It’s hard to believe that this summer marked 16 years since I entered the retail industry. Long story short, I stumbled into this industry because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school and it was the easiest job to get. My first job was working at now defunct Koret Clothing store which sold professional and casual clothing for women. And I didn’t expect to stay in retail for very long, but I realized that I enjoyed running a business and selling products. I love my job, but my job can SUCK at times. Anyone who’s ever worked in retail will tell you the same thing. It really sucks at times. For me, I enjoy what I do for a living and dealing with rude people is (unfortunately) part of the job.
Not all of my experiences in retail have been bad, but for the most part, retail has given me some of the worst depression and anxiety ever. I’ve dealt with many irate customers and also dealt with co-workers with different personalities. This field isn’t for everyone and some just can’t handle it. One of my first bad experiences in retail was at my first job and I wasn’t well liked by my co-workers. It wasn’t me, in general, some people can be very rude towards others. I don’t put up with any disrespect towards other employees. One day, I had an employee get mad at me and thought I was taking her sale when in reality, I was just helping her. I’m always there for other employees to help them. That’s my nature. So that employee told me to leave her alone and to not help her. How rude.
One of my first bad customer experiences was when a lady tried returning an item of clothing that was way past our return policy. Do you remember the adage: “The customer is always right, even when they’re wrong?” I’ve always hated that adage. Because sometimes customers aren’t always right. At the time, it was a 60 or 90 day return policy with a receipt. If you had your receipt and returned it within the date then you would get your refund or exchange. If you didn’t have a receipt, then a store credit would be issued. Well, this customer had her receipt and was way over the return policy date and she started arguing with me. I simply said “Our return policy is 60-90 days with an original receipt and you’ll get a refund. If you don’t have a receipt, then you get a store credit. If you’re past our return policy date, than we can’t process the return.” It’s simple standards and company policy. And the lady proceeded to argue in a very loud and obnoxious manner. She called me “stupid”, “retarded”, and a “dumb bitch.” (Trust me, I’ve been called worse!) I said: “That kind of attitude will not be tolerated at this store or any store. You don’t come into a store demanding something and then call out the associate by a derogatory name. If you can’t understand what I’m telling you, then I will ask you to leave.” Of course, people like that will ask for the manager and the manager told her the same thing. This was the first of many rude encounters over the years and usually, I will go the back room and sit down and chill. My heart will start pounding and my anger will go through the roof.
Some of my favorite customer experiences were mostly ones that tried everything to get a refund, try to double dip with coupons and sales, trying to get an employee discount and etc. I’ve been called so many things by so many people who I’ve lost count. I’ve had people who tried to con me out of money. I knew many customers that would buy something and then turn around and return it. Why? Some are just indecisive, I guess? When my store would have sales going on, the promotions would always exclude coupons and well, you know some people can’t READ the sign if their hair was on fire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent on a sales floor explaining what a BOGO sale is and why coupons are not included in the promotions. Somedays, I just wanted to bang my head against the wall. I hate it when I see signs that say: “Save up to 70% on certain brands.” When a customer looks at the sign, they just see 70% off and think they’re getting a great deal. When an employee looks at the sign, they see 70% off certain brands. They see the fine print!
