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How To Be A Terrible Retail Clerk

Updated on May 29, 2014
The perpetual look of a bad retail clerk.
The perpetual look of a bad retail clerk.
Proper attitude is crucial!
Proper attitude is crucial!
This is the perfect look of disgust and boredom that is so important if you are to succeed in the retail business.
This is the perfect look of disgust and boredom that is so important if you are to succeed in the retail business.
It is only fair to warn you that this may result if you follow these suggestions.
It is only fair to warn you that this may result if you follow these suggestions.

So you want to work retail, huh? You think you have what it takes? Well good for you! I’ve owned a couple retail stores in my time and I’ve seen retail workers come and go, so I’m going to share some experience with you that might help you get ahead.

Oh, wait, you aren’t excited about this new career move? You think retail is a punk job for losers? Well, we will just adjust the advice so you can do a really lousy job at retail. How does that sound? I’m willing to give you some hot tips that are guaranteed to make you a terrible retail worker. Sound good? Okay, let’s get started!

What? You want to know my credentials? You are confused? Well good, hold onto that confusion and you will fit right in with many of the current retail clerks in Olympia and by extension the rest of the nation. Confusion is good; in fact it is one of the tips I am going to give you, but we are getting too far ahead of ourselves. First to the question about my credentials: It is true that as a former owner of retail stores I have hired according to ability, but I have also had to fire many a worker because they practiced many of the behaviors I am going to pass on to you. You see, I have seen both sides, the good and the bad, so it’s really no problem to change my advice column to the negative side of the question. Besides, even if I hadn’t owned retail stores I still shop in them and believe me, in so doing I have seen my share of really bad retail clerks. We are talking so bad only a mother could love them. We are talking so bad that they make the customer feel like reaching across the counter and strangling them. We are talking so bad that …..well, you get the point!

So are you ready? I would suggest you take notes because what I am about to tell you will directly affect your employment status for years to come. Please, don’t thank me, it’s the least I can do. Just pay attention because I won’t repeat myself.

ALWAYS ACT LIKE THE CUSTOMER IS UNIMPORTANT

It is very important that you act like you have a thousand things you would rather be doing than helping the customer. Act like you are doing them a favor by waiting on them. If possible talk to someone else while waiting on the store-shopper and if you really want to score big points talk on the phone while you are checking them out at the cash register. This last item will qualify you for the Retail Clerk’s Hall of Fame.

Remember, always, that your time is important and the customer is infringing on your time. If you have done your job well the customer will actually apologize for bothering you and then you will have reached the pinnacle of your profession.

NEVER ENGAGE IN SMALL TALK

Your customers may want to strike up a conversation while you are assisting them. DO NOT ALLOW THIS! Your job is not to become a friend, nor is it to listen to the mundane jabber of a bored housewife or confused husband. You were not hired to make anyone feel good; you are not a counselor. There will come a time when someone strolling through your store will speak to you….make sure you act like you didn’t hear them or better, that you did hear them but you do not consider them worthy of an answer. Grandmothers are the worst and must be discouraged from the get-go or you will find yourself in an inane conversation and quite possibly be late for your break. This simply cannot happen and you hold the key to your destiny.

LET’S TAKE A BREAK!

Breathe….Relax….Let it all sink in…..



NEVER IMMEDIATELY OFFER HELP WHEN A CUSTOMER ENTERS THE STORE

You can save yourself a great deal of work and trouble if you allow a customer to wander the store for ten or fifteen minutes without assistance. Odds are that they will become impatient and just leave the store if you do not assist them. With experience you can spot the confused shoppers immediately; those are the ones that you should never help. In the retail business confusion is good so let the confusion build to the point of embarrassment and then they will most likely just leave muttering to themselves. If this happens you will know that you have won another battle of wits. Keep in mind the nature of your store and who is shopping in it. If it is a man in a Victoria Secret shop leave him alone. He will slither out within five minutes, red-faced and stuttering, never to return again.

ALWAYS ACT CONFUSED

I promised we would get to this so here we are; nothing annoys a customer more than when they ask for help and the clerk has no clue. This is time-tested and guaranteed to leave the customer feeling helpless and irritable. If they ask you where a certain item is just shrug your shoulders and say you really aren’t sure; better yet, tell them you are new and not familiar with the store yet but you will get them some help pronto. Then walk away and don’t get the help promised. Chances are excellent that your question-asking patron will storm out of the store never to be seen again.

HANDLING MONEY TIPS

These next two suggestions are related and oh-so important.

When handing back change after a purchase, never count the money when you are putting it in the customer’s hand; in fact, put the money on the counter and let them pick it up. Re-counting the change takes up your valuable time and should be avoided at all costs. I have seen some clerks actually count back from the price of the purchase. The cost of an item is $5.37 and the customer gives you a twenty and there are some clerks who actually give back the change, counting to $6.00, and then add with each bill that is given back. WHAT A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME! Put the whole pile of change on the counter and be done with it.

