How To Make Retail Worker’s Day

You may or may not have heard of the website notalwaysright.com. It’s a blog to which anyone can submit a story about a terrible customer they had at work. The things people will say really blows me away sometimes. The stories can be infuriating, strange, or just funny. A common trend I’ve seen in these stories is that many customers just do not seem to be aware of the fact that the employees they are attacking are human beings just like them who are just trying to earn a living. It’s amazing. But maybe they just need to be educated on how working in retail works from an employee’s perspective. Since it’s been about a year that I’ve been working in retail, I have begun to not just sympathize but empathize with the posters on notalwaysright.com. So here’s my little list of how to be the best retail customer ever.

1. Don’t immediately become impatient when the first employee you ask doesn’t have the answer to your question. Especially if they immediately offer to call their manager and ask them. Chances are, they don’t know the answer because they’re new, or they are just passing through a department that they don’t actually work in, or they (strangely) do not have the prices of every item in the store memorized. There is usually a good reason when an employee says, “I don’t know,” so have some grace, and be glad that they offered to find someone who WILL know. That’s the important thing: Someone knows, and the person who doesn’t know is not representative of the entire company or entire store, so your frustrated sigh will only make them feel awkward and embarrassed. It’s okay. More than likely, you will get your answer. The employee wishes they could help you faster, trust me. 

2. For goodness sake, pick up after yourself! No, we don’t expect you to put away everything you tried on and decided not to purchase. We’ll do that. But most dressing rooms have a rack just outside that you can hang your unwanted clothes on, and that’s there for a reason. It’s not very hard to pick up everything you tried on and hand it to the employee waiting outside, who will gladly put it away. I mean, you carried it in there yourself, so we know it’s not too much. There is nothing more annoying than opening a room for a customer and finding that the previous person left a giant pile of clothes on the bench, which the employee didn’t see because they were off helping a different customer find something. The new customer sees this mess and thinks “messy store” and the employee then has to pick up everything in front of the customer and make them wait a few more seconds to use the room. Not fun. 

Also–and I don’t even know what is going through people’s minds when this happens–if you knock something onto the floor, pick it up and put it back where you found it. I don’t care if things aren’t folded as long as they’re on the shelf. If something was on a hanger and you’re too lazy to hang it back up, at least drape it over the rack. That’s not hard. How would you like to bend down and pick things up off of the floor every ten minutes for seven hours?

3. Have a good reason for arguing over prices. A sales associate, even a manager (unless it’s a little ‘mom and pop’ shop) have zero control over prices. Occasionally, one or two things are placed on the wrong rack, resulting in a price that doesn’t match the sign next to the rack, and that is our fault. But if our clearance prices go from 40% off to 50, to 60, to 70, and then back down to 40 in a matter of weeks, and you miss the ‘70% off’ day because you failed to look at the weekly ad in the paper, that is NOT our fault. I actually had a guy who was angry because he missed the ‘70% off’ day and wanted $5 off his item, which was already 40% off the clearance price. Amazing. He even said, “This [child’s] jacket has been here for weeks, but the clearance price keeps changing! I don’t even think it’s worth $15! [the original price].” Yeah, that’s how clearance works.

Also, don’t get angry at a random employee when something that isn’t even advertised to be on sale is more expensive than you think it’s worth. We can do literally nothing about that, especially if it’s a place like Fred Meyer, where products come from a huge variety of vendors, so prices are going to vary by brand. It’s okay. Get the store brand.

4. Don’t steal. I mean, obviously. We can see you. We’re not stupid.

5. Don’t swipe your card until the cashier tells you that you can. I know the little pin pad device says “Please swipe card now” all the time, but usually, the card will not go through if I’m in the middle of scanning items. How is the computer supposed to know how much to charge you? Yes, sometimes, we’ll get to the end, you’ll have already swiped it, and everything will be fine. But it’s so awkward to have to say, “Looks like the card didn’t go through the first time. Can you swipe it again?” when you’ve already put it away and then you sigh, pull it out, pause, and say, “Will it charge me twice?” No. You have the approve the amount before it will actually charge you, and you won’t even see the “approve this amount” screen until after I’ve hit “total” and the form of tender on the register. So relax. Better to play it safe. Do like our ancestors did and pay after you know the total. 

6. Be friendly. Cashiers, or anyone who works in customer service, really, get so used to saying, “Have a nice day,” or something along those lines, all day, every day, without even thinking about it. So when a customer says, “You too!” or better yet, asks us how WE’RE doing, oh my gosh, that makes our day so much better. Be a pleasant customer and you will be the best customer. Smile and thank us for helping you, because we are doing our best. “Thank you”s are amazing. 

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m sure I’ll think of more at work this weekend. But tomorrow, I’m going to the Seattle Art Museum with my husband. For free! First Thursday of every month! 

 

What else can customers know in order to be the best customers ever?

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