An Outsiders View Into Retail Hell

I have never had to work in retail and I’m glad I haven’t had to so far in my life. I hope I never have to go there.  I’m not one to say “never” because I know what happens when you do that.  Karma is always ready to prank you.  

For the past 14 months I have witnessed my wife’s experience in her version of retail hell.  On Friday, the acsension from the hell happened rather unexceptedly.  We didn’t wake up that morning thinking it was going to be the day.  

First, I have seen my wife, a dedicated and loyal employee for a local retailer be totally worn down and burned out.  It didn’t have to be this way.  It is a shame that employers fail to see employees for more than just a body in a position.  Just paying a salary is not enough.  An employer has to respect their employees – not take advantage of their integrity.  The bottom line isn’t always the most important thing.  

Small things such as thinking of your employees for their lunch breaks and bathroom breaks may seem rather insignificant but when you are forced to work without these, they are indicators of a larger problem.  Treat your employees right and they will make your business successful.  Your business is going to suffer without them.  

You also have to hire the right people, not just anyone that shows up for an interview. My wife trained seven people in 14 months only to see those efforts wasted when they either wanted to take over the store or steal from the business.  In case you didn’t know, there are a lot of people out there with some serious personality issues.  If you hire problem people, you are going to have a problem employee.  

My wife and I are very odd.  We actually expect people to do their jobs.  Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the priority of today’s social network saturated generation of employees.  They have the attitude that they are doing YOU a favor by showing up (if they actually show up) and collect a paycheck.  

Oh, I have had my eyes opened over the past 14 months for sure.  I have been totally disgusted at the lack of integrity of people.  

Okay, now lets get to the part about the customers in the retail world.  Let me just tell you a little secret – the customer is NOT always right.  Sorry to spoil the fantasy world you think of retail.  Today’s customer has some notion that they have a sense of entitlement.  Retail workers are viewed as nothing more than a lowly servant class of people.  You can treat them any way you want and they had better not show any adverse emotion to it or you can run home to your computer and complain about them on some ridiculous online review.  

Tourist customers are the worst kind of these because they think they can trash the place since they can go back to their little worlds.  

“Where’s that pickers place?”

Yep, that’s the top question my wife has been asked.  We’re talking about that stupid “American Pickers” show.  I never dreamed people were so caught up in that show.  They come in demanding to know where it is and even have the audacity to tell us how it works here when they only see what they think they see on the show.  Let me clue you into another secret – that picker’s place is a disappointment to hundreds of people who visit it everyday.  Folks will line up only to come out unhappy with their experience of finding an overrated t-shirt shop and not the store they think it is on the show.   Recently, one man said he drove hundreds of miles and was very disappointed.  

Another customer issue:  throwing money or credit card at the retail worker.   Never, ever do that.  If you do that, stop because you are a disrespecting moron.  HAND your money to the cashier.  I know it’s hard to believe but they are human – not robots and not your servant.  Whatever happened to simple common courtesy?  Come on people!

Yes, the customer is sometimes wrong.  Shocking I know. 

I know some people say that we are not here to work and pay bills but someone has to do it.  We have to pay to live.  Unless they make a magical money tree, the money to travel, entertainment or just have the essentials in life requires us to work to pay bills.  That’s just the harsh reality of life.  So retail work is going to be here.  Retail workers are real people trying to make it just like everyone else.  

I think the common denominator here is the word respect.  A retail worker should be respected by both employers and customers.  Sure, there will be times we disagree or feel that we haven’t been treated fairly.  We still must treat people the way we would like to be treated.   This “Golden Rule” idea is a three-way street.  This should be in the minds of not only the retail worker but also the employer and customer. 

It angers me when I see my wife stressed out and taken for granted.  That is unacceptable.   She has worked entire shifts without sitting down.  Many days with being denied bathroom or lunch breaks and enduring the donkey’s rear-end of customers.  Also, the lunch break is more than jousting eating food.  It is a chance to take a break and regroup.  It should be a halftime in the work shift.  

The sad part of it all is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  With just a few small changes, mostly on the attitude of the employer, an employee would be able to deal better with the customer.  The need for greed blinds many employers.  

To my wife’s former employer, I will say that you are to blame for burning out a good employee.  There’s a whole lot more than paying someone a good salary.  Now karma is your new employee.  

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