As is the case with many millennials, my work experience has mostly been in customer service. From movie theaters to home supply stores to bookstores, I've worked in retail and customer service for six years, and have seen some pretty interesting customers. Despite working in a wide variety of places with differing company policies, there has always been the age old mantra "The customer is always right". Everyone who works in customer service has heard this phrase, be it seriously or sarcastically. The happiness of the customer comes first, even if it means bending company policy (within "reason"). But sometimes this comes at the expense of courtesy towards the worker. Before you cry, "But I'm not like that!" or "Not all customers!", I will say that most customers are reasonable and polite, but there are the occasional self-entitled jerks that end up as break room gossip. Here are ten tips on how to not be that customer.

1) Listen to the sales pitch.

Trust me, we don't offer add-ons for the sake of hearing ourselves talk. We do it for a reason. In most big name retailers, you as the customer will be asked if you want to join a listserve or if you want to sign up for a special credit card. It's just #littleretailthings. It may get annoying to hear the sales pitch each time you come into the store, but it's a part of the job. We are expected to offer the add-ons with each transaction, no matter how much of a rush you're in or how much you don't want to hear it. The best, most polite thing to do is listen to the sales pitch, then politely decline.

2) Be ready to go.

One of my least favorite things is when a customer insists on small talk when there's a long line. This goes double when they take forever to find their method of payment. I'm not talking about the people who ask about my day or the ones that need a little extra help figuring out the chip reader on the PIN pad. Those customers are fine. The ones who want to gossip with me about my coworkers while figuring out which credit card they want to use while the line gets longer behind them stress me out. If there's a line, the best thing to do is to have any coupons and payment pretty much ready to go so all you have to do is listen to the sales pitch and be ready to pay.

3) It's better to be polite.

If you make a scene, you will draw attention to yourself. This is a well known fact of life. If people hear shouting, they will turn to stare. If you insist on acting like a jerk, everyone will know. It's better to be polite than an ass. Because not only will you leave the impression that you are a monstrous jerk on other customers, you will directly affect how the employee handles other customers afterwards.

4) Be specific.

Vagueness kills. If you don't know what you want, we can't help you. If you have a problem, we absolutely want to help you. But vague descriptions of your wants can keep the employee from helping you the way you want. Details help. It keep us from staring at you like this:


5) If you need a gift receipt, say so.

This one is pretty self explanatory. If you need a gift receipt, say so. Gift receipts are an easy way to help third party gift receivers be able to return that present that you thought was a good idea at the time. Having a gift receipt allows the gift receiver to get a nifty store credit to replace the item they don't want without the hassle of dealing with the ever joyful "No receipt, no return" policy.


6) Be mindful of policies.

Speaking of policies, be mindful of a company's policies, especially corporate policy. If there are any concerns about policies, ask. Asking about a return policy or a shipping policy will never be against your best interests, in fact, knowledge is power and knowing is half the battle.

7) Be prepared to hear an answer you don't like.

Sometimes, the answer is no. No sucks. But sometimes, that's the answer you get. I hear the word "no" every single day at work, you get used to it. Sometimes the thing you want just can't happen. It's no one's fault, it's just the reality of the situation. The best you can do is seek alternative options without making life for the employee hell. Sometimes, it really just can't be helped.

8) Don't talk down.

I cannot reiterate the politeness thing enough. Talking down to employees is scummy. Acting like employees aren't human beings because they work in a low wage job is scummy. Just be polite. It takes zero effort to be nice to retail and customer service workers and not have us want to murder you.


9) Don't yell.

Never. EVER. Yell at an employee. For any reason. Just don't do it. If you're the type of person to yell at a customer service person over something small, you're trash. Seriously. There are ways of getting what you want and need without shouting at someone, especially if what you want may be out of the employee's power. Which leads me into my last tip:

10) Have patience.

The fact of the matter is, you don't know the person working behind the register. You don't know what their situation in the workplace may be. Maybe there's one register open and the person working it is doing the best with what they have. Maybe the employee isn't familiar with what you're asking about. Maybe you've stumbled on a weird company policy loophole that literally no one knows about. Or maybe there's no possible way for your wants to be fulfilled. There's no point in getting mad at someone who is doing what they've been hired to do. Just be patient; it's easier than getting mad over something small.