If you should choose to hand back the change then put the coins on top of the bills and put the whole pile in the hand of the customer, thus assuring that the coins will fall on the floor. This is a beautiful technique that is guaranteed to annoy the customer so they don’t come back AND provide you, the clerk, with some amusement while they bend over to pick up the scattered change.

NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SAY THANK YOU!

I know, the temptation is great; you were raised by parents who probably drilled into your head that you should be polite, but when working retail toss aside that foolishness. If you say ‘thank you’ the customer might actually think you are appreciative and that leads to them returning at another time and that leads to more work for you. Do you understand?

Simply give them back their change (on the counter), hand them their purchase, and then turn around and busy yourself with something else. No words must be spoken to them at all.

I know, however, that early childhood training may come to the surface despite your best efforts and you will accidentally feel the urge to say something; if this happens say “have a nice day” in your most bored tone of voice. If you manage the proper pitch the words will sound like “go to hell” and you will never see that particular customer again.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

We humans are social animals and as such some people find it hard to master all six techniques I have just passed on to you. It’s okay, really! You are, after all, only human and you will make mistakes. There will be days when you only manage consistency with three of the six; there will be other days when you are completely off your game and only one of these tips will come naturally. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day so you need to be patient with yourself. Being a terrible retail clerk takes time and dedication and you will stumble quite a bit when you first start out.

I promise you, though, that if you adhere to these simple suggestions that sooner rather than later you will have mastered all six and they will come as naturally as breathing. When that day arrives you are well on your way to the Social Services office where you can sign up for food stamps and unemployment benefits. Now there is a dream worth chasing!

How do you handle rude retail clerks?

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mary; go out and get something accomplished and do some good. Have a great weekend!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I would laugh if it all wasn't so true! Do these people read your hub and then get a job? I mean seriously, why are they there? Oh, that's right, just for the paycheck. They have no respect or sense of responsibility.

      This really was a funny, well done hub as always.

      I too am trying to up the action today but this is my last read this morning.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tammy, LOL...that was great! I see that in other stores too....but not Best Buy....you can't get away from clerks there. It's almost an attack on your person there. :)

      Thanks Tammy!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kelley, that has happened to me. It's amazing how they make it sound like we have done something wrong. I'm not sure if I believe the customer is always right, but I do believe the customer deserves to be treated with respect.

      Anyway, thank you!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Don't know how this one missed me. I wonder where all the business owners are because they aren't monitoring their stores. This is a real problem. Sears used to be a wonderful store. Now when we are bored, we go there just to shop and see how long it takes clerks to hide when they think we want something. A much needed hub!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      I hadn't read this one of yours before. Everything you wrote here rings true to my experiences with rude clerks. In addition the ones who are talking on the phone and you're unsure if they are talking to you or the person on the phone. This happened to me the other day and where I was checking out and the clerk was on the phone. I couldn't tell if he was talking to me or the person on the phone and he finally said to me, "Lady I'm on the phone" but he was making motions to me on when I could run my card. I thought seriously, how is this my fault. Oh well. Voted this up and shared it! Kelley

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nora, I think we all know some of these clerks. Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • Nora411 profile image

      Nora411 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Hahaha. I think I've worked with people who read this! It just seems too "on the nose". Great Hub! Voting up and Sharing!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lamb! Coming from an accomplished writer I am honored and humbled. Nice to have you along for my ride.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Billy, great minds think alike. I just wrote on this very subject. You did this with great humor...and accuracy. There is no excuse for poor customer service. And it is definitely not a job for losers. It's a hard job and a fun one too. Thanks, good job.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Daxman, I'm glad you got a laugh out of it. I fluctuate between serious hubs and ones I just want to have fun with, and even though I really do hate poor retail clerks I still wanted the hub to be funny...so thank you for your comment and best of luck to you in your writing.

    • Daxman profile image

      Daxman 5 years ago from The Netherlands

      Great hub! Made me laugh a lot and if i EVER get a job as a retail clerk you can bet on the fact that this hub will be printed out and put in my pocket for experimenting :D

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alocsin, it is a rapidly spreading epidemic in retail and I agree with you that they may not have been trained...but still...how about just common courtesy? I appreciate you dropping by, as always.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I see you've consulted with several retail clerks near me who exhibit these attitudes. A lot of them don't give good customer service because unfortunately they don't know what it is. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Every once in a while I like to show I actually have a sense of humor; the personal hubs can wear me down at times. Thank you for following along and I appreciate it greatly.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      This one made me laugh Billy, and sadly it is so true!

