Posts Tagged ‘understand’

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

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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

Shiva Reborn

October 3, 2011

Yes, I write about retail. Yet, I think about the world as a reflection in many ways. As a single pebble can cause an avalanche, this same pebble sitting properly can help avoid the same chain-reactions. Man, humanity, homo-sapiens as the destroyers, is this outlandish?

Moving into a macro-scale, we can consider human beings as a trend through history. These are the killers and hunters, the creators of extinction and genocide. We transform the land. Look around you, without a doubt you are sitting no more than five-feet away from a human construct, a change, a disruption in the balance of nature. We do not conform to the world, we force the world to conform to us. We destroy, we change, we topple, chop, dig, and break. We build, yet the ramifications of our creations often harbor far greater destruction.

We topple each other’s nations and civilizations. We find greater ways to kill each other. We destroy our ancestral homes, pillaging and stealing from long honored and revered sites. How many have sought destruction before others have sought restorations? How many tides of human lives, pools of blood and massacre are laid before monuments, and how much of the land was razed just to create such monuments?

Even in today’s age, even every single one of us, how uninformed are we about our own natural propensity for destruction? I have measured my ‘carbon footprint’, and even though my impact measures far less than others, I have the understanding and knowledge of how much destruction I shall cause through my lifetime. How many bags of trash do I create each year, even with recycling? How can I live without producing trash since it is the very fabric of our beings-the wrapping of our own personal daily gifts, may it be food, clothing, or other additions to our personal life.

Look at our transportation and how it was designed. Our cars, our pollution, our single, personal modes of transportation streamlined and made to be as efficient, yet pollutant as possible. The idea of using clean fuel did not come naturally, nor was it something we even thought to do. We move backwards through time–our efforts to save species from extinction only as an answer to the fact we’ve driven so much life to death. Our civilizations worked to ‘conquer the old worlds’ decimating people and culture.

We are, at our base, easy destroyers and hard-to-become creators. In our ignorance, in our natural state, we destroy, we change, we shatter. It takes a great deal of concentration, focus, and work for us to overcome our natural state of being. Before each of us dies, if we took the time to examine how much destruction our life creates, and we try in opposition to instead create and save, do we see how difficult it is and how far away we are from being such pure and mighty creatures–even if we divine ourselves to be so?

I put the magnifying glass to the microscope, I bring nothing into the scene again–I focus on the pebble before the avalanche. I look at customers shopping in stores. We know all stores have some form or vision for their merchandising standards–a look they want, piles folded, shirts hung, and everything set in it’s place. It is a good template for a natural order, if humanity was nature. The customers, our barbarians, pillaging, destroying, and leaving ruin in their wake. How many educated ones know how easy it is to separate a pile of medium from large, and easily replace the mediums on top of the large? How much effort is that? Let us think about how hard this is versus grabbing and ripping a large size from under a pile of clothing, toppling the pile, creating a mess of destruction. Can we actually parallel that to transforming the landscape of the world to our desires? Can humanity, as an evolved species, understand how to take the little it needs without destroying everything around it? I would highly doubt it, if humans can’t even learn to take a size without destroying a simple peace of nature.

It is the state of humanity. It is our basal nature. We are destroyers. We don’t even have the commonest courtesy to keep our destruction away from each other. Just as someone must eventually deal with the trash of our existence–may it be our descendants or the Earth itself–someone must also clean up after the destruction you create just ‘browsing’ through a store. It is an odd, yet useful metaphor.

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

English 101: All versus One

November 11, 2010

Hello students, today’s lesson is an easy one, if you can read English. Are you ready? All is everything, all is everyone, all is basically all. One is singular, one is by itself, thus one stands alone. Got that? Good.

A customer comes with an older coupon, which is still good, giving her 25%-off one regular-priced item. I go through the transaction, and she’s buying three items, two are regular-priced and one is sale. We always give the discount for the most expensive regular-priced item. I tell her we actually have a special for today only–40%-off instead of 25%-off. She seems okay with this, but of course, you can never tell with these kinds of people. So I go through the transaction, and she stops me.

“Wait! That’s not right! That’s the same discount I’d get for 25%-off!”
“What?”
“You aren’t giving me any savings, it’s better with 25%-off!”
I blink, and wonder why I”m faced with such utter brilliance on a daily basis. I explain to her there is no way 25% is greater than 40%-off.
“No, it’s not a better discount!”
So I go back and I show her the discount, and I even pull out a calculator to show her the price of 25%-off and 40%-off. Obviously, in any world except for advanced mathematics, you can argue the 40% discount is far better. She’s still yelling at me, getting angry at me.
So I say flatly, “Fine, I’ll do what you want, okay? I was trying to be nice, but I’ll give you the discount you want. 25%-off.”
So I change it, watching the total increase as I showed her several times with the calculator. Then she yells stop again.
“What are you doing?!? Isn’t this for all items?”
I roll my eyes without rolling them. I point at the coupon, I want to say, “It’s printed in English.” At the very top, the first line, “25%-off one regular-priced item.”
“Oh, I thought it said all items.” She gets violent with the credit card machine, swiping it. I tell her to stop, because we have to get back to that screen, as I say, “So I guess the 40%-off is better.” There is silence. “Now you can swipe.” NO apology, just like there was no thank you I even offered to give her a better deal. This was my first customer of the day. Oh, be sure, be quite sure, she helped make the rest of the day FANTASTIC! Utterly fabulous, thanks lady.

