By John Callaghan, Senior Consultant,
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
those same beliefs in retail personnel through discussions and
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
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
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
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.
You can contact John Callaghan at
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