After graduating from a university, I decided to work in retail as a simple retail sales associate. I was curious about what it was like to work in retail because of everything I've previously been told. Are the rumors of retail being awful completely true? What are the benefits and detriments to working in retail? Here is the truth about working in retail:
1. People who work in retail are not considered to be intelligent
I overheard one of my other co-workers tell me of how a customer tried to instruct her on how to count change. My co-worker happens to be a pre-med student at the University of Oklahoma and has aced a course in calculus. Needless to say, simple addition and subtraction are not difficult for her. However, the customer mistreated my co-worker because my co-worker was judged either based on her physical appearance or her position as a sales associate in retail. The beauty about working in retail is that almost anyone from any class or education can become a sales associate and get the experience of being one.
2. Customers think they deserve to be "served" like a king or queen
Although "customer service" does imply a service being done for the customer, that service is not synonymous with the customer being treated like a sovereign entity. As a sales associate, I am not suddenly an indentured servant that is inferior to the customer. Just like the customer, a retail sales associate deserves dignified humanity that should not be ignored just because they are paid to do a "service" for the customer. That service is to help customers purchase items by choosing them and filling out the Point-Of-Sale technology for the transaction. No retail sales associate is obligated to do any more than that. There is an exchange between money of the customer and the item being purchased. This is an equal exchange, implying that no retail sales associate is "serving" the customer like a king or queen. Sales associates help customers make knowledgeable purchases if the customers desire their help.
3. Assisting customers is not synonymous with trying to make them spend the most money
Some sales associates are paid by commission, and some are not. Some sales associates have their abilities as sales associated measured by how much the customer spends when the sales associates. However, sometimes sales associates are paid regardless of either of these measurements. For most sales associates, the most benefits that they can gain are being liked and respected by the customer. Customers buy items from people, and the more they like those specific people, the more likely they will continue spending money at the establishment where those people work. Enticing a customer into spending too much money on items they don't need results in the increased likelihood that the customer will resent that sales associate and refuse to return.
4. Being successful in retail is being well-liked
The ability to relate to customers will ultimately prove whether or not someone will be successful in retail. Working in retail is basically a popularity contest for each sales associate: how many customers will end up liking them that day enough to return or not complain about them. Although a sales associate may go weeks without a complaint, one customer could make the difference in tarnishing that sales associates' reputation or putting it into question.
5. Customers may try to steal regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or social economic status.
The company that I personally work for has a "wall of shame" with the pictures of people who have stolen from the mall. The pictures identify people from almost every religion, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, and social economic status. Any person could possibly hold a secret desire to steal from an establishment. Thus, there always has to be security measures to ensure that no one tries to steal. There are sensors on clothes because people do try to steal those clothes. Stealing is not only an unethical thing to do, it is also illegal. Anyone can get a criminal record for stealing from an establishment. No one should be exempt from the security measures.
6. It produces a good work ethic and stamina
Most people avoid working in retail because it includes physical labor. However, working with our hands, communicating with other people, and standing up can add to our own exercise, work ethic, and ability to better communicate and relate to others. My co-workers and I have had to use teamwork to make the store better. When one customer mistreats one of us or acts dramatic, we can empathize with each other or act as witnesses. Any frustration from customer mistreatment is alleviated because we have a support network of people that know exactly what it feels like and how to handle it.
7. If a sign says it, then the customer can claim it
Although I did not know this before working in retail, I learned that a customer can get a better discount if a sign says so. For example, one of my co-workers forgot to take a 50% discount for sweaters sign from out the front window display. When a customer came in and said the only reason that she came in was because of that sign, she got all her sweaters on a 50% discount, while other customers did not get the same discount because they did not mention the sign.
8. Customers have tried to "hit" on me, and it can be considered as sexual harassment
Multiple men have tried to lift up their shirts to show me their stomachs while I would be positioned behind the cash register. I would be the only one behind the cash register while this occurred. I have also had to handle a customer asking where he could find a woman, and I had to explain to him that the only available women in the store were on the boxes of our products, so he could buy the boxes with the pictures of the women on them. He made it clear that he wanted to find a woman because he had been single for over eight years. This is not my problem, and no retail sales associate should be expected to help a customer find a date unless that is a part of the business. It was never a part of mine. He basically asked to marry me after first meeting me, and I had to decline politely. This is the evil of retail: we have to be nice to the customer even when the customer may purposefully exhibit an action to make us uncomfortable or try to mess with us. Being successful in retail is learning self-control and keeping a cool head the entire time while being clocked in.