The reality of working retail

Arts & Entertainment Editor Julia Corbett relays her tales of retail and advice on how to make shopping experiences pleasant for all involved. (AP Photo)

In retail, something doesn’t always register between customer and employee, whether that actually is at the register or on the sales floor. There is an unspoken disconnect in the form of common courtesy.

Anyone who works retail, and that is a lot of college students, knows just how mean customers can get. No one is perfect — not an employee and not a customer. However, at times, it feels like customers take advantage, belittle and argue with employees over things that are out of the employee’s control.

Even the nicest of associates have gotten their fair share of glitter short shorts literally thrown in their faces (or maybe that’s just me). Why did this happen? Because I asked what size they wanted.

It’s our job to make sure that the customers’ shopping experience is rewarding and that they, in turn, reward us with big profits and store credit cards by the end of the day. Or at the very least, give us enough revenue to make our managers happy.

Not all customers are mean. A lot of them are nice and willing to, at the very least, tolerate us. Some invite our opinions and advice, but others truly are downright awful.

Here’s the lowdown for all mean customers out there — employees really don’t care what size you are and we really don’t feel like getting on our knees to pull out those size-6 jeans that you could easily get on your own.

My all-time favorite is when customers try to argue with the register, telling employees that we are wrong, when in fact, we are just relaying the information that the system is telling us.

Basically, when you treat us rudely and whip past us as we try to tell you the deals, we will purposely trail you until you hear every word we have to say. We do what we do because we have to. It is what gets us more hours each week.

And this bitterness is all coming from a rather non-argumentative person.

The fact of the matter is that we all have to work at some point and most of us wind up in retail at one time or another. Most people can relate to enduring this conduct.

No one likes this kind of treatment, but we have to suck it up and deal with it, unless, of course, the conduct is totally unacceptable (i.e. screaming customer bitching out the manager).

If you treat us nicely, with just an ounce of decency, we are glad to return the favor. We’ll probably make your shopping experience even more rewarding.

I’m not going to lie, before working retail, I hated when an associate pounced on me the minute I walked into a store. I didn’t want to tell her how I was — “Good, thank you,” was too much talking — and I didn’t want to give my email, that also required me to speak too much at the register. Now, I sympathize.

The truth is, as many people say, you do not understand retail until you work it. Or at least maybe read this editorial.

So, throw the employee a bone and make up a fake email, if nothing else. “I don’t have an email address” might be the biggest lie of the century.

Be courteous and respectful, as I’m sure most of you are— after all, many of you have part-time jobs! And to those select individuals who lack all common courtesy for the workingman, well, I feel bad for you.

You never know, your next job could be at the mall this summer. Happy shopping!

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