Dear Customer, You are Not Always Right!

Some thoughts about working in retail…

Very early on in my career working in customer service, I was taught that the customer is always right! It took me a few years to realize just how far from the truth that was.
Let’s recap 10+ years of working in retail and customer service, devoting almost every day to pleasing other people.

I’ve had some pretty awesome people come my way. Customers with loving words, tears of joy in their eyes, flowers, chocolate, and even homemade apple cake.
I’ve also met a lot of smiles and compliments. I’ve even turned quite a lot of frowns upside down over the years. Sometimes it takes just a little, sometimes a whole lot.

Not to sound too cocky, but I’m good at my job. I know that. I’m not perfect, and I do make mistakes, as the human I am. But I do know that I do my best to try to give excellent customer service each and every day.

But there’s one type of customer that has me wanting to stop working with customer service altogether.

It’s YOU!
YOU who’s never worked directly with people or with customer service, so you have no idea what it feels like to interact with people as your job, so you walk all over us and expect us to meet your every need.

YOU who looks down on me because I don’t have a job that requires a degree (although I might very well have one for all you know) as if all my years in the business, all my training, all the hours, and all the hard work isn’t worth a damn thing.

YOU who think it’s okay to talk to me as if you own me. As if we have to do whatever you demand, no matter what your rights or the rules are.

YOU who think you can come in two seconds before closing time and demand that we stay over to help you, because your time is valuable, and ours apparently is not.

YOU who think it is okay to yell and be rude just because you are a customer.

YOU who keep saying things like “it’s just a retail job”, “she’s just a saleswoman” or ask us “so, when are you going to get a real job?”

YOU don’t have the right to undermine the talent of people who do the jobs that make your everyday life easier. The people that help you out are not yours to trample on like a dirty rug. So many of us do our job with pride, just as much as a lawyer or an accountant does theirs. And most importantly, we are no less human than the people with higher ducation, or the ones with millions in the bank.

We’re all humans who are living our lives, and we all deserve to be treated with respect.

So, to anyone out there who in any way recognized themselves as the YOU that I just described, please try to do better. Please try to not be the obnoxious person who makes talented workers want to quit their jobs.
And above all, just please, think before you speak. Try to picture how you would feel if someone said the words you are about to say.

There, I’ve vented my frustration and anger, instead of taking it out on someone who wouldn’t have deserved it.

Now, what can I do for you today?

Don’t bite our heads off, please…

Over the years I’ve worked in quite a few different places within retail. Most days I love being around people. They give me so much food for thought. Even though I’ve had the pleasure to work with electronics (I love me some gadgets) and books (well you know how I feel about those), I have to say that working with glasses has so far been the one that I’ve enjoyed the most. I think the biggest reason for that is that my job is to actually help people that needs it. It’s not about selling a lot of things that people don’t need, It’s about helping them to actually see! I love it!

But this post was not supposed to be a gush of my love for the optical industry. It’s a plea to a few of you customers out there.

For the customer that yells at us when we ask when you’re born. For the ones who fumes and curses when they have to wait a few minutes to get help. For those who slam their fists on the counter when their product didn’t arrive on time. Those who curse and scream and threatens.

I get it! You have certain expectations, so do I. But sometimes it feels like the expectations that are set for serviceminded people in retail can be beyond ridiculous. Want to know a secret? We’re only humans, just like you.

We have our off days. We try our best to not let it show, but sometimes our best just doesn’t do the trick. Sometimes we falter in the areas that we normally succeed in. It’s life after all.

We get sick. So when you have to stand in line because there’s only one person working in the store, don’t forget that the person standing there could’ve already been working hours overtime trying to do the work usually done by two or more.

We are here to help you. Yes, that much I’m guessing you already knew. That however, does not mean that you can bully and boss us around. We genuinely want to help, and to give you the best experience possible, but we also expect to be treated like an equal. We put a lot of work and training into what we do, even though it is “just retail”.

The customer isn’t always right. I’m sorry to burst that bubble, but someone had to.

I’ve had customers screaming in my face when I tried (calmly) to tell them the rules of warranties and tax refunds. Rules that I could point out and show them, and still they yelled at me and told me I needed to learn to do my job better, just because I couldn’t give them the answer they wanted. I’ve had customers that said such cruel things to me (completely unprovoked) that I ended up crying afterwards. I’ve also had customers that felt it was okay to stare at my body instead of making eye contact while I was talking to them. I’ve gotten sexist jokes thrown my way more times than I can count.

Working in retail and with people can be overwhelming at times. And constantly being surrounded by strangers that demand your full attention can be hard.

So when you feel frustrated; Talk to us. Ask us your questions. Listen to the answers you’ll receive. Don’t bully, and don’t be rude.

Please, do not bite our heads off. Most likely, we are just trying to help.

To end this post on a more positive note; I want to mention how grateful I am to have received so many smiles, kind words, baked goods, flowers and hugs from customers over the years. Those are the moments that I choose to hold on to. I’ve learned so much about business, psychology, human behaviour, kindness, gratitude, and heard so many amazing stories from wonderful people. People I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with if it weren’t for my years being out on the floor in the business of retail.

It’s been a very interesting journey, and one that I’m still enjoying very much!

Be nice to one another. I guess that’s the message I’m trying to get through here.

Lots of love,

Christina ❤️