Have you ever worked in retail before? Are you going into retail? Is it something you're interested in or have ever been interested in or curious about?
Retail is a busy industry and can be the best thing you've ever done with yourself. It has days where you wanna quit and walk out. Don't we all have those days though? It happens in everything and in every industry.
After working in various places involved in retail over the course of 4 years, I'm able to come up with 4 of the biggest lessons that I've learned. These are things that will live in legend from my experiences.
They're not all good, but they're honest. Since honesty is the best policy, I found this appropriate to share.
1. Retail workers can't always win.
I can't tell you the number of times that I've wanted to scream in someone's face when they're wrong about something. It's an urge, but I keep my cool since it would put my job on the line.
What I'm saying is that a price or discount isn't always what the customer thinks it is. People tend to read tags and see this big discount sticker, but don't read the fine print underneath it explaining that more money must be spent first in order to receive the discounted deal. This is usually the case, and this makes customers angry when they try to make a big purchase and are disappointed to see that the sale isn't what they saw.
Even though it's not my fault, I still get blamed for it. Whether it's "your sign should say that more clearly," or "I'd like to speak to a manager," it escalates to levels that it doesn't need to get to, but does anyway because people just love to be right and to prove me wrong.
In the end, most of the companies that I've worked for and currently work for end up giving the customer a courtesy discount or the deal that they're arguing for. The thing that always gets me is that the more they complain, the more often they'll receive these courtesies because they know that can just argue for it. Then, they'll come back and do it every time and always get discounts against company policies.
What I've learned: this is how the retail world works. People will bother the hell out of companies just for discounts when they very clearly can go elsewhere for their business. The retail companies end up getting taken advantage of, and people are only happy when they're right.
2. Excuse yourself before it becomes an issue.
Most retail companies have strict policies about their prices and whether they'll change them for someone or not, and for very specific reasons. At least that's how it should be.
But here's the catch.
I've been in plenty of situations where the customer I'm dealing with gets very upset and wants to argue with me even after I've explained why I can't do something for them. Most of the time, I'll either get into trouble for it or it's against company policy and could involve my entire job.
What I've found useful is excusing myself from the situation before I start to argue back or get upset. I'm a person who gets upset when I'm being yelled at and immediately want to escape the situation or fight back.
Often, I'll call a manager up to speak to the upset customer and I'll go to the restroom and either cry or calm myself down. I notice I'll start to shake from anger and I'd rather not take it out on someone I don't even know and possibly lose my job.
Customers can be really mean and actually make me cry by making me feel bad about myself. It's happened before and I'm sure it'll happen again.
But it's life. I've learned to pick myself back up and move on. They're just people.
3. There are people who just don't care about you.
This is a tough pill to swallow, but it couldn't be truer.
Often, customers will come in and shop and only be there for what they need. They could care less about your day, how you're doing, how tough your life must be outside of work, how stressed you are, etc. It's obviously common courtesy to ask how someone is doing (even if you don't actually care), and sometimes get mumbling, one-way conversations, and no thank you's afterward.
It's kind of like if you've had a bad day. How do you channel your anger or stress? Do you take it out on others? Do you vent?
Unfortunately, some people are selfish and don't care where they channel their anger. If you're the unlucky victim, I wish you the best of luck. It goes back to retail employees not always being able to win. It's how it works. It's not an equation, it's an improper fraction.
Sometimes I feel like I'm just seen as a robot. Ask the same person the same questions when they come to the cash register and get the same answers. It gets old and boring, but it's routine and it's the easiest way to get the job done.
Because of this, I feel that customers often see me as someone who will do as they command, kiss their feet and worship them.
But oh well.
4. You've gotta have tough skin.
This one is simple.
People will curse you out, threaten to call corporate or say that they're going to tell all of their friends not to shop with you or give you poor online ratings.
It's important to understand how normal this is and that it can't be stopped. It happens to everyone and not all customers are going to be 100% happy all of the time. Plain and simple.
5. Remember to take nothing personally.
A problem I've always struggled with working retail is the fact that I take anger or impatience personally. I think it's all my fault that someone can't be satisfied and that there's nothing that I can do for them.
As difficult as it's been to learn to live with this, it's important to.
For anyone in retail or going into retail, it goes along with having tough skin. It's necessary. In other words, have a hard shell for those specific people who are trying to get into your face about something.
When I can't process a return because it's too old or I can't find the price of something and I need a price check, and God forbid the customer has to wait for that, there's tension. I hate having to be confrontational or having to turn people down or away, but when the deed is needed, I deliver it.
If you've worked in retail already, you know that there's a ton more I could have listed. These are important lessons that I've picked up in my time with retail, and they won't be the last.