And sometimes we have a degree, several qualifications, run a blog, write and do a multitude of other things behind the scenes that you don’t know about.
Working in retail customer service is not always a mindless job, it does not mean we are stupid or that we can’t get a ‘better job’. A lot of the time, particularly in some of the most mundane retail jobs, people are working their way through university or college – these people may one day be teaching your children, or fighting your battles in a court of law, or even testing your eyesight. Alternatively, sometimes, retail workers think that their customers are the ones that are stupid, because they seriously say and do some truly ridiculous things. While this is true, it goes both ways, people are people and they all deserve respect, regardless of the job they do.
However, every now and again (a few times a day) we do get some seriously crazy, angry, and downright weird people. The angry ones are easy, you just oil up your feathers and let the water run down your back, but some of the others can really leave your head spinning. working in retail requires a delicate mix of particular personality traits if you want to not only survive, but be happy in your place of work. You need to be understanding, be able to listen and be kind – this allows you to give your customers the best service you can give, but you also need to be thick-skinned and not overly sensitive (or at least try your best to shake it off and get on with your day and cry about it all later). Customer service may be about serving the customer, but it does not make us servants, there is a fine line there that needs to be understood.
I think the ones that really boggle my mind are the ones that think they are more important than any other customer you have in your store. They march in thinking that they should be attended to immediately, regardless of whether all your staff are currently helping other customers or not. They seem to think that all the other people who had the good sense to call ahead and book an appointment count for naught, and that they should be ‘squeezed in’ right away. There’s always some kind of excuse too; ‘But I need to get back to work‘, ‘But I need to go and pick up my children‘, ‘But I just have a quick question‘, ‘But I’m here now‘…
That last one always grates on my nerves like a grater against a cold, hard carrot. It’s harsh and idiotic. I find it nothing short of entertaining when they are in a rush and seem to think that that makes them more important than all the others sitting in the waiting room, patiently and pleasantly. The reality is, if you have somewhere else to be or something else to do, call ahead and book and you will be more likely to get a time that suits you, simple as that.
And there’s always at least one who feels the need to make a scene and kick up a stink. They really neglect to understand that being mean and nasty and angry and frustrating doesn’t instil in anyone the desire to help; instead we really just want to slap them in the face and send them on their way and out of the store. We get that they’re frustrated, and we are going to try and help them, we have to, it’s our job; however we are going to be much nicer about it if they are nice to us in turn – simply logic, no? There is no need to yell, no need to stamp feet and no need to swear, at any of us, ever.
There are always going to be the ones that feel the need to go out of their way to make a note of how angry or upset they are though – and sometimes it doesn’t even have anything to do with us. We once had a lady demand a refund on something she didn’t even buy from us. We’ve had people complain because we didn’t amuse their kids while they were browsing (we are NOT a day care and no, your child is not delightful – but that is a story for another time). When you write a bad review, give negative feedback or contact our head office, that doesn’t make you the bigger person, and you haven’t won, you’ve made yourself look like a whiney fool. We WANT to help you, that’s our job, but sometimes it takes understanding and communication on BOTH sides to find a solution. Please remember this next time you’re upset about something, it isn’t our fault personally, and we will try and empathise with you, understand you and your needs and fix the problem, if we can, but you make it really hard to want to help you when you are being a dick. Honestly.
And while we are on the topic of temper tantrums, I’d also like to take this moment to apologise for not having any control over the set pricing of our products. I’m sorry that the huge savings you are already getting during our yearly sale aren’t enough for you, and I’m sorry that I can’t just change the rules for you, and discount everything just for you so you can pay the price you want (if we could do that, no one would pay for anything, ever). I wish I could, and maybe while I’m at it I might just rig the lottery and win a ridiculously huge amount of money so I can retire early. Very early.
You can also take us turning everything off and beginning to close the doors as a sign that we are closing shortly and you should wrap up your browsing and go along on your merry way. We will gladly help you wrap up your shopping or any last enquiries, and we don’t often actually ask people to leave the store; but understand that we have lives and loved ones to get home to as well, we have worked all day and finally reached the moment that our shift is over and because of you we can’t leave. It’s frustrating. We aren’t getting paid anymore and yet we have to hang around and serve you, and while most of the time depending on the customer it isn’t all that bad and doesn’t take that long, sometimes it’s just downright disrespectful and rude, sometimes it really is just taking the piss. If your purchase or question isn’t urgent, surely you can pop back in another time, when we can actually take the time to help and serve you properly.
I’m not praising retail staff entirely either – this is not saying that they are the better people or worthy of praise at all. Some retail staff, or any one in customer service for that matter, are lovely people who go above and beyond for their customers, but some of them really are just ungrateful ratbags who shouldn’t be working with other people at all, period. Sometimes they may just be having a bad day, but the true sign of a good customer service representative is the ability to leave all their personal crap at the door, put on a smile and get on with it. Sometimes, though, it’s not just a bad day, I know first hand that there are some truly bad retail workers out there, and I sometime wonder HOW they ever got that job.
Working in retail isn’t always as easy as some people think, dealing with assholes is hard, but those rare customers; the kind, funny, sweet ones, make up for it all. Chill out and enjoy your shopping experience, and remember: a lack of organisation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. People need to remember that those of us that are lucky enough to work in retail are people too, we have feelings and we also have lives we enjoy living outside of the four walls you meet us in, and a little respect and kindness goes a long way in getting someone to help you. Most of us work in retail because we are good at it, we enjoy talking to people and helping people, and most likely have good knowledge about our particular field. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, I just wish that other people could love their life just as much and be happier, healthier people for it, instead of feeling the need to chuck tantrums, yell and degrade those they deem ‘lower’ than themselves, for whatever reason. Remember – treating others how you would like to be treated is all well and good, but treating all people with respect should just be standard.
At the end of the day, we all love to shop, and customer service plays a huge part in that. Your customer service experience can make or break your whole shopping experience, or even your day. It takes a particular type of person to be good at customer service, and I agree that not all people who work in that field are the right people, but next time you have an issue with someone, or something, or a product or a store, just remember – the customer service representative you are speaking to is a person too.
You can see more of Norman Fueti’s hilarious and spot on web comic ‘Retail’, HERE.