Customer Type: The Blind, The Dumb, Learn the Language, Unapologetic

Coupon Literacy

October 28, 2010

I’m at the register, the bane of my existence, and we have special coupons, which give a pretty good discount on regular priced merchandise (You can read this as full-priced, non-sale items, etc. Yet, knowing society, people will choose the dumb options on how to interpret clear English. Because you know, they ask, “How long will this be on sale for?” And they could mean marked-down product–which never return to full price–or they could mean promotional items, which return to regular price eventually.) I got side-tracked, where was I? Oh yes.

A woman comes up with a bundle of items on promotion–read this as items on sale, because they aren’t regular priced if they’re not full-priced, right? (I mean today, I had to deal with cheap people who wanted me to mark items back to regular price, since they were on sale, in order to get the coupon savings, which amounted to roughly $1 savings. Congratulations for you! Big saver! Bring out a banner! I just love how special promotions bring out the sale-mongers who decide their I.Q. has dropped twenty points in order to shop.) Either way, I ring up the woman’s items, and I tell her, the register will remove the promotional price–thus the item becomes full-priced/regular priced; this is actually automatic–and then she’ll get the discount off the regular price. (This comes out to about $2 savings, lucky lady!) To which, the woman angrily yells at me, “How can you do that? Where does it say that? I want to read it!” (There really should be a test for people to be allowed to shop in person, with so many people lacking social skills. One question should be repeated twice, “Can you clearly read and understand your native language?” “Are you sure you can read English/native language?”) I point at the coupon, of all things, it isn’t even in the fine print, it says on the very top, ” Regular Priced Merchandise.” To which she complains, mumbling to me saying, “You should have made it clearer! I wouldn’t have even come in if that were the case. I wouldn’t have even bought this!” I love when it’s my fault.

If that is a threat, I don’t know if I care. Does it look like I have a thousand ripples of pleasure having to deal with your stupidity and lack of literacy where you can’t even read English? Do I really care if you’re trying to make me responsible for not only your greed and lack of intelligence, but also you pointing your finger at me as if it’s my fault? I didn’t teach you to read, nor did I teach you to use this lack of logic, nor did I make you come trying to money grub super-discounts and getting items for free. Some people actually do have to pay for their rent and feed themselves in this world, woman.

Of course, all I said was, “Please swipe your card.”

Customer Types: Big Baby, The Blind, Capitalist, The Dumb

Socratic Retail Method

July 11, 2010

Introduction
Mentor: Tell me, when you work in retail, where do your paychecks come from?
Pupil: Your employer?
Mentor: Yes, but where do they get the money to pay you?
Pupil: Hmm. They get money from money they make?
Mentor: Very good. How do they make this money?
Pupil: By selling the product they carry.
Mentor: What if they do not make money selling goods?
Pupil: Then they have no money to pay their employees. But if they make a lot of money, where does that go?
Mentor: Ah, you are getting ahead of yourself, my pupil. It is true, if they make more money, one thing they can do is hire more workers.
Pupil: Why?
Mentor: The more money they make generally means they need more help to produce–more people to unpack and replenish clothing, more salespeople to sell, and more cashiers to take the money.
Pupil: Oh, I see.
Mentor: Although each aspect is important, what part do you think is more critical? The replenishment, the salespeople, or the cashiers?

Cashiers
Pupil: The cashiers.
Mentor: Truly?
Pupil: No?
Mentor: What do cashiers do?
Pupil: They take money from the customers, and this money is used to pay the workers.
Mentor: What influence do cashiers have upon the customers?
Pupil: They take the money.
Mentor: Do they help customers find products or fill their needs? Do they help build the sales?
Pupil: No, I do not think so.
Mentor: Although there are very skilled cashiers who can add-on to sales, and generally, they do not directly interact with more than one customer at a time. They cannot multitask multiple customers at once.
Pupil: This is true. Do they not also offer discounts and coupons which also decrease the amount of money made?
Mentor: Very good, you have kept up with your studies. Cashiers have the duty and responsibility to lower the amount customers spend, thus lowering the total profits. This done multiple times, through many transactions can have an overwhelming effect on total profits–imagine if they gave 15% off all transactions. Cashiers have an important role at the end of the process, because without them, we could not complete transactions, but they are not most critical to the success of selling.

