Posts Tagged ‘language’

Can You Speak Slower?

July 12, 2011

A customer approaches the cash register. He’s holding a large pile of clothes, and I ask, simply, “Ready?” Sometimes I can’t tell if people speak English, and he looked quite iffy. He didn’t look at me and walked by my register, then stopped and turned back to face me. “Are you ready?” What comes from his mouth in the next few seconds bewilders me.

He replies, slightly confused and slightly irritated, “Can you speak slower?”
Okay, so I tell myself, he’s just visiting and doesn’t speak English–although normally, people who don’t speak English can’t say, “Can you speak slower,” usually they say, “I don’t understand,” or “No English.”
So I repeat myself, this time, much, much slower, “You ready?”
He casually places his pile down, and replies, “Yes, my wife is still shopping. I’m going to pay now, and wait for her outside.”

Wait, what? Yes, what just happened? So he doesn’t understand, “Are you ready?”, but can spit out an entire on-going sentence about himself and his wife? Yes. So where did he need me to slow down? Was it the are, the you, or the ready?

Some people make no sense at all.

Customer Types: The Deaf, The Dumb, Learn the Language

No Medium Anywhere

December 27, 2010

Well, today my friend was called a racist, and the customer went to complain to the manager–only because they expect him to deal with every single Japanese customer and my coworkers have stopped trying to put effort and use their brains. I don’t even speak real Japanese, but I can communicate with all but the most confusing, detailed customers. Actually, I’ve been called a f-ing bitch, I’ve had my intelligence insulted, had my folding mocked, been personally degraded, and even once been told, “You should get off the island more often.” I have yet to be called a racist–yet, I can tell you, I judge every customer by race, gender, and actions. So I’m basically a humanist, right?

Either way, my story was a bit simpler. It’s busy, I’m trying to help a lot of customers, because either everyone is at the cash register, their face is buried in a pile of clothes they’re folding (because they don’t realize it will get looked at a minute later and they end up refolding the same pile ten times, without even acknowledging a single customer, thanks a lot coworkers!), or they are otherwise preoccupied in casual conversations with each other. So basically, less than 10% of my coworkers directly contribute to the paychecks of the entire store, and the rest just mooch off of us like fat leeches.

So a customer comes to me, angry, disgruntled and gay. I saw him a few minutes ago, sprawled on our pile of clothes, leaning on it with his full body weight, probably spreading his sweat all over it. He tells me, “We want that dark gray shirt! We looked everywhere!” Sure, from the spot you were standing for several minutes? “There’s no medium anywhere! Except, there is one up there! Can you bring it down for us?” He points to a shelf out of reach–a visual display. And I start looking at the table where he was standing, and he says, “No, we looked everywhere! It isn’t here! We need the size that’s up there–.”

At the same time, I point to a pile of this ‘hard-to-find, gray top’, it’s been sitting there right under him the entire time he was standing around like a pile of blank. I just ask, “Do you still need me?” And then I walk away. Seriously, from lazy coworkers who can’t even try to deal with Japanese customers to customers who can’t even move their fat asses, what is this world we live in?

Customer Type: Big Baby, The Blind, The Complainer

Bad English, You Heard What?

July 3, 2010

A customer comes to the cash-register. I start to scan the items, and she stops me.
“The whole store not on sale?” She speaks some English, but it’s not precise; she has a strong Chinese accent.
I look at her, blankly, “No, only sale-items have an additional discount.”
“No, the whole store is on sale.”
I just stare blankly, saying nothing.
“He said everything on sale.”
I wait for the inevitable, holding my breath. The only ‘he’ workers are standing next to me at the cash-register. So I roll my eyes in my mind, and I ask, “Who?” I actually expected her to point at me, but she trails her hand and points at the manager standing several feet away helping some one.
I chuckle a little, telling her, “It can’t be him, he just reminded us that sales items have additional discount, not regular priced items. It’s not him.”
“No, he said. He said.”
“I’m sorry, sale items have additional discount. Full-priced items are full-priced.”
There is some banter between herself and I, with her husband standing back–even though he’s about a foot-taller and several tens of pounds heavier, he’s obviously not in charge. The hard part is that I’m supposed to believe she ‘heard correctly’ that everything is on sale, while she’s speaking in broken English. I can more easily believe she translated what was said incorrectly.

Later, I tell the manager about the woman, and how she pointed right at him. And as expected, he said he never said such a thing, and she probably heard him wrong. He asked why I didn’t call him, and I told him I’m not one of our whiny co-workers who have to call a manager for everything, “Oh, I need back-up, help me!” I can handle myself, unless I don’t feel like it, then I’ll call a manager, and then slip away into the night.

