The Not So Secret Struggles of a Sales Associate

Is the Customer Really Always Right?

by Victoria Priola

Not many employed people care for what they do. It’s almost in our nature to hate what we do for a living. There is one category of work that is set apart from all others and without a doubt has the most complaints; Retail.

“I love going to work, standing around for nine hours straight for mediocre pay and no benefits with a smile on my face,” said no one ever. I’m sure other work environments are much more problematic than a store, but the average person would be surprised by what sales associates have to endure within a work period. None of which they get paid enough for.

How many hours can you work without wanting to kill the customer? How much sleep can you obtain during your measly hour break?
What can you do to make your boss think you’re actually doing something productive at work? Having a job in any type of store is the ultimate test of patience.

If you aren’t aware of the reality behind what retail workers actually go through, prepare to be amazed.

Coupons are a Customer’s Best Friend: When your store is having a sale, no matter the discount, be prepared to be aggravated. There’s just something about percentage off that gets a crowd going. If the sale is good enough, you can actually witness their transformation from people to animals. It’ll be a 20% sale on an item, and when the item isn’t $2, it’s your fault. It’s also your fault when coupons don’t work on the selected item the customer brings to counter. There could be a neon billboard blinking in front of the item display stating that the coupon will not work and they’ll still demand that it does or it should.

There will always be those customers who hand you stacks of coupons which are all expired, claiming that they are still valid. Someone will fight you over a sale that ended in 2007 and truly believe they are right. You’ll be having a nice day at work, when you’re suddenly handed an encyclopedia of coupons, none of which are applicable to the purchase being made.

Building Up to Breakdown; Cleaning the Store: What your boss means when they ask you to “try to clean up the floor” is “make sure the store looks good for others who will completely destroy whatever you’ve worked on”. Anyone who has been assigned to make any sort of display knows that it will not stay as neat throughout the day. Depending on the flow of traffic throughout your store, a decent arrangement will be ruined in under an hour. In my personal retail experience, I am notorious for having my displays ruined. I’ll be assigned a table of shirts to fold and set in place and as I am
folding the shirts, customers will pick them up and throw them to the wayside when it’s not up to their standards. I’ve been directly in front of them and they’ve thrown what I had been working on for ten minutes on the floor or they’ll move them out of the piles and leave them on different platforms. Then when you ask them if they need help finding a particular size, they don’t want it. They’d rather just make a mess and leave.

A People’s Person; Customer Service VS. Customer Labor: We all know that customer that comes into the store as if they were the most important customer of the day. With money to blow, they prance around the store as if they owned the place. This is all well and good for business, but not so good for the poor worker that has to cater to their every need. There is a fine line between service and labor. After a while of holding merchandise for a customer and running around the store to make sure they have what they need, it starts to seem as though they’ve become your temporary boss. Every customer is supposed to be treated with the utmost respect, but there are some who think they’re entitled to a little more than they deserve. When the store is packed, these people can be the biggest problem for retail workers. They’ll cut others in the check-out line, forcing the sales associate to be in the awkward “whoever gets to me first, pays” position. They’re usually always the individuals who are wanted out of the store the fastest.

Although retail workers get the short end of the stick, most of the time doesn’t mean the customers are always wrong. Sometimes the workers are the wrong ones, but I guess since they are being paid to be there and the customers are there by choice, it is hard to see it that way. The bottom line is, treat others the way you’d like to be treated. The next time you’re in a store, try to go easy on the employees. If you see them looking miserable, now you know why.


Categories: Lifestyles

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