Stock
Pupil: What of the stock-people, they are the beginning of the story, without them the product cannot even be found.
Mentor: Yes, they are important. They unpack the clothing, preparing it for the floor. They replenish the clothing when it gets low. Without them, supplies run low. But how do they directly influence the customers?
Pupil: I do not know.
Mentor: Even with a fully stocked table, that does not directly entice a customer to buy anything. It is like a piece of art in a museum to look at, but you need someone there to guide you through the painting, to understand what you are looking at.

Salespeople
Pupil: So the salespeople are important?
Mentor: In retail, which people often receive commission as a part of their job: the salespeople, the stock-people or the cashiers?
Pupil: The salespeople.
Mentor: Why?
Pupil: Because they directly interact with the customers, helping them to find product they are interested in, building outfits and adding-on product before the customer gets to the cashier. And many salespeople are skilled at multitasking multiple customers at one time.
Mentor: Very good. Customers have already made a majority of their buying decisions before they even reach the cashiers. And with discounts, coupons, and other additions, which subtract from the total sale, cashiers have less impact on increasing sales compared to salespeople.
Pupil: And salespeople can ask stock-people to help find product that is missing on the sales floor.
Mentor: Yes.
Pupil: Do salespeople receive credit for these actions?
Mentor: In some businesses, they do receive commission. Or they receive acknowledgment for their sales above and beyond the normal. The salespeople work hard get to know customers, to add-on sales, to bring profits directly into the store so the cashiers, the stock people and other salespeople can be paid for their labor. They can directly influence a customer that is ‘just looking’ into someone who ‘spent more than they expected’. They directly help customers that don’t know what they are looking for. They help customers find the perfect gift for a loved one, and something extra for the customer, too. They bring additional value to each customer that makes a purchase.

Query 1
Pupil: But is there not businesses that only recognize cashiers for giving discounts to customers? They receive acknowledgment for lowering the store’s profits. Why don’t the salespeople get acknowledgment for building the sale which got the customer to the cashier?
Mentor: If you were a salesperson who worked hard, building up a sale, getting to know a customer and making sure they left happy, how would you feel if you were dismissed and forgotten, and a cashier is recognized for signing someone up for a credit card and giving them a discount off of your hard work?
Pupil: I would be saddened and demoralized. I would feel like my work isn’t worth anything. Why do cashiers get recognition for every credit card they get, but salespeople do not get recognized for every single sale they make? They are the ones helping fill people’s paychecks and keeping them employed!
Mentor: Calm yourself, my pupil.
Pupil: I am calm. It just doesn’t make sense. It is illogical.

Query 2
Mentor: What happens when a cashier is processing a card or giving additional discounts that take a long time to process?
Pupil: Salespeople are asked to cashier? They must back-up the registers.
Mentor: Yes, and what happens to the customers that are ‘still looking’ or need help finding products?
Pupil: They are left ignored and forgotten? So the sales floor is left empty, while everyone is at the cash registers, customers are left with no one to help them…
Mentor: Yes, go on. What happens?
Pupil: So the remaining customers will buy less?
Mentor: And many may leave because they did not receive ‘customer service’, all the while this happens, all the additional manpower is taken to the cash registers for the sake of giving an additional discount.
Pupil: And the ripple of one discount means less money for the store… And by the time the line of buying customers is gone, there are no customers left in the store who need help, because they are not going to wait for a salesperson that isn’t there when they needed help.
Mentor: Yes. But if people are only given credit and recognition for giving discounts, and signing up credit cards, and no recognition is given for making sales, would not all the effort go towards the cashiers? And effort towards selling would diminish.
Pupil: Why would any business do this? They would be choking the life out of their own sales. It would be like Ouroboros, the dragon who swallows his own tail. A business like that cannot hope to be successful.
Mentor: What business would be successful?
Pupil: One that prioritizes selling. One that emphasizes and recognizes salespeople as critical and crucial to the life of the store. A business that knows and understands selling and the skill of adding to sales is more important than giving discounts.
Mentor: Very good. That is why we went through this exercise. Hopefully you understand a little more about selling now.

Mentor:
Pupil:

Dot Sale

July 4, 2010

A couple enters from the children’s section. They have different promotions than we do, so I decide to tell them.
“Hello, we have additional sale on adult sale product!”
The woman turns to me, and half-shouts, “WAIT!” There is a moment of silence. I was expecting her to be all surprised, asking if she heard me right or something. “Did you just say Dot sale or Adult sale?”
My face goes blank. I have no words to say. I know the proper response is, “Oh, why yes, I did say Adult Sale.” Instead, my face must say what I’m thinking, “Why in all the world would I say Dot sale? What the hell is a Dot sale? Who even says Dot sale?” Seriously?
Her husband, bluntly, answers for me, as he pushes her along, “He said Adult sale.” You know, there are times your spouse makes you embarrassed you married them. This is one of those times.

Customer Types: The Deaf, The Dumb, Rhetorical

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