One of the things I hate is when people bring children into the store. No matter which retailer I’ve worked for, I can’t stand it when some let their children run wild throughout the store. When I worked for Corning (which is mostly glass), I had customers that would let their kids run all over the store. Who lets their children run all over a store filled with glass? You pretty much should just run with scissors in your hands. Fun fact: I had a regular customer bring her two year old son in the store with her and the only way he could be controlled was by giving him a Coke. This lady gave her two year old son a can of Coke in order for her to do her shopping and for him to shut up. You have no idea how angry this makes me. I shouldn’t have to go over there and tell you to control your children, let alone, keep an eye on them. When you are a customer in a store, you are a guest. Basically, the retailer is inviting you into their “home” and common sense will tell you that if you’re a guest in someone’s “home”, you would act maturely. Well, unfortunately, some people don’t get the memo! Fun fact: At Starbucks, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people get up to the speaker box in drive thru and scream: “HELLO” about a hundred times before the barista answers. I hate that! Would you go to someone’s house and start pounding on their door and say “HELLO” about a million times? Whenever my parents took me to a public place, my dad always said to me: “We are in a public place. I expect you to behave and not to make a sound at all. If you disobey me then we’re going home.” My parents drilled manners and etiquette into me. They taught me to be respectful in public and to always be tolerant. I wasn’t to speak unless spoken to and if my parents said that I couldn’t have anything, then I wouldn’t get anything. So one time, I was working and a lady had three kids running around my store; and then the lady had the nerve to ask me to “babysit” her kids while she shopped. Babysit? Where in my job description does it say that a retail manager is a “babysitter”? The answer: Nowhere. I couldn’t believe she was asking me this.
Another time, I had a customer come in with her toddler. She had to be no more than a few years older than me and her son was in the shopping cart. He wasn’t buckled in and he kept trying to get out of the cart. When she got up to the checkout, he climbed up from the seat in the cart and fell head first into the shopping cart. That scared the living crap out of me. That child screamed a blood curdling scream that I have never heard before. I thought the child suffered a serious head injury because of that. I went over there and checked to see if he was OK. She picked him up like nothing had happened and said that he was fine. I told her that he wasn’t and offered to call for help. She refused and said he was fine. Turned out that he did have a serious head injury. One of my customers was a doctor and notified the police. I had to sit down for a while because that was scary. I couldn’t believe that some people can act like this in public. Another time during the summer, I was getting out of my car when I saw a two-year old in a car next to mine, and that child was locked in a hot car (all by herself!). I couldn’t believe it. So I got the car open and got the child out and called for help. Security searched for the parents and I was trying to cool this child down. She immediately got sick all over my backroom. I mean, all over! I was so mad. After moments like this, it made me question myself: “Why the hell did I chose this field?” But always remember, it’s only some people who are mean, not all. Fun fact: One of the things that I refuse to clean up is other people’s mess. Whether it’s a mess you made on the table or in the bathroom, I’m not your maid nor your mommy. I’ve had people destroy my public restrooms. I mean destroy the crap (literally!) out of them. I had someone throw up in the lobby and had someone throw up all over the bathroom. Again I ask: “Do you do this at home?”
I won’t even go there about working holidays especially Black Friday. I loathe Black Friday. Just about every retail employee will tell you the same thing. It SUCKS. It really does. I don’t like spending so little time with family and then have to work very long hours over that weekend with customers who are beyond crazy (I mean CRAZY). I’ve seen just about anything and everything during that weekend. Fun fact: Most retailers will have Black Friday specials throughout the entire week of Black Friday and most sales are the exact same. The stores that I’ve worked in our Black Friday specials last for a week. So when Friday hit, it was still the same price. And you have no idea how times on Monday through Wednesday where people would ask: “Is this going to be cheaper on Friday?” NO! It’s the same deal.
When I sum up Black Friday, I call it the “Devil’s Day.” And I will tell you why. You pretty much die and you go straight to hell. You are there will the devil and there’s no escape. When the crowds start coming at midnight, this is when you die and hell begins. Everybody starts grabbing this and that; and your nice clean store becomes demolished. I mean it looks like a tornado went through it. Before most people get to the checkout, they will push and shove the next person over the last item like children. I kid you not! Grown adults acting like children. You can see footage on Youtube of the chaos known as Black Friday. I had to break up fights between customers over products. I simply said: “You’re both grown ups, right! This is Thanksgiving weekend and we are to give thanks for what we have, right? We’re not here to kill someone over something stupid like dishes for your kitchen or clothes for your kids.” I’ve had to give lectures like parents give to their children and had to have people escorted out of the building via security and/or police. When customers made it to the checkout line, this is where things get even more hilarious. When the sign says: “Please form an orderly line”, how hard is it to follow this??? I’ve had people create two lines, have had people cut other people in line and more fights and arguments would break out. When you checkout at the register, you get only one transaction per person. I had huge signs that said this and if you tried doing multiple transactions then I would tell you to get back in line and wait your turn. Boy, were some people not understanding of this at all. Throughout the many Black Fridays I’ve worked I’ve seen fights in the parking lot, and fights in stores. When I say fights, I mean both physical and verbal fights. I’ve seen people do the most atrocious things possible. I couldn’t believe that this type of insanity existed in the world, but it does.