      Definite Vote Up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure; I'm glad you enjoyed it, as I do having you follow me. Thank you!

    • Jlava73 profile image

      Jennifer Vasconcelos 5 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

      Thanks, I needed a sidesplitting laugh! Bravo!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My son, who is twenty-seven, works for a major retail store in the area and he comes home with the same complaint. It is not enough to sell a product but then he has to sell the warranties and the related products and, like you say, on and on. I worked retail for years and thankfully I never have to do it again. Thank you for your comment.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I have worked retail and customer service jobs for 20 years. At this point I'm completely burned out. Not from dealing with customers but from the business I worked for making up rules which turn customer service into sales, collections, etc. I'm very good at customer service (I was a favourite cashier when I worked at stores and had customer kudos when I worked over the phone) but I HATE being pushed and threatened to be a marketer on top of that. I hate the canned speech we have to deliver. I hate being told I'm going to be fired nearly every day because I haven't made any extra sales. On and on and on it goes.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      jpcmc, I completely agree. This actually was written from the vantage point of having worked quite a bit of retail. I know it sounds like I'm a disgruntled customer, but I was hoping some of the younger retail clerks out there would do a little introspection and change their ways. I appreciate you stopping by.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Funny way of putting the essential forward. Unless we provide excellent customer service, we will never truly understand the pleasure of selling - especially retail. In this line of work, if you have no patience to begin with, you will not survive. In fact, you will have a dismal day as long as you are in this profession.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you! It was meant mostly in fun but still, there are those out there who have driven me away from a store for good.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I had to read your hub when I saw the title. You made me laugh and it does ring of truth. I have met with some really great retail associates who made me feel special but you do run into those that don't quite get what it is all about. Great hub!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you ruth...it drives me crazy and I just had to put it into words. Thank you for reading and commenting; your support is greatly appreciated.

    • ruthclark3 profile image

      Ruth Clark 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Billy, this hub is great. Up, funny, interesting, and should have an "on target." What gets me sometimes is when the cashier is making personal plans with the person in front of me who has already paid and won't move on plus the cell phone. Not supposed to have those out, but they do. poetvix hit the nail on the head...they do text. I've never had one to ask how to spell a word, though. That's too funny. I'd like to read more of these tutorials.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      OMG, poetvix, you really didn't have a clerk do that to you? That should be in my hub and would probably garner top spot for the rudest action taken by a clerk! I'm laughing but it is so sad! Thanks as always for stopping by and being supportive.

    • poetvix profile image

      poetvix 5 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      Oh! Now I know. You're busted. You are hiding here but really you're the guy who wrote the textbook on customer service in the new age. Every fast food joint in the nation follows it religiously. This was too funny but sadly, so many really act that way. What's really great is when they stop texting for a moment, while I wait, and have the nerve to ask how to spell something!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I totally agree with you Michele; I only go to smaller stores now where I feel my business is appreciated and where a bond of sorts can be formed. Thanks for your comment.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Billybuc this is a good hub. I have found some of the larger places have workers who almost ignore you. So, now I go to the smaller ones. Those are the ones where they pay attention to you, and are friendly. Great hub!

      Thumbs up!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      robie2, I forgot those darn it...great additions. Thank you for reading and the great comment.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you savannah; I greatly appreciate you following me and commenting.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      A fabbulous guide to failure. I have worked as a sales clerk in a small women's clothing boutique where the personal approach is especially important and your tips are right on the money for losing customers. Another good one is the area of returns-- when a customer wants to return something, get really annoyed and accuse her of lying and refuse to take the item back-- oh and I agree with Sally's Trove--it's not good to overpower a female customer by hovering over her and trying to " sell" her-- better to back off and let her brows but be attentive if she needs anything.

      voted up and awesome

    • savanahl profile image

      savanahl 5 years ago

      Great Hub and creative title as usual. Voting up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I can tell you with all certainty that I will loyally shop at a store that has good customer service, and I will avoid others like the plague. It is a tough job and one has to deal with some surly customers along the way, and I truly appreciate the good clerks out there. Thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      Hi Bill! Your hub is so great! I have been working in customer service at Wegmans Food Markets (Upstate New York) since 1989. I am privy to everything you have mentioned in this article! It is a hard job (not rocket science) that comes with a lot of wear and tear on your soul after a while. I made a good amount of money when I was full-time!

      I agree with most of your points. I do like engaging in conversation with the regulars that come in though. Wegmans has a list of core values that we have to follow.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Sally; I think it is important that we give as much helpful advice as possible so these people can get their just reward.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Superior advice! An effective roadmap to failure. The only place I might disagree a bit is about immediately offering help. I hate being approached; however, I do want that retail clerk to be available and alert when I do the approaching. Great read. Up and funny.