This Country Sucks!

May 7, 2012

“I need help with jeans,” a woman comes up and tells me. More like commands, but that’s not the point, right? I follow her to our denim section, and she points to the pile in front of her. “I need a size 27 or 28, in the short size.” She starts rummaging through the pile, not looking at the stickers, but grabbing each one, looking at the size–which is the same as the sticker–then shoving it back in as a ball. I go to check, and quickly realize this is the style which is sold out everywhere. I quickly return and tell her this.

“Why don’t you have my size? This is Hawaii! Everyone is short, you should always have that size!” And I tell her how it seems to be sold out everywhere, not just our store, but around the country. “Well this company sucks! And this country sucks!” She gets up, with two pairs of denim in her fists and scowls at me. She walk away shaking her head, sighing loudly. As I am actually in the fitting room area, I have to go back and meet her there and offer her a room, with which she scowls at me again, and slams the door.

As with all knowledgeable customer service, at this point, I leave her alone and have someone else help her. Of course, I knew many coworkers who had military husbands or wives, friends and family, many who have had losses in their life, who would have been upset at the sheer casual-nature in which this customer states, “This country sucks!” To copy a catchphrase, her ‘first world problems’ are so bad, I wanted to find that one perfect coworker to help her. Sadly, no such person was available, so I had to substitute one of the complacent coworkers. The woman continues to stomp around the store, as coworkers tell me, “That woman is glaring at you!” I just shrug, what am I supposed to do? Of course, my coworker who does help her says she was so pleasant to help, she was nice and kind. I kind of expect that, because after a few minutes, I remember this woman from months ago.

Several months ago, she came in demanding to return an old item, which she said was worn out faster than it should have–so she wanted the full-price back for it, not the current selling price. The manager told her she was sorry, but that is not how the return policy works. The woman replies, “Well, I’ll just write a letter to the corporate level to complain about you, and they’ll give it to me. They always do!” And my manager, an older woman has a terse staring contest with the woman, and tells her, “Okay, we’ll give you the return, just this once.” Later, she says the corporate level would just do as the woman said, and given her whatever she wanted, and asked her why she didn’t just take the return of the woman was so mad.

So really, this is how retail works. You can get whatever you want if you yell, scream, and act like a baby. This is the culture, the social understanding we want to teach people and tell them, “This is how you should live. This is how you CAN live.” It is considered acceptable. It is like cultures with obviously backwards believes, like genital mutilation, throwing acid in someone’s face, and other things they say, “It is our cultural heritage.” And as a human race, we will never evolve, never move forward, and never grow as long as we accept such statements and such beliefs that ‘negatively situated’ habits and beliefs should be retained for the sake of some cultural solidarity. How many cultural practices are now called taboo or dirty? I remember when I was a kid it was open country to grab a stick and beat your child with it and for husbands to beat their wives. I even remember stories recently about people throwing puppies down the stairs because their child upset them, as a form of ‘punishment’. In all honesty, I am comparing people yelling and screaming like children to acts of abuse, because at the root they are all really just pointless excuses to be unevolved. And in the end, they will be uprooted and dissolved just as the worst of practices and crimes we once considered normal. Now, I’m not some ultra-conservative who believes in the constriction of the wind-pipes of life, but I do believe anything we accept, anything we say yes to, should be something that allows openness and the ability for society to grow and move forward at a far faster pace than, “One social movement at a time, baby steps.”

Customer Types: Big Baby, Capitalist

Navy Ts.

February 23, 2012

I’m in the process of putting away clothes, and a woman stops me. She’s dressed in a basic T-shirt–and by basic, I mean one of those free shirts you get from volunteering at activities, not one you’d pay for as athletic and comfort-wear. She is also wearing an aged, khaki short, and dirty tennis shoes. I am telling you this because as a salesperson, you can get an idea of what your customer might be looking for based on their ‘wardrobe’–because many people come to shop in what they feel comfortable in. Some people will dress beautifully to shop, because they feel ‘comfortable’ looking good when they go out; the same with people who wear Ts, old shorts, and dirty tennis shoes. With this information aside…

