Friday, 30 May 2014

What it is like working in Retail - Part 1

What is it like working in Retail
Image from here

I've been working in retail for almost two years so after seeing a picture pop up on Facebook about what working in retail is like, and seeing a list named "ten truths about working in retail" also pop up on my Newsfeed - I decided on doing a post about it. For us, who already work in retail to share each others pain, but for people who are just starting out in retail, or getting their first jobs in stores to understand what it is going to be like. Please feel free to share your thoughts about what working in retail is really like in the comments! I'd love to hear what you think.

1. If you love a song that is currently in the charts, be prepared to hate it within a week. 

This is the one thing I knew I would have to contend with within the first few hours of my shift on my very first day or working in retail. In those few hours, I heard the same four songs on loop - and nothing else. For me, this was November 2012 and those songs were: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson, Hall of Fame by The Script and Will.I.Am, Beauty and a Beat by Justin Bieber and I Found You by The Wanted and then when December rolled around, it was the same three Christmas songs on repeat instead. Being a girl who loves Eminem and Motley Crue, you can image how unimpressed with the song choices that I was forced to listen to 5 days a week.



2. You will develop an art of spotting customers who will stop you & avoiding them.

This is more directed to those who work in department stores and larger stores. At first you will go the quickest way off the shop floor, whether it be if you are finishing work or going on your break There is nothing worse than when you have finished and are rushing to get the bus home so you don't have to wait another half an hour until the next one, or going on your break knowing you only have a certain amount of time to relax and have a quiet moment to yourself before going back to the chaos that is the shop floor mid-sale, and having a customer spot you and stopping you in your tracks, and whilst they are quizzing you about the shops stock levels, you slowly count the precious minutes of your break you know you are losing. After a week or so of this happening, you will create a new way to walk - it may take a little longer, but you know that going this way will mean you will have to deal with less customers and be able to enjoy your full break or actually get your bus on time. It sounds harsh, but once you miss your bus several times or loose a quarter of your lunch break every day, you will understand.

What is it like working in Retail


3. Before working in retail, you never realised how the clothes tidied themselves before the store opened. 

Sure, you knew that someone tidied it. But when you applied for this job you probably didn't realise it'd be you. You will be asked to come in an hour or two before the stores opens (and yes, that includes Saturday & Sunday!) just to fold t-shirts or hang items in size order, but not only in size order but to make sure the hangers are equal distance apart. This is called finger spacing (a finger's space between each hanger if you hadn't guessed!) and this is something you will be asked to do a lot. It's one of the most tideous jobs that seems to take forever, especially when the store is still open and you are expected to do this whilst the customers are constantly looking through the rails, and it often seems like they are literally just following you around and messing everything up just as you had finished tidying it. This is where you learn to bite your tongue and re-tidy it, only for it to be a mess again five minutes later.

4. You will learn to be able to read people from metres away. 

This art takes a little while, but you will get there. You will eventually be able to know the sort of thing the customers are wanting before they have even reached you. This does come in handy though, if you think they are upset about something, it gives you a minute or two to prepare yourself and think about how you are going to handle the situation, as well as scan the floor for any other members of staff that can either cover the till whilst you deal with the customer or be there to help you out if you have a complicated problem to fix that you aren't sure about. This skill also comes in handy when their are suspicious customers - i've seen too many people try and trick me into selling them something cheaper or trying to get away with something, but after a few weeks, I began to pick up on signs and behaviors of people that might be up to no good and this ensures that I can discreetly go through the right procedures - such as letting Security know about what I suspect is going on. An example of this is I had a customer bring two pairs of Levi jeans to me, and started asking me questions such as "How long have you been working here?" and "Do you have long left on your shift" - whilst shifting his weight from one foot to the other, this raised my suspicions and I noticed that the labels on the jeans were the incorrect size and shape for that item, sure enough - I peeled them off and underneath was the correct label. He had stuck £28 labels on jeans that were £70 each and was trying to distract me from noticing.

