Retail Employees vs. Customers

Retail Employees vs. Customers

After viewing a ‘down with retail’ website today, I find myself very disturbed at the distance that has developed in the understanding between some retail employees and customers.

Wild generalizations are being made such as ‘customers have no respect for retail employees’ and ‘retail employees don’t care about their customers’.

I believe strongly in customer satisfaction and I devote a lot of time and energy trying to develop those same beliefs in retail personnel through discussions and training programs.

Today, I read the bitter complaints of a wide cross section of retail employees. Some of these employees are clearly in the wrong business.

While many of them have a few good points and – I must say, my empathy – the majority are intent on letting the poor behavior of a few miserable individuals sour their views on their jobs and the industry altogether.

Retail jobs, like any other jobs, are what the individuals make of them. There will always be the ‘bad day’ and the ‘customer from hell’. That is not unique to retail.

It is true, of course that retail employees tend to be paid at the lower end of the wage scale and that is something that certainly should be changed but that is not an excuse to adopt a ‘poor me’ attitude.

Still, the low wages may be the basis for the intolerance of some. How many times have we heard ‘They don’t pay me enough to take this abuse.” But that just doesn’t wash.

How much should one be paid to take abuse, anyway?

Let’s get the question of compensation out of the way because it cannot be allowed to be relevant in the area of customer service.

As much as the issue warrants serious discussion and consideration it is simply not the absolute answer to all of our customer satisfaction concerns and, if we cannot move past it for the sake of discussion and progress, then we will forever be at a loss to get better.

Once an individual has accepted employment and has, obviously, agreed to the compensation for the position the rate of pay can not be used as an excuse for anything.

When that rate of pay is no longer acceptable to the individual it is their duty to find a way to increase it or seek employment elsewhere.

Retail, of course, is open to the public making it an uncontrolled environment. Unless a person entering a store is carrying a weapon, or is acting in a wildly abusive manner, he/she is allowed to enter the premises.

The retail employee may be subjected to some less than desirable behavior but they do not have to stand for being abused, ridiculed, threatened or mistreated in any way.

The member of management who says they do does not understand their management role.

All citizens deserve respect regardless of where they work. There are ways to handle disruptive, abusive customers. Repeat offenders can be banned from your premises.

The key for retail employees who are dissatisfied and intent on painting all customers with the same brush is to realize they have two choices:

1) become a positive, enthusiastic member of the retail community and work toward a better understanding or

2) resign and start a career in a different industry.

Basically, love it or leave it. Stop torturing yourself and those around you.

Customers are not a particular group that can be trained to act as a particular individual would like them to.

Customers are not obligated to follow any retailer’s policy manual.

Customers are not the retail employees’ enemy.

Let’s give this a little thought the next time we are tempted to make general comments about ‘all’ customers.

We do want customers in our retail stores, don’t we?

That is the general idea after all.


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