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Selling out

I've worked my share (hell, more than my share) of retail jobs, and I know how miserable they can be. But maybe I'm an oddball; I've always felt that if you take someone's money for a job, you owe them your best efforts. And if you're disgruntled, you don't take it out on the customers.

With most of my jobs, I don't view my employer as "the folks that pay my check." They're the ones who do the paperwork; the customers are the ones who actually pay my check. And they get my full respect for that (until they prove not worthy of it -- and I've met a LOT of them).

As someone who's spent a lot of time behind the counter, I've got my own "pet peeves" about people who work retail.

The biggest one is becoming more and more common. "Is that it?"

I'm giving you my money, you schmuck. I'm paying your salary. Could you possibly phrase it a little less condescendingly? "Will that be all?" Even a "would you like anything else?" would be preferable. "Is that it?" just drips "you cheap jerk."

My second one is probably more annoying, but not as common. I was making a purchase at a convenience store when the clerk finally noticed me. He came up, rang up my purchase, took my money, and gave me my change without a word spoken.

Rather, without a word spoken to me. The whole time, I heard all about his estranged relationship with his father as he explained why he wouldn't be passing a message on to him, despite living under the same roof. He did my whole transaction without ever taking the cell phone from his ear.

Anyone else feel like giving vent to their retail pet peeves?


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Comments (40)

People who insist on puttin... (Below threshold)
Steel Turman:

People who insist on putting the coins on top of the paper money are my pet peeve.

Steel: You beat me to that ... (Below threshold)
jd watson:

Steel: You beat me to that peeve, but more generally, no one counts back your change anymore, and they give you the bills in the wrong order -- the largest denomination bill should be on top where you can see it.

WalMart cashiers who rotate... (Below threshold)

WalMart cashiers who rotate the bag turstile away from the customer rather than toward the customer, thereby increasing the chances a bag will be left behind.

It drives me crazy when a c... (Below threshold)

It drives me crazy when a customer scoots the money to you on the counter as if they are somehow better than you.
(I have a good education, a nice job, but work at a bookstore on weekends so I can get the discount).

I'm with Steel and JD. I w... (Below threshold)

I'm with Steel and JD. I worked retail for many years. You give the customer the coins first, then the bills. I don't use cash much, but in the last six months I've only been given my coins first once - at a Borders.

And if anyone at a store every did that to me with the cellphone, I would never have made that purchase. They should be fired.

Tip jars!Why do yo... (Below threshold)

Tip jars!

Why do you need a tip for simply handing me a cup of coffee?

It makes me CRAZY when in a... (Below threshold)
Moon Monkey:

It makes me CRAZY when in a convenience store paying for a few purchases,and the clerk asks me if I want a bag! "No jerkoff,I'll just carry the box of donuts out in my teeth and juggle the rest!" Grrrrrr.

I am in the middle of a que... (Below threshold)

I am in the middle of a question concerning an item I am about to purchase, or a transaction when the phone rings. The clerk takes the call and spends 5 min. on a personnal call. Or even worse says Ok to her boss and leaves to do something else!

I'm with you Jay Tea - thes... (Below threshold)
natty dark:

I'm with you Jay Tea - these guys totally forget that 'Customer Service' involves providing a service to the customer.

When I go to a place of business, or even pull up to a drive thru window (which I rarely do anymore), if the person on the mike/in charge acts like he's doing me a favor by waiting on me, I drive off and do not return to that place of business. In fact, I make it a point to look up the phone number, call the manager during normal business hours, and explain to him what happened. I tell them that I am not returning. They usually offer some token coupon, which I never accept.

It is important to remember that (and this comes from my experience in a call center environment) 95-99% of the people drive off and never return. Their manager gets no feedback. They have no idea why their business is tanking. Sometimes the call is not well-received. But anyone with half a brain realizes that there are many people who do not take the time to give the feedback to the supervisors.

And if the supervisor gives me crap, I call the district manager. You can bet that guy will pay a visit to the store. He is where he is because of addressing those issues. Not fair to the customer, or the owners/stockholders that someone feels they are doing me a favor by taking my order.

