There are a ton of reasons to be kind to the retail workers you encounter on a daily basis, but you’d be surprised how many people are blatantly rude to them. I worked in retail for ten years in various places and I cannot tell you the number of inconsiderate or outright mean customers I had. It was rare that a day would go by where I didn’t have at least one rude customer. I had a lady call me the forbidden “C word” because we were having a Buy One Get One Half off sale but she only wanted one item so insisted she should get it half off and I told her I couldn’t do that. Trust me; I know how hard it is to work retail with an ever present smile on your face while people treat you like you’re barely human. These are a few reasons to be kind to retail workers.
One of the best reasons to be kind to retail workers is that they do a lot of work for very little pay. A large majority of retail workers only make minimum wage or just slightly more than that, and if you’ve never worked retail, you’d be incredibly surprised by how much work the job actually entails. A typical day can involve anything from unloading 50 lb boxes from the delivery trucks, taking every item off of shelves and cleaning the rack before replacing the items, sweeping large areas, mopping (usually several times), standing for 8 to 12 hour shifts and let me tell you, they don’t always get breaks. They have to clean up spills and messes that customers create, and if you work in a clothing store, the task of reorganizing and refolding clothing after customers have trashed the shelves or racks is never-ending. During various holiday seasons the long hours and exhausting work are almost unbearable.
I am not exaggerating at all when I say there are days when it seems like everyone in the world is having the worst day ever and their scapegoat of choice is whatever store associate they happen to come across. There are a lot of college educated retail workers out there who get talked down to like they are idiots by customers who automatically assume they are stupid. I have been called any number of names; I had a half hour long confrontation with a woman who refused to believe anything I said because of my age. I was 24 and the Assistant Manager of a prominent jewelry store, but she was adamant that I didn’t know anything because I was half her age. She wanted me to take a tray of $300 necklaces out. I told her I could show her 3 at a time and that it was company policy not to leave the entire tray exposed. She said, and I quote, “Well you’re obviously an idiot. Hold old are you, 12? Only a f’ing idiot would think I’d try to steal a gold necklace.” After five solid minutes of name calling I asked her to leave several times and another customer went and got security when the woman attempted to slap me because I told her she needed to leave my store. While you may feel that you're having a crappy day and something about your cashier, associate or clerk may irk you, please don’t take out all of your frustrations on them, they don’t deserve it.
At every single place I’ve ever worked, I have had several customers yell at me because something broke, didn’t fit correctly, was manufactured wrong or they damaged it in some way. In most retail stores (unless it is a locally owned store with handmade products), the goods are manufactured by companies unrelated to the store. No one who works at Walmart is making your clothing, so if it rips or tears, why would you go back to the store and yell at the sales associate? This may sound ridiculous to you (and it is), but I assure you it happens EVERY day.
No matter how rude or mean a customer is being, the sales associates are taught to be nice. This is, at times, one of the most frustrating parts of the job. When someone is very publicly yelling at you, berating you and calling you names, it’s very difficult to stand there and apologize for whatever the issue is even when it’s not your fault. You have to paste that smile on your face and use a calm, cool and collected tone while you ask the irate customer what you can do to make everything better for them. Without a doubt, there are cashiers or associates who will snap and argue back and they are nearly always reprimanded for it or may even lose their job.
When I worked at a particular jewelry store (which I will not name), we had to sell warranties on all of the items that were purchased. If we didn’t sell a warranty on at least 60% of our items every day, the following steps were taken: A- A verbal warning; B- A written warning; C- You had to write an essay detailing what you’re doing wrong and what you will do to achieve the goals set out for you; D- You had to stay past the end of your shift until your percentage reached the level that was required (which could often result in working a double shift). If you failed to reach 60% for the month for 3 months in a row, you were automatically terminated. The same types of policies are in place at multiple stores. At a chain store that sells girls accessories, they are expected to sell 6 items in every sale. If they fail to average 6 items per sale, they don’t get their annual raise. So when your cashier tries to push extra items on you, trust me, they know it’s annoying and they feel stupid doing it, but it's their job, so don't yell at them for it. I don’t like trying to pressure people into a purchase and neither do most other retail workers, but they don’t like being punished either.
At one store I worked in, we were told to continue to ask questions until the customer said “No” THREE times. I argued with management about this at EVERY meeting. I strongly feel that by the time a customer has to tell me “no” 3 times, they are already very irritated with me and just want to leave. The pitch was supposed to go something like this: “That necklace you’re buying is beautiful, but it would look even better with these earrings, I’ll add them to your purchase.” The customer would say “No thanks.” The cashier would say “Oh come on, you can’t get just the necklace, the set is so beautiful together!” The customer would respond with a more stern “I said no.” The cashier would persist with “Are you SURE you don’t want the earrings? Think of how amazingly they complement the necklace you’re already going to buy!” At this point the customer is no longer smiling, has lost the excitement of purchasing the beautiful necklace and is ready to just leave, having bought nothing. It’s at this point we’d have to ask them 3 times if they wanted the warranty on the necklace. I really don’t think pestering a customer is the way to get them to buy more products. I’m far more likely to be a repeat customer if I’m not annoyed and harassed by the cashier, but again, they have to ask these questions or face being written up if they're caught not following the insane procedures.
Most retail workers don’t have a set shift that they work every day. There were countless days where I worked from noon until 10pm, then had to be back to work for an early morning shift of 6am to 4pm. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely cannot go right to bed as soon as I get home, I need some time to wind down. So ultimately I’d end up with a possible 5 hours of sleep before heading back in for another long shift. I always tried my hardest to keep that smile plastered on my face, but in reality I was dragging, just dying for a few minutes of sleep in the middle of the day. I know I had many co-workers who would get scolded for “looking tired” throughout the day, but it’s hard to keep your head up at all times when you’re exhausted. And for those of you who may not know, Walmart employees have to do a store cheer first thing in the morning.
In the area I live in, there are very few jobs, so you take what you can get, which is usually a retail position. I’ve been out of that line of work for about a year now and my stress level is much lower than it used to be. For the first time since I was 18 years old, I was able to actually enjoy the Christmas season instead of being run ragged and just waiting for it to be over. The next time you’re having a bad day, be conscious of the way you’re treating the people around you. If your cashier isn’t the ray of sunshine you’re expecting, don’t take all your problems out on him or her. I’m not saying cashiers have the right to be miserable to their customers either. No matter what has happened during the day, the cashier shouldn’t take their problems out on the customers. What reasons do you have for being kind to retail workers?
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