The Biggest Lessons I Learned About Retail

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The biggest lessons I learned about retail in a nutshell: People are jerks. Although a few customers highlighted my shifts, what I experienced for the most part is that shoppers can be absolute jerks. Okay, maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe they just don’t know any better. So if you’re one of those shoppers, read on and I’ll enlighten you with things I witnessed on my last day of work.

First, don’t say, “Hey!” or “Excuse me!” with a rude tone. The first thing I’m going to do is ignore you. I’ll either force you to address me politely or make you walk up to me. Either way, I don’t respond well to attitude right off the bat. I think I speak for my ex-coworkers and every other retail worker in existence.

Second, don’t monopolize our time. I think I can give you about two or three minutes of my focus and politeness. After that, you’re being rude by keeping me from my work. Do you need to know where something is? Let me find that for you. But don’t ask me to imagine working through your project from start to finish, in real time… I have to stock, clean, and work, work, work before my shift is over.

Third, if my manager says she knows where something is, believe her. Even if you didn’t see in the exact aisle she pointed out, suck it up, Buttercup. It’s there. And when she inevitably points out the product you missed your first time through, don’t be a jerk– you can apologize or laugh it off… then we can all move on with our lives.

Next, CASHIERS ARE NOT TO BLAME WHEN A PRODUCT DOES NOT RING UP PROPERLY!!!!! Do you know how much control the cashier has over labeling the product or shelf with the proper pricing? NONE. She scans the product and the computer does the rest. If it doesn’t ring up properly, the person responsible is probably resting at home completely oblivious of the issue. Taking it out on the cashier is like getting angry at the cashier at a fast food joint that your burger isn’t right, when the only person that handled it was the cook. Be polite, notify the cashier of the price discrepancy, and she’ll work with you. If you’re a D-Bag, she may not want to give you the price you say it should be.

Don’t drop off items in an aisle that they don’t belong in. It’s infuriating to us to find model dinosaurs in the wedding aisle. If you don’t want to put your stuff away, take it the register and tell the cashier you changed your mind. We don’t judge you for that, or wish you Bad Karma. We save that for the jerks who leave model dinosaurs in the wedding aisle.

My personal favorite: WATCH YOUR OWN CHILDREN. We are not your babysitters or personal clean up crew. My last evening at work, a completely oblivious mother ignored her children as they yelled incessantly, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at this!”. Yes, Mom— please look at this. Your kids are touching everything within reach. The boa your daughter is wearing is shedding feathers like a molting bird. Oh, wait–you’re not even going to buy it? Grrrrrrr……

Finally, when the music stops, it’s time to leave the store. Again, don’t be a D-Bag and shop five minutes to closing. Maybe you don’t have a family or home life you’d like to get back home to, but my coworkers and I do. The longer you wait past closing, the longer it takes for us to clean and get the store in order before we can clock out.

All the above is just a snippet of what I experienced on my last day of work. Luckily, my coworkers and managers try the best they can to keep the shifts as pleasant as possible. I don’t like feeling at the end of every shift like I want to choke someone out. I’m normally a pacifist!  So please be kind to retail workers–they have to put up with so much more than you realize. If they look grumpy, chances are they’ve had to clean up boa feathers all over the store, fix things on shelves they’ve already fixed, and dealt with a ton of cranky customers at the register when the price just wasn’t right.

Writer Bio

CJ Heath did not even last six months in the intensive area of retail. She is now going to be a receptionist at a salon and spa and hopes she feels a lot more zen there, with no urge to choke the life out of someone. Peace!


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