Make the call. Take the time. Get rid of those losers. They can scream discrimination or whatever they have to tell themselves to justify their anger towards the world. But get them out from between you and what you want to buy. Let them clean bathrooms or dig ditches - something worthy of their temperament. The world doesn't owe anyone shit.

And those of you who are foaming at the mouth for what I wrote, you can take your criticism of me for being blatantly honest and shove it - you are probably the ones providing poor customer service, or got canned for doing the same. I am in customer service, and I treat my customers like gold. As jay Tea said, THEY are the reason I get paid.

Natty Dark

That should read, 95-99% of... (Below threshold)
natty dark:

That should read, 95-99% of the people who drive off never call back and tell anyone, which means that only 1-5% do. That makes your voice amplified by a factor between 20 and 100. Let them know.

When there's a right of way... (Below threshold)

When there's a right of way issue and I have to stop or move out of the way for an employee. The icing is when too many times there isn't even an "Excuse me" proffered. If the employee is moving large items I certainly find this understandable and gladly let them pass, but this isn't the case a majority of the time.

Any clerk talking on their ... (Below threshold)

Any clerk talking on their cell phone while ringing up customers should be fired. If they own the business, I would not go back.

"They're the ones who do th... (Below threshold)

"They're the ones who do the paperwork; the customers are the ones who actually pay my check."
In 17 words you have said everything anyone should know about business

When I get superior service... (Below threshold)

When I get superior service, I ask to see the manager to tell them about the person who helped me and exactly what the person did. They usually seem a bit surprised, but I hope the person will get more hours, at least.

I worked retail for six weeks before finding an office job, and the standards to which I was held were high. Our managers knew the kind of service we were giving, and nothing less would have been tolerated.

My local Super Target store... (Below threshold)

My local Super Target store used to (it has greatly improved) be full of very surly employees that never acknowledged your presence or thanked you for your purchase. I got fed up with it one day and called and told the manager about it. His reply to me was, "Ma'am we're always striving for good customer service." and I said, "But don't you see, you're not providing it. I won't be setting food in your store again because I never get a thank you." He then got pretty defensive and ended the call by saying, "We're always striving for good customer service and we can't help it if YOU didn't happen to get a thank you!"

That's setting foot, not se... (Below threshold)
Mary B.:

That's setting foot, not setting food. Sorry.

I can't stand the cashiers ... (Below threshold)

I can't stand the cashiers who barely wait for the customer to be away from the checkout stand before they start talking to one another about him/her! They generally are doing this in front of the next customer and none too quietly, either. Usually the subject is still within earshot. As soon as they finish my transaction I go directly to the customer service desk and blow 'em in. I worked retail for many years while my kids were small in all kinds of stores, from large chain supermarkets to fast food to small drug stores, and there were always cashiers who acted this way. I can't think of anything more disrespectful for a retail employee to do.

I don't know, a lot of thes... (Below threshold)

I don't know, a lot of these comments don't seem to recognize that the customer before you was talking on a cell phone and wouldn't even treat the cashier as a human being. Retail is tough going, so I have a rule that no matter what, I say one more kind thing than the cashier says to me (if they say nothing, I thank them anyway). The extra, over-the-top "thank you" or "have a nice day" always seems to be appreciated by largely unappreciated workers.

Jay Tea - it's not just ret... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea - it's not just retail, believe me! I am a consultant and I do pretty well, because I understand that without the customer, I don't have a job - but most consultants with the company I work for do not understand that. They think it is ok to be condescending to someone who is not as techinically proficient as the consultant - I have told more than one of my co-workers that if the customer/client knew as much as he/she did, that customer/client would not need to be paying the big bucks for us!

I also worked in retail for many, many years - and customer service should always be the top priority of anyone working in retail, or any other business where you have customers.

As to how the customers treat the cashier or whatever in retail - it doesn't matter - w/out customers, you do not have a job. Treat them well even if they are on their cell phone. For one, it will make them feel bad and for two, you will know you did the right thing. There is never a reason to be surly or rude to a customer unless they are being abusive - then call your boss and let him/her deal with the abuse. That is why they get paid the big bucks.

