When I took my first retail job last year, I came into it with a little background experience in waitressing, so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into when dealing with customers. And while the experience is going to be different at every store, I'd still have to say that serving is a much harder and more thankless job than retail. That being said, you're always going to find yourself dealing with the worst customers at some time or another. After a few months of working in this industry, here are a few things I've learned:
1. The customer is rarely right, but you still have to be nice.This saying is a favorite in the world of customer service, and rightfully so, as it usually pays off. But in the regular day to day activities of retail, it becomes evident very quickly that people really have no idea how things work. Customers will argue about prices until you can prove to them that, yes, the price marked on the item is, in fact, correct. They will share their dismay that you don't carry or ran out of their sizes. And you still have to smile and nod and thank them for shopping at your store.
2. That doesn't mean the customers will be nice back to you.No matter how big your smile is or how sweet you sound when you tell a customer to "Have a great day!" or "Thank you for shopping with us!", there will always be people who just. don't. care. People who simply ignore you and walk out, people who look directly at you and walk away without saying a word, and people who respond with a glare or a snarl. You can spend five minutes trying to get a hat off a metal stand on the very top shelf for a customer who will then decide they don't actually want it — but instead of thanking you for getting it or apologizing for your trouble, they'll just hand it to you and ask someone else to get another item down for them. For those who preach about that Midwestern friendliness, work a few weeks in retail and you'll find out that even the nicest cities have some stunningly rude people.
3. The laziness is REAL.If I had a dollar for every time I picked up a pair of earrings sitting on a table right next to their display rack, or a hanger put on the rack backwards, I would never have to work again. You want to leave a pile of clothes in the dressing room? Fine. Ask me to put away some shirts you decided weren't so cute? Not a problem. But taking a piece of jewelry off its stand and dropping it there on the table? Here's a tip for shoppers: IT'S NOT. THAT. HARD.
4. Stupid questions do exist. And you'll answer a lot of them.Is this a shirt or a dress? This is a question I got last weekend, and at first I'll admit that it's not such a silly question; some shirts are long and dresses are short. But when you put it on and it goes down past your knees, it's a dress. Yes, I'm sure it's a dress. No, really — I promise, it's a dress.
5. Your responsibilities are more than your job description.In the 9 months I've spent as a part-time sales associate, I have been a cashier, a visual merchandiser, a janitor and a personal shopper. I have unwrapped, hung and steamed countless garments, and I have seen too many middle-aged women in bras. I have followed needy customers around and carried piles of clothes for women who seem to think we have nothing else to do. I have climbed ladders and nearly dropped metal bars on my head. Working in retail is far more than selling clothes.
P.S. 7 mistakes you're making at a career fair, and what I learned from my first jobs