Be Kind to the Staff

by Valerie Nicole 6 months ago in humanity

Though it is after the busy shopping season, I want to remind everyone to be kind and patient to retail and food workers. Here is what you should always keep in mind...

Be Kind to the Staff

From high school to past college graduation, I worked retail. A total of 7 years (with almost a year break my freshman year of college). And there is something I need you all to know about retail and food workers:

BE KIND TO THE STAFF!!!!!! We may not always have the answers, sometimes we might come off as not caring (which I mean everyone has a bad day, especially when you have to work a double because someone didn't show up for their shift so now you have to cover it or when the previous customer yelled at you over $2 worth of a deal), and yes, sometimes we do get preoccupied with tasks that corporate says we need completed by the end of the week, BUT there is so much more retail and food workers do that customers don't see. There's:

  • You're feeling under the weather but you can't stay home because the store is short-staffed and there's no one to cover you [No joke. On 3 separate occasions I have seen a coworker sitting on a step-stool by the registers with a trashcan next to them filled with puke while I'm coming in to cover the rest of their shift. One occasion the worker laid down in the backroom the entire shift because I was under 18 and couldn't be there alone so she had to lay, puking for 6 hours until we closed.]
  • Reorganizing the store. We would come in early Sundays and work on moving merchandise from one wall to the other, 4 hours worth, and it still wouldn't be completed. Also there's only such a limited amount of hours we are given for it. If corporate allowed for more hours on floor plan moves, workers wouldn't have to be stuck working on it while the store is open and there's customers in our way and ours in there's.
  • Staying an hour or so after closing to close down the registers, clean the store, fold clothes or put back from changing room, and put misplaced items away correctly.
  • Having to deal with shoplifters or 'dine-and-dash'ers, and usually not being able to do anything but call the police. My store's corporate actually informed us we couldn't apprehend shoplifters because so many workers were getting harmed during it (there was even a store in our district where the worker was beaten up after work by the friends of a shoplifter the worker had caught earlier that day. No joke.)
  • Paperwork. Yes, even stores have to do paperwork. Doing math to calculate sales, figure out what our goals for the day should be, creating schedules and making sure you don't go over in hours, inventory of damaged items, etc. There really is a lot more paperwork involved than one may think.
  • Now this post is about treating staff kindly. I cannot tell you how many times customers grew mad over the littlest of things! Most things being way out of our control, such as pricing or non-working coupons. Or trying to lie to us over silly things just to get a discount [I had a lady once who claimed a clearance sticker fell or how we took it off a pair of earrings she was checking out, but I went to go find the exact earring to check the pricing and not a single one had a clearance sticker]. Or people not reading signs correctly and arguing to us about it, even though we're not the ones who create the sign [had a lady who picked up an item for a deal in a section by the register that had a HUGE sign that clearly stated how those items there were not included in the sale. When she asked about the price I informed her those items were not included, she huffed and grabbed another item FROM THE SAME SECTION and I told her again. Her daughter started crying because mom wasn't going to get the toy and suddenly the mom blew up at me over how the other signs say everything is part of the deal (the wording was off on the signs, but it also stated at the bottom there were exclusions). I informed the woman I do not make the signs and she said she was going to talk to corporate but then kept saying she understood I had no control over the signs and then persisting to verbally attack me and asked for the name of the manager as she dialed corporate. She ended up paying for the rest of the items but walked out of the store phone in one hand and pulling her kids arm in the other, now more focused on getting her way than her kid.]

    Now that is just some of many stories I have but thing is employees don't have much control over price or etc. Most cases, all we can do is give you a coupon and hope you leave before we start crying or flat out quit right then and there. [I once saw a customer going off at a co-worker whose last day was that day. The customer was not understanding the promotion or something to the point where the customer said the coworker was terrible and shouldn't be working there to which my coworker replied "Well that's okay. Today's my last day. Now will that be all?". Customer shut up after that.]

    HOWEVER, I do understand that sometimes you will get the occasional bad employee. The type who sit behind the register, texting on their phones, talking to their fellow employees when your ordering or checking out, have condescending tones (even if they don't mean it to be), or some who say too much or inappropriate to you. For example:

    I once went to a winery with my aunt and uncle and had a server who right off the bat complained about her employers giving them too many tables and not preparing for busy time periods (but it was a small winery with maybe 10 tables, a bar, and some tables outside. I'd bet she'd hate working at an actual restaurant where she'd have to wait 10 tables altogether instead of the 4 she had). Well as you can imagine, that was a strike one for her. Enough to make my aunt start wondering if she's been complained about since that was not really something a server should be saying to a customer. Perhaps she wanted sympathy or some sort of understanding if she was delayed on our orders, but you don't complain about your bosses to customers, especially within the first 2 minutes. After our food was served she came back to check on us and complained about how customers would stand in front of the kitchen doorway while they are carrying hot food and asking the customers to move aside so they can get by but would only just stare at them. I completely understand that type of frustration. (While I have never worked food, I have worked retail where we had a door to the backroom that had a mirror on it and I cannot tell you how many times I would try to get to the backdoor only to find teenagers taking selfies and crowding the way to get into the back.) However, a server should not complain about customers TO customers, unless the customer makes a comment first (even then you still want to be cautious of what you say). I will admit there are times you might be able to, such as if a customer has just yelled at you over something ridiculous and another customer comes up afterwards and states she agreed with what you did and that the other customer was way out of line and possibly crazy. However, you do not go on a rampage, bad mouthing customers to other customers. I do not believe she will last long there. If you truly dislike your job THAT much then you should try to find a new one.

    Anyhow, I provide this story with the instance that there are in fact some bad employees out there. I will not deny that. But having been someone who worked 7 or so years on the employee side, I have to say there were many instances where the customer would find fault with us even when we tried all we could. Some customers never seem to realize that employees, especially ones working for company/chain stores or restaurants, do not hold any control over the sales or deals going on, just what we are told. Some companies are even severely strict on the policies, such as if you try to return an item then we must have the receipt otherwise all we can provide you with is an equal exchange for something else in store. We are the low people on the totem pole. We barely hold any control or power.

    Which wraps me up to what I initially started this post about: Be patient and be kind. We are just people trying to support ourselves through difficult times. I hold a degree and still was in retail for an extra 3 years after graduation because I wouldn't be able to afford living off an internship. I had to save the money first before pursuing anything. So please, think about all this the next time you are in a store or a restaurant because if you go off on something stupid and ridiculous you will be the story of the week.

    Valerie Nicole
    Valerie Nicole
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