Tag Archives: retail

After two weeks, I return to retail. Chaos ensues.

14 Mar

Oh crazy customers, how I missed you

In the past two weeks, I had a temporary vacation from the world of retail. And, while I did enjoy experiencing what not working during the weekend felt like, I also felt terribly bored. All I could really think about during my weekends was what I was missing. How could I live a week without the drama of crazy customers? How was I going to function without witnessing a shoplifter or getting yelled at by super rich women who get kicks out of using coupons even though they probably cut them up with kitchen shears from Williams-Sonoma? I realized that after working in retail for almost six years, I have been somewhat conditioned to expect a certain percentage of drama and craziness in my life. And without it, well, life just seems so boring.

Last weekend, I was finally called into work. As I walked into the store, I breathed a sigh of relief: employees were standing off to the side bitching out customers under their breath, my boss was walking around and emmiting the typical American Psycho aura that he always seems to give off, and customers were setting off security alarms. In the words of J.K. Rowling‘s oh-so-profound last sentence in the Harry Potter series, all was well.

For like ten minutes, at least.

After that, it was as if our store had been punished for letting me back in. In a matter of an hour, the paper in our digital photo kiosk ran out, two people were caught shoplifting (one of which was a particularly gutsy customer who power-walked out of our store with a gift bag full of items), there was a consistent line of at least six customers at any given minute, and as I was running to the back of the store to grab a can of tuna for an elderly customer, I was asked by two different people to let them into the restroom. After I came back to the register and dealt with the line of customers, I turned to my co-worker and said, “Jeez, why is it so busy?” He gave me a weird look and replied, “Um, it’s always busy on Sundays. Remember?”

It seems that I really had forgotten what working in the store was like. After having a wealthy customer throw money at me and then ask me if I had counted it correctly, I realized that customers weren’t as kind and kooky as I had remembered them to be. At the end of that Sunday, my forgetfulness also caused me to scan in the magazine credits and seal them up into the envelope without putting the shipping label on. After telling my co-worker that I needed to open up the sealed package in order to get the shipping label still in there, she began cutting it open. As I was ringing up a customer, I heard her laughing. Not only had I managed to seal up the envelope with the shipping label still inside, but I had also managed to put fifty sheets of price adjustments in the envelope as well. I wonder what the magazine company would have thought if they had received those in the mail! My co-worker then turned to the customer I was ringing up and said, “Better count your money when you get it back. She’s not all here tonight.” She then proceeded to run off, still laughing, to tell our shift supervisor. I was not taken seriously for the rest of the night.

All in all, being back at work after the two-week respite allowed me to sink my teeth back into the healthy dose of chaos and craziness that I had been missing–even if a portion of it was entirely my fault.

The Corporate World, the Retail World, and Why I’m Turning into Liz Lemon

6 Feb

When I told my retail co-workers that I was going to have to severely cut down my hours in order to work at a company temporarily to gain some field experience for my major, I received a mixture of shock and praise. One of my co-workers, a 40 year-old surfer dude who has sympathized with me in the fact that I sometimes want to run away to Vancouver and just become a waitress and people-watch for the rest of my life, seemed to be the most shocked. “I just can’t picture you going over to the dark side,” he said while shaking his long hair, which has more highlights in it than my own, from side to side. Another co-worker told me that she admired the fact that I was trying to get out into the real world and away from constantly juggling twenty things at once, helping customers “shop” (in other words, going to fetch items for them while they stand there), and dealing with women who are obsessed with gingerbread houses.

The thing is, the corporate world is vastly different from retail. You certainly have less crazy people to deal with, you don’t have to worry about overexerting yourself physically because you sit at a desk all day, and you don’t have to wear a polyester-blend shirt in unattractive colors (well, unless you have bad fashion sense…then it’s your own damn fault).  Most importantly, it isn’t as newsworthy–coming home from a day at a retail job, for example, might invoke more interesting stories than coming home from a normal job. I can list at least ten crazy things that happened the last time I worked at my store off the top of my head (one involving a dog chilling out in our stock room), and the only thing I can think of that’s even slightly crazy about my “big girl” job is that I discovered that Mac computers don’t have a “print screen” button. I guess Steve Jobs is just too good for that. I also find that I have more to talk about with my retail co-workers: they share my love for Watchmen, Xbox 360, and obscure alternative folk music. I realized, therefore, that a good happy medium would be to apply for a job that embraces my inner geek, which is why I applied to the associate brand manager job listed for the card game Dungeons & Dragons. I think that I will probably always be involved in retail or some way or the other, but my heart is set on finding a nerdy company to work for who will welcome me with open arms.

