Proper Conduct of Retail Employees

Retail HO Darlings

Proper Conduct of Employees

There are a few things that new and inexperienced retail employees often do that are not appropriate.

Take a walk through any shopping mall and you will see examples.

Usually these things are done because the employee has had no prior experience or exposure to the retail environment and they simply do not know that these things are inappropriate.

Perhaps no one has ever told them. While many will realize that it is common sense not to do these things, some don’t:

  • inviting friends and family members in to chat while on duty
  • using the company phone to call and chat with friends and relatives; sometimes these are long distance calls that will be charged to the company
  • chewing gum or drinking water/soda/coffee on the sales floor
  • offering to get friends or family a good price on merchandise
  • keeping their cell phone turned on and even taking calls while on duty
  • leaning on fixtures or counters
  • standing at the cash desk while doing nothing

Some of the above behaviors are simply inappropriate but others constitute abuse of company property or privilege and, when discovered, would be just cause for dismissal.


Too often, retail employees say and do things that they shouldn’t. Here are some true examples of inappropriate situations/conversations:

  • The customer says “Hello, how are you?” to the cashier at a grocery store. The cashier responds with “Terrible. I’m really tired but my Manager made me come in to work anyway. She’s unbelievable. I don’t want to be here and I can’t wait for my break.”
  • The customer walks into the store and the associate says “Hi, don’t come close to me, I think I’m sick and contagious. I want to get out of here but I can’t.”
  • Two associates are chatting while one of them is ringing in a purchase and the other is standing beside her waiting for the transaction to be concluded. The conversation does not include the customer.

Remember that your customer does not want to hear this type of thing and should not be subjected to it.

And your employer certainly does not want you to talk like this, especially in front of customers.

Regardless of the problems or grievances you have with your employer or other employees, or even with customers you are not at liberty to discuss them in front of your customers.

It just isn’t appropriate so think carefully about what you say and who is around you when you say it.

Punctuality, Reliability and Flexibility:

Employees working in a retail store must understand that there are some special requirements when it comes to punctuality, reliability and flexibility.

The smooth operation of a retail store depends largely on the work schedule. The work schedule takes a lot of time and effort to prepare.

It must take into account the needs of the customers and the business, the availability and quality of life of staff members and management and the wage costs of the business. 

Once prepared, it may be changed frequently in order to accommodate many variables.

It is very important, therefore, that employees respect the work schedule.

If one employee is late for a shift, another may not be able to go home on time.

If an employee does not show up at all, some other employee will have to stay or come in to work on a day they are not scheduled to work.

These things disrupt the business and the lives of the affected employees and, possibly, their families.

As a retail/customer service employee you must be flexible enough to change your work schedule when required.

There are many events which come up unexpectedly and the retailer’s ability to provide the staffing required to meet the changing needs of the business will contribute to the success of the organization.

Some people will never understand or accept that work life is different for retail employees.

In truth, many professions and occupations demand different things, sometimes undesirable things, of people working in their field.

Think about Doctors, Firefighters, Hotel and Restaurant workers and the hours and situations they must deal with.

The point here is that once you decide to accept a position in retail you must be prepared to work the shifts that are required.

There is no nine to five or eight to four in retail. If that is what you want, do not even consider working in retail.

Success tip: If you want to get more hours or be considered for a pay increase remember that your Manager will consider your punctuality, reliability and flexibility in addition to your productivity when making a decision.

In retail, these attributes cannot be underestimated.

Understanding and Meeting the Expectations of Your Employer:

First of al, you must ensure you understand what your employer expects of you.

For example, what you are expected to wear, how you are supposed to handle certain situations, what you are accountable for, etc.

Your employer has a responsibility to let you know what is expected of you.

However, depending on the Store Manager, it may be taken for granted that you know certain things already.

Do not be afraid to ask questions for clarification if necessary.

Chances are you will be placed on probation for a certain length of time after starting your new job.

If you pass your probationary period, you will be evaluated regularly.

Some Store Managers evaluate their people weekly. Others do it far less often. However, a formal evaluation once a year is pretty much a standard.

You will be evaluated against certain standards and it is important for you to know exactly what those standards are.

There will probably be standards of behavior (like punctuality, friendliness, treatment of customers) and standards of performance (such as sales achieved against your target, units per transaction, average sale per customer, etc.)

If you don’t know how you are being measured it will be difficult to be successful. Again, ask your employer.

Once you understand what is expected of you it is imperative that you live up to those expectations.

You cannot continue to work for an employer with whom you disagree about what you should, or are willing to, contribute.

The employer decides what is expected of its employees.

It is very simple. If you do not resign from your position, you need to fulfill the requirements of the job by living up to the expectations.

Appearance – Dress Code and Grooming Standards:

Clean – First and foremost, you must be clean at all times – that means teeth, fingernails, body and hair.

Neat – Do not show up for work looking like you have just been dragged through a hedge.

Appropriate image for the business – Your appearance should reflect the image of your company, where possible and reasonable. The company you are working for will likely have established guidelines regarding your image. Be sure to find out what they are.

Pressed – Do not wear clothes that are wrinkled. This means that carrying your work clothes in the bottom of your backpack is out of the question.

Polished – You must appear professional and this requires that you look well put together and ‘polished’. No rips or holes in your clothes, no chipped nail polish, no scuffed shoes, no hastily applied make-up, etc.

Posture – One of the easiest ways to determine if a person is enthusiastic and involved in their work is to look at their posture. A person who is

slumped over and dragging their feet does not inspire confidence in customers.

Hair style – Be reasonable. This does not mean that hair should not be stylish or even trendy. Of course it can be, but it should never border on bizarre.

Piercings – These should be minimal. Depending on the type of retail business you are in you may get away with excessive piercings but, generally speaking, fewer piercings are preferred.

Tattoos – Cover them when possible. Your reasons for having tattoos on your body are personal. Tattoos are a private matter so keep them that way.

Comfort – Your clothing and shoes should be stylish but comfortable. You cannot be efficient if you are wearing clothes that are too tight or shoes

that cause you to limp around half way through your shift. Retail can be tough on your feet and lower back. It pays to invest in proper shoes.

Make-up – The nature of your business may dictate what make-up is appropriate. If not, follow the ‘less is better’ doctrine – you’ll be more comfortable and it will take you less time to get ready for work.

Belly tops – Unless your store is selling them and your Manager tells you that you can wear them, don’t wear them. Customers did not come into your store to see your bare tummy.

Cleavage (female) or chest (male) bearing tops – Again, don’t wear them. You are there to sell merchandise and provide service and not to advertise your physical attributes.

Success tip: When in doubt about what is appropriate just ask your Manager.