This summer, it’ll be my second time working in retail. Two summers ago I worked part-time at Aeropostale and now I work part-time at Old Navy. If you want to learn more about dealing with the average person, I recommend you work in retail. It takes a lot more – than you’d expect – to keep a customer happy. I’d have to say that one of the biggest challenges, is trying to find a way to complete my initial tasks and spontaneously help a customer. Most of the time, my duty is to stay on the sales floor and RAD, which involves greeting customers and keeping the store in good condition. As I am RAD-ing, I am also back-up for register. This can get comical sometimes. Frequently, I find myself in the middle of a task and then I hear over the walkie: “Can I get back-up?” It doesn’t matter what I am doing. When back-up is needed, I have to stop and head over to the cash wrap as soon as possible. But if I am helping a customer, I get some lee-way, and the second person on back-up is asked to work the line of customers.
No matter how frustrating the moment shared with a customer can be, I always remember to keep a smile on my face and say to myself, “the customer is always right.”
Here’s a bit of advice, if a customer asks for something and you don’t have it, do not bluntly say “no.” The word “no,” like with anyone else, can trigger an argument which leads to a bad customer-employee relationship. Give them an option. If you don’t have that shirt in stock, make them feel hopeful by telling them that the shirt will return at this time and distract them with another item. Don’t say “no” and walk away cause that’s just down right bitchy, and honestly, you’re not doing your job as a “sales associate.” Because the customer is always right and deserves my respect, my fellow associates and I have had to do ridiculous things like retrieve shorts or flip flops that are literally touching the ceiling, remove clothes off of a mannequin because the styles on the hanger did not have his or her size, or compromise the pricing of an item just because the customer is not content.
Here’s another piece of advice: if you honestly do not know how to handle the situation, call over your manager on duty. Do not take a risk and offer the customer something that may not even be eligible. Follow your manager’s instructions, because you WILL learn something just by example.
Because of my job at Old Navy, I have a better understanding of what most people’s expectations are when they shop, and a better understanding of how these people should be dealt with. Outside of Old Navy, I t00, am a “customer.” I am a “customer” that is always right and deserves respect from the “employee.” Yet, I am not asking people to do balancing acts on a ladder while reaching for a pair of size 12 flip flops and I am not yelling at someone because my coupon has expired. A lot of the time, I am the shopper who does not want help. I am an independent shopper. Since I can sympathize with the average retail employee – because I am one myself – the last thing I want to do is frustrate a worker if I can’t find what I am looking for. In order to do this, I do a lot of my shopping online. It’s fast, simple, and easy. I don’t have to deal with anyone and usually, there are more styles available online than in the actual store. Not only that but, the stores I do shop at aren’t close-by, and just like at work, life is all about efficiency!
Like I mentioned above, outside of work, I am merely the customer. As an employee, you should not argue with me. Yesterday during my fifteen minute break, I walked down to Barnes and Noble and ordered a drink at their Starbucks. FYI – I am very picky about my coffee. I was raised drinking Turkish coffee (enough said). But when I am desperate and short for time, I will do what’s most convenient. I go up to the counter and the woman asked me what I wanted. I told her, iced Doppio Macchiato. She gives me this look like I am an idiot, as if I just asked her for a McChicken with a medium fry. After a small pause I say, “Yes, a Doppio Macchiato…two shots of espresso and foam on top.” She says, “I know, I know. But wait, you want that cold?” I nod my head. She then says, “Don’t you know it’s a bad idea to put hot milk over ice?” I’m like, “I get it all the time..”
I’m sorry, but why was she arguing with me? At the point I wanted to yell, “Do you want my money or not?” Honestly, an iced Doppio Macchiato is equivalent to Starbuck’s iced Cappuccino, except, milk isn’t mixed into the espresso. What if I had asked for an iced latte? Would she have reacted the same way? I have no idea. All I know is, she got uncomfortable because she is not used to making this drink; she is comfortable with making frappuccinos. Instead of confirming my order and then proceeding to make it, she decided to argue with me and slightly insult me. When she handed me the drink she said, “enjoy” and rolled her eyes.
There’s another thing you learn in retail: keeping your cool. There are rude and ungrateful people everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you gave a barista a huge tip or picked an outfit out for a customer. If someone doesn’t like you and they aren’t happy, you going out of your way to be nice will not change them. Deal with it.
All you can do is keep your thoughts to yourself and smile.
Stay strong and never be afraid to greet a customer, because their reaction may surprise you!