Tag Archives: Retail

Happy Fourth Thursday of November!

Once again, it has been a long time between posts, and for this I apologize. But lets face it: this working girl can’t hang. Yes, it’s true! After what felt like an eternity of job hunting, I finally found a job! It’s a great gig with a great company; I mean, how many companies buy each of their employees a pie for Thanksgiving?! I’m definitely not complaining: pie and the holidays, two of my favorite things! In my opinion, something changes when the clock strikes midnight on October 31st. The air becomes cooler, the people become happier, and the lights glow a little warmer and brighter. That’s when you know: holiday is upon us.

I love everything about the holidays: the decorations, the music, the movies, the clothes. I’m an even bigger fan of the holidays now that I can actually celebrate them! The biggest downside to having a big girl 8:30am – 5pm (most days) job is that I’m always tired. And by tired I mean I come home and by 7pm I’m ready for bed. The nice thing, however, about finally leaving the retail life behind is that I actually get to spend the holidays with my family. For the first time in four years, I get to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner with all my family and not have to worry about what time I have to eat so that I can shower and be at work with enough time to make a quick coffee run beforehand. My happiness of celebrating with my family is short-lived though, as the thought of many of my friends having to miss Thanksgiving dinner and time with their family and friends sticks in the back of my mind.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always about celebrating the people and moments in our lives, and being able to cherish the time we have had together. It was a time of stealing bites from the pan and watching football games and putting up Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, it seems that now Thanksgiving is about how quickly we can finish our meals so that we can make it to the stores in time, all to take advantage of sales that, believe it or not, have probably been unchanged since the beginning of the week.

I get it. Some big ticket items, such as electronics or appliances, are actually cheaper on Black Friday. I can understand stores opening at midnight, or even 11pm on Thanksgiving, to allow consumers to take advantage of these discounted prices. However, it is absolutely appalling to me that stores now not only open on Thanksgiving day, but many require that their employees work on Black Friday (i.e.: Brown Thursday) or be terminated. How did we as a society decide that it was okay to be thankful for all the people and memories we have in our lives, only to storm the store gates earlier and earlier each year, demanding that they be opened so we can find things to be thankful for the next year?

I will never, ever be okay with the concept of a store opening before 11pm on Thanksgiving day, and will definitely never be okay with an entity forcing a person to choose between their job and spending time with their loved ones. I understand that there are many who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and would much rather be at work making money. Still, I don’t think the idea that a person has at least three days of the year guaranteed off (Christmas and New Years are holidays too!) is a horrible one. Cherish the time you have with your family, because who knows when society will see fit to do away with Christmas and New Years as holidays as well. 

For those of my friends who choose to partake in Brown Thursday and Black Friday shopping, I ask that you remember this: those people who are working – who you are yelling at and swearing at and complaining to – are missing the opportunity to be with their family and friends in order to cater to your needs. Before you complain about the long lines or the item that is out of stock or the Christmas music, remember that the employees have to deal with those complaints a hundred times over. Believe it or not, store employees do not control the prices of the products. They do not control what inventory is and is not in the storage room. They do not control the incessant, looping holidy music. They do not control the number of special door-buster items that are provided. What they do control to the best of their ability, however, is their temper when a customer is unruly. They control their line when it gets out of hand, in order to best serve the next customer. They control their emotions, when children and adults alike tear at the store like a caged animal that has been freed. And most importantly, they control their caffeine intake so as to stay awake for the six, eight, ten, or twelve (or even longer) hour shift they have to work.

These employees go to work, some as early as Thanksgiving morning, knowing that while others are enjoying a nice meal and wonderful company, they are missing out. With a smile on their face, they watch the hordes come into their stores, earlier and earlier each year, tearing apart fixtures and tables, all to get that sweater that will in all honestly most likely be cheaper the next week. So please, before you go Brown Thursday or Black Friday shopping, hug your loved ones a little tighter and think about all the people and places and memories,good and bad, that you have experienced in the last year, and realize that it’s those things, not the clothes or games or things, that have made our lives special. But if you must go shopping, then do it with a smile. Spread some happiness and joy, and realize that you didn’t draw the short straw. Most importantly, go with the realization that eventually, we will simply be wishing each other a “Happy Fourth Thursday of November!”, and appreciate the memories of a true Thanksgiving while you can.

“There’s no price tag? Oh, it must be free, HAHAHAHA!” No.

After having worked in retail for almost five years now, I think it’s safe to say that I can write a book on my experiences as a retail employee. From screaming children and adults to destroyed stacks of clothing to hidden trash, I’ve experienced it all. I’ve worked four Black Fridays – well, three and a Brown Thursday – participated in numerous inventories and floor sets, stayed past my shift countless times, and worked plenty of Back-to-School and holiday sales.