“Excuse me, do you have any navy blue T-shirts?”
I stand for a second thinking about her question, and observing what she’s wearing, as I look around me. I answer her, matter-of-factly, “No, I’m sorry. We mostly have these shades of light blue, and these other shades, but no navy blue.” I point out the styles of T-shirts nearby, and the color assortment we carry. I tell her how the season is currently vibrant colors–and for those who know Spring, this includes pastels, etc.
She just looks at me, and turns, maybe 45-degrees. She doesn’t even take a step away from me, and asks the nearest coworker, “Excuse me, do you have navy blue T-shirts?”
Seriously, what the hell? I’m standing right here, I can still hear you. So my coworker takes her on a ‘journey’ around the store to show her all the shirts she ‘won’t’ want. By ‘won’t want’, I mean literally, I just explained her outfit, and my coworker is showing this woman all these frilly navy blue tops, and other tops which don’t match this woman and she wouldn’t even appreciate. Even worse, my coworker turns and asks, “Hey, this is navy blue, right?” Because the woman is arguing that it’s not navy blue. Seriously, if she doesn’t even know what color ‘navy blue’ is, why is she looking for it?
I answer distantly, “Sure, if you think so. Yeah.” I just walk away.

You see, as a customer, when I’m looking for something specific, I hate when salespeople give me the run-around and ‘try’ to push a sale on me showing me ‘other options’. If I ask for a silver cardigan, I don’t want to be shown red, white, or blue cardigans. I don’t want to be shown a mock-turtle neck. I don’t want to see polos, nor do I care about your specials or sales. I’m looking for a silver cardigan, if you don’t have one–say you don’t have one. Don’t waste my time. Let me look for what I need, and if anything, tell me where I can find my cardigan. Thus, I tell people if we have or do not have what they are looking for, and I give them advice where to look–if I know anyplace. I would not be like a coworker trying to show ‘other options’ which aren’t even what I asked for.

Customer Types: The Dumb

That Makes Scents.

February 23, 2012

I answer the phone, and a male voice asks about our fragrances we have available.
“Yes, we do have that scent in stock,” I tell the customer.
“Well, how much do you have?” Their tone is already coming our rude and unkind.
“We currently have a lot in…” I’m cut off.
The customer yells at  me, with a cocky tone, “No. I want to know exactly how many you have!”
“Okay, hold on, I’ll go count.”
“Yes, you do that.”
I wonder why people feel the need to be so rude. I understand the status of anonymity, and the whole trolling around the internet and being jerks thing, but it seems logical that people should learn manners sometimes in their life, right? Anyway, I go and count the mini-size and the full-size bottles we carry, writing everything down just in case I get questioned about fluid ounces, and packaging. As I’m about the lift the phone, the line dies. I know from the tone of the customer, I’m already going to have a call-back.
So I wait patiently by the phone.
No need to be patient. The phone rings within ten seconds.
I answer, and the same rude voice starts to say, “Excuse me, I was cut off!”
I cut the person off, yet again, “We have exactly six of the mini, and twenty-two of the full-sized scent.”
“Good! I’m going to clean you out!” And he hangs up on me. I’m not even slightly bemused by this, as I recite the story, guessing the person will be about 5’7″ and weigh about 180 to 220 pounds from the sound of his voice and the way he talked. We all wait, holding our breath, “Did the scent customer come yet?”

So we wait. We wait for a long time, and I end up at the register and see someone packing the scents on top of the display. I’m in disbelief, it’s an older woman, but otherwise my calculations were correct. Roughly 5’8″ and over 200 pounds. She speaks, and she sounds like a man. “I spoke to you on the phone.” Her tone is no less rude and insulting in person. She asks if the scents are on sale.
My manager is nearby and says, “No, they don’t ever go on sale.”
“Oh, don’t give me that bullshit! I know they go on sale, with that bogo (buy-one-get-one). I’ve bought them for ten years from you guys! Don’t you lie to me, and tell me they don’t go on sale!” She goes on to recite how the other store would always call her and tell her when they were on sale and she’d buy all of their scents.

Later, the manager comes and tells me, “That’s promotion, that’s not sale, they don’t go on sale,” to justify herself.

Customer Types: The Capitalist, Micromanagement

Its in the Crotch.

December 30, 2011

I was walking around greeting and helping customers, when a woman comes up to me with a tone of anger.

