special orders, calling other stores for items, etc.
This doesn’t mean that a customer shouldn’t have expectations when it comes to customer service. Any store associate should willingly help. That’s our job. And we should also be polite and considerate. If there are times when you feel like you have to push a bit to get the help you need, then do so with a gentle hand. You’ll get better results from it.
2. Do not leave your children unattended. Two examples: some time ago I was working the register by the front door of our store. A little girl, maybe 5 years old, asked me if I would help her find her dad. I paged her dad’s name and asked him to come to the register, and then told the girl to wait there with me. Maybe five minutes later her dad walked in through the front door. He had dropped his daughter off in our children’s area and left the store. That is not ok! The children’s section of any store is not a daycare. Store employees are not responsible for your kids’ safety. It’s dangerous to leave them, especially in this day and age when children can disappear. Please don’t do it. Even if you’re staying in the same store, don’t leave them where you can’t see them.
Second example – just last night a father left his two boys in the children’s area (I don’t mean to be picking on fathers; mothers do these things too). He didn’t leave the store, just browsed around, but when he came back for them he found that they had ripped up some product beyond anything that we could sell. He saw this, took the ripped stuff up to the register area and left it there. Again, not ok! I honestly don’t see the difference between damaging store product that badly and shoplifting it. Either way, the store just lost money. I’d love to bring back the old “you break it you buy it” rule. Instead, if you have a child who has ruined something, give your apologies to a store worker. 99% of the time you will not be asked to pay for it. But we all feel much better when we see an adult willing to take responsibility for the mess. Just fess up.
3. Know the definition of “too much information”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to control a wince or twitch in the eye when listening to peoples’ stories. And I always in the end think, “You don’t know me! Why would you tell me that?” Some of my coworkers get it more than I do because they’re friendlier. I do that on purpose. I don't want to hear all about a divorce, health problems, money problems, family problems, or any other very personal matter. Be friendly, sure. Some chit-chat and banter, why not? But honestly, know the appropriate boundaries. Otherwise you’re putting someone who can’t help you in a very uncomfortable position.
Oh, and one more thing along that same line. When making a return please realize that an item is either returnable or not. It’s as simple as that. Every store has a returns policy, and a detailed account of everything that happened to you from the moment you bought the item until bringing it back really isn’t necessary. We’re still going to act within the policy, regardless of the story.
4. A store associate cannot change a company. Too often people complain to a store associate about things that he/she cannot do anything about because of store policy, and it causes nothing but frustration on both sides. We can take an occasional gripe, that’s fine, but please stop at minor occasional gripes. I think that some people believe that if they tell someone in the store, then that information will be passed up through management to the top dogs who can do something about it, and really that’s not an unreasonable idea. In fact, it would be nice if the retail world worked that way, but it doesn’t. The truth is that the store employees are the last people that corporate listens to. The very last. You’d do better to call the corporate office yourself, honestly. Your complaints will get further that way. And you'll save a sales clerk from having to listen to complaints. Complaints really bring us down.
5. Please do not bring to the register items that you do not intend to buy. That’s just irritating.
That’s my list. Too whiny? I hope not. Those of you who have worked retail will understand. Thanks for your consideration.