These experiences have taught me a lot, such as time management and patience and how to be polite even in the worst circumstances. However, after all those years of dealing with customers from retail Heaven and customers who could only have come from the deepest pits of retail Hell and all those customers in between, I want to share some of my knowledge as both a shopper and a retail employee. Hopefully these tidbits of information help you not only make your next shopping trip more enjoyable for you, but for the retail employees as well.

1.) See the title of this blog?

If I had a nickel for every time I heard some free merchandise-related joke, I’d have…a lot of nickels.

2.) Something as simple as “hello” can make our day.

After hours of being on our feet folding and re-folding clothes, we just want to go home. So when we get unnecessarily snapped at for talking to customers, our days become much longer. For many stores, it’s corporate policy to greet customers as they come in. Trust me, we are not trying to be creepy, and we are not assuming right off the bat that you are walking into our store to steal something – unless you’re being weird and suspicious, but you’ll know that we know that you’re trying to steal something, trust me. Believe it or not, retail employees genuinely want you to enjoy your shopping experience; a happy customer makes for a more enjoyable experience for the employees as well. Many times, more than corporate or store policy, it’s just in our personality to be friendly. More often than not, I found myself at the receiving end of weird looks, total disregard, or “the hand” when I greeted customers. So when the rare customer actually said “hello” back to me, it definitely made my shift a little brighter.

2.) Trash cans are for trash. Displays are for merchandise.

Seriously, people. C’mon. I’m not sure what happens to people when a trash can isn’t within arm’s reach, but apparently it becomes okay for everyone to assume that the whole store is their dumping ground. As much as I love playing games, playing hide-and-seek with your trash is not my idea of a fun time, so please refrain from hiding it behind stacks of merchandise. I can promise you that if you ask – politely or otherwise – I will throw your trash away for you, because after a long day of being on my feet the last thing I want is to be in the store thirty minutes after my shift was supposed to end and find your breakfast sandwich wrapper behind the stack of t-shirts I’m re-folding for the bajillionth time.

3.) We are not babysitters.

Here’s a little P.S.A. for the parents out there: retail employees are not your babysitters, and we have no problem telling your child not to climb / touch / push / pull / go near / even think about looking at displays. Please keep your children in check and have an eye on them at all times. It is not cute when your child pulls down displays, no matter how much you want to smile and laugh it off. If your child makes a mess, please take some initiative. And by initiative, I mean help clean up the mess, not find the nearest employee and inform them that your child just spilled an entire sippy cup of juice in a trail throughout the store and then continue about your business. However, the worst thing you can do is simply not tell anyone that your child just dropped an entire cup of soda on the now-sticky floor.

4.) When a cashier is ringing you up, please don’t be on the phone.

It will make everyone’s life easier if you simply wait the five minutes that it takes for us to ring you up to make the phone call to your friend about  what she said to him and he did to her and what your plans are for the weekend and what you’re going to make for dinner – IT CAN WAIT. Not only is it rude, but it’s time-consuming for the cashier to try to decode your weird hand gestures, and it wastes the other customer’s time who have to wait for you to get out of line. 

5.) Don’t think we can’t see you stuffing that shirt way into the back of that display that’s two feet from where the shirt was originally picked up from.

I’m not entirely sure that people understand why stores hire sales associates, so let me clarify something for everybody: sales associates are hired to help you and to make sure the store looks presentable for the customers. To further clarify the latter statement, it is impossible for associates to keep the store looking somewhat neat if people keep throwing clothes wherever they want. It takes only a minute to return an item to where you originally found it, and even less time to give it back to a sales associate. Like I said, it’s our job to help you and make sure the store looks good, and I can promise that we would much rather just put the clothing back ourselves than have to find it smooshed behind a stack of totally unrelated merchandise, as this just adds unnecessary hassle and time to our shift.

6.) XS – XXL

That is how almost every store sizes their merchandise. Extra small on the top, extra large on the bottom. It’s not rocket science.

7.) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It amazes me how much customers will avoid talking to a sales associate. We’re not going to eat you. Yes, some of us have been working for hours and hours without a break, and we’re definitely hungry, but unless you’re shopping in a florist’s shop and your name is Seymour, you have nothing to worry about. Our sole purpose is to help you, the customer, have the best shopping experience you can. If you can’t find something, ask us. If you can’t reach something, ask us. And if you aren’t sure about a price…you guessed it, ask us. 

8.) We talk about you. #SorryNotSorry

I would be lying if I said the opposite. Yes, we talk about you, so please be on your best behavior. We love sharing our experiences about the wonderful customers we get, but you can be damn sure that if you’re rude or leave a pile of clothes in your wake, all of the employees will know about you. All. Of. Them.

9.) If a sales associate is helping a customer, wait your turn to be helped.

Yes, we see you hovering over us. We know you’re waiting to be helped. It doesn’t matter if you have a question that will take one second or one minute to answer; it is rude and disrespectful to interrupt another customer who we are helping.

