I’ve worked in retail ever since I was 16 years old as a part time sales clerk for an office supply store in St. Louis. I finally became a department manager and transferred stores to my current cozy location in southwest Missouri.
Working in a large city means I’ve sold a lot of stuff to a lot of people. I’ve also worked with many different people as the turnover rate in retail tends to be high. The lessons I’ve learned from my bosses, co-workers and customers have been plentiful. Sometimes my retail education came at inopportune yet funny moments. Here’s a look at what I’ve learned so far.
One of my first lessons dealing with customers on the phone is to never assume putting your hand over the receiver means the person on the other end cannot hear you. We had many frequent customers who would call in their orders on the phone.
Some customers were very picky and wanted to talk to my department manager to make sure their orders were ready to pick up. It didn’t take long for me to discover who was calling just by their voices and when they came to pick up their stuff I could put a face to a name.
One particular customer was very difficult and had my boss re-do a printing order three times before he was satisfied. Afterwards my boss complained about the customer for about a half an hour. When this same difficult customer called back a few days later, I happened to answer the phone. He wanted to talk to my boss, of course, and he had the unfortunate distinction of standing right next to me at the counter.
Instead of putting the phone on hold like I would normally do, I simply put my hand over the receiver and said to my boss, “It’s your favorite customer on the phone for you.” The ashen look on my boss’ face in the midst of the phone call spoke volumes when the customer repeated to him what I had said behind his back. The customer heard me because apparently my palm wasn’t a very effect sound barrier. I was lucky to keep my job that day.
Lessons Learned on the Fly
Always count back change as if you are at a bank. No matter how rushed I am or how many people there are in line, I always count change back properly and in view of the customer. I don’t see cash counting done very often in retail anymore. The right way to count back change is to take the amount of the purchase and count up to the amount originally given. When change is counted this way, registers are drastically more accurate.
Always check for sure if an item is in stock before you actually say the store has it. Better yet, have the item needed in hand before proclaiming the customer can buy it. I’ve seen so many clerks get in trouble for saying “Yeah, we have that,” but then the item is out of stock.
Check the stockroom and don’t just assume that because a shelf is empty there’s nothing in the store. We have stockrooms for a reason. Customers should always ask clerks to check the back. Never accept the answer “we don’t have any in right now” until someone checks the stockroom first.
If you want to, feel free to bring online sales printed off the web. If you can prove the sale item is current the manager may be willing to offer a deal to match. With so much competition it would behoove the store manager to lower the price if the item is an exact duplicate.
The trick is to put a date stamp on printout. It’s much more efficient if you have the date printed on the bottom of the page. Otherwise the clerk has to take more time to look up the sale price on their own Internet computers and that takes extra time.
One last bit of information–store clerks are there for you, the customer. It is their job to help each and every customer, otherwise they lose the sale. If enough people lose sales because of one clerk that particular employee will be fired.