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by Bernadette Yarnot

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The Customer Is (Not) Always Right

I did not end up working in retail until the age of 23. I consider myself lucky that I managed to get a number of jobs that avoided this fate, because I would have really developed a distaste for work in general if retail had been my first experience.

What bothers me the most is the complete lack of courtesy some store patrons show for the employees who work there. The phrase "The customer is always right" was a private store's philosophy that somehow got accepted into the national consciousness as an automatic right, rather than a customer service goal. The poor saps who work in the store are often working for minimum wage and their jobs are hard enough without being harangued by a customer who wants someone to cater to his or her every whim.

When I was working at Ross, I was often in the fitting room, "tied down." Customers would yell at me for not running to get clothing for them, for not showing them precisely where something was, or for doing my job instead of ringing them out (which I had no register for.) I would be handed a pile of clothes without hangers and then customers would complain about the "unsightly" pile of unhung clothes. Likewise, those customers who complained about the mess in the store were those who would drop things and not pick them up, or who would open the boxes of merchandise and not replace the items.

One time, a lady came to the fitting room with a shopping cart literally piled with clothing, and asked me to start putting the clothes in a fitting room for her. As I said, I was "tied" to the desk, and could not do as she asked. She complained about that, and she later complained when I would not fetch dresses in different sizes so that she could try them on. I wanted to say to her, "Ma'am, I'm afraid there are a few realities you are overlooking. Ross is a discount store, and part of where that savings comes from is the staffing. There is inadequate staffing to complete the tasks necessary to the basic store operation, let alone for premium customer service. If you do not like the service, I suggest that you go to a department store known for its service. The prices will be higher, but that's what you pay for convenience." I didn't, of course. She left a cart full of tangled and unhung clothes.

I would like to lay out a few basic realities for rude shoppers. If you know one (I assume that my readers aren't rude shoppers, of course), feel free to pass them along.

Any other ideas?  Talk to me.

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