10.) We are human beings, not dogs.

I wish I could count the times that someone has whistled, snapped their fingers, or loudly cried some manner of “Oy” to get my attention. Unfortunately, I can’t, because it’s happened so often. We are human beings, not your maids who are in the store to cater to your every need. We may not appear busy, but really we’re staring at the table of upturned t-shirts debating whether or not it’s more feasible to just dump them all on the floor and try to reconstruct all the stacks all over again. If you need help from an associate, walk over and actually say you need help. Yelling “Oy” and snapping your fingers at me and then waving me over will not make my feet move towards you any faster. 

11.) “I was just calling to see if you had this sweatshirt in the store. It’s blue, with a hood. The company’s logo is on it.”

News flash: we have plenty of blue hoodies in the store, and all of them have our company’s logo on it. If it’s not something we can help you find in five minutes, we will most likely just tell you we don’t have it. To make it easier, when you’re looking up merchandise online and calling the store, look for the product code or style number; associates can quickly look it up and let you know if the item is definitely in the store or not. Also, if you look up an item online and then come to the store to find it, bring a picture of the item with you. 

12.) Don’t ask multiple associates the same question.

This really only applies to those who persistently believe that all the associates are simply lazy, incompetent a-holes who have nothing better to do than lie about whether or not an item is in the stockroom or lie about the prices. If one associate says that there is no more merchandise, then there is no more merchandise. Of course, I’d be a liar if I said there are people who simply don’t want to check the stockroom; however, we are hired to make sales, and to makes sales we have to sell merchandise. Associates are the ones who spend all the time in the stockroom and take care of shipments and inventory, so trust them when they say that there may not be any more of a certain item. However, don’t be scared to ask the associate to call another store to ask; oftentimes, the associate will offer to do so themselves, or you can simply look online. One of my biggest pet peeves is when customers ask one associate for the price of an item, and then ask another associate when they are dissatisfied with the answer. Don’t be that person.

13.) We don’t price the merchandise.

Related to number twelve, I would just like to make it crystal clear that neither the associates nor the store managers set the price of the merchandise. If an associate tells you that the price of an item is something that is higher than what you expected, we are in no way able or willing to give you a discount simply because you don’t like the price. Those are corporate decisions. Don’t shoot the messenger. 

14.) Do you want your money back? Bring your receipt.

Before you purchase an item that you think you may want or need to return, ask an associate about the store’s return policy, as some stores will only give you back store credit regardless of the method you used to pay for your items and many stores have a specific time-frame during which you can return items. Most stores, however, do credit your money back the same way you purchased the items; i.e. if you used a debit card, the money will go back on the debit card. All stores, however, will require you to have the receipt on-hand in order to receive cash back, and every store I have ever shopped in will NOT give you cash back for items purchased with a credit card. If you come in empty-handed, expect to get only store credit. 

15.) “Are you guys closed?” Not at all! Please, disregard all the other stores that have their gate down and come on in.

Those numbers with AM and PM next to them on the door? Yes, please disregard them. The retailer for which I worked had a corporate policy that disallowed associates from requesting that customers leave the store. As this was the case, when customers stayed past closing time, we often turned the music down and lowered the gate a little. *Hint, hint*. Please do not walk into a store five minutes before it is about to close unless you absolutely know for sure what you are going to purchase. Definitely do not walk into a store five minutes before a store closes if it is going to be a large purchase or a large return or exchange. We are tired, we want to go home. Most importantly, don’t ask us what time our store closes and then inform me that our store in another mall closes at a later time: I will hate you and think of at least a hundred different ways (in my head, of course) to politely (“politely”) inform you that you can go shop at said mall instead.

16.) Don’t decide what items you want to buy while you are being rung out.

I understand that many people may be on a limited budget, and oftentimes it’s easy to realize too late that you have selected an overabundance of items that you may not necessarily be able to pay for. However, the cash register is not the time or place to decide which items you do and don’t want to purchase. For the cashier’s sake and the sake of everyone else in line, do not ask the cashier to ring each item up individually until a certain monetary amount has been reached, and don’t keep switching between this shirt and those pants and that shirt and these pants until you’re satisfied with your purchase. All the merchandise in the store will have a price displayed for it, and if it doesn’t, ask an associate. Deciding at the register which item you want to buy also increases the associate’s workload as we are then required to put back those seventy items you decided you didn’t want. So please, please, please make sure that prior to checking out, you have added up the cost of the items and you know exactly what you want to purchase. 

Honestly, this list could go on and on. However, I don’t want anyone to get me wrong; I absolutely loved my job. I met some of the greatest people and learned some valuable lessons while I was working in retail, and I can say wholeheartedly that it is definitely an experience that I believe everyone should have at some point in their lives.