I don’t think it really tops working at Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and Starbucks is a great company to work for, but the customers (majority of them) are rude. I’ve probably had the worst anxiety possible working there. I get a little cranky without my caffeine but not as crazy as others. I completely understand that people are set in their ways and want their drinks to be right, but to be a pain in the butt about it, isn’t worth it. I’ve had customers literally thrown their drinks back at my baristas because customers claimed it was made wrong. Nine times out of ten, the drink is fine and it was made correctly. Sometimes, it was made wrong and its called human error. I make mistakes and so does my staff and we are quick to correct the situation. There is NO excuse for being rude, impatient, and nasty. My old Starbucks store was a high volume store, meaning that it’s a very busy location. No matter what time of day, we were always busy. And people have to realize that when a business is busy with customers, people need to be a little patient. When an order comes through (if it’s drive thru or front register), the sticker will print out in the order that it was placed. So if drive thru ordered five drinks and then front register ordered two drinks, then you have to wait for your drinks if you ordered from the front register. It’s just the way it is. You can’t just expect it to be ready by the time you get to the hand off plane and you can’t stand there demanding for your drink.
Working at Starbucks or any food service establishment is hard and there are routines that have to be followed. If you’ve never worked in this field before then you wouldn’t understand what we go through. If you did than you would be more understanding and more patient. I can’t tell you how many times people will snap their fingers and say: “Is my drink ready yet?” Be patient! If a store is out of something, don’t ever blame the staff. If we’re out of your favorite drink, you will not be rude and flip us the bird through the drive thru. No joke. I had this happen a few times and I’ve taken a photo of that person’s car and report it to the police because I will not tolerate rude behavior.
I’ve had to call the police and the non-emergency police department way too many times during my three year stint at Starbucks. Fun fact: At my new store, we have two alcoholics and panhandlers. There are two older gentleman that will sit outside our patio and drink their booze on our property. And then have the nerve to come in our lobby and pass out because they’re so drunk. I’ve had both of them panhandle inside the store and outside in the drive thru. One time, one of them tried picking up a customer in the lobby and she called the cops on him because he was coming on to her like a predator. I’ve had to call the non-emergency police department many times for this. I’ve had people arrested for disorderly conduct, DUI, and aggravated assault. I kid you not! You have no idea how many people who I’ve seen that are driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. I’ve seen people verbally and physically fight in the drive thru. I’ve seen many fender benders, too. I’ve seen people drive with their infants on the lap. Yep, you read that right. In April, I had a serious stabbing that took place in my drive thru between two teenagers. Long story short, the couple broke up and started arguing. I went outside to check it out and the guy ended up stabbing his ex-girlfriend’s mother in the stomach. I watched as she was bleeding profusely and watched him get arrested by the cops. Because of this, I got stressed induced migraines and had to go to urgent care for help. Unbelievable, right! I kid you not! Most recently, I had a teenager throw a straw at me because I had accidentally, given her an extra straw. So instead of giving it back to me, she threw it in my face. I was MAD. I told her that kind of behavior is unacceptable and she just drove off like a spoiled and privileged youngster. Of course, I’ve dealt with co-workers that didn’t get along at all, too.
In short, this world is can be crazy sometimes and we all see things that we shouldn’t have to see, but do. But remember, don’t let people push you around and ruin your day. There are good people in this world, you just have to find them! Always look for the best in people.
I guess one good thing about working in retail is all the awesome stories you get to tell people at the end of the day!