Monday, 19 September 2011
What Your Checkout Chick Really Thinks
People who have worked in retail share a common bond that allows us to avoid those awkward ‘getting to know you’ conversations in social situations. Imagine you are seated next to a stranger at a dinner party. You have already discussed how you know the host, where they got their skirt and how lovely the entrée was. Then you mention that you work, or once worked, in retail. They respond with a knowing look and sympathetic smile, “I used to work at Woolies!” Suddenly you realise that you have enough in common to talk for hours, and begin swapping stories about the less than friendly customers you have encountered over the years.
My personal favourite story, which addresses the perils of packing environmentally friendly green bags, is one that I stole from my sister. Finding dried up old animal faeces in the bottom of one of the bags she was supposed to be packing was really the cherry on top of a fabulous day at work. What was the customer’s reaction to this unsanitary discovery I hear you ask? A sheepish laugh and the confession that her cats sleep on the bags. At least this explained the faint smell of kitty litter and why she had accessorised her sweater with dozens of short ginger hairs.
If telling this story risks putting my new friend off their pudding, I bring up my biggest pet peeve; customers who act as if they are mute, despite chatting animatedly to their shopping partner just seconds before. “Hi, how are you?” Silence. “Do you need a bag?” Silence. “Do you have FlyBuys?” Silence. “Have a great day!” Silence. It is important to note that by asking these questions I am not trying to be your best friend. I am fully aware that shopping for groceries is not your ideal way to spend a Sunday, and you probably just want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. This being said, refraining from answering these questions could lead to me ‘accidentally’ squashing your bread. Oops!
Retailers encounter dozens of obnoxious customers on a daily basis, each time biting their tongues to stop themselves blurting out what they really think. Many times, I have had to restrain myself from calling through the loudspeaker, “We have lives too you know!” to people who are still in the store 20 minutes after closing time. To the customers who think that they have a better understanding of the company policy please note; not every mistake means that you are entitled to something for free. Finally, to the man known only as ‘Smelly Guy,’ for goodness sake take a shower and a trip down aisle eight for some deodorant while you are at it!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am sure you have encountered your fair share of rude retailers. A middle-aged woman, who seems to get up on the wrong side of the bed every day, often serves my mother and I at our local supermarket. I give her a minus 10 for her customer service skills. No smile, no conversation, no nothing. After months of discussing how downright miserable she is and trying to avoid her at all costs, my mother made it her mission to break through this woman’s icy exterior. She sympathised with the woman, stating that it must be horrible having to work on such a lovely day, and threw in a compliment for good measure. To my surprise the woman’s frosty demeanour began to thaw. Whether it was my mother’s way with words, or because the woman thought she was a mystery shopper we will never know. Either way, it made for a more pleasant shopping experience.
Telling someone that they are doing a good job can really improve their day. So next time you are at the supermarket and want some good karma, be nice to the checkout chick. Maybe this time she will tell you if your milk is leaking.