Archive | August, 2010

Cracks in the Foundation

28 Aug

Since I will be going back to my university in the following week, I figured I would try and attempt to make another post. It’s crazy to think that maybe one day, if I am lucky, I will be working on marketing for the exact same kinds of products that I ring up at my job every day. Working part-time and taking senior-level business classes is going to be tough, but I am going to try my best to continue updating this blog.

I haven’t had as many crazy customers come into my store lately. Either that, or I am just becoming used to being around weirdos all day. About a week ago I had a customer do something that I have NEVER seen done before. She was a cute little old lady, probably into her late eighties, and she came up to my counter looking very disoriented. She bought a bottle of foundation that, I may add, was very Lindsay Lohen-esque in the fact that it was five shades darker than her skin tone and very orange looking.

Side note: I am truly terrified to become an elderly person just because of the many cosmetic horrors a lack of good eyesight can do to you. I’ve often felt compelled to keep industrial-strength tweezers near my register just so i can help pluck the million wiry, grey hairs sticking out of so many women’s faces. I’m seriously starting to wonder what kind of hormones are in the foods we eat considering the general abundance of facial hair that seems to be appearing on everyone now. Bleh!

Anyway…back to the crazy old lady. So she buys the foundation and she leans in and whispers (well, I figured she was trying to whisper but it seemed pretty loud to me) “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today…I’ve never felt like this before.” I smiled my token “retail smile” and gave one of my token general responses which probably went along the lines of “Hmm, I wonder why!” And she stands off to the side and begins twisting the top off of the foundation, and she pours a generous amount into the palms of her hands and just starts smothering her whole face in cheap, orange foundation while I am ringing up other customers. I even asked her if she wanted me to let her into the restroom so she could see a mirror, but she insisted that she was fine. After putting on what seemed to be half of the bottle, she turned to me and asked if it all looked okay, and I just smiled and nodded. Poor woman. When I was little, my mother always told me that it was in bad taste to put on lipstick or even look in a mirror while in public. Putting on foundation in public, however, is taking that piece of social etiquette to a whole new level!

Our loyal blind customer also walked into a wall outside our store a week ago as well. He lives really close and assumes that he can get along just fine without someone assisting him. He has a great sense of humor and was laughing about the whole thing, but the customers who witnessed the fall were very concerned. They seemed to be even more concerned when they noticed that all he bought was three bottles of cheap vodka. So, did he walk into a wall because he is perpetually drunk, or did he walk into a wall because he is blind? Or both? The world may never know.

I think it’s really amazing, by the way, that so many people with handicaps are able to shop on their own. I love the fact that our store is home to so many of these people and how we all go out of our way to make sure they have the most comfortable shopping experience ever. I remember the first time I ever rang out a person in a wheelchair by themselves and I asked them if they needed a bag, and they just gave me a dirty look. Whoops!

Receipts 101

18 Aug

Yesterday, during my eight-hour shift, I believe I broke a new record for myself–it honestly felt like I rang up close to 1,000 customers! And while I am sure that the number is exaggerated, I rang non-stop for eight hours, so that is still quite a lot of people. It wasn’t the amount of people who made it bad, however, it was the fact that it seemed like each person had carts filled to the brim with a lot of items. The only reasons I could think of for the spike in purchases yesterday is 1) a lot of back to school items, or 2) the world is going to end soon and apparently I didn’t get the memo. Either way, yesterday was quite exhausting and I felt like I got run over by a million squeaky, old carts.

I’d like to dedicate this post to the (many) consumers out there who are unfamiliar with exactly what kinds of duties receipts can fulfill. I do this not only because I have enough compassion in my heart to teach as many customers as possible about how to make their shopping experiences in retail better and more enjoyable, but also because some people are just absolutely stupid. Do you want a more enjoyable retail shopping experience? Do you feel/admit that you are a stupid person in general? Read on.

Receipts 101

1. Ever wondered what the store name, phone number, address, or in some cases Twitter account name are for a store you just visited? Check the receipt.

