Showing posts with label retail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retail. Show all posts

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Post Traumatic Retail

There's a reason I hate going to most retail establishments, but first ... there are three types of people who work retail:

1. The people who are too lazy to be working their way towards something better and have settled for a job in retail.
2. The people who working their way towards something better and who need to pay the bills in the meantime.
3. The people who honestly enjoy working in retail and are good at it.

The first group of people are never going to give you good service, they simply don't care and why should they? These are people who have given up and don't give a damn. These are people used to hand outs and constant support. These are adult babies.

The second group of people are 50/50 as to whether they're going to give you good service or not. This all depends on how long they're been working in retail and how much of a tolerance they have for it. Those who have not been working in retail very long and/or have a high tolerance for it are likely to give you excellent to mediocre service. The people who have been working been working there for a long time and/or do not have a high tolerance for it are likely to give you mediocre to shite service. These people have become like the first group of retail employees. They care, but only about their own goals and not the service they're giving you. In fact as far as they're concerned, you're what's holding them back from their goals. Their misery is your fault. If you're nice to them they'll treat you well, but if you're anything other than the model customer, expect nothing but the worst treatment you have ever received. These people are the majority of college graduates who didn't get that swell job in their field after final exams and while their classmates are making money and going on trips abroad, they're living paycheck to paycheck. These are the shell-shocked intellectuals who actually believed that 20+ years of education would mean a damn in the "real world." These are the people with a dream job they keep reaching for. These people are the overwhelming majority, the middle-class of the retail employment world.

The third group of people are honestly made to work retail. These people have honed the skills necessary for working in retail. Where the person in group 1 doesn't see the customer at all and the person in group 2 sees the customer as the reason for their indentured servitude, the person in group 3 sees the customer as a person in need and helping this person regardless of their attitude is the means to success in their lives. These people will always give you excellent service. These people are saints. These people could likely save the world if it involved getting strangers to buy things and be happy about it.

During my 6 years in retail, I fell into group number 2. I was a person who had achieved their dream job ... then lost it and without the on paper experience necessary to pick myself up, I had to face the reality that I had no other marketable skills and would have to work retail until I could bolster my portfolio and land another gig in game development. I started out as many in group 2 do, I was going to be a decent employee. You see, people in group 2 are often idealists. We are the kind of people who upon being forced to work in retail, think such things as "I'm not going to be like those bad retail employees I dislike so much." We're constantly trying to save the world, one day at a time and that makes us an easy target for Reality. Yes, I started out idealistic, but as the years dragged on and I spent season after season doing the same dead end job and dealing with the same self-righteous bastard customers over and over again, my resolve was crushed. You see it's not the majority of customers who get to you, it's the 5% of pure assholes that will do it. Assholes come in many varieties, but the ones you see most often are:

1. The people who have some kind of a chip on their shoulder about shopping to begin with. These people don't want to be wherever they currently are. In my experience this was often the Mother or Grandmother who did not want to have anything to do with buying video games, yet were doing so out of what one must assume was "love" for a child in their lives. The other type of person in this category is the one who automatically thinks that every retailer is trying to put one over on him. This guy doesn't trust anything that anyone says to him if there's going to be money changing hands. These are the people who (if they are uneducated enough) will argue with you when you give them the final price of an item after sales tax.

"What?! I thought it was $9.99. Why is it $10.25 now?"

And then after explaining the notion of "sales tax" to them, they will often either not buy the item, or buy the item and walk away mumbling "That's how they get you."

I once had a person meeting this description threaten to come back and kill me after I closed the store because the item they came to buy wasn't the same price I quoted on the phone ... sans tax.

2. The second type of asshole is the "customer is always right" asshole. I don't know the etymology of the phrase, but I picture some quaint corner store in the 50's hanging such a sign in their window, a reassurance to their clientele that their satisfaction was a primary concern to them. Flash forward 60 years and the corner store is a Wal-Mart that couldn't care less about any one customer's satisfaction. In the mind of asshole type 2 however nothing has changed. Asshole type 2 subscribes to a view of the world untarnished by 60 years of corporate greed conglomeration and is appalled when his concerns aren't first and foremost in the mind of every store employee.

