Nov 21 2015

How to avoid Retail Hell

It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means: Stores are packed beyond belief, sale after sale is driving to take your money, and that one item you really want is impossible to find.

It’s also the absolute worst time in a retail workers life.

It might not be for the exact reasons you think, though. Here, straight from the trenches, so to speak, is a look at the most common issues one experiences in a retail environment, their causes, how people do, and should, react to such, and just some general information on just what really goes on in the retail world.

What do you mean you are sold out?

It means just what it says it means – there are no longer any to sell. Sorry, but it happens. Supplies of any item are inherently limited, and especially during the holiday season, when items are in peak demand, they can and will run out.

Think about it – Let’s say a given store has 1000 unique customers per day – possibly more during the holidays. Let’s say 1 percent of those people want one particular item – that would be 10 people wanting this item on that given day – what happens if the store only has 6 of the item? 4 people will not get that item. That simple. It’s a first-come first-serve situation, and there is little that can be done about it.

The person helping you has no control over this, especially when there is a sale – demand is high, and once again, supplies are limited.That’s just how it goes.

Can I get a raincheck?

In most cases, no, you cannot. For various reasons, virtually no retailers do this anymore – long story short, it costs the company far more money than it is worth, and is too much hassle, especially with faked tickets of one type or another, and on a whole rainchecks are just an absolute mess for retailers to handle.

If you ever notice, virtually every sales advert will say “while supplies last, no rainchecks” or something similar. Companies no longer wish to deal with such. That simple. Don’t get mad about it.

Can I ask you a question?

This is a funny one. By asking this question, you have already asked a question. Here’s the thing – Retail workers are there to be asked questions. They don’t mind it in the slightest, so just go ahead and ask what you want to do. You may think you are being polite, and technically sure, you are being polite, but skip the pleasantries and get to your point. Retail workers just want to help you as efficiently as possible, and by skipping this question, you shave a few seconds off of us getting you the information you need, and moving on to help the next customer. After all, it’s a busy time of year; and retail workers just want to get as many people helped as possible.

Just ask your question. That simple.

Do you work here?

There is no quicker way to aggravate a retail worker than to ask this question. You may wonder why this is such a big deal, right? Here’s the thing: Every retail establishment has a dress code. Employees must fit that dress code, and while yes, there are examples of people who don’t fit the theme of where they work, in a vast majority of cases, a store worker will match just fine.

This is especially bad when the employee is asked this while: Stocking a shelf, zoning merchandise (IE straightening things up),  hauling freight (yes, people will be asked if they work at a place while pulling half-ton pallets of merchandise), or even just being behind a counter.

Of course the person works there, they are working!

Now, I know why people ask this: they don’t want the embarrassment of asking someone who doesn’t work at the store a question. The thing is, if the person looks like they work there, they deserve to be asked a question. If you go into a Target store with a red shirt and khaki pants on, guess what? You look like an employee. You deserve to be asked a question, and have no reason to get mad if someone does such to you – Just say “Sorry I don’t work here” and remember next time to not dress like you work at a place.

As for the customer, just ask your question. Do just make sure the person doesn’t have the uniform for another store (Sams Club person in a Walmart, for example), because many uniforms are blatantly obvious – think about it, but if you do think the person works there, just ask your question, not “do you work here”

Besides, when does the average person stop and pay attention to another person in a store anyway, right? Only employees will take the time to acknowledge you, out of habit. That should be a dead giveaway they do work there.

This was supposed to be on sale / That’s not what the sign says / It’s supposed to be clearance!

Ah, sale prices. A win for the customer, and absolute headache for workers. This also applies to simple signing errors.

Yes, pricing errors happen. If a store has something just plain labeled wrong, and the error isn’t too extreme, they will sell it for that price. Common sense, which I will discuss later, should tell you if something is really such a great deal or not – if the item looks to be expensive, and is sitting on a shelf for a cheap price, it probably shouldn’t be there.

That being said, the customer should always check the sign, and hit items with a price checker, where possible, to make sure of what it will scan as. The fact is, the price of an item is the price it shows up for when scanned in the system. That simple. If you see a sale sign, check to see what it says – often times, it’s specific versions of an item, or the sign is places in the general area of a product to advertise it, and does not apply to every single item in that area.

When you are corrected on this, accept the error gracefully. No one is trying to scam you, and it certainly isn’t “false advertising” which is it’s own, legal violation regarding to lies about a product, not misunderstanding of pricing. Once again, if something is obviously wrong, most retailers will work to help you out with the issue.

As for clearance, all that word means is an item the store is no longer carrying. It does not, in any capacity, mean the price HAS to be lower – if it is setting on the shelf for $14.98 with a clearance sign and it scans for $14.98, guess what? It’s $14.98, and the store won’t be getting anymore in. Not a hard concept.

That doesn’t go there

Do you know what happens when a retail store closes? The workers who closed stay as long as it takes to zone and recover the store. What does that mean? Think of it like cleaning your house every single night – items that are misplaced get put back in their home locations, the merchandise on the shelves is straightened up, and things are generally cleaned up. Workers don’t go home until the store is clean, which can sometimes take hours.

The thing is, it shouldn’t.

Often times when a store closes, there will be several shopping carts worth of merchandise which needs to be placed back on the shelves, and more carts will be made as workers go through their areas and pull items that do not go there.

Those items didn’t walk there, customers put them there.

I get it. Everyone understands, sometimes, you pick something up and don’t want it. That’s fine, but when you get to the checkout, you can tell the person you don’t want the item. No one will complain; in fact, they will be happy that you didn’t leave the item on the shelf somewhere!

What is amazing is the fact that people will go out of their way to either hide the item they don’t want (you would be amazed how often I will see items tucked behind other things, obviously left by a customer) or they will take an item and set it perfectly on the shelf – of course, everything else is a wreck, but at least that one item, which doesn’t even go there, is in a perfect location.

For the record, people putting stuff back randomly is often the cause of pricing / signing errors, where an item is just plain in the wrong spot.

Just, simply treat the store with some respect. If a store looks like a mess, it’s mostly due to the customer traffic – people coming through messing up one thing here or there eventually results in the whole store looking like a mess. Treat the store like you would your home, put things back where they go, try to avoid making a big mess if you look though items,  but if you really don’t want something, just give it to someone to put up.

Educate yourself on what you want

It’s the year 2015. You have internet access on your phone. There is no reason a worker should be having to explain every single thing about a video game console, or a toaster, to you. Indeed, it’s entirely possible the worker will have limited knowledge on the item, because, there are so many things out there, and there is only so much person l experience someone can have on things.

This is especially true of video game hardware, and computer technology such as tablets.  Please, look the information up yourself. When a person doesn’t even know the actual name of the item they want it makes helping someone more than little difficult.

Educate yourself. It’s no that hard to read the Wikipedia article on a product and learn all you need to know about it.

Use Common Sense

Really, if you are noticing, there is a common theme to this post – use common sense, and common courtesy. Retail workers want to help you, but you need to help them help you. Don’t make things difficult – no one likes that. No one wants to give you a hard time, or make shopping difficult, and workers will empathize when there is an error, but when you are mistaken, accept it with grace and dignity – don’t attack the worker, or the store, for your mistake.

It’s just that simple – Help them to be able to  help you.

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