“Excuse me, do you work here?”
“Yes, I do, did you need help?”
“These pants over here, I can’t find the sizes. There are no labels.”
I look at the wall of pants, and their hung to hide the labels, which merchandising thinks is ugly. So the sizes are on the back of each pant on the waistband. This is what I show her.
“Why did you do that?” Yes, I did it. I also created economic slow down on my vacation. “How are we supposed to find the size? Where is it again?”
Um, I just showed you, it’s in the back of the pants, I think to myself.
“I still can’t find the size.” She lifts up the leg and looks into the crotch of the pant.
“I”m sorry, the size isn’t on the crotch. I just showed you it’s on the back of the pant, here.”
“Oh. Well I want that blue one in a size zero! Fine me one!”
Lo-and-behold, on the very top of the pile is a zero. Not only this, but it was turned around backwards by another customer with the zero blazing like a rising sun. “It’s here, on the top,” I point at the size, “It says size zero.”
“Oh. Okay.” Then she walks away.

I’m so thankful I have to deal with people whose only purpose in interacting with me is to complain about something they don’t even want and aren’t even interested in trying on or buying. Thank you so much. Really, is this why you exist as a customer? Because if this is the reason, and she wasn’t a young woman who hasn’t learned manners and grace, she was an older woman with some sort of wisdom built into her bones. Why do you not learn as human beings to treat other people with some level of respect? This isn’t something you can blame on anyone else, not society, not your parents, but only on yourself–to take responsibility for who you are, and how you act.

Customer Type: Micromanagement, The Riddler

Smacked by a Customer

December 29, 2011

This isn’t a story of abuse, but one of indecency and a lack of social etiquette. Mind you, I have been clapped at like a dog, and waves to come like a dog; I have had someone pound their knuckles on the register demanding me to apologize for something I didn’t do; been mistaken for a skinny Chinese boy by an old woman who was obviously racist; been told the fact I have a penis means I can’t help them find clothing, I can go on about two-hundred times more. Either way, this is the first time I’ve actually been physically touched my a customer, which basically ruined the rest of my day.

I was calmly going through the crowd putting away clothes, greeting people and helping them. I wasn’t hiding, nor was I trying to be invisible. Out of nowhere, someone smacks my arm, and I’m thinking it’s some old friend. Instead, it’s a customer I don’t think I’ve seen before, but I’m sure isn’t a regular, yet also looked vaguely like ‘they all look the same to me’.

After she smacks me, I look at her, and she say, “I need the sweater in the window, there!” She points. I just stand there, speechless, as she walks to the front of the store. She looks back at me and waves me to follow. I had half-a-mind not to, but human decency and manners is something I’ve learned human beings don’t really learn, and when they do, they consider it something they can turn off and on when the situation befits them. She shows me a sweater, I don’t even look at. I tell her someone will get it, because I’m definitely not going to strain myself in the least to help someone who speaks English, and couldn’t just say, “Excuse me, I need help,” or the usual, “Do you work here?” Someone who can communicate in my own language, but their best form of transmission is by hitting you–this says a lot about her home situation and childhood, all wrapped up like a present to the world.

I get someone else to help her, so she can annoy and irritate them instead–which she does, because you can always tell when ‘they’ll be one of those people’.

As an added story, this automatically brings to mind a situation where a customer demanded to return an item which was old, with no tags, used, and no receipt. The cashier refused, saying it can’t be done. So the customer reached over and shoved the cashier. This was one of those 0.01% chance moments when a District Manager was standing nearby with the Store Manager. The DM rushed forward and said, “Excuse me! You are never allowed to touch my employees like that, ever! Who do you think you are? You are also no longer allowed in any of our stores. You are permanently banned and if I see you in a store, I will have you escorted out. Take your items and leave.” Or something to that point. If only, right?

Customer Types: Modern Slave Owner

Divide and Conquer!

November 18, 2011

Two interesting customers enter the store. I hear someone say, “They were here for three days already!” Well, we’ve also had a sale going on. Basically, the sale is everything is on sale, 25% off the entire store. Hopefully, you understand how this works, you get 25% off everything. This discount is advertised throughout the store, in the windows, and of course, for the last three days.

So one of the two women comes up to me and asks, “Excuse me, how does the sale work? Do I get 25% off one item, or do I split it between everything I buy?”
I stare at her blankly for a moment. This must be a stare I give several times a week, to a variety of different customers, with an array of bewildering questions thrown randomly at my head. “You get 25% off everything you buy.”
“Oh, okay.” She turns and walks away.

