As any regular reader will know, this blog is about mainly marathon training, weightloss, Slimming World, and all related topics in this sphere. Today however, I am going off-topic.
Working in retail is grinding my gears something serious.
I have been serving the public in one capacity or another since I was 10. My family owned a pub, and in typical Oirish fashion, I spent my formative years behind the bar serving pints and listening to the unique brand of shite talk that defines rural hostelries. I loved it! Flash forward ten years, and I’m working in a pub/bistro/nightclub affair – loving it even moreso, and eventually ascending the ladder to become General Manager. After some five years of that, I change scene completely, with a shift to retail. Convenience store and petrol station no less, where I have been for five years.
Working with the public is rewarding in its own way, as you get to meet all manner of people from every walk of life, some with great stories to tell and some who say very little but are charming nonetheless. However. There are days when working with the public makes me want to run out in front of a bus. For all their charms, the general public are stupid, rude, unmannerly, arrogant, presumptuous, and ultimately soul-destroying. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of handy rules to follow whilst in a shop, to ensure you avoid being stabbed to death with a Drumstick lolly by an irate shop assistant.
1. Say please and thank you. Basic manners are important, but often unused.
2. Be polite. You don’t need to make love to the person serving you, but at least make eye contact and engage in a smile.
3. Speak when spoken to. There is nothing more infuriatingly rude than greeting someone who simply does not answer. Even a half hearted reply is better than nothing.
4. Don’t fire your items at the operator. If there is no basket involved, set your chosen items on the counter calmly – heaping stuff down hurriedly is very irritating and slows down the whole transaction.
5. Have your method of payment ready. Don’t stand in a daze whilst the total is being rung up, only to spend an eternity hoking through a purse/wallet/handbag for money or a card. You’re holding up the queue. If you do end up doing this, at least apologise to the other customers.
6. Know what you need. Nobody likes the person who has all their grocery items rang through and ready to go, only to start asking for top ups, bill payments etc. Ask for these first, and they’ll be complete by the time your other stuff is bagged.
7. Don’t ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answer. It’s very infuriating to be asked for advice on a product, only for the questioner to give a contradictory diatribe about how you are wrong. If you know so much, why ask?!
8. If you can’t find something – ask. Don’t walk around open mouthed looking for it. Nine times out of ten, it’s right under your nose, and it’ll save time if you ask politely for direction.
9. Don’t hand over crumpled notes. Make some sort of attempt to flatten them before handing them over. It saves time.
10. Don’t cough or sneeze over money, products, staff or other customers. Have some manners and use a hanky, or at least cover your mouth.
Like I say, a thoroughly non-exhaustive list. My basic point is – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And before anyone gets hysterical – here is the equally important flipside.
A list of rules for shop workers to abide by:
1. Say please and thank you
2. Be polite
3. Engage with the customer – small talk costs nothing. If they don’t respond, that’s their problem. For all you know, you may be the only person your customer gets to speak to all day.
5. Be well informed about what you’re selling. If you can’t answer basic queries about what you’re selling, you’re no help to anyone.
6. Similarly, know where things are. Don’t point – show the customer where it is.
7. Personal hygiene is of utmost importance – you should have clean hair, hands, and nails. Chew gum discreetly or pop a strong mint instead.
8. Get off your phone.
9. Stop talking shit to your mates at the counter.
10. If you see a customer looking lost or confused – offer help. Don’t let them walk out.
Ultimately, if you can’t adhere to these basic rules – maybe customer service isn’t the job for you. The customer may not always be right, but they pay your wages. Leave your shit at the door, smile, and be grateful for your job.
Ironically, earlier today a young man was in with me – a regular customer who is pleasant and spends a lot of money with me over the year. Unhappily, the same guy is fond of telling me about his Christian faith; a topic that doesn’t belong in the realm of smalltalk. So even though he spent a solid ten minutes giving me his views on the ‘horror’ of the gay marriage vote and how it offends his religion, I remain impartial, listen, smile and take his money for the bag of coal he’s buying.
Such is life.