Friday, June 28, 2013

Retail Life

I'm going to preface this right here and say that I normally don't talk about work.  And if you know where I work, don't mention the name because even I'm not going to come right out and say it.  And what I have to say is no reflection on my job whatsoever.  I'm just going to ramble idly for a few paragraphs about retail life in general, as a consumer and an employee of somewhere that sells stuff for money.  (I recently went through a very lengthy training seminar about behavior on the web and as I would like to keep my job, I try my best to keep where I work private when and where I can.)

Anyway, so the other day I met this interesting gentleman, who responded to my askance of whether he found everything okay gave me a resounding, "NO, I did NOT."  I get that from time to time of course, and whereas most of the time it's because perhaps we just don't carry it, sometimes I get lucky and can go get the item for them, or perhaps can order it.  I like to do things like that even when we have a big line that will tick off people who are waiting, but you know, if they see you do something like that and then apologize to those waiting, they're usually pretty accepting.  Heck, I'm a pretty patient consumer myself when I see someone going above and beyond for someone else.

Surprised at the gentleman's response, I questioned if I could help him find it and with forcefulness, he refused me and went on to say that now that the store had been moved around he could no longer find anything and since nothing was in the same place as it had been he would no longer return to shop at our store.  What could I say?  It had been over a year since we had changed the layout, and after working there for years, I was actually pretty happy with the new layout myself because things were grouped better than before, whereas similar items used to be spread out all over the store.  I told the gentleman just that and his response  was basically that no one liked to "shop" for things, that there had been a survey about it quite recently, which stated that before, people liked to mosey around to find items.  But now in our busy day in age, people liked to get in and get out.  Apparently he had also stopped going to our local Kroger because they had recently renovated and had moved everything around.  (In truth, some things had moved in the middle of the store to accommodate a liquor area in the middle, but the important non-packaged junk was still on the inside of the store).

I didn't say too much more to him, there's not much more too say to that.  Sure, they actually do make shopping malls completely open air now with parking in front of stores.  Of course, I'm often the same way when I go to a store I go directly to the place where the item is and then get it an leave.  But generally, women like to shop.  Heck, many of the men who come to my place like to shop around too.  They'll wander around the store, but if they want something specific, they'll ask for it at the front desk.  This gentleman did not want to ask, did not want anyone to show him, and did not want to ever come back.  Well, I thought to myself that if it had been over a year since he had been in the store, it wouldn't be much of a loss if we didn't get his $20 purchase every couple of years.  But he made it out to be a big thing.

Now, I know for a fact that as long as you have good customer service, a good product, a clean store, and a refreshing inventory, people come back.  Only those "in-and-out" shoppers won't return once a month or so because they don't care about the new stuff we get in all the time.  Heck, when I go to a store and don't see anything new there, I'll wait a few months before returning back just in case there's something different.  I'm always surprised when people throw a hissy fit about our store, whether it's the layout, lack of an item or just something that confuses them, because I have a feeling that they've never worked, or been around retail much in their lives.  Sure, everyone has to shop to survive (or have someone else shop for them) but it's a cut-throat world out there and if you don't do something to keep people coming back, especially that one Jane Smith who buys the big ticket stuff, you're never going to get anywhere.


On the flip side of things, I have a confession to make.  I'm very impatient with poor customer service.  I've become more so since I started into management, as it reflects very poorly on a company and brand.  And it was sad because there's places I've been to time and time again just recently that I've stopped going to when things failed for me.

Restaurants are one of my largest pet-peeves right now, and maybe it's because I've seen so many Restaurant Stakeouts.  Recently I've had some pretty poor service that reflects more upon the management then the employees, and it really saddens me because it says to me that the corporate offices of these places are "saving" so much money on training that their employees have no idea what's going on.  The last two places I've seen that were at the local IHOP, which I've eaten at only once because the first time there was no waitstaff on the floor and the kitchen was so backed up that no food was coming out...full restaurant, no food.  We eventually got it, but I thought, okay, so it's new they need work, we'll wait a few months.  So we went back, and there was no one cleaning tables, so the poor hostess was bustling to clear tables just so she could seat people.  She never once asked a manager to help or refused to seat anyone, because I guess if the waiters didn't clear their tables I guess they didn't want money either from new paying guests, right?  So we went to Cracker Barrel.  For the record, I rarely have a bad experience there, they really have their stuff together.

Second most recently was Fazoli's where I love their stuff, but the kitchen staff was all just goofing off and then they screwed up my husband's salad by putting it under the heat lamp while my chicken parmesan was cooking up all nastly... I'm pretty sure I should have returned that bugger because it probably came out of the freezer box like that.  *sigh*

Then there's Firehouse Subs which I love, but when the owner isn't in, sometimes you don't even spot the staff as they're down the way picking up burritos as a neighboring restaurant.  Or maybe it's like the Dakota Watch in the mall today where the employee had completely disappeared even though I just wanted to get a new watch battery.  In fact, most of the places I went to today to find a new battery were completely empty.

And as much as people hate the name Walmart, I'll tell you what, the gal came right on over when called and helped me out immediately.  She explained why her computer was going so slow when she rung me up and I had a nice conversation with her over slow registers.  Doesn't matter that she scratched up the back of my watch, but the point was that she cared enough to get it done and was polite doing so.

Plus, she was there.

Not only in body but in mind too, because I've had a terrible experience at a store at the Easton Town Center that sold local goodies.  The guy who rung me out was too busy talking to the gal behind me, rather than to me, so when I told him I had the coin change after giving him a bill, he said, "Nope, too late," and refused to take the coins!  Then continued having a conversation with the person just standing around!

This, quite frankly, just boggles my mind.

Why are people in jobs that they don't like?  Is it just because that's all they could find?  Why aren't they trying to find something that they like?  I like my job.  I may not love it, but I certainly don't hate it, and I'm good at it.  So when someone complains to me about my store, I take offense, and I take a stand and I take problems into my hands.  And maybe that's why I'm in management and maybe that's why I have so many awesome customers.

But for that one not-so-awesome customer experience in the bunch, I have this to say:  things can get better, but don't be nasty, be patient.  Problems get solved but you have to be reasonable about it.  I won't go back to a few places for awhile, but I'll go back eventually.  I won't stomp my foot and demand for free stuff, because that hurts the employees more than it hurts the company.  And for those of us who like working in retail, we want to help.  A nice request, a well-asked question, a patient attitude; all of these will get you very far in the world.