20 years in retail experien... (Below threshold)

20 years in retail experience specializing in Music / Movies / Video Games & Books here. I left as a DM with anywhere from 4 - 10 stores. Customers can be both the best thing and the worst thing about retail. There is no excuse to do a poor job. If you are getting paid to provide customer services, then you do it to the best of your ability, otherwise you should get out of that field.

Yet it's so easy to either forget, or to never realize that at most chain stores & franchises that a retailer most the time is hired to serve the customer, but then the upper management starts putting many other tasks in front of them and setting goals for them to get them accomplished by a certain deadline. The problem is that the busy work / stocking / filing / cleaning has very definable and measurable outcomes, whereas customer service can suck for a while before it becomes noticed or tracked (most of the time it takes a complaint). So retail associates are told that customer service is their number one priority, but tend to measure the other aspects of their jobs more regularly and critically. This sends a completely different message to the associate.

The other thing is that I've never had a job that showed off the real decrepit nature of man than working in retail. All day long people of all walks of life and ages (all races / all religions) try to scam you, steal from you, trick you & take advantage of you as soon as you make the slightest mistake. From quick change artists; shoplifters; burglars; stickup men; return scam lowlifes; to the more advanced con artists who look to set up unsuspecting guys as patsies in a sexual harassment lawsuit. You get very disappointed in your fellow man.

I've seen and experienced almost all of your complaints, and I'm not telling you that you don't have a right to complain. I think you have valid points and gripes. However, after I left that career and started a new life as an owner of 3 small businesses I don't go looking for customer service in most places... instead I'm looking for the cheapest price for the item I specifically want. I don't expect any service or even a thank you from any store that has the word "mart" in its title. Yet, when forced into a situation in where I must buy an item from a place where I know I'm paying a premium price because of their "service", then I better be getting what I paid for.

When I get superior ser... (Below threshold)

When I get superior service, I ask to see the manager to tell them about the person who helped me and exactly what the person did. They usually seem a bit surprised, but I hope the person will get more hours, at least.

LOL goddess, this can't occur too often, eh? I'm SURE the managers are surprised! It's like when I know I'm going to be ten minutes late for a meeting and call ahead to let my appointment know -- and the receptionist reacts like I'm insane, because of course, the person I am meeting is running 30 minutes behinds and I'm going to end up waiting a half hour anyway, with no apology.

Clerks who put the money on... (Below threshold)

Clerks who put the money on the counter rather than in your hand. You are then required to try and pick it up while the customer behind you is getting annoyed.

Clerks with attitude who slooooowly check out the customer in front of you, you having no place to put items to check out, and being reamed out by the clerk for not having your money ready and holding up the line.

I can't stand retailer deni... (Below threshold)

I can't stand retailer denigration of customers when confronted with complaints.

Cox Communications, for example, loves to ream and destroy customers when they are confronted with their own irrularities. They'll fall back on the "we are rated No. Whatver by J.D. Powers, we're A-NUMBER ONE, THE KING OF NEW YAAARRRKK" type passive aggression when/if you confront them with their own bad behavior, and then it'll go downhill from there.

I really can't stand their collective personality. They have a monopoly on technical services in certain areas and so have a captive set of customers, but Lord help you if you ever catch them in a lie (which happen, just mind it if you try to confront them about it) or worse, ask a sensible question about bad service -- you'll find yourself being regarded as a unique customer service problem among millions of happy customers living in Tangerine Land with Marmelade Skies...which, seriously, is me saying that they have a practiced routine to deny answering for their errors which is based upon isolating a customer with a complaint into a marginalized position.

It's the same tactic that some sales people use for big ticket items: suggest provocatively that you have failed or are lesser in some degree and it solicits often the human response of then trying to overcompensate, and in most cases, to cave to overcharges and bad service because a person doesn't want to be marginalized.

It's the worst possible sales behavior I know of, is just downright theft, similar to con artistry, if not con artistry itself.

Beware any company or organization who wears how great it is on it's sleeve. It almost always means they're overcompensating and you can bet you won't find any support or understanding for your quite real service issues -- what you'll get instead is indignity that you're even asking them to service your account, act well, be honest...basic things.

