Hello, babes! Okay, so I’m a bit nervous for today’s post. For a couple reasons actually, but I felt a post like this was very necessary…especially for any of you considering going into retail. I worked at a retail store during my summers between college. I won’t disclose the name of the store I worked at in this post, for the simple fact that I still respect my previous place of employment and the managers I was under. With that being said, the following stories have nothing to do with management or higher-ups in the company, it is simply the things I experienced regarding customers and the retail experience in general. So without further ado, this is my honest experience and horror stories of my time in retail.
Alright, let’s start off with something simple. As you all know, when you’re in a sales position, your job is to greet the customer and always have a smile on your face. Your ultimate goal is to build a relationship with that customer and make them want to come back in the future to shop with you. Seems simple enough, right? My coworkers and I formed a habit of immediately going up to customers to ask how they were, if they were looking for anything in particular, or just to simply say hello! It’s just part of the job. It might be important to mention the type of shopper I am personally. When I walk into store, I’m on a mission to find a few new pieces for my wardrobe and I mostly enjoy shopping alone and taking my time. Let’s just keep this in mind.
There were plenty of shoppers that came into our department who were in a similar state of mind. Sometimes there would be trouble though. In many situations I would approach a customer with a smile on my face simply to ask how they were doing or if they needed anything. On a daily basis, many people wouldn’t even take the courtesy to turn around and look me in the eye. Or better yet, not even acknowledge my presence or respond. I completely understand if a person would rather take a look around or shop by themselves because I am 100% that person too. However, I have never blatantly ignored someone if I am spoken to. I personally think attributes like age, economic status, religion, race, etc. (the list could go on) shouldn’t play a part in whether or not you respond to someone. If someone approaches you with happy vibes, you can at least say hi or, “Thank you, but I’d just like to look around.” And to the customers who did say that simple phrase, I thank you very much. It was situations like this that made me feel completely invisible and unimportant to these customers.
“You Didn’t Want to Help Me”
Man oh man! Have I had so many situations that made me want to run out of the store! I remember a very specific customer who became quite angry with me. I’d like to throw it in here that I always gave my full effort with each customer. At times when it would get busy, I’d do my best to remember specific details of each person I placed in a dressing room: what event they were going to, what size they were, what colors they liked and so on. It’s also important you know that there are many departments in this one retail store and customers can roam freely with different clothes from various departments. Which means I do not have a lot of knowledge regarding the pieces from another section.
In this specific instance, my customer had jeans from another department (my section didn’t sell casual clothes like jeans!) Of course, she asked me to get her another size in the jeans. To which I responded, “Those are from another department. Would you like me to walk over and grab them for you?” To which she then scoffed and angrily gave me a big ol’ NO! At that point, there’s not much more I can do. Long story short, this specific customer was getting angry at many things that were completely out of my control, to which my manager luckily stepped in to help out (she was a God send). Before I then run around the store attempting to find another sales person that apparently helped her as well she states, “…since you refused to help me.” Excuse me? I placed you in a nice dressing room, helped you find options, offered to find you something from another department, kept a good attitude and I “REFUSED TO HELP YOU”? Anyways, most retail workers come in contact with a customer very similar to this and I’ve learned to just shrug it off. It’s completely not worth getting upset over, especially when you’ve tried your best and still cannot please the person.
“You Purposefully Messed Up My Order!”
Now, this is an interesting one that I actually didn’t personally experience but is something I heard about time and time again from coworkers. We had the ability to look up any item of clothing in the entire company and send it to someone’s home. It was usually a fairly easy process, unless of course it was one of the last of its kind in the entire company! We were still able to attempt to send it, but sometimes it was not guaranteed that it would be fulfilled. It was protocol to mention this to our customers and it was always understood. However, some of the customers would return to the store after not receiving their low inventory item and get quite angry at the salespeople. Some customers have said, “Why did you purposefully not send me my order?” or “Why did you want to mess it up?” Let’s think about this for a second. Why would we not want you to receive your package? To keep it plain and simple: we work on commission. We want you to buy things. Not receiving the package equals no sale. No sabotaging will ever take place if there’s a possibility to earn commission, trust me.
Feeling Put Down by Customers
There was one thing that really got under my skin. Especially since I am a recent college graduate and actually feeling very good about my accomplishments lately. Earning a degree isn’t a walk in the park for ANY person, so I’m pretty stoked on life right now. Going into retail for a month after graduation though, had an interesting effect. I noticed a lot of customers would make small comments that felt a bit like jabs. For example, “Oh, you might be too young to answer this question or know this fact.” Granted, many people think I’m still in high school upon their first look at me. Regardless, you don’t know someone’s full story just by assuming their age or judging their current job position. This might not sound good, but I felt very looked down upon because I was in a retail position. I’d ask myself, “Did they say that because they think I’m unintelligent, or because I’m blonde, or because I look young?” That sounds ridiculous because it absolutely is. No one should feel less than just because they’re working a certain job to save some money or pay the bills. To wrap up this rant, everybody deserves respect and you should take the time to actually learn important things about a person before passing judgement.
The Customer Is Always Right…Right?
This was a major theme in my past employer’s mission statement. They are known for quality customer service and treating everyone with the highest values. Which is awesome! I definitely agree that customers should be treated to the best of your ability if you’re a sales person. They’re giving you their business and they deserve the happiest vibes while shopping. Unfortunately (as mentioned previously), sometimes you try your hardest and the customer still is not satisfied. At times they would become so nasty that they’d make you want to cry. Including myself and many coworkers in my past, this has actually happened. A customer will say such nasty things and make you feel so horrible about yourself that you drive home in tears. Is the customer still right? I’ve come to realize that in a business sense, the customer must always be correct. Morally though, is this okay? Is it acceptable that someone can be so cruel that they make a complete stranger cry? I just feel there is something so incredibly wrong with this, especially because it happens on the daily. Long story short, be kind to retail workers because they’re just doing their job and giving it their all.
I hope you all enjoyed this post and found it interesting. Even though I’ve had a handful of unfortunate experiences in retail, I wouldn’t erase them from my past. Jobs in retail are great if you’re in college or want to work in between semesters. In that sense, I think they’re really awesome. These are just some warning signs to look for! If any of these things happen to you, don’t ever take them to heart. If anyone shows you negativity, it is because of their own unhappiness, not because of you. I’ve had to build up a thick skin and realize these things while in a retail job and it’s definitely helped me develop people skills. The list doesn’t end here though, I’ve had so many other customer experiences I didn’t share in this post! Let me know down below if you’ve experienced anything like this or if you’d like a Part 2 to this post! Excited to read your responses!