2. Ever wonder if you got the sale for those toenail clippers that you so desperately couldn’t pay full price for? Check the receipt. Hint: will most likely have “sale” on “saved [insert amount here]” written next to the item on the receipt paper.

3. Ever wonder how much you’ve saved in total at a particular store for a year or a sales quarter? Check the receipt. Hint: If you don’t usually scan your store card, when provided, you might be left in the dark on this one.

4. Still wondering why you didn’t get the proper sale on those toenail clippers? Refer to #3 above–perhaps you didn’t use your store card and, therefore, did not get a sale price!

5. Ever wonder how much a particular item cost? Check the receipt. If you are too lazy to check the receipt and ask the cashier to read it to you, then you should feel downright ashamed and stupid.

6. Ever wonder what the name of your cashier was or what the transaction number was? Yep–check the receipt!

7. Ever wonder why you are missing an item? Check the receipt–it could be possible that the item was never scanned and is still chilling there on the counter.

8. Ever wonder which credit card you used to pay for your transaction? Check the receipt. Or, if you are one of those customers who only write checks, take the receipt out (and the special little pen that you probably carry around with your Lion King checks) and write down the following sentence: “Bring debit/credit card in wallet next time so that I may not hold up the line writing out my Lion King check.”

9. Ever wonder if your coupons all got scanned? Check the receipt! After doing that, immediately go home and clip more coupons.

10. Ever wonder if you have a piece of scrap paper handy? Check for a receipt (which you have probably never read anyway) in your local wallet/purse. Voila!

As demonstrated, receipts can be quite handy and can answer the most pertinent questions that you may have about your transaction. Therefore, it isn’t really necessary to waste time asking the cashier questions that you can most likely answer yourself. If you are a person who, once given the receipt, just throws it back at the cashier and says “keep it”, then you’re left to fend for yourself and maybe you should consider not throwing anything, even paper, back at a cashier.

Questions? Comments? Confusion? Let me know if there are any other 101’s that you would like to read about!

Retail Therapy (Part Deux)

14 Aug

I’d like to spend some time in this entry reflecting on exactly what working part-time in retail means to me. Trust me, I am absolutely dying to write another post about how crazy my customers are, but I realized that customers complain just as much as employees do. With that being said, it would make me feel better if even one customer has the chance to read this entry and can understand why some people actually do enjoy working retail (for the most part).

Like I mentioned in my previous post, retail really has become a kind of therapy for me. I have, and probably always will be, a bit of a negative thinker. And trust me, I think a lot. Then, when I started working, I learned about putting on a “retail smile” and how cashiers were often expected to always be nice, chatty, and happy. Even if I was having a bad day, I would always walk into work and focus all of my energy on trying to be kind to customers. In a way, my mentality was that if I couldn’t have a good day, I could at least help someone else have a good one. After doing this for a while, I found that just pretending to be happy and positive actually had some effect on me! It was then that I realized that the power of thought is extremely strong, and that it is possible to feel happy if you set your mind to it. Now, if I am having a bad day or week, I actually look forward to going into work because I am forced to be in situation where I can’t cry, complain, or just stay in bed and sleep off any emotions that I might have. I find that even if I am only working four or five hours, I usually walk out of work feeling a lot better about life then when I walked in. That’s right, folks–my lame part-time job taught me all about the power of positive thinking, and I feel that learning such a thing at a young age is invaluable.

I’m sure a lot of my readers (I say “a lot” because I can only hope that my blog views will continue to multiply!) are wondering if I’m on crack because I find happiness in retail which, as we all know, can be one of the hardest fields to work in on a day to day basis. I believe that, because retail has such a negative and bad reputation, people walk into retail jobs automatically believing that every day of working there is going to be hell in a hand basket (or shopping cart, or whatever). And yes, some days I really do feel like crying or slapping customers because I am just so exhausted from the way that I am treated. At the same time, many fail to recognize that behind every unhappy person is a story.

About a year into working, I came across a woman in her mid-thirties who looked like she was a complete brat– I still remember looking up and seeing her in line with a completely sour look on her face. But, instead of just ringing her up as fast as I could and letting her be a sourpuss somewhere else, I decided to take a different approach that, in the end, would completely change my perspective on angry customers. When the lady finally came up to my register, she was very short with me and was giving me the whole “I don’t give a shit who you are” eyebrow raise that I’ve come to know and love. As I was ringing her up, I asked her how her day was in a very kind tone and gave her a smile. She let out a huff and said, “Fine, thanks.” And then, I heard her sniffling. This woman who seemed to have such a hard, heartless exterior was at my register shedding a few tears and wiping them away. She looked around and finally admitted that she was having an extremely bad day and she apologized for her behavior.

There are so many people out there who have lives that our imaginations can’t grasp. There are people who have gone through so much that they don’t feel like they owe anything—not even a smile–to the world. In the midst of all of this, I find myself staring past my register at a crowd of bustling people who have taught me that looks can be so deceiving. I have met beautiful girls who are complete alcoholics, customers with severe eating disorders, and customers who have just learned that they have cancer and have to immediately start chemotherapy. And yeah, some customers are just plain-old crazy or mean. But ultimately it is our responsibility as employees to understand that nothing should be taken personally and that, in the end, people just want to be happy, healthy, and loved. That is why I firmly believe that even a simple “retail smile” can do so much more than anyone will ever know.

I’d like to offer a little challenge to anyone reading this who usually would classify themselves as a rude, angry, or impatient customer: the next time that you buy something at your local drug store, be as kind as you possibly can to the cashier and know that we, too, need to feel happy and loved. As we all know, you can only get back what you give away.

Retail Therapy (Part Une)

11 Aug

As Anne Frank once said, “Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.” En route to my destination today after nearing the end of my trip, I realized a very disturbing thing: it had only been a week, and I missed work. Not to sound cliché, but it really felt like my life wasn’t one hundred percent complete. Since I have been away from the rigorous and riveting (alliteration station!) world of retail, I figured that I would dedicate a post to retail that touches on exactly what working retail means to me.

Retail (and the company I am with) was my first job when I was seventeen. I was going to a high school that I absolutely hated, I felt completely out of touch with the world and uninspired, and I was going through a phase where I was really quiet and felt like it was impossible to be myself. In the midst of all of this, I found myself a job. When I began working as a cashier, I was forced to talk to strangers and work as a team with other employees. At first, it was extremely hard. I still remember ringing up people during that first month–I spoke to people in a whisper that I can only describe as something akin to a “church voice”. I was such a perfectionist and so worried that I would make a mistake that my hands would often shake while I was handing customers change. On top of all of this, I would come out of work being on the verge of tears every day. I had absolutely no idea that customers could be so mean, and I took it all quite personally. I think my understanding of those first few weeks of working at a new store is why I’m always chosen to be the person to help train a new employee on the register. “If you feel like crying every day, it’s totally normal,” I would always say. “People here are vicious, but you’ll learn not to take it personally after a while. Just stick it out.” And, to my delight, they always did.

Looking back, I realize that working a part-time job helped to push me out into the real world and face some of my fears–like facing altercation and making conversation with complete strangers. Even though I am at a wonderful (and pricey) university, I still believe that the best education I ever received about the world happened right at my part-time job. After a few months I had a small group of regulars that I enjoyed talking to and I stopped tearing up every time I had an angry customer. I realized that, beside the moments when products had to be straightened on the shelves or when I had to clean the bathrooms (embarrassing as this is, I’ll confess: the first time I EVER cleaned a bathroom in my life was at my job….my mother probably knew that if she had ever asked me to do it at home that something would go terribly wrong), I found that working in retail was like being in the world’s tallest lifeguard chair and looking down at a sea of people who each had something to teach you or show you about the world. These findings are, to this day, what I like to call my OWN version of “retail therapy.” I will touch on these findings in my next post! 🙂

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