How you can help me, confessions in working retail during the holidays

Nov. 10, 2014

Alexander Nedd
anedd@uccs.edu

“Hi, welcome to Safeway, how can I assist you today?”

I work as a courtesy clerk, giving these types of greetings to customers while I work 40 hours a week bagging groceries, pushing carts, providing customer service and ensuring a smooth checkout process that allows you to come in and out of the store.

But it gets tiring.

For the most part my job is perfect; perfect except for the minor yet important aspect that’s crucial to the running of any business globally: the people.

The holiday season is fast approaching and it’s the time that I fear most. Usually associated with the joys of festive music and bargain deals, my holiday spirit is quickly dampened by the very people I dedicate my time to every day: customers.

I consider myself a people person. Working for others and meeting new faces is an exciting part of my job, one I look forward to everyday.

But everyone has their limits.

Retail is hard work, especially during the later months of the year. Employees are stretched over long hours, usually over the busiest shift, with little help from either management or customers.

At times going to work can feel like preparing for a battle, a private hell masked by a cheery face and a friendly greeting to every person that walks through our doors.

The first rule of retail is always spoken and known by everyone: “The customer is always right.” It’s one of the most dangerous quotes to employee and customer conflicts, because it brings a sense of entitlement to customers and a lack of respect toward employees.

Those with problems believe they can get anything they want if they hold the dreadful thought of losing a sale over a company’s head. Customers have never been more wrong.

Working in retail has allowed me the experience to understand problems on both sides of the shopping experience. We want your business and should properly address a problem should you have a complaint. But there is a right way and a wrong way to handle things.

Becoming snobby and threatening to speak to one’s manager is heading in the wrong direction. Verbal harassment and physical contact is always unacceptable, both of which I have experienced.

Employees are meant to help you, but they are human beings, too.

Many have forgotten this, a standard that direly needs to come back in 2014. The holiday season can be a stressful time for all, but it’s during these moments that people should work with one another, not tear each other down.

As a customer, try this quote instead: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

If you come to me with a problem and a respectable tone, I will do all I can to provide you a better customer experience and ensure the matter is taken care of in a satisfactory manner. When you threaten to leave a company and act rudely, there is no part of me that wants to save you. I have feelings too.

This holiday season, I encourage those who don’t work in retail to keep the holiday spirit alive. The people serving you are doing their best to make a living while also providing you the best experience possible.

Have a heart and treat these people with the respect and decency that every human being should enjoy.

It not only makes your experience better, it creates an atmosphere where employees such as myself will feel happy about going to work. Don’t take that away from us.

Help me, and I will help you.

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