Customer Types: Learn the Language

Cultures Clash

June 16, 2010

I am standing near a Japanese duo who are lost. They decide to ask the most local woman (and I mean local, plus she doesn’t even work at our store) for help. This is the kind of local customer who would consider the mall high-paced, and would rather be on a lonely street, or a beach up north where it’s just everyone who looks and acts like you. I’m not saying she’s a bad person, I’m just saying, she definitely won’t be very helpful. As a statement of this fact, they aren’t getting anywhere, because the woman doesn’t even speak good English, nor do the Japanese men. What happens when two groups try to speak a language neither of them are good at? Exactly. Utter chaos.

To my amusement, her high-school aged son starts to ask loudly, “Is there anyone that speaks Chinese here?” This definitely made me laugh. I almost wanted to find a Chinese coworker who’d arrive saying the Chinese greeting, “Ni hao!” Followed by the Japanese, “Ohayo?” And the English, “What?”

Customer Types: Learn the Language

Shoplifter Exam: What Doesn’t Belong?

June 5, 2010

Here is an exam to test your ability to spot shoplifters, by naming the multiple things these people did wrong:

I am standing at the front door greeting. I am very loud, and I also throw my voice–which is useful when I target ears. Haha. So I greet a couple that walks in, and I get no response–not even the look-away, where I’m purposely ignored (A). They stop and look at each other, speaking with eyes (B). The man and woman are very clean-looking, dressed slightly stylish (C). The man is wearing dark shades, and he lifts his hand to give her the bag he’s holding. She’s initially hesitant, but takes it (D). The bag is a large, huge, titanic surf-store bag which is very much empty; at best, it holds a few shirts (E). They continue to ignore me as I approach them and greet them again (F).

As the woman walks away, she passes someone who grazes the large surf-bag; she turns with a face full of anger, glaring at the other person (G). They go to the women’s department, and immediately find the first corner they can, between a table and a wall–there is little visibility here (H). I greet another customer, and continue to talk to this person as I pass from behind the couple to in front of them–they have already grabbed denim shorts and are holding it (I). I continue to speak, but there is actually no one else there–I’m talking to myself (J). My fake conversation takes me right next to the couple, as I point out clothes they are looking at; they have yet to acknowledge my presence (K). I also help a woman in that area, keeping myself there longer.

By this time, I have a coworker who can see them, but they cannot see her. I move with my back turned obviously, so they have time to look at me, and try to steal something while my coworker is watching (L). Then I turn around and continue helping people who aren’t there. The couple is intent on examining the denim shorts inside and out, down to the minutest details–literally–then they put it down and both leave (M). Nothing is stolen.

So, what were their mistakes?
A) Being ignored attracts attention, but it does not mean suspicion.
B) If you do ignore me when I speak English, yet you do not speak a foreign language to each other while trying to communicate–you do begin to arouse suspicion.
C) Nothing wrong here.
D) The awkward exchange with no speaking does arouse suspicion, but only slightly begging, “Why don’t you just say, ‘Take the bag’?”
E) The huge bag was the first, dead giveaway. The fact this bag is not even filled with enough clothes to merit a bag that size is also a giveaway.
F) The second time I am ignored is important, as they have aroused suspicion, even foreign language speakers cannot pretend to ignore me when I get this close and loud. Thus, they are trying to avoid detection acting invisible, yet making themselves glaringly obvious.
G) Her surprise, showed a highly defensive nature toward a bag which was not even filled with anything. Using the sunlight outside, I could only see a few shirts in there. Her surprise was a second huge giveaway. Plus, this isn’t a high-end shopping bag.

H) The important part here is they go to the women’s side, but in (D) he gave his bag away–generally, the woman gives her bag to the man when she shops in the women’s department. When couples shop together in the women’s department, men also carry the bag, because women to the shopping. Secondly, yes, the tight corner with little visibility is another giveaway as it is the best spot to steal.
I) In itself, no suspicion here.
J) They are trying very hard to be invisible, which means they will only look at me when they are prepared to steal.
K) By this time, even the most hard-headed of customers make eye-contact with me. So yes, it is suspicious.
L) My coworker wasn’t trained in the Art of War in Retail, so she didn’t get my hint I gave her, because I gave them 180-degrees of freedom behind my back. As they could not see her, but she could see them, it was a good opportunity to catch them stealing–but they didn’t know when I’d turn around, so that is also a deterrent.
M) Their examination of the shorts is excruciating. They spent too much time looking at it, and also examining the lining on the inside, which was actually where we place hard sensors. Their remarkable interest in the seam was lame and boring and far too long, they were obviously waiting for me to leave so they could steal. When I did not leave, they left instead.