Okay, pause, what just happened? It took me several minutes to even deduce what she asked me and what her brain was thinking. In the end, I convinced myself, for whatever reason, she believed the discount would be split between all the items she buys. Thus, I would give her 10% off one item, 5% off another, and we’ll say 10% off another, reaching a grand total of–wait for it–yes, 25% off! Okay, sure. Wow, that’s just borderline not-intelligent-at-all.

Customer Types: The Dumb, Lowered Expectations,  The Riddler

I Pick APEC of Zippers

November 14, 2011

My coworkers and I are helping an interesting couple, they’re European, at least by accent and attire. At one point, the husband comes up to me asking for help. He needs some sweaters, so I am glad to oblige. I search the floor where I’ve seen extra pairs–as sometimes they end up where they aren’t supposed to be. Seeing none, I ask for someone to check the back, as I double-check our inventory at our register.

The man comes up to me, “Well?”
“They’re checking in the back.” I search the computer, and I see him come behind the register to stand behind me looking over my shoulder. “Oh,I’m sorry, I need some space, sir.” I take a few steps away from him walking through the register area to get away. Finally, they find the sweater, well I actually go into the back to get farther away.

Later, he’s in the fitting room trying on the zip jacket, and unzips it, walking to me. I wonder if he’s going to ask for another size.
“You know, where I come from, the zipper is on this side,” he points to the right, while shaking the hanging end, “for men. For women, it is on this side.” He shakes the end of the zipper, where our zipper also ends. I stare at him blankly. “It’s backwards. Your zipper is backwards. The females have it on one side, the men have it on the other.” I stare at him blankly, because I suddenly think he’s crazy. “It’s okay, it fits good. I am just letting you know, it’s backwards.” He walks away, seeming almost proud to have informed me of this great wealth of knowledge.” I leave the fitting room behind, and leave him in the hands of other people.

I examine every single zipper in the entire store. Every single one connects on the left side. There is no ‘male-side’ or ‘female-side’ for these zippers. Sure, I know buttons are on the left for men, right for women. I tell one of my coworkers this ‘revelation’, noting, perhaps, in his country men’s pants and women’s pants must button on different sides. (Go ahead and look, your button should be on the left side.) So I begin to wonder what kind of country he’s from.

I see the couple approach the register as I go back to the fitting room, free of their backward zippers. Then I hear the cashier ask, “How do I do a Tax Exemption? These people are from APEC.” (APEC stands for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, they have conventions–The Greatest Convention in the Pacific; people from around the world take part in it, hammering out trade-agreements and forward visions of future financial status.)

Either way, I am suddenly stunned that my financial future is in the hands of guys like this. (Even though a coworker has pointed out, some people are very knowledgeable about one thing, and absolutely clueless about every thing else.) I don’t know how far they had to travel from Kazakhstan, but I can tell they sent their best delegates from the Kazakh Ministry of Finance this time around.

Customer Types: The Dumb, Lowered Expectations

Extra-small! We Don’t Have Any!

November 5, 2011

This is definitely a short, yet telling-tale about day-to-day life in retail. I’m rushing back to the fitting-room with clothes a customer wanted, when a Korean couple stops me. They point at a tank top, telling me they want an extra-small. I point at the pile, all that we have left.
They look at me, and not in unison, say again, “Extra-small.”
“That’s all I have left.”
Again, not in unison, this time, yelling, “Extra-small!”
“We don’t have anymore,” I raise my voice a little, as I’ve learned it’s only fair and some people actually appreciate being talked to in the same tone they talk to you. Either that, or they give you some respect for keeping your dignity intact, I can’t tell.
“Extra-small!” They yell louder.
“There is no more!” I reply, but this time, I’ve learned to give that look, the one that crosses languages, the one that makes me a master of non-verbal communication, the one that says stop asking a stupid question, and stop demanding like you’re a child.
They reply more softly, “Okay,” letting me continue my journey back to the safety of the fitting room. Sometimes I feel like a fish trying to breathe outside of water, rushing to get back in.

Customer Types: Learn the Language

What Are You Going To Do About It?

October 31, 2011

There is a mother-son duo who often come in to shop. The son never wants help, and acts as brusquely as possible. Read this as destroying piles of clothes, ignoring any greetings, and leaving piles of clothes when he’s done trying on. Oh, and he also speaks to you like you’re worth about as much as dog feces. Yes, one of those people. His mother is some shy, quiet, awkward thing which sort of shadows him as he walks around being some dominant male. Oddly enough, from his stature and his face, you can tell he really isn’t dominant anything. If he weren’t so rude, I might actually feel pity for him because of short comings, yet the fact he comes into my workplace and acts like a beast is sad and irritating.

