Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Customer Service

Retail. Hospitality. Supermarkets.

Wherever you work, wherever you shop and whatever you shop for, you have to deal with people (if you do have a job that doesn't require you to deal with people, please let me know where to drop off my resume). So eventually you're going to encounter that often terrible, sometimes wonderful creature: CUSTOMER SERVICE *dun dun duuuuun!*

Now, I work in retail. I also shop, both online and offline, for different things. Thus I have encountered both sides of the proverbial fence: experiencing crappy customer service with unhelpful/oblivious staff and having to put up with horrendously rude customers.

Inspired by the day I had at work, here's a list of my Top Five Things Not To Do whilst shopping (employee and customer versions). It's a bit retail-biased, but there are some pretty universal points:

If you are a customer:
1. Don't bring food or drink into the store. Most shops actually have a sign that mentions this - mine does. But you still get people wandering in with the odd ice-cream or coffee. Now it's not that we don't want you eating or drinking in the store - it's when you make a mess that we have to clean up that it gets not-fun. Especially when it's already busy in the store, we're having to clean up after merchandise that customers have left lying around, and when you risk damaging or dirtying merchandise that we then have to explain to the manager. Eating and drinking are for cafes.

2. DON'T ask for a discount or a freebie. I cannot stress this enough. We are lectured by our managers to tell customers about sales and promotions. It's a part of our job to tell you about these things in the hopes that you will buy more things. Most of the workers you encounter in shops are grunts - as in we have no authority and/or influence and we get the short end of the proverbial stick. Asking us for free stuff, or discounts, is just annoying. We feel bad when we have to turn you down, it's irritating because it feels like you think we aren't doing our jobs properly, and when you KEEP asking even though we've made it clear that we actually cannot physically do anything for you... it's just plain rude.

3. Please, be polite and don't walk in on the phone, or with your earphones in/on. Seriously. Whilst I understand that some people are skilled at 'walk-and-talk', and that some shops play craptastic music... C'mon. Let us do our job and at least say hello to you when you walk in!

4. Check store opening and closing times. A pet peeve of mine is when people come into the store 5-10 minutes before closing time TO BROWSE. Yeah, some people work 9-5 and don't have much time to shop. I really don't mind if you have to run in on your way home to make a purchase. But if you're shopping recreationally, DON'T walk in at 5:20pm when we close at 5:30 and meander around aimlessly until some poor employee with the short straw has to tell you they're closing in one minute and please, sir/ma'am just leave so we can clean up, close up and go home!!!!

5. Actually listen to what staff say. Asking me the same question 5 different times, albeit with slightly different wording, will not produce a different answer. I ain't made o' magic, I can't pull stock out of my- anything, ok?

If you are an employee:
1. Smile. I know what it's like to be having a terrible day, to be exhausted or upset, or to just plain not want to be at work. But you're getting paid to be there. At least you could muster enough energy to move a few facial muscles so I don't feel like I somehow offended you by walking into your store.

2. If you don't know, find someone who does, or explain to me why you don't know or aren't sure. Yeah, sometimes managers aren't the most communicative bunch, but I only know what you tell me. Being new is also a good excuse.

3. Make eye contact. If you're busy with another customer, or a task, that's fine. It's polite to acknowledge that there's another person in the room by at least looking at them (again hopefully with a smile. Being glared at is unpleasant).

4. Do be careful when processing sales so that you don't make a mistake and over-charge a customer.

5. Try not to eat and/or drink at the sales counter (most shops, especially in retail, frown on this), and if you absolutely must, be discreet. It's a bit off-putting to see someone chomping away over the till! This includes gum. I might be biased because I think it's gross (I make an exception for bubble gum) but it's just not necessary to be chewing gum 24/7. Save it for after work, please.


  1. I work at an Arby's and I just want to refuse service to anybody talking on their phone. It's so rude it makes me want to puke. People will be on their phones the whole time they order in the drive thru, and I don't know if they're talking to me or someone on the other end. They never get off the phone even at the window. I get glared at for telling them their total! I want to be like "Oh, I wouldn't want to interrupt your important call to give you your food." >:[ People are so rude.

  2. Heather: I know exactly what you mean! I really wish it were possible to charge rude customers extra. Call it the 'pain-in-my-ass' tax or something.

  3. I don't care about people walking in while on the phone, as long as they don't take their phone conversation to the checkout and try to get direct service while on the phone.


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