Though products, shops, locations and customers differ, there are universal experiences that all retail workers deal with. Everyone has heard of the unpleasant encounters that retail workers go through, yet no one really makes an effort to change their habits while shopping.
I have been working retail for a while in an area filled with rich (and occasionally entitled) shoppers, who all tend to act in a very similar way. Here are a few things that I’ve picked up from my experience that can make your shopping experience better and help us loathe our jobs a little bit less.
1. Don’t come in 10 minutes before closing.
As unbelievable as it may sound, retail workers have lives outside of their stores. Many workers have already begun the cleanup process 10 minutes before closing and want to close up and go home as fast as humanly possible. So coming in, picking apart tediously folded piles of clothing and creating a mess only makes that process that much harder for us minimum wage workers. This rule goes double if you have a return. This can ruin a store's quota for the day and create more of a mess for them to deal with, and gives little to no time for you to look around and do an exchange for what you’re returning. The best time to make returns is in the morning.
By the way, mentioning how much you love the store does not excuse the fact that you are keeping the store open later than is should be.
2. Read the promo signs.
When a store has a sale going on, it is often heavily advertised. This includes big signs in the window, little signs clipped and taped on every possible surface and in my store's case, a painstakingly drawn easel that’s placed at the entrance. Before you come up to one of the already busy retail workers asking “Is this on sale?” or “What are your promotions?” read the tediously hung sale signs and check if the item is on clearance by looking at the tags. If you still have a question about what the promotion entails, then feel free to ask.
3. Don’t brush off the workers.
Talking to you is a big part of our job. Not all retail workers are doing it to make commission, and for many, that isn’t even an option. If they are taking the time to be kind to you, be kind to them back. Moreover, if a retail worker is younger than you, please do not brush them off. There are a lot of times that women that are older than me (I’m 18) have brought down my self-esteem, made me feel like a nuisance, laughed at me and even made me cry. As mentioned earlier, saying how much you love the store is not an excuse for your rudeness.
4. Realize that we don’t create company policy.
There have been numerous times that I’ve been yelled at, called horrible names and have been made to feel like a villain because of the limits of company policy. Certain returns and promotions we simply cannot do because it will violate store limits. Depending on the company, breaking policy can lead to suspension and even termination for the workers, and you returning your item a few days past the return date is not worth them losing their jobs.
5. Leave your fitting rooms clean.
One of the lessons we’re taught when we’re young is to clean up after yourself, however, this habit often is abandoned when changing in a fitting room. Nothing irritates a retail worker more than leaving your fitting room looking like wreckage after a tornado. Leaving your unwanted try-ons in a pile in the corner, hanging things up inside out or wrapping the clothing around the clothing rod without the hangers is maddening and adds another task to the already lengthy list of things to do for the retail worker. Leaving your left over food and coffee cups in the fitting room is also unacceptable. We are not your maids.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or opinions.
If you are in the fitting rooms and want a second opinion, retail workers are usually happy to help you find the right look and make you feel confident. Asking us to find you sizes, asking our opinion on what you’ve tried on or even having us help you pick out clothes for certain events is a big part of our jobs. Our priority is helping you find exactly what you need.
7. Don’t harass the workers.
Though this should go without saying, do not harass retail workers. Don’t stare at them, don’t ask for their numbers, don’t make weird comments to them, don’t do anything to make them feel uncomfortable at their place of work. This creates an environment where they are cornered, because they are the ones that face the consequences for telling you to stop, not you for initially making them uncomfortable. We are there to help you find the products you are looking for. Being the subject of your harassment is not in our job description.
Being a retail worker comes with its fair share of hardships. Besides rude customers, cleaning up messes and the almost abysmal pay for the job we are doing, there is the lack of respect and stigma that comes with working retail. As long as you follow the guidelines of basic human decency and show us a little respect and kindness (for example, a “thank you” wouldn’t hurt), you will be making our lives a little bit better and calming our seething hatred for all customers as a whole.
Lead Image Credit: Artificial Photography via Unsplash