Having worked in retail since the tender age of 16, and this having been the first New Year where I haven’t, it seems only right to see off my past career with this post. So here it goes – a small selection of realisations, types of customers, redundant questions and general horrors that I am sure every retail worker will have encountered, whatever it is you sell.
- The realisation that the customer is NOT always right.
In fact, they rarely are. If ever.
You can argue with me all you want. You still won’t be right, and the more you argue with me, the less inclined I will be to fix your problem.
- The ‘’If I am rude and cause a scene I will get served faster’’ type of customer
‘’Oh you’re never coming back because of me? You can get this cheaper next door? EXCELLENT, PLEASE GO AND DON’T COME BACK.
- The ‘I’m going to try and be funny’ customer
‘’Oh it won’t scan? It must be free then!’’
Please. Just stop. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it and it won’t be the first time you’ve said it either. And no. It is still not free.
- The customer that insists on continuing their phone chat when they reach the counter
Not only is this just plain rude – the infuriation comes when they ask if you’d mind repeating what you said because they weren’t listening. So much pent up rage.
- The ‘Oh you’re about to close’ customer?
‘’ You don’t mind if I just pop in do you?’’ no that’s fine, but we do close in 5 minutes, you say innocently. Yet all you want to do is scream ‘’YOU’VE HAD ALL DAY’’. Do these people not realise we can’t shut till they do?!
Almost as bad as the dreaded late comer is…
- The ‘’Early bird’’
They arrive at 8:50, frantically banging on the door, screaming hello louder than Adele and insist on watching you as you go about your pre morning opening routine. GO HOME.
- The worst person in the history of the world: The ”mystery shopper’’
We’ve all experienced it – the anticipation when you know this rare species is expected, followed by the irrational amount of fear that fills you when someone perhaps is taking too long to peruse, or is asking too many questions. Are you undercover?! Are you trying to catch me out? Having been caught out by a mystery shopper, I will forever be suspicious of anyone and everyone. This is the worst kind of customer, where their one task is to expose all your inadequacies.
- The dreaded feeling of having to promote the ‘’self-service machine’’
The one machine invented to make the life’s of all retail workers easier. Yet in some sick twist of fate, has ended up being one of the most hated machines in the whole store.
Obviously, they often don’t work properly, meaning you then have to get up and try in some vain attempt to ‘’remove the unexpected item in the bagging area’’ or to pull out the lodged and now half ripped bank note stuck inside. But the worst thing is that people will refuse to use them, often completely innocently thinking that if they do, they will put you out a job. DON’T YOU SEE?! MY JOB IS TO MAKE YOU USE THEM! Suddenly, they don’t seem like a good idea at all!
- Do you work here?
No. I just like walking aimlessly up and down aisles in this uniform for fun.
- Can I pay for this in change?
Then realising they don’t have enough to make it and pulling out a freshly printed £10 note. No, no worries at all, you’ve only wasted ten minutes of my life counting it all.
That’s swiftly followed by the…
- ‘’if I give you this, will it make it any easier change wise?’’
You slowly start to say, no please don’t worry. But it’s too late. Bag goes on the counter, frantic rummaging through various pockets for that vital 10p. The queue is extending throughout the shop, but then it gets worse. They pass it over and actually, you have no clue what the new change should be or how it made it any easier because the till has already told you what change to give.
But even worse than those customers who try and be helpful are the ones who are just intent on making you hate the whole human race…
- The customer who gives you crumpled money, or worse plops all the change on to the counter as opposed to your outstretched hand.
No worries. I don’t mind having to pick up change PIECE BY PIECE, or having to unroll your crumpled £10 note. No worries at all.
- Having to say ‘’I’m sorry – Your card seems to have been declined’’
Depending on what sort of customer this happens too, it can be a moment of sheer dread, as you have to point it out – or sheer joy, as you gleefully tell them.
They then, (especially if British) frantically make excuses. ‘’Oh god. I swear there’s money in there – here let me blow on the chip’’.
- Customers not believing you when say something is not in stock – are you sure? Could you check again? Can you check ‘’the back’’?
The back doesn’t exist. In fact it is often as small as the shop floor. I can assure you. We do not have it. But never fear, I will nonetheless offer to check, hide around the corner and use my phone. Thanks!
- Children – or worse – adult customers that make a mess
Of course you want the item at the bottom of the pile that I just cleaned ten minutes ago. And of course you will attempt to get it yourself instead of just asking me.
- Being expected to take on a fleeing and extremely stealthy thief
No that’s fine – of course I can keep the customers happy, and serve them, and keep the shop tidy and run 5 miles down the street after someone who has taken £10 worth of stock and tackle them to the ground. But when you did catch the elusive thief, you made sure no one ever forgot your feat.
But despite, all of the above, some of my happiest memories come from working in retail – you can make some of the best friends in the world, bonded by your horrific experiences of stock rooms, customers and general despair. While a lot of customers are…well arseholes, there are the occasional ones that make it worth going in to work for.
But let’s be honest…absolutely nothing beats that feeling when you’ve finally finished that 8 hour shift. Thank god! WE DID IT!