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How To Be A Better Retail Customer

Updated on April 27, 2015


As consumers, we tend to place too much pressure on those that help facilitate our purchases, i.e., our cashiers and customer service representatives. Too often we place blame on these individuals for actions that are either the result of an honest mistake or a direct effect of company policy. These individuals are tasked with one of the most demanding jobs in existence. In addition to selling merchandise, recording purchases, and processing returns those employed within the varying branches of retail are deemed with the task of making us, the customer, happy. What many of us fail to realize is that the people we mock for working minimum wage jobs are not too dumb to work anywhere else. They are bright, intelligent human beings who, for whatever reason, have no choice but to serve us on a daily basis. Cashiers, regardless of the particular sub-industry they work in, are required to be the perfect representative of their company, immersed in the nuances of their organization's rules, policies and regulations. They have to be wizards at operating a cash register, an expert bag packer, and altogether more efficient than any machine in creation. Customers across the tax brackets expect their cashiers to be beyond perfect. However, expectations like this are part of the problem. In order to make the world of retail a better place to work, we, the customers, need to improve in our designated role.

1. Exercise Patience at All Costs

You may end up in a line with a new cashier. Or you may get someone who’s worked at this particular store for almost half their life. Either way, your transaction is going to take some time. Remember, you’re dealing with a human being who is trying their best to operate a machine. You’re not Speedy Gonzalez with a computer. You falter under pressure from time to time. Your cashier, no matter how much experience they have at their job, is a human being, too. They’re going to take their time completing your purchase. In the process, they might also make a mistake or two. Acting impatient will not help make the situation better. Remain calm. Your cashier will definitely appreciate your relaxed demeanor.

2. Do Not Comment on Your Cashier’s Performance

Nothing grates more on a cashier’s nerves than hearing you complain about how “slow” they’re moving when you're standing right in front of them. Verbally critiquing your associate when they’re trying their best to be polite and respectful creates the opposite of the result you had hoped for. To facilitate a happy, efficient employee keep your opinions to yourself. Upon leaving the store you can vent all your frustrations to the listening partner of your choosing. However, keep in mind that unless you yourself have worked retail or another form of customer service you have no idea how difficult a cashier’s job can be. You don’t know how many screens they have to go through before the system will allow them to let you swipe your credit/debit card. You don’t know what it’s like to fold a bunch of clothes perfectly while being watched like a hawk. You don’t know what it’s like to have to count change accurately while trying to move at a consistent pace. Just because you’re the customer and you’re, supposedly, always right, doesn’t mean you’re somehow a better person than your associate. You both go to the bathroom the same way and put your pants on one leg at a time. Just because you have a salaried job doesn’t mean you have the upper hand. Unless you have been in a cashiering position before you have no right to comment on the work of someone else in that position.

3. Don’t Leave your Manners at Home

No retail employee enjoys assisting a disgruntled customer. If you would not talk to a business partner in a demeaning way do not use such language when addressing your cashier. Cashier, their managers, and other associates who may work in the store all have the same goal: to help you find the items you’re looking for in a timely and efficient manner. These employees are also intent on helping you pay for your items without causing you too much of a hassle. If mistakes are made or you’re stuck waiting in line for more than 3 minutes do not take out your anger on your cashier. They’re not perfect and neither are you. Even if they’re in a bad mood or are not reciprocating your friendly attitude don’t automatically switch gears on your cashier . As the old adage goes, “Treat others as you would wish to be treated.” If you’re respectful towards your cashier they’re likely to be respectable towards you as well.

4. Store Policy is Store Policy is Store Policy

Do not argue with the cashiers, customer service associates, or store managers when they tell you that a piece of information is part of the store’s policy. They work for the company. Presumably, they know what they’re talking about. If you can’t get things your way, take a deep breath and try to handle the situation like a rational adult. It’s not the associate’s fault that you threw out your receipt. It’s also not anyone’s fault that you’re only able to receive store credit for a return. Every store has its own specific return policy in addition to other policies that keep the establishment running. It is not your job as a customer to dictate what you feel is good policy versus bad policy. It is, however, your job to work with your cashier to help process your transaction in the most efficient way possible.

5. Your Cashier is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy

Though there are a few disgruntled employees in this world a good portion of our country’s cashiers have been blessed with the ability to put their personal feelings aside and make themselves fully available to serve their customers. Don’t always assume that just because a cashier makes a mistake or is taking a long time to process your transaction that they're trying to, somehow, cheat you out of money or cause you some other type of problem. Your cashier, regardless of their financial situation, needs this job. Just because a few bad apples exist does not mean the entire orchard and every other orchard in existence is filled to the brim with rotten fruit. If you go into the shopping experience with an open mind you may find that the preconceived notions you once held are not as true as you had once thought.


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