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Be Nice to the People Who Work Retail

Updated on May 23, 2014

We've Lost the Loving Feeling

Despite the idea of the Golden Rule, people just do not respect each other anymore. People are mean, disrespectful and down right cruel in some respects. The worst part? People are showing this example to their children...which just perpetuates the cycle of disrespect to the next generation. It is a wonder to this writer if this disrespect for others stems from a disrespect for themselves. Interesting concept since some studies and just general observation have shown that some people need to feel better by putting others down. Most exploration and study will be required for this question to be answered in full. But seriously, all you need to do is watch people around you and how they treat people who they think are under them. The results should be eye opening.

The Golden Rule

As we grew up we were told of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is a moral code translated from the Bible, Luke 6:31. It is also called the ethic of reciprocity, variations of this concept can found in many religions and throughout history. Some versions urge people to love other people or to avoid doing harm to others. In each case, the underlying theme is that one should treat other people with kindness and respect.

Story From the Front Lines of Retail

I have worked in retail for over 10 years of the latter half of my life, and food service in the former 10 years. I have seen it all. I have had the very best of customers and the very worst. The issue comes about that I have seen and been the target of the 'worst' half of that equation. I have been yelled at, berated, complained to (and about) and treated as though I know nothing of what the customer is asking of me.

Here is an example of just a couple days ago. In my workplace, we are required to greet every customer upon entry to the store. We used to say, "Hello! Can I help you find anything?" This, of course, is a closed-ended question that is answered by either a yes and a then a description of what the customer wants, or a no, and then they move on to browse and shop of their own accord. In recent weeks, we have had to modify our greeting into "Hello, what brings you in today?" This is supposed to elicit an engaged response in which we, as sales people, are more able to help and give better customer service.

Comically, I find that some customers do not pay that close of attention to the sales people that are attempting to engage them and when I say "What brings you in today?" I get the answer of "Fine, thank you." Me and my fellow staff members get a good chuckle out of their non-listening to an easy question.

Some still just say that they are browsing or that they are just looking and that is fine with me. I can always make my rounds throughout the store and check in with them at some other point in their shopping excursion. And they tell me that in a respectful manner.

In other times, like just a couple days ago, I get people that just seem to be mad at the world and I get to be the new target. So, here I am in my freshly cleaned uniform (I had the day before off, so like everyone, I did laundry) early in the morning shift and bored. It has been a fairly dead couple of weeks as far as sales numbers go. Here comes in a female customer with her child. After abruptly putting her child into a cart, she turns to see me. She already doesn't look like a pleasant customer, but sometimes appearances can be deceiving. I approach and say my greeting: "Hello, what brings you in today?" Her undeserved terse remark to me was "Shopping." Being one not to let things get to me so easily, I continued to try and replied to her: "Anything I can help you shop for today?" If looks could kill, I think I would have taken a sniper rifle round to the head. While the answer was an angry 'no' in words, her look was worse...and in front of her young boy.

She violently turned her cart away from me an proceeded to walk into the heart of the store. My cashier and I shared a look and she told me that the customer had been in before with her computer to be fixed because they somehow seemed to mess it up. She and her husband were swearing up a storm at each other and at my coworker that was attempting to help them with their device. In the middle our conversation, my other coworker in the store tried to check in with the woman and her remark to him asking if she needed assistance was met with a near-shout of "No! I have already been accosted once. I don't need any help!"

Was that line really necessary? My co-worker and I are just doing our jobs and unlike some other places retail shops, we attempt to do our best to engage our customers and get them everything they need and make suggestions to complete their order. Just because we work for an hourly wage in a retail store does not mean that we deserve to be treated rudely.

The worst part of this? It is not really us being treated badly...not that it is not bad as it is...but this treatment of others is being shown in front of her child. A very impressionable boy of maybe 4 years of age. Welcome to the world of today.


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