I had wanted a better challenge than this, within the first five seconds they already gave themselves away as shoplifters and dug themselves deeper and deeper. You need to do a balance of normal customer and rude customer in order to steal properly–if you offend a salesperson, you have a better chance of making them go away. Think about it. Ignoring someone is not nearly as effective. Trust me.

The Art of War in Retail: Flags and Signals

May 26, 2010

Chapter 3
Walkie-talkies- The best weapon of any General in battle. Walkie-talkies with headsets instantly send messages to others on the battlefield. Headsets help to keep communication private, and allows you to speak more clearly. Without a headset, you must develop more complex Codes in case the Opposition is listening. You can easily and quickly get others in motion to deal with situations and problems on the sales floor and registers by use of walkie-talkies.

Looks and Gestures- When engaged in battle, a General may need to rely on other ways of communication when speaking openly is not reasonable–most often when faced with the Opposition. Making eye-contact with another General on the field can help bring more reinforcements or supplies to ensure success. These looks must be understood beforehand, or a General may be left stranded and helpless, drowned by the Opposition. A strong, wide-eyed glare can often alert other Generals to the status of their colleague. Even using your eyes to point out something is useful. Gestures can also be used instead of Looks, although they are oftentimes more revealing in your intent; especially if you point, which is not often a good tactic to use. Many gestures can mean, “Save me! Bad customer!  or to say, ‘We don’t have any!’.” This includes a beckoning wave, a glare with a point, and shaking your hands in exasperation. Although this needs more training then walkie-talkie exercises, oftentimes this method is needed when engaging the Opposition.

Code-words- Many armies are prepared before battles with Code-words to mean anything from sales and discounts, to pointing out troublesome situations, such as shoplifters and unreasonable customers. Code-words are essential to verbal communication, as they only reveal a certain amount of information to the Opposition; yet they still provide more detailed information than gestures and looks. “The Benefit of the Doubt” can be one such code-word. “Can I get a manager to the cash register” is always a danger-sign, challenging the strongest Generals to come to battle. “Our friends are back,” can alert people to shoplifters. “These people need help,” when stressed differently can just mean they need help or mean they’re going to be a handful of trouble, so watch out!

Often, using a mixture of all of these techniques can create a streamlined cooperative system to deal with all situations like a well-trained army, which you are. You don’t ever want to end up in a situation, where you’re giving a Look, using a Code-word, and the other person is looking at you, asking, “What’s wrong with you?”

Canned Discount in Japanese.

September 12, 2009

There are times we do things for charity, like working with a local food-bank accepting cans in exchange for a discount. There was an older man who spoke no English, who came to the register. I note, I have a simple rule–never visit a country if you can’t speak any of the language. If you do, bring someone that can speak for you. You surely don’t want to embarrass yourself and end up in some story that’s retold later.

So he comes up and hands me a pile of clothes, then he puts the flier on top–which announces the charitable event–canned goods in exchange for a discount. I ring up his purchase, but since he has no canned goods, I act as if he’s just resting the flier on the counter. I press enter, and he sees the total, shaking the paper in my face.

“It says you get discount if you bring in canned food.” I do not know enough Japanese to translate this curious statement for him. Thus if I went to Japan, I would obviously bring someone who can speak the language.
He glares at me, his expression unchanged.
“Canned food. Cans. Vegetables. Food.”
He still stares at me and points at the flier, specifically the line for the discount. I don’t know if he’s totally oblivious to all the other statements on the paper.
“Charity? Fundraiser? Homeless? Starving?” I try to think of words he might have heard in Japan, but to no avail. This is getting quite embarrassing, and not for me. I glance at the long line of customers listening to our exchange, seeing their fliers and the cans they’re holding, knowing they understand exactly what the discount is. They’re looking at the back of his head with the ‘shame-shame’ face. This is one time, being rich isn’t a power against a retail store.
He stands there staring at me, so I go to the donation box and show him a can of vegetables. He shakes his head. Then he spits out the English he does know, “I give, I get can?” He gestures the paper toward the cans, as if we give him a canned food for having a flier. Seriously, this isn’t a third-world country.
“No, the cans are for charity. For the poor. For people that have no home.”
He shakes his head angrily, wanting the discount. I point at the box again. He yells, “No can!” while pointing at himself–he doesn’t want any cans, and I surely doubt he’s homeless.

In the end, he just slams down the flier and says, “No buy!,” as if he was triumphant against the Retail world. He walks away angry and proud. Now there is a man, if he knew what an ass he made of himself–in front of a line of customers–would hopefully be ashamed of himself. Yet, if he wasn’t ashamed of himself, then I feel sorrow for the world.

Customer Type: Learn the Language