The holiday shopping season is upon us. In the past, I never gave this much thought. I am not a big shopper and even when I did shop more frequently, I went out of my way to avoid "peak" shopping times.
This year, the holiday shopping season is taking on a whole new meaning in my life because now -- gulp -- I am a part-time retail employee. Hey, even authors and entrepreneurs still have to eat! And because I like to eat (and pay my rent) I've had to take on a part-time job to supplement my income.
For the most part, I am enjoying my work. Working in a small, sleepy little beach town, most of the people here know each other, and most of the customers are kind and accommodating -- but there are always those few exceptions.
Here are 10 things that us retail employees want you to know. Not just this holiday shopping season, but all year round!
1. We don't make the rules. When I tell you that I can't take a discount off something, or that I can't take your coupon, please believe me. Trust me, it would make both our lives easier if I could just do what you want me to do, but I don't get to make those decisions.
2. If you come in with a coupon that expired two months ago, no, I really can't take it. Believe it or not, the corporate office looks at those things with a magnifying glass, and I have to initial each coupon I take, which means, my boss' boss knows if I took an expired coupon, and I hear about it.
3. When I tell you that I'm out of a product, please believe me. Trust me when I tell you... I want to sell you something! We are actively trying to make a sale! When I tell you that an item is out of stock, please believe that I'm not running into the back room when you leave and rolling around naked on a pile of that very item that you asked me for.
4. I'm human and I do make mistakes, and the mistakes are not malicious. I know I rang your chocolate bar up twice, and I apologize for it. If you point it out to me, I will fix it, but please don't scream at me as if I just kicked your puppy. I certainly am not intentionally trying to fleece you out of a $1.25.
5. I'm not a therapist. I enjoy making small talk with my customers, but seriously, just small talk. I don't want to know about your goiter, your bunions, your bratty children, or how crappy the traffic was for you to get to the store. I'm happy to talk to you about the weather, pets, sunshine, and rainbows. Anything extra, and I may be tempted to charge you a copay like they do at the doctor's office.
6. If you want the store rewards perks, yes, you need to give me your store card. I'm sorry that you just had a manicure and can't possibly reach into your wallet. I'm sorry that "your girl" was busy and you had to wait an extra day to get your nails done (oh the horror), and I'm sorry that you have dinner at the country club tonight with Buffy and Biff and can't possibly be seen with a chipped nail. I really am sorry (dripping in sarcasm), but if you want to get your store rewards, I need your store card.
7. If you don't want to buy something, I am happy to put it back for you. Please stop shoving products back wherever you feel like it. There is nothing I love more after working an eight hour shift than going through the store to clean up and finding $300 worth of product balled up and shoved on a shelf somewhere because you changed your mind about buying it. By all means, pass on that purse, skip the sneakers, or bag the book if you don't want it, but just let me know that you don't want it and I'll be happy to put it back in its rightful place.
8. I don't write the schedule. Please stop rolling your eyes and huffing and puffing when you have to wait in line for three minutes. I mentioned I work in a small store, we only have two registers. We can't possibly add more staff to check you out, because we only have two registers! Besides that, I don't make the schedule. My boss has to watch overhead, so she can't afford to add additional help. I too wish we had sixteen people on to help you, but that's just not gonna happen, so how about I promise not to roll my eyes at you, if you don't roll your eyes at me. Deal?
9. Please don't come in and ask, "Do you know what I'm looking for?" The answer is, "No." Please don't go on then to explain that you're looking for, "That thing I saw in that magazine with the doohickey attached with the pluggy thing that comes in that weird color." I really can't help you then. If you look back at number three on our list, you know that I want to make a sale, but I can't look for some magic item. If you don't know what you are looking for, I sure don't know either.
10. I really am a human. I enjoy working with people and got into retail because I enjoy helping others and I actually enjoy interacting with people. I'm not just being nice because they're paying me to be nice; I genuinely am there to help make your shopping experience a pleasant one. But I have a life outside of the store. I have challenges, sickness, family drama, bills to pay, and problems just like everyone else. I too probably got stuck in traffic coming to work, and I too have bunions. Please remember that I am not a robot there to serve you, I have feelings, and yes, my feelings can get hurt.
Please pack your patience when you shop this holiday season. And please, I am begging you, if you can't be polite, patient and kind, do your shopping on line. Thanks!