My pet peeve is the plethora of thiefs in the U.S. who masquerede as "cable companies." They're all alike, in my experience, and they're all predicated upon the "steal from and humiliate the customer" model of "service." I think it's because we're all such needy folk for telecommunications, unfortunately, and same with vehicles and ripe for defrauding.

I call bullshit. Look, you... (Below threshold)

I call bullshit. Look, you're not doing the business a FAVOR by shopping there; you're shopping there because its presumably in your interest -- its cheap, its convenient, or whatever. Similarly, the clerk is not doing you a FAVOR by serving you; its his job.

The whole thing is strictly a business transaction. You want conversation, go see a friend.

The clerk shouldn't be overtly rude, of course, and neither should you. But if he's talking on the cell phone while filling your order... SO WHAT, unless it's significantly slowing his performance. You're buying something; that doesn't entitle you to expect that he not also converse with someone else, perform a Hopi rain dance, quote you a passage from Philo, wish youa nice day, or anything else. It entitles you to get your money received and the correct change -- period.

You want more? Pay for it -- which is done by going to a more upscale establishement. One thing that really frosts me is people who expect Macy's or Lord&Taylor service at Wal-Mart. You go to Macy's, you pay more, and for that you get (among other things) better service. You go to Wal-Mart Or McDonalds etc etc), you are paying for the absolute bare minimum of service required to get you out of there with your goods. And that's all.

Can't afford, or too cheap, to shop at Macy's? How is that the Wal-Mart clerk's problem?

My other pet peeve is retai... (Below threshold)

My other pet peeve is retail checkers, clerks...they're never in a good mood, they're always bordering on one step away from cruel, they're always feeling cheated and maligned...I just don't know what the problem is but most cashiers are like that. Everyone notices.

I was at Trader Joe's not too long ago and it'd been a very long and tiring day. I also had a sinus infection (but was taking antibiotics, such that I wasn't sneezing and coughing on anyone, just felt very tired and wanted to go home to bed).

I stood in line. I wasn't impatient. I waited my place. I smiled and made eye contact with the cashier. The cashier said, "hi, how are you?" and I said, "Oh, just a bit tired, thanks, though."

And the lady shot back, raising her voice, really angry at me, "What do YOU have to feel TIRED about?! I'VE BEEN HERE ALL DAY, talk about tired, now I'M someone who DESERVES to get some sleep!"

And she sneered and shoved my goods down the checker area, and I packed my own things and left the store.

Trader Joe's has strange and weird tellers, so does COSTCO, who really seem to hate their customers. If the store doesn't, the checkers certainly do.

There's an active "communit... (Below threshold)

There's an active "community" on LiveJournal for people who are employed as clerks and who gather there to complain about the public. From the brief read I made of the place, and from some comments I read elsewhere, cashiers seem to be, to the man, antisocial individuals.

I think what it is is that anti social personalities seek out and land jobs in "public service" so they can, in fact, exercise their vendettas and resentments against other humans. Such that, what we have afterward is a service sector who really does feel privileged in being abusive to humanity: clerks, checkers, utility "customer service" people.

Honestly, I do think that those jobs attract antisocial personalities and they then go about "working" on their waiting victims. Otherwise, what, exactly, IS the problem with checkers and checkout cashiers and "service" sector individuals?

The excuse about monetary privilege is just more antisocial rationalization about the bad behavior, in my view. You either are a polite individual or you aren't. The degree of service becomes extended in more highly paid environments, sure, but the basic human qualities of consideration and empathy aren't anticipated by most humans to be a case of whether or not you can or do "pay for it" or don't.

For people who reason that way, wrongly to my view as I wrote, they're applying the rule of prostitution to human social interactions.

One of the retail places I ... (Below threshold)

One of the retail places I worked at had a great philosophy...during orientation, they told us several times that the customer before us at any given moment was THE MOST IMPORTANT person in the store. What happened to that sort of attitude? Gone with the wind, just like any other common courtesy, in retail or elsewhere.

One thing I learned in busi... (Below threshold)

One thing I learned in business school was your competitors shortcoming is your opportunity. When mediocre service becomes the norm, then simply providing friendly, old-fashioned, the-customer-is-always-right service makes you really stand out. Then, you can even charge a little more.

