The Reality of Retail
The author of this story chose to remain anonymous and wanted to share their experience working in New York for a department store chain.
After several bouts of applying for jobs and not having success in finding one that would fit my experience and background, I applied for a job at a popular retail store.
After a short day of training, I was put on the registers with a lady on my first day as a “buddy system”.
The training was pretty easy and having experience with computers, the register aspect, I knew I would be okay.
However, the people aspect was something which remains to be seen.
I was amazed at how customers treat the employees, as if the people (like me), who work there are some sorry fools who couldn’t find a better job.
Now, while most customers were pretty friendly, there were a small few who were just nasty.
Some customers would toss their items on the counter as if they were being bothered they had to wait for you to ring it up.
Then there were customers who were just outright rude.
For example, a man who came up to the counter with about $600 worth of items was accompanied with his family. The rule of thumb to ask every customer if they will be using their store credit card. If the person follows up with they don’t have one, the next question would proceed with offering them to open up an account. Nine times out of ten, most will say no. And while this particular person wasn’t interested in opening up one as I noticed his response when I asked him, I proceed to ask if wanted to enter his phone number to generate reward points.
Clearly, he must have misunderstood, because response was, “oh I’m not interested, can you ring this up before my children will become irritable.”
I mean….excuse me?
Perhaps, if you’re children become irritable while shopping, maybe you should not take them shopping.
Second, his children’s behavior is not my responsibility.
Third, as a paying customer, it is rude to have the cashier “hurry up” with your items so that I may able to ring up each item and to ensure no magnets were on the items when leaving the store. Sadly because of his haste and my wanting to please this customer, I missed some tags which took him longer to leave the store.
I think people forget, the person working on the other side of the counter is there to ensure your shopping experience is one where you would want to return because department stores not only want the customer to have a positive experience they also want the customer to return.
Also, never assume the person ringing you up is at a stepping stone in their lives, where one day you will find yourself sitting in front of your television and see the person you were nasty to.
This is the part where I wonder if the customer is always right.
Sometimes, I don’t believe they are. In most cases if something was rung up incorrect, or they have may purchased a wrong size item and they bring it in to return, of course, in that case yes.
But most times, when customers come in with attitudes, they are setting the stage to be hostile and to make themselves seem as though they have been wronged in some sort of way and this is your fault.
The other side of retail is “getting those credits”.
I can’t tell you how many times it’s so tiring to hear the manager talking about getting customers to sign up for credit cards.
As much as I don’t enjoy the aspect of this, not because of the manager hounding about getting credit card applications, but who the target is of people who apply.
Most times, Caucasian customers will come in and you can tell by the look on their faces they have zero interests in opening up a store credit card if they do not have one, even if you tell them they can save a large percentage on their first purchase. The response will be no.
As with the younger generation, they also have strayed away from opening up a card, probably due to the fact, they love money so much, it’s easier just buying something they want without having to owe any credit card companies anything.
And if they do have a credit card, it’s not a store card because they are aware most store cards come with higher interest rates than an average credit card.
On the other hand, Latino customers who have come in, where English is their second language, may not be aware of the high interest rates accompanied with store credit card, only focusing on the percentage they can save by opening an account.
And because most people don’t read those “fine lines”, when the bill comes in, if not paid by a certain time frame, the interest rate will be tacked on with the bill, thus creating debt.
Trust me when I tell you, department stores do not care when it comes to the credit card aspect for the consumer. They want to ensure you are locked in, having to owe them money and adding incentives with those purchases to keep you in the trap of shopping at their stores. This is not to insinuate the Latin population doesn’t know any better, however, if they feel they can save and that’s all they are hearing, especially when their first language isn’t English and most of the material presented is in English and not in Spanish. It can be a problem later on down the line if they cannot afford to pay their bills. So in this case, it’s concerning.
Of course, most customers from every nationality has come in with their store cards, you can perhaps consider these customers regular shoppers of this brand of store and the idea is happy customers are returning customers. So you can’t begrudge a business for making money. That’s the whole point. However if each consumer had a true understanding of how these credit store cards work would they think twice about having one?
Department stores have a business model set on how to bring customers to the door, how to keep those customers in the store for a long period of time, returning back to shop in the near future and how to keep those returning customers happy. Business models include, having an array of items available, multiple stores nearby, in the event if an item isn’t available at one store, they can contact another store where the items can be held for them. Other incentives include having a kiosk for quick online ordering, sales, coupons, cash back and anniversary sales events.
While there isn’t much of a difference in the model from store to store, the distinguishes will be the brands they make available to the consumer. Also some stores will have exclusivity to items which may not be available in other stores.
My final thoughts are the pay scale.I couldn’t complete this article without it.
You can say most people who come to work in the retail world are either part time students gaining some real world experience while they attend school or those who have retired, receiving pension and/or social security and wanting to have a little extra money or just to have something to do.
But then there’s the middle ground, someone like me, who perhaps met up with some hard times and needed something while I searched out for a position where my experience is based. It’s horrible to know the pay scale is not enough to survive if you have expenses and a family to up keep.
Department stores are not hurting in the sense they can pay their employees more than $12 or $13 an hour, taking under consideration a person’s experience. It’s unrealistic to say the least, however, this has become the standard.
So when people are working and they encounter irate customers, and our job is to make the shopping experience pleasurable, I can understand why the retail world experience large revolving door of employees.
It made me think, imagine if the people at the welfare office in New York, took a job in retail. Most of the people who get on welfare like being on welfare, whereas once upon time, welfare was just a boost up so you can get a little help in between jobs. But some have made it their job to stay on welfare. Sad but true.
If they were placed in the hands of working retail, they probably wouldn’t last for a variety of reasons.
One, most won’t take to a nasty customer.
Two, the money isn’t worth the time.
Three, they probably get more respect from the welfare worker than they would from a customer.
I use this as an example, because why would anyone take a job where they would experience constant disrespect day after day. It’s not good for the self esteem at all.
Being a New Yorker, it made me laugh a little bit only because I love my people and their way of thinking of what respect means to them and I wish that most would just do it instead of being asked, “can you respect me”.
We shouldn’t have to ask for respect. No one is living your life but you and while we interact with strangers from day to day, it’s important to respect those, in whatever life phase they are in to be mindful.