Retail Confessions: I Hate People
Retail Workers Know: People Suck
I came to this conclusion long before I ever started working retail, but it certainly hasn’t lessened my conviction. Now, I’m the nicest girl you’ll ever know. I’m patient, friendly, smile ALL the time, never lose my temper, and am generally mellow in temperament. Too good to be true? Just ask anyone who knows me (except my husband…haha!) I can get along with pretty much anyone. So what beef could I possibly have with “people”? Let me tell you. (Disclaimer: I hate generalization as much as the next gal, but I have to do it here. By “people” I’m referring to certain persons who, when in groups or when in a retail environment, act like jerks when they might be perfectly wonderful people otherwise.)
1. You’re not better than me just because I’m behind a counter.
(This came to me while working at Filene’s Basement, where I was literally behind a counter all day.) Look buddy, I’ve got a college degree. I’m no dummy. You couldn’t do my job if you tried. I’d like to see you stand back here for 8 hours, processing return after return, smiling at disgruntled customers, all while answering the non-stop-ringing telephone and managing NOT to strangle jerks like yourself.
I can read the return policy just as well as you. I can also read my employee handbook, my company’s policies and procedures, and my register training book. I know what I can and can’t do to accommodate you. Even though the customer might always be “right”, there are limits and exceptions to every rule. For example, I can’t do something that will cost me my job just to make you happy. You don’t deserve, by some merit of your self-proclaimed fabulousness, to be exempt from every rule. If you want to make a $300 return of six-month-old merchandise (and I can tell how old it is, because the merchandise tags are coded by season, genius), with all of the tags ripped off in the bottom of the bag and no receipt, you’d better be glad I’m bending the rules enough to even accept it. You’ll get a store credit. No way can I “make an exception” and give you cash.
2. I am not your maid, and you are not in a hotel room.
Newsflash: You are in a place of business! Chances are 100% that we have a trash can! There’s no need for you to leave your half-eaten cup of ice cream on top of a rack of clothing. If your child spills their bright red Icee all over our nice beige carpet, please be kind enough to TELL SOMEONE! I know little kids can be messy and unruly, but if they’re in the habit of tossing their popcorn all over the floor, either a) don’t buy them popcorn before coming into the store or b) don’t enter the store until they’ve finished it.
And for the love of all that is HOLY, if you are ill, STAY home. If you begin to feel ill while shopping, GO home. Under no circumstances should you get sick (out of either end, I still have no clue) all over a pair of pants and in the corner of a dressing room, then proceed to hang the pants back on the hanger, put them on the rack for someone else to find later, and leave us all wondering what that smell is until the next time we open that fitting room for a customer. Accidents happen. Own up to it so no one else has to suffer.
3. I am not your therapist.
Small talk is part of the business. We can even forge more than superficial relationships with our most frequent customers on occasion. But don’t assume that just because I said helloto you means you have the right to unload your conscience on me. I neither need nor want to know about your rather personal female health issues. I may or may not share your political views, but a shopping environment is not the place for you to loudly proclaim them, involving other customers who do not want to be involved.
My store is not the place for you to have an all-out fight with your soon-to-be-ex-BFF, your children, your husband, etc. Take it outside!
4. You should know by now to read the fine print.
All of life has limitations and exclusions. Ever read a coupon for a department store? One-eighth of the space tells you that you’ll save x percent on your purchase, while the other seven-eighths tells you what items and departments are not included, what dates you are eligible, what you may or may not combine the offer with, etc. I do feel bad sometimes that these things can be so tricky, but you’re at least as old (and probably older!) than me, so you should have gotten with the program a long time ago. I’d be happy to explain the limitations of our coupon/sale/event/whatever, but I didn’t make the rules. Don’t get pissed at me because you don’t like how the game is played.
And you know what, I’ve been lucky enough to work in places where the fine print is actually pretty easy to see! So I don’t want to hear you complaining about misleading advertising when you obviously only read half the sign and no one else in the store seems to have an issue grasping the concept.
5. I do not have access to your personal financial records.
Get it through your head. If your check or credit card is declined, I don’t get a big red flashing message on my register screaming “She’s overdrawn her account, the crazy woman! Cut up her card, ASAP. Signed, Bank X.”In fact, your card being declined may have absolutely nothing to do with your bank. It’s all handled by the Visa (or MC, or AE or Discover or… you get the idea) processing centers. And if your retailer uses TeleCheck, their rejections also have nothing to do with your bank.
Bottom line: I haven’t accused you of not paying your bills, or overdrawing your account, or stealing someone else’s card. I’ve simply asked you for another form of payment. You only make yourself look like a fool when you argue with me about how much money is in your account.
6. You are not in a self-checkout line, so get off the phone!
If the call is that important, please take your items and step out of line until you are ready to focus on the transaction. I don’t need much from you, but if you’re making a return I may need a name and address. If it’s a simple purchase, I may only need to ask for ID for your credit card, or to let you know that the item you have is actually buy one get one free, and you only have one. It’s not much, but I do need your attention. Please don’t scowl at me when I interrupt your phone call to inform you that I need to be paid for the merchandise before you can go.
I could honestly go on and on about how irritating people can be. It’s like something inside them snaps when they get into a retail environment. They lose all decency and common sense. However, as much as I can’t stand those “people” I just mentioned, I very much adore those “people” behind them in line, who smile at me and shake their head, conveying with that simple little gesture that they understand and feel my pain. Which “people” do you belong to?
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