The more people tell mgrs when they receive very good service, the more we'll see good service make a comeback.

P.S. My peeve: After I put a dollar in the tip jar, THEN finding out my order is messed up. Has anybody ever taken their tip back out of the jar? I never have, but I've been tempted.

Not to overlook smarmy prog... (Below threshold)

Not to overlook smarmy programmers, the language in FrontPage when it can't communicate with a server (not, almost routinely, based upon the behavior of the end user who paid all that money for the program itself), this sorta language when the program grinds down:

Saturday, September 10, 2005 18:51:16 PM 421 Timeout - try typing a little faster next time
Saturday, September 10, 2005 18:51:16 PM 421 Timeout - try typing a little faster next time

I see that FP was written by someone with "raging fingers" who is just a tad too compulsive for the comfort of reasonable human beings.

Theory: Most checkers/cashi... (Below threshold)

Theory: Most checkers/cashiers are dumber now. I bet 90% of them couldn't make change if the machine didn't figure it out for them. The electronic cash register opened the flood gates to a plethora of semi-literate savages scraped from the bottom of society's barrel. I'm 66 years old now and don't expect civility from any cashiers anymore even though I'm always civil to them. I worked retail for many years and know how tough it can be and how unpleasant many customers can be. But when I do receive a pleasant smile and a thank you whether the service was top-notch or not, it stands out and I appreciate it. Kind of reminds me of old times.

heterostratus -- I don't ca... (Below threshold)

heterostratus -- I don't care whether it's Walmart or freakin Salvation Army -- a clerk who is taking your money should NEVER be making a personal call on a cell phone.

One thing that bothers me (and makes me uneasy) is sitting in the back seat of a taxi cab listening to the driver have a furtive cell phone conversation in Russian.

Dude, you would not want to... (Below threshold)

Dude, you would not want to live in Costa Rica at all. Hehe... Go out to eat and there is a Mandatory service charge of 10% + 13% sales tax, and the service sucks in all but the best of places, or the most humble. Retail Service, heh! You will be lucky if they even acknowledge you.

I confess there was a time ... (Below threshold)

I confess there was a time when I was willing to be a surly customer if I was in a bad mood. I still get in bad moods but I don't let myself take it out on the clerk anymore.

Maybe the temp job I had as a casshier had something to do with it. Heh.

When I make a purchase, I o... (Below threshold)

When I make a purchase, I often say, "Thank you." What I should hear, and seldom do hear, is "You're welcome." Instead, I hear a grunt or "No problem," as if the store clerk were being gracious to disturb himself for my benefit. When I'm on his side of the counter, I expect to take guff from the occasional rude customer. When I'm the customer, I expect to be treated to the lost art of common courtesy.

My beef is when I go to a d... (Below threshold)

My beef is when I go to a drive thru for a milkshake and I state " All I want is a medium chocolate shake" and the first thing out of the speaker is "would you like some fries with that?". Also if I go into a resturant that I havn't been in before, I go to the bathroom first, if it isn't clean I leave. Who knows what the kitchen looks like.

What really ticks me off is... (Below threshold)

What really ticks me off is checking out at the grocery store and having 2 clerks in adjoining lines converse with each other the entire time I'm standing there. Never a hello, never an order total due (they expect you to just read the terminal display), never a goodbye or good day.

Both clerks completely ignore their customers (the person checking out in the other line and me) and go into rabid detail about what a creep the manager is, how they have are starting school in a few weeks, they just got a raise, blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah. The most common topic of these kinds of "clerk convos", though, is when they had their last break, how many overtime hours they've put in this week, how they never get a vacation, and the like.

After they've totaled the order on the cash register, they simply stick their hand out for money. I normally stand there and stare at them until they verbally tell me what my total is. Usually takes them a few seconds to figure out what I'm waiting for - them to take 15 seconds out of patting themselves on the back on their indispensability to tell me how much I owe.


