Thursday, June 2, 2011

We're Closing - Get Your Crap And Leave!

     In most retail stores, if it is closing time, you’ll generally hear an all-too-eager person on the PA system announce that the store will be closing so but your shit and get out.  It’s the only announcement every worker in a store waits to hear.  Most customers abide by this because it’s a mix of common sense that closing time means closing time, as well as common decency.  Who wants to be that guy who is holding everyone up from going home?  Okay, who am I kidding, in this day and age, nobody gives a damn if they’re that guy.  I digress.
     However, in a store that may or may not be the one I work at, this message is absent.  I suppose it’s done in an attempt to create a friendly, welcoming environment.  We wouldn’t want anyone to not feel welcomed in our store by asking them to leave in a polite manner at the official close time that is posted on the doors.  Please, come in and browse for as long as you want.  Who cares if all you’re doing is buying a $7 pack of batteries?  It’s totally worth it to make everyone stay behind until you’re done finding the right AA batteries.
     Whenever I have someone ask me what time we close, and it happens to be after that stated time, they always have a half-surprised, half-nervous look about them.  As if we were going to carry them out if they didn’t hurry.  Good.  That’s the look they should have.  But it’s not their fault because it’s not announced.  They’re conditioned to gather their things and make their way to the front lanes when they hear the PA announcement.  They don’t stop shopping at a store because they’re asked to leave.
     Retail managers are just so greedy to make that extra sale they all assume will walk through those doors after we’re supposed to close.  What really happens is that you only get someone buying batteries, a DVD, a CD, or another minor product that will make no difference to the store’s profits for the day.  In retail, keeping the doors open just fifteen, twenty minutes longer doesn’t really serve much of a purpose.  If you’re keeping the doors open because it’s slow and you’re trying to make some cash, it’s doubtful you’ll need all the employees that are there to serve the one or two customers who walk in.  So, while 1 or 2 employees are engaging the customers, you have several others just shooting the shit with coworkers or waiting to finish closing their departments down.  What a total waste of payroll!  And if you’re keeping the doors open because you’re trying to make some extra cash because it’s been slow, that waste of payroll is draining the little money you already made for the day.
     If someone pages for my assistance in my department, and it’s after closing time, I always have the urge to say, “I’m sorry, I could’ve helped them, but we closed 10 minutes ago.  They should’ve showed up during the 10-11 hours we were open during business hours.”  I’m sure one day I’ll get the balls to say that.  Maybe whenever I hit it rich and can afford to quit retail.  Oh, but how I’ll enjoy that moment!
     Trust me, if you could have a PA system in your home, you would certainly use it if you had people over for longer than they’re welcomed.  How amazing would that be if you could just get up from the couch, walk over to their personal broadcast system, and say, “Attention, family members!  It is time to make a final stop at the bathroom, gather your leftovers from dinner, and go home.  We will be closing our front doors in ten minutes.  Thank you for visiting and we’ll see you all again soon.”  I know several of my family members who wouldn’t say no to that idea.
     To recap:  retail companies, don’t be afraid to say goodbye to your customers at the end of the day.  They will return and whatever they wanted to buy that night could probably wait until tomorrow morning.  If their TV is out, maybe this is a sign that they should hold conversations with their families or read books or go out on the town.  If their fridge died, maybe this is a sign they shouldn’t be eating the crap they bought at the grocery store.  Closing the doors could do nothing but bring them positive outcomes!  It’s your duty to close those doors – think of the lives you’d be improving if you did.  (I’m just not sure if I mean that more for the employees or for the customers.)
     More soon from the frontlines…

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cloudy With A Chance Of Pointless Meandering

     Retail sunshine.  For those of you not in the know, that’s what people in retail say the weather’s like if there is no actual sunshine outside.  If it’s just bad enough to not be able to go outside and do fun things but not bad enough where they’re boarding up the windows, it’s weather that usually will drive people into stores.  Personally, it’s not very sunny for me whenever people, who drive through rainstorms or thunderstorms, enter the building by choice when I have to be there by necessity.
     “Boy, it’s raining outside.  I wish I could have spent my time outside riding my bike but instead I’m stuck inside.  I guess I have nothing better to do than to putz around the local electronics store for an hour or two for no reason before leaving without purchasing anything.”
     Which is what often happens at my store.  People will go into a store and just meander around looking at the same stuff they saw the last time they were in and wandering around (which probably occurred less than a week prior to their current visit).  If they do end up buying anything, it’s a CD or a DVD, and it’s probably one they only bought because they wanted to justify their trip out to the store.
     “Well, I didn’t really like Rambo 3 but I did just waste forty-five minutes of my day off here, soooooo… I better make it worth it.”
     God forbid you should’ve spent the time you wasted by doing something productive at home.  People seem to have a real desire to not be at home as much as possible.  They’d rather waste time at a store for no real reason other than not be at home.  Me, I wish I had the time to waste just petering around a store for endless amounts of time.  If it was my day off and the weather was crappy, I’d spend most of my day in bed reading, or writing, or, at the very least, watching DVDs or shows I recorded on my DVR.
     “Man, I have a hundred DVDs and I’ve only watched twenty of them, but none of the rest seem to be appealing to me at this moment.  Guess I should go buy another DVD!”
     But people in this day and age can’t seem to be bothered with reading a book it seems.
     You would think that I’d prefer it to be busy on the rainy days because it might mean less people on sunny days, but that is not the case, friends.  I want it to be busy enough on the sunny days so time goes by faster and I don’t feel so bad for missing out on the beautiful weather.  On the crappy days, people in my store tend to be more laidback and have a better time.  They might be stuck indoors at work but at least they’re not missing much outside.
     The concept of ‘retail sunshine’ is just part of retailing-by-weather-report that take place each day at my store.
     “Oh, it’s sunny and warm outside – it’s going to be a busy day, today!”
     “Hey, it’s raining outside – looks like we’re going to get some good traffic in!”
     Why don’t you just say, “Hey, there’s a 50/50 chance we’ll be busy today,” instead?  There will be those who prefer to shop when it’s raining and those who prefer to shop when it’s sunny outside.  You can’t predict what type of day it’ll be at your retail store based on the weather.  People are INSANE and will shop whenever they want to because they would rather waste their lives away inside a store, looking at products they will probably never buy, than to explore their neighborhoods, read books, etc., etc.
     Or just stay home and keep reading this blog.  See, this is even better than going out to get some DVD you’ll never end up watching more than once.  Just sit back and laugh at the others that I meet.  Besides, look at all that retail sunshine outside.  Do you really want to go out in that?
     More soon from the frontlines…

