So you want to work retail, huh? You think you have what it takes? Well good for you! I’ve owned a couple retail stores in my time and I’ve seen retail workers come and go, so I’m going to share some experience with you that might help you get ahead.
Oh, wait, you aren’t excited about this new career move? You think retail is a punk job for losers? Well, we will just adjust the advice so you can do a really lousy job at retail. How does that sound? I’m willing to give you some hot tips that are guaranteed to make you a terrible retail worker. Sound good? Okay, let’s get started!
What? You want to know my credentials? You are confused? Well good, hold onto that confusion and you will fit right in with many of the current retail clerks in Olympia and by extension the rest of the nation. Confusion is good; in fact it is one of the tips I am going to give you, but we are getting too far ahead of ourselves. First to the question about my credentials: It is true that as a former owner of retail stores I have hired according to ability, but I have also had to fire many a worker because they practiced many of the behaviors I am going to pass on to you. You see, I have seen both sides, the good and the bad, so it’s really no problem to change my advice column to the negative side of the question. Besides, even if I hadn’t owned retail stores I still shop in them and believe me, in so doing I have seen my share of really bad retail clerks. We are talking so bad only a mother could love them. We are talking so bad that they make the customer feel like reaching across the counter and strangling them. We are talking so bad that …..well, you get the point!
So are you ready? I would suggest you take notes because what I am about to tell you will directly affect your employment status for years to come. Please, don’t thank me, it’s the least I can do. Just pay attention because I won’t repeat myself.
ALWAYS ACT LIKE THE CUSTOMER IS UNIMPORTANT
It is very important that you act like you have a thousand things you would rather be doing than helping the customer. Act like you are doing them a favor by waiting on them. If possible talk to someone else while waiting on the store-shopper and if you really want to score big points talk on the phone while you are checking them out at the cash register. This last item will qualify you for the Retail Clerk’s Hall of Fame.
Remember, always, that your time is important and the customer is infringing on your time. If you have done your job well the customer will actually apologize for bothering you and then you will have reached the pinnacle of your profession.
NEVER ENGAGE IN SMALL TALK
Your customers may want to strike up a conversation while you are assisting them. DO NOT ALLOW THIS! Your job is not to become a friend, nor is it to listen to the mundane jabber of a bored housewife or confused husband. You were not hired to make anyone feel good; you are not a counselor. There will come a time when someone strolling through your store will speak to you….make sure you act like you didn’t hear them or better, that you did hear them but you do not consider them worthy of an answer. Grandmothers are the worst and must be discouraged from the get-go or you will find yourself in an inane conversation and quite possibly be late for your break. This simply cannot happen and you hold the key to your destiny.
LET’S TAKE A BREAK!
Breathe….Relax….Let it all sink in…..
NEVER IMMEDIATELY OFFER HELP WHEN A CUSTOMER ENTERS THE STORE
You can save yourself a great deal of work and trouble if you allow a customer to wander the store for ten or fifteen minutes without assistance. Odds are that they will become impatient and just leave the store if you do not assist them. With experience you can spot the confused shoppers immediately; those are the ones that you should never help. In the retail business confusion is good so let the confusion build to the point of embarrassment and then they will most likely just leave muttering to themselves. If this happens you will know that you have won another battle of wits. Keep in mind the nature of your store and who is shopping in it. If it is a man in a Victoria Secret shop leave him alone. He will slither out within five minutes, red-faced and stuttering, never to return again.
ALWAYS ACT CONFUSED
I promised we would get to this so here we are; nothing annoys a customer more than when they ask for help and the clerk has no clue. This is time-tested and guaranteed to leave the customer feeling helpless and irritable. If they ask you where a certain item is just shrug your shoulders and say you really aren’t sure; better yet, tell them you are new and not familiar with the store yet but you will get them some help pronto. Then walk away and don’t get the help promised. Chances are excellent that your question-asking patron will storm out of the store never to be seen again.
HANDLING MONEY TIPS
These next two suggestions are related and oh-so important.
When handing back change after a purchase, never count the money when you are putting it in the customer’s hand; in fact, put the money on the counter and let them pick it up. Re-counting the change takes up your valuable time and should be avoided at all costs. I have seen some clerks actually count back from the price of the purchase. The cost of an item is $5.37 and the customer gives you a twenty and there are some clerks who actually give back the change, counting to $6.00, and then add with each bill that is given back. WHAT A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME! Put the whole pile of change on the counter and be done with it.
If you should choose to hand back the change then put the coins on top of the bills and put the whole pile in the hand of the customer, thus assuring that the coins will fall on the floor. This is a beautiful technique that is guaranteed to annoy the customer so they don’t come back AND provide you, the clerk, with some amusement while they bend over to pick up the scattered change.
NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SAY THANK YOU!
I know, the temptation is great; you were raised by parents who probably drilled into your head that you should be polite, but when working retail toss aside that foolishness. If you say ‘thank you’ the customer might actually think you are appreciative and that leads to them returning at another time and that leads to more work for you. Do you understand?
Simply give them back their change (on the counter), hand them their purchase, and then turn around and busy yourself with something else. No words must be spoken to them at all.
I know, however, that early childhood training may come to the surface despite your best efforts and you will accidentally feel the urge to say something; if this happens say “have a nice day” in your most bored tone of voice. If you manage the proper pitch the words will sound like “go to hell” and you will never see that particular customer again.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
We humans are social animals and as such some people find it hard to master all six techniques I have just passed on to you. It’s okay, really! You are, after all, only human and you will make mistakes. There will be days when you only manage consistency with three of the six; there will be other days when you are completely off your game and only one of these tips will come naturally. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day so you need to be patient with yourself. Being a terrible retail clerk takes time and dedication and you will stumble quite a bit when you first start out.
I promise you, though, that if you adhere to these simple suggestions that sooner rather than later you will have mastered all six and they will come as naturally as breathing. When that day arrives you are well on your way to the Social Servicesoffice where you can sign up for food stamps and unemployment benefits. Now there is a dream worth chasing!