"All I have is $20, can't you just give me a discount? I shop here all the time."

In the world of the corner store, old Mr. Johnson behind the counter would give this guy a break. Mr. Johnson lives and dies by his customers and besides, he can probably win the extra cash in a game of pinochle later in the week. Mr. Wal-Mart has billions of customers and knows that you have no choice but to shop there. If Mr. Wal-Mart lets you slide then everyone wants to slide and that's bad for the bottom line. I'm not saying I agree with this, but that's the way it is and this doesn't register with asshole type 2. The customer is always right!

I'm fairly certain that there are people, who if you asked them if "the customer is always right" is in the constitution, they would say yes. The customer is always right also mean that the employee is always wrong and should the employee attempt to defend their place of work from being taken advantage of they are even more in the wrong. This brings us to their third asshole.

3. This final type wants something for nothing and will actively try to get it by whatever means necessary. The easiest targets are the people who try to steal. Every store gets stolen from, it's called "shrink" in the retail world. The easiest way to prevent shrink is to let the customer know that you're always watching. The idea is that someone who know they are being watched will not steal. If you thought the people who greeted you when you came in the door or the people who bug you about whether or not they can help you find anything were being quaint or helpful, you're wrong. The point of a greeter in retail is to let the customer know that we're here, we've seen you, and we'll be watching you. While asking a customer in the aisles if they need help may be an honest inquiry, it's often just a way to let the customer know that you're there and you know where they are. The shadiest people get asked to be helped most frequently.

Other than stealing though there are people who simply expect you to bend over backwards for them. These people want something for nothing and what's worse, they feel entitled to it. These people are constantly trying to make a deal and while that may have flown in the olden days, Big Retail doesn't want anyone outside of corporate making any deals and asshole type 3's increasing anger at not being accommodated above and beyond what every other customer gets will ultimately get him less and less of what he thinks he deserves.

These are the few who ruin it for everyone else. These are the few who despite how well you treat them, will either shrug it off, or take advantage of it. You cannot serve these people well enough and still work within the parameters of your job. These are the people that broke employees in group 2. And the more broken someone becomes the less tolerant of other customers, until finally all customers are to blame.

I hate going to most retail establishments because I've lived the above. I was there, I saw it, I experienced it, and I neither want to go back to it nor subject anyone else to it. So when I went to the theater tonight to see Cop Out with Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis and the ticket vendor quoted $18.50 as the single ticket price. I asked "$18.50 ... for Cop Out?" to which he replied "Yes" and then I asked for my money back and left.

Having been to this theater before I knew that they sometimes showed movies in the DBox motion seats and that those tickets cost about $10 more. Why they would show Cop Out in motion seats, I don't know. It seems like a stupid move, but a great way to milk money for people, were I an evil movie theater - and almost all consumer based businesses are evil to me - this is what I would do to make more money. Had I not had such a traumatic experience in retail however, I might be sitting in that theater right now. I may have been the kind of person who would have continued arguing with this fellow selling tickets and holding up the line while I did so and eventually I would have gotten the correct price, because - as I found out later - Cop Out was not playing in the motion seats. Doing any of this would require me to be "that customer" though and not only do I not want to be that person, I don't want to put anyone else through dealing with that person. Being "that customer" for me is like a Vietnam vet who has flash backs when he hears a loud bang, I relive the experience. So I don't become that customer and I don't argue with the ticket vendor and I don't see the movie and I go home and right a blog post about retail employees instead. Of course if the guy had realized his mistake when I said "$18.50 ... Cop Out?" that this was an absurd price to pay to see Tracy Morgan in anything - motion seats or not - then I wouldn't be here right now. He wasn't a retail employee in group #3.