Either way, I’m in the fitting room helping customers, and he comes out of no where, demanding, “I need you to get something for me.” No, not, “Are you busy,” or “Can you help me, please?” He just glares at me, demanding help, because everyone else is cashiering. I decide to humor him, and ask what he needs. “I put clothes on hold, I want you to get them.” Alright, so he tells me his name, and I look in the holding area. There is nothing. I look twice, but there is definitely nothing. He’s standing nearby with his arms crossed, watching my every move, nearly glaring at me. I tell him I can’t find the clothes, it’s not there.

“What are you going to do about it?” He yells at me, and purses his lips, as if I’m supposed to suddenly grovel at his feet, beg for his forgiveness for my mistake–or my coworkers, or his mistake, and do what? Magically wave my hands in the air and make the clothes appear? I was tempted to do just that, and say, “Poof! Darn, it usually works, too! Sorry.”

Since I’ve worked out how to streamline my thoughts, we glare at each other for a few seconds. While my mind races, “Who do you think you are? I’m going to laugh, because they probably knew how much of a jerk you were when you called and decided not to even put your clothes on hold. Maybe they lost it on purpose, too. Or maybe you called several days ago and the clothes was duly put out as we are supposed to do. Of course, if someone puts it on hold here, most coworkers never put it out, so it must have been put on hold a long, long time ago.”

“Nothing,” I finally reply, and give him a blank, emotionless gaze, waiting for his reply. Instead, he acts like a little girl and gives some sort of deep sigh, moan, and groan, and throws his fists down, stomping out of the store as his mother follows closely behind. Oh that poor old lady, I’m quite sure he’s going to take it out on her after they leave, and she’ll probably have to buy him some ice cream, with a cherry on top. You know, sometimes, manners actually get you somewhere. There is actual truth in “The Right to Refuse Service”, but there are a lot of coworkers who would gladly slave and be treated like dirt, but in this case, I didn’t want to put anyone in such a position.

Customer Types: Big Baby, Micromanagement

The Budget Friendly Customer

October 11, 2011

Although there are jobs with commission–with customers who have admittedly deep-pockets–and other jobs which congratulate or reward employees with huge sales, there is an underlying truth which isn’t always discussed. You see, greeting customers is a random process, not as hard as winning the lottery, but roughly the same idea. You don’t know, when you walk up to a customer if they’re going to be rude, crude, and brusque–well sometimes you actually do. In any case, you also don’t know when you walk up to a customer if they’ll be money-bags or moth-balls–well sometimes you actually do.

So what’s the point? Even if you are a great salesperson, and you get a customer to spend their entire budget–let’s use percentiles–so 100% of their available budget. If the customer has $1000 to spend, than you’ve made some good money.  (Of course, if you make 3% commission on a $1000 sale, that’ s just $30, so you better get on with the selling!) Yet, if a customer only has a budget of $200, then you may or may not consider them cheap compared to the $1000 customer. If their budget is less than $100, then surely you’d be silently spitting upon them, right? This is the point, you can’t gauge the budget of a customer, you don’t know how much money they actually have to spend. So when you pat yourself on the back because you were able to make the customer spend $500, is that because of your skill or because it’s well within their budget?

I think it would make more sense if you consider a customer’s total budget, and how far into that budget you’re able to hit. because you can’t get a customer to spend $500 if they only have $200. If you get a customer with a budget of $1000 to spend $500, and you get a customer with $200 to spend the entire $200–which customer have you truly capitalized upon? Although I believe acknowledging sellers who hit high numbers, I also think we need to take into consideration if they just randomly hit the jackpot, or just ran into a customer who had a lot of money, and they just barely skimmed the edge of that budget.

I bring this up because of the power of money in retail. It makes the customers look at salespeople like they’re only worth as much as money is spent, but the same can be said about salespeople towards customers. In all reality, there is some respect to be found. There are some salespeople who find out how much their customers are able to spend, and help them work through that amount. This definitely takes a great deal of skill, because can you really help a customer find an outfit for less than $100? It’s ridiculously easy if they’re willing to spend $500. So just where does your skill really lay? Does it matter you can make huge sales? Or are you just ‘lucky’?


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