After reading everyone's co... (Below threshold)

After reading everyone's complaints, I'd like to have my say: it is very difficult to run a retail business and try to please everyone and to try to maintain the highest levels of political correctness and equality for everybody and everything. I think of my store as an extension of my home and I greet my guests accordingly. I am always stunned when a customer is rude or hostile and I wonder why the hell he even came into my store in the first place. One of my basic problems is in the original greeting: If I say, "Hi there. How are you?" A customer will often say, "I'm just looking," or "You gonna let me in the store, or what?" If I say, "Hi there. May I help you?" I'm often rewarded with, "Do I look like I need your help?" or "If I need your assistance, I'll ask. Just let me look around." or "Don't I even get a chance to look around?" If I am not there to immediately greet a customer, I sometimes get this: "Helllloooooo?? Doesn't anybody WORK here?" Sometimes one simply can't help but become a bit confused or disgruntled.

One of the absolutely most confusing things I ever heard was an African-American woman on NPR saying why one should never ask an African-American, "May I help you?" According to her, it means, "May I help you leave my store as quickly as possible?" In her view, to ask her if I could help her meant that I wanted to complete our transaction of business ASAP in order to rid my store of her. Does that make any sense to anybody? Given this new information, how am I to treat everyone equally?

On a lighter note regarding the question about whether or not someone would like a bag with his purchase, it secretly cracks me up when I finish a transaction and ask, "Would you like a bag?" and the customer responds: "Oh, do you have one?" Another favorite: "Would you like to try that on?" "Oh, do you have a dressing room?" [No, but I'll avert my eyes if you'd like.]

Just my two bits. For four or five bits or retail rants and raves, I have my own humble little blog.

If I want to pay money to m... (Below threshold)

If I want to pay money to make inane small talk with a total stranger, I could just go to a strip club. There's better music, and the "clerks" are much better looking.

I don't want to talk. Just bag my stuff, take my money, give me my change, and let me out of there. Then again, pretty much everywhere now allows you to use a debit card and avoid the change controversy altogether.

Except the strip clubs. Ladies still like the cash.

My pet peev is people who w... (Below threshold)
Clash City Rocker:

My pet peev is people who work in high end retail, you know the ones who have the superior attitude, they prequalify you by dress. I worked in retail as a young adult and was taught early by veterns of the retail wars, pitch the b#tch, and men never change their shoes or watches. Now I am a software developer, make lots and lots of money, I wear a very expensive watch, and never leave the house to shop in anything but shorts and a a tee shirt, I hate having to undress just to try on a pair of pants, shorts are easy to jump in and out of, would someone teach these over attituded a-holes, that just because you work at (name you designer store) you are not (name your designer) you are a retail ho, a mere flunky there to fetch me a new pair of pants in the size I want, don't give me your snivling 'tude, take that to your other 20 or 30 something friends who also don't have enough education to get a real job. Now go, fetch me a shirt, good boy (I think) now go sit there until I need some shoes to go with the pants. And yes there is such a thing as a Black Amex, you twit!

Yes I worked in retail for ... (Below threshold)

Yes I worked in retail for many years and I can't imagine the poor customer service I receive these days. I have complained many times to managers who probably just told me that they would "Talk to the person" just so I could get out of their store. As a customer, I have said hello and smiled and looked at the clerk directly in the eye, only to be ignored. I never get a thank you or anything. Whats worst is if you need help and you make eye contact, expecting the cashier to ask "May I help you?" which NEVER happens. They just stare at you back as if you are annoying them from doing nothing. I guess customer service is not what it is anymore. I never treated a customer like that ever. I know what good customer skills are. Living in Houston, Texas, people just don't care how they treat customers. I am not saying all cashiers are like that, but what really sucks is dealing with managers or superviors that are apathetic and carry that same attitude. I always say "THANK YOU" to the person servicing me, but instead all I get is this "UH HUH" like I bothered them or something. They didn't even say "uh-huh" in a friendly way, it was more of a grunt. So I guess here in houston, texas customer service went down the toilet. What is my pet peeve is going somewhere to Olive Garden where there are TWO hostesses standing by the door and they don't even say "HI" or "BYE" or even open the door for you. Do they get paid to stand there and talk? Another example of employees that do not care.






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