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hello! ... I Said, HELLO!

     Can someone out there answer this question for me: 
     Who hurt you as a child when you said “hello” to them?
     That’s the only thing that I can think of that could possibly explain why people avoid replying “hello” to a retail worker who comes up to them armed with nothing more than a smile and a friendly greeting.  If I had a dime for every customer that didn’t hear me I wouldn’t need to work in any retail job for a very long time.  As it is, I just get to keep getting people who walk around and pretend they didn’t hear me when I say ‘hello’ from less than 10 feet from them.
     And this isn’t a simple case of me not speaking loud enough, but rather people blatantly ignoring me.  Customers will just keep meandering around the aisle they’re in as if they never heard me.  As if reading the description of 300 needed their full attention to comprehend.  This leaves me standing around looking like an idiot while I wait to see if the person will ever respond.  Sometimes I’ll wait to see if they decide to acknowledge my presence but more times than not, I’ll just quickly turn around and leave.
     Being so obviously ignored is just the tip of the iceberg, however.  What is even better is when I say, “Finding everything okay?” and they respond, “No, thanks.  Just looking.”
     Wait, what?  Did you not hear what I had asked?
     People who don’t listen are even worse.  I suppose I can’t blame the customers on this point for the most part.  As retail stores that have commissioned employees go, they tend to train their employees to be aggressive in going after the sale.  A person could take 2 steps into a department and be barraged by ten people all asking if they need help and not leaving until the customer hoses them down with pepper spray.  So, when a customer is asked a question, they just automatically want to be left alone.  They don’t hear the question but only respond to the situation.  It has been my experience that even if a customer needs help, they might not want to ask for it because they know one question will open the floodgates for the salesperson’s pitch.
     I don’t care if customers don’t want my help.  In fact, there are days when I’m praying they don’t.  I’d much prefer being able to get work I need to do finished first.  But if I’m asking you if you’re doing okay, just listen first.  If you’re looking at a $5 set of blank DVDs, I don’t think I’m going to go in for the hard sell on you.  Relax!  Even if I was on commission, I would not work that hard.  You’re just not that important to me.
     Not listening to the right question is just as annoying as this:
     “Oh, we’re fine.  We’re not looking to buy anything.”
     Good.  I really didn’t care to sell you anything.  When you meet someone for the first time, if you say “hi” to that person, it’s not like you’re enquiring about how much they make, who their high school sweetheart was, and what their favorite band was.  And I, as a salesperson, am not always looking to look for more work than I want.  If I say ‘hi’, it’s just something called manners.  It’s not a big commitment to have a friendship.
     A refusal to engage employees by resorting to screaming at the employees for doing their job is an extreme example of miscommunication.  Customers who flip out on employees who just want to say “hello” or who ask if that customer is finding everything, just come out looking like a big dick.  I won’t say much about this because I’ll reserve it for a separate, special entry all its own.  Just know, that no employee, commissioned or non-, hates being treated like garbage just for saying “hello”.  You don’t scream at people walking by you on the street for saying hello to you, unless, that is, you’re a homeless, crazy person.  You aren’t, are you?
     There is a real breakdown in our society when it comes to conversation.  Nobody is hearing what the other person is saying.  This comes as no real revelation, obviously, but it is still quite surprising just how bad we’ve come.  It’s shocking to me that any 2 people, absent of electronic devices, can become friends nowadays because friendships entail listening to one another.  Nobody seems to do that.  If you can’t even fake a conversation with a salesperson for 2-5 minutes, how are you going to maintain a conversation with someone who you want to be friends with for 30-60 minutes at a time?
     What can we do at the retail level, then?
     Well, retailers should train their commissioned people to not be like the stereotypical sharks that TV portrays them to be.  It’s okay to make money and be a bit aggressive but how about you stop short of shackling your customer’s leg to your register?  I hear from my retail friends that they get lots of customers who have left a commissioned store in disgust and purchased from my friends because they worked at a noncommissioned store.  Yikes, guys.  That doesn’t spell good news for your business.  Word spreads fast.
     Customers, finally, can just relearn those lessons they were taught as a child about the common rules of conversation.  Listen to what’s being said.  If someone says “hello”, just say “hello” back.  If they keep asking you if you need help, just politely say, “I don’t want help… I appreciate it… Thanks for asking but I’m okay,” – anything!  Just remember to be nice.  That’s all.  A little kindness goes a long, long way; this is especially true in the world of retail.  Employees always remember the nice customers who understand that they’re doing their job and trying to be nice.
     This seems to be a decent rant.  I guess I’ll end things here for now.  Good-bye!
     … I said good-bye, people.  Great, didn’t you pay attention to anything I said in this post?  It’s called manners, jeez!  Forget it, you’re hopeless.  I didn’t want to write this blog anyway, so there.
     More soon from the frontlines…