5. Working in a store selling designer items isn't as glamorous as you might think. 

Cleaning. I knew i'd probably be in for a bit of mild cleaning when I got my job, but I didn't realise how much cleaning I would have to do. Every shift I have to at least dust everywhere but lately, I have been asked to get a bucket of hot soapy water, take everything off the shelves and clean them - and yes that does mean getting on your hands and knees in the middle of the shop floor to make the bottom shelf spotless - goodbye nicely manicured nails! This wouldn't be so bad however it is when you are asked to do this during a busy Saturday afternoon with customers constantly around you and sticking their hands around you trying to reach things - obviously not knowing the polite way of saying "excuse me". You will probably leave work with dry hands and your freshly washed uniform will be covered in dust.


What is it like working in Retail


6.  You will loose the ability to plan anything outside of work.

If you are working in retail, it is likely you will be working in shifts. These shifts are also probably never going to be consistant - you might be working late on night and on an early shift the next day. Not knowing what shifts you are on from one week to the next, means that you can't really plan anything in advance let along to commit to anything outside of work. This is especially true if, like me, you are part time and take all the over time you can get. An example of this is, I had tomorrow off work but an hour before the end of my shift I was asked if I could work tomorrow and do a full days shift, I said yes as I need the money for a trip down to London to see Eminem next month, so that means I have to rearrange things I had planned for tomorrow.

7. The customer isn't actually always right.

I know the saying goes "the customer is always right" - but this actually isn't the case. I have literally lost count how many customers a day claim something is on sale, when it isn't. Sure, sometimes it might be and the till's just haven't been updated - that's fine, I can handle that. Sometimes it's human error and a sign has been placed on the wrong stand, that's fine too, I will honour the sign and move it so no-one else thinks that. But it's when a customer mis-reads something and comes to assumptions over things that I get annoyed. If there is a sign saying "20% off", it doesn't mean everything - or everything in the vicinity of the sign. A customer will also tell you about your return policy if you say they can't return something. Yes, we know the policy but it doesn't apply to everything as it states on the receipt, just because they think this is how it works - doesn't mean it's true. I understand you bought the wrong item - and for anything else, I would be happy to do an exchange or refund, but for hygiene reasons we can't return certain items. You're probably going to get a lot of unhappy customers, but this isn't your fault, they think they know the stores policies and offers better than you. They also will claim something has come to the wrong total, and won't understand that the till is essentially a fancy calculator and the total is the correct amount, and will ask you to total it up several times, whilst they too are adding everything up on their phone to see if it comes to the same amount.

What is it like working in Retail


8. It affects how you shop at other stores.

The above image is what inspired me to start this post, and I truely agree to it. I believe that everyone should work in retail at least once in their life and I do believe a lot of people who benefit from it. Since I started working in retail, I have changed my attitude towards shopping as I know what it's like and can sympathize with shop assistants and no longer really get angry or annoyed whilst shopping as I know it's not always preventable. This is especially the case when I get rude customers - since working in retail, I've realized just how rude people can be. Customers that either say nothing to do, throw things on the counter at you (yes, this does happen), chat on the phone whilst ignoring you and expecting you to run to the edge of the earth and back for them. (example: I had a customer buy some beauty products and she was taking advantage of a £10 off promotion we had running at the time and had processed that and was just about to take payment, when she said she had a voucher. I tried putting it through but it didn't work so I kindly explained to her that we were too far in to the transaction to accept the voucher, she simply glared at me, "you better sort it then" she spat back at me.)  I used to be guilty of using my phone when buying things, however now I never do, I always make sure I give eye contact and smile and always  say please and thank you - as I know how irritating and rude it is when customers don't do that.

9. Your shifts will revolve around meeting Targets and the "save 10% off by opening a store card" one liners.

Before you started working in retail, you probably never realized how much pressure is put on sales staff to push those cards and meet those deadlines. Every day when you start your shift, your manager or supervisor will make sure you know many people are required to open cards that day or how much of something you need to sell and then will constantly ask you throughout the day how much of something you have sold. The customers are normally on to you as well, before you even ask the question of "do you want to save 10%?" they are already saying "No" - or if they do, i've a few customers open a card and then say "that will probably help your target!" - yes it will. But do you know what happens when you reach your target? They give you a new one to reach that day, so no matter how many cards you open or how much you sell, you will never really reach that ever changing target they set you.

10. Closing time is for the customers, not you. 

You may be so happy when the time for the store to close rolls around - but you need to remember, that just because the store is closed, probably doesn't