Confessions of a retail worker | The Triangle

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Confessions of a retail worker

Photograph courtesy of Free-Photos at Pixabay

Clothes shopping is truly an interesting thing. I used to think it was as simple as going into a store, looking around, grabbing a shirt and then leaving. I never gave a second thought to the workers that offered help. The only thing that ever concerned me when I walked into a store was whether or not I was going to find the pants or shirt I was looking for in my size. But that all changed the day I started working in clothing retail.

So what’s the deal with clothing stores?

Let’s just say there is a lot more going on than you’d think when you step into a store to make a quick buy. I learned that being on the other side.

I’ve seen a lot of different types of people come into the store I work for. It is customary to greet them upon entering. The attitude of customers who come in and ignore greetings leaves a lot to be desired.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s understandable that some of the sales associates buzz around like bees and can annoy people who know what they want already. Everyone knows what it’s like to go into a clothing store and purchase their favorite shirt or pair of jeans. You go in, you zip and dodge around looming associates, make small talk to the cashier and then you’re on your way out.

It’s our job to help, though, so we do our best. If you are ever upset that this is the third sales associate in a row that has come up to you asking in a chime-like voice, “Is everything alright?” just know that the big woman or the big man is floating around the store, whispering in everyone’s ears to be on every customer’s tail.

For situations where customers are in the fitting room, there is an unspoken rule for etiquette.

The most important of those rules is absolutely do not leave a heaping mess of clothes all over the fitting room, off the hangers, on the floor and inside out. People who do this are the scum of the earth in the eyes of a worker. Everyone has probably done this once or twice. Nothing is more annoying than watching a customer awkwardly dash away from a room, only to find that when you get closer you see the disaster they left behind.

Some people bring clothes back on hangers or slightly folded to the fitting room attendant, which is nice. When that is done, it makes my job easier, as I can fold it right and send it back out on the floor. If you want to take your items back out with you and put them back yourselves, by all means, earn some brownie points. But if you’re going to leave your clothes in the fitting room, please at least fix it up a bit so it’s not a mess.

Lastly, if you ever go into a fitting room with a pile of clothes and leave with a shirt, I will smile to you on the way out, but you will disgust me as a human being after you leave.

It’s always important to find that one pair of jeans that fits you like a glove, so I’ll go out of my way to help you look for it. If they say that there is only one pair of jeans in your size in the entire store, we will hunt it down. If I have to strangle a mannequin because she’s wearing the last shirt in the store that you need, I’ll give her a good fight if it means that you’ll wear it when you leave. If I have to sort through the fitting room for that one top that was to die for, but you didn’t know how much you wanted it because you left it, we’ll get it. Just please, don’t make me work just to see that one item you wanted so badly sitting on the table when you walk out.

Some customers often have a lot to say about the types of clothes offered at a store. I normally prefer to be honest, at least in the good way. If someone asks me if I think a shirt is ugly, I will normally agree. Not every item of clothing in a store will fly off the shelves, and it’s probably for a reason. I’d rather make a real connection with a customer than lie to them and say it is to try to make a sale. Some won’t agree with that, but normally these customers come back to me because I was honest. Trust me, I will honestly tell you if that top does not go with those shoes.

I think one of the most annoying things about being an associate now is the promotion for store cards. Most clothing stores have their own, and if they do, good luck. I have to hear upper management tell us to sell them like hotcakes, and the average person doesn’t know what they are. Store cards are like credit cards specific to that store, and you get rewarded with loyalty points for shopping with them. In some cases you can either use it only at that store, or they are Visa cards which you can use anywhere.

The first thing I say to a customer — trust me — is not going to be “Hi, do you want to get a credit card?” It’s not my favorite thing to mention. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good idea sometimes and can help you save big. You could come out with four pairs of jeans for the price of one if you play your cards right. It’s just that, in my opinion, 70 percent of shoppers just so happen to walk into a store, and the last thing on their mind is making a decision like building credit. Some people don’t even have good enough credit to open the account.

We have to promote store cards because it boosts sales, but it always feels like I have to rip off or hustle someone just to get it. Not many people, whether they think it’s a good idea or not, will bite and open a card. If you’ve ever been hassled about opening a store card, chances are the sales associate wanted you to buy one more than they wanted you to save.

My golden rule is that customer satisfaction is key. Pushing things that people don’t want or need because it’s company policy shouldn’t be company policy. I interact with many people at work and hear a lot of different things. Some people say they need help and some people say nothing at all.

I think it’s important to greet customers, so at any clothing store expect a nice hello and a warm welcome. After that, you’re free to ask anyone for assistance. When associates shadow over customers waiting for them to say something, I know it’s very uncomfortable.

It’s even worse when every single associate in the store asks you how you are doing. It only takes one person — two max — to see what’s up. By the second person, a customer will say what they’ve been thinking about. When four people back-to-back say “Hi, how may I help you?” I wouldn’t be mad if a customer puts their clothes down and leaves.

Sometimes I feel like I’m being watched in stores and I hate that. It makes me feel like prey, and the sales associate is only talking to me because they have a secret agenda, which they normally do. Stores have a chain of command, and sometimes the people on the ground just have to listen to the higher-ups because it’s what they think is best. But then again, I think sometimes employees forget what it’s like to be a customer, which is weird. Customer service should be offered on a silver platter, not thrown at you like a football.

One last word to the wise: as a customer, please read the fine print. A store advertises in a fashion that is meant to attract customers, but there’s always some kind of catch. If you see 50 percent off on a sign, make sure you read the “up to” part, because that changes everything. If that shirt was 50 percent off yesterday and now it’s full price, don’t think someone will just price override because of a pretty face, and especially not if you’re going to argue over it.

There are positives and negatives on both sides of the table. Being a sales associate at the end of the day means you’re here to serve the customer because the customer is always right. As a customer, though, don’t abuse your power and pull a fast one either.

We’re all trying to make it out here, some trying to buy a shirt, and some trying to sell one.

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