Speaking of nerdy, I’ve recently realized, after discovering the amazing show 30 Rock, that I am slowly turning into Tina Fey‘s character of Liz Lemon and I actually don’t mind. As I approach the age of 22 being single, constantly slaving away to either school or work, and binging on unhealthy junk food, I see that my future of becoming a Liz Lemon is imminent: living alone in an apartment, putting credit card collectors on speaker phone while eating dinner just to pretend I have company over, and trying to tape together a bra because I am too busy fighting off people to get the last hot dog at the hot dog stand to go out and buy a new one. I will have gone through five short-lived relationships with men who don’t understand my quirks, sarcasm, or preference for nachos and beer over a five-course meal. And you know what? I’m okay with that. The thing is, Liz is kind of stuck between the personalities of the retail and corporate world too: she has to do her job and act responsible, but at the end of the day all she wants to really do is make fun of people and talk about Star Wars (or in my case, Battlestar Galatica). Either way, as I begin my slow approach towards a new  career, I can only hope that I am able to balance the constant tug-of-war between my inner nerd and the stuffy corporate world as much as Liz Lemon does.

Less Refunds This Holiday Season

21 Dec

All that is left of the returned holiday gifts is this very sad kitty

While sitting in the waiting room of my ghetto pharmacy, I picked up the only option that I had for good reading material: SmartMoney Magazine. And, while most of the articles featured topics that were laced with the kind of jargon that I repeatedly attempt to avoid while studying for my finance class and had the word “portfolio” scattered across each page at least five times, I managed to find quite a gem of an article in the midst of such terribly boring stuff: “The Point of No Return,” by Kristen Bellstrom.

In her article, Bellstrom discusses how many retail stores this holiday season are going to become more strict when it comes to returns. As she reports, one out of ten purchases is returned and, while 10% of purchases does not sound like much, it ends up totaling to a large amount ($43 million) in returned goods not during the fiscal year, but during the holiday.

I mean, wonder if Santa decided to just buy his reindeer for the Christmas season, saved the receipt, and returned Rudolph and his other reindeer buddies after he had finished delivering all of his gifts?

I must say that America, in general, is way too lenient about returns. My international marketing professor even told my class that in some countries refunds (and even coupons) are pretty much banned. It’s like preschool teachers used to say when someone would hand out treats during a classroom birthday celebration: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Well, whatever happened to that kind of mentality? In America, at least, it has faded just as fast as a laser-printed receipt does when sitting out in direct sunlight.

I remember when I first started working in retail and how shocked I was that people were able to get away with the most ridiculous returns. This one woman came in with a shampoo bottle (and it wasn’t the typical cheap V05 bottle, either) and told me that she wanted to return it. I picked up the bottle and realized it was pretty much empty. When I mentioned this to her, she said “Yeah, it leaked all over and that’s why I’m returning it.” Okay, even if a shampoo bottle did leak, it would take a long time for a large bottle to leak that much. But, as we all know, the customer is always right, and that woman ended up getting a refund anyway.

So, during these last few (and frenzied) days of holiday shopping, I would like to propose a challenge to serial refunders around the country: buy only what you need, make thoughtful and rational decisions when buying gifts for others, and if you do receive a crappy present, learn to appreciate it for what it is, or donate it to someone less fortunate instead of trying it out, damaging it, and then trying to get a few bucks back. It will make you feel happier, more appreciative, and will turn you into a better person. And no one would ever think of refunding a thoughtful, happy person.

New Management, Same B.S.

17 Nov

Spitting image.

After a few weeks of doing what any obese child does these days–locking myself in my room and taking refuge in sustenance in the form of Life-Savers Sour Gummies  and water that has so much Crystal Light in it that even the Kool Aid man feels inferior–I am finally back. Being a senior marketing student has really taken the aspect of group projects to an entire new level this semester: I have three of them, all of which involve the laziest people I have ever met. I still don’t understand how students can have Blackberrys and smart phones but cannot do something as simple as reply back to group emails. But I digress.

About a month ago, my store found out that our assistant manager was being promoted to a manager at a new store and that we, consequentially, would be getting a new assistant manager. Throughout my experiences at my store, I have come to terms with the fact that retail is, much like all of life, a series of comings and goings. I have always made it a point to be as welcoming as possible to any new person in our store, even if I knew that they probably wouldn’t be around very long. With that being said, I was extremely nice to our new assistant manager, who I will call Dudley. All in the spirit of the new Harry Potter movie coming out, of course.

Dudley is a 30-something chubby man who is so ADD that he makes even the most Ritalin-overdosed kindergartner seem calm and normal. The first time I met him, he spent the first ten minutes that I was at the register complaining about how much he had worked that week, and failed to clock my time in even though I interrupted his rant about five times to ask him politely to do so. I’m pretty sure I am going to get flagged for being late that day just because he failed to notice me constantly pointing, jumping, and waving, much like a Sim character who has been locked in a room without a toilet, at the sign-in screen. But hey, he was new. I gave him a break.

Last Friday, however, I got called into work due to a “schedule” change. Whatever, I have no life so I was totally fine with working on a Friday night considering it was only a five-hour shift. When I got there, however, Dudley instantly began bitching about how our manager was sick and how he was here on his day off, how he didn’t want to stay till midnight because he had to be back in the store at 6am the next day. I have never heard a grown man complain so much in my life. I laughed and told him that retail sucks and that’s just the way it goes, but apparently he was complaining for a reason: he wanted ME to stay until midnight so he could go home and sleep.

Now, let it be known that I come in and help out my store a LOT. Let me also say that I work about 18 hours over the weekend, and between that and all of my school stuff I never have a single day to rest. I was exhausted that night, and I told him that I really couldn’t stay and that I was very sorry, but my semester was being really stressful. Yet Dudley continued to bug me and pretty much make me feel completely terrible about the fact that he couldn’t go home. It started to make me feel a bit uncomfortable, so eventually I stood up for myself and told him no, point-blank. He spetn the entire remainder of the night sighing loudly, giving me death glares, and taking “bathroom breaks” which really consisted of him calling our manager and begging him to have me or someone else come in so he wouldn’t have to work the next day. Later on in the night, he even came out from the register, stood really close to me, and told me “Just so you know, the manager isn’t coming back until February, so I will be the acting manager until then. Just so you know.” I did what I have learned pisses off people trying to make a point more than anything–I played dumb blonde. “Wow that’s so cool! Congrats!” I said, and I walked into the break room to get my things, leave at the time I was meant to leave,  and go home. If you are an assistant manager who has been with the company for only a year, don’t try to scare me. Just…don’t.

That’s the thing about working retail, though, you really are guilt-tripped into completely overworking yourself. I have sacrificed many of my own free days to come in and help out the store just because, well, I knew things would be really bad for all of my co-workers if I didn’t come in and help. But there is certainly a line which a manager, or assistant manager, or anyone can cross when they complain and bug you so much that the last thing you want to do is help them. Soon enough you find them making up the most ridiculous reasons to leave work early: “Oh, but if I don’t have someone cover this shift, I won’t be home in time to feed the three infants I adopted from Tanzania who, if they aren’t fed at six o’clock on the dot, instantly believe that they are starving to death and start having terrible flashbacks.” Actually, I wish someone would use that as an excuse, I would just tell them that obviously they need to call the Angelina Jolie hotline and get some good adoptive parenting tips.

Days later, Dudley has continued to impress our manager who, as I found out later, really isn’t taking a leave of absence, by completely ignoring customer calls that were put on hold for him, not entering the paychecks properly so that at least five employees in our stores had not been paid enough for the time they worked, and tripping over boxes when he thought nobody was looking (I was!). And, even though I doubt that he will be around much longer, he taught me a very important lesson: sometimes, as much as I want to help everyone out–because that’s what we are really trained to do in retail, after all–I have to take care of myself first. There isn’t an “i” in “team”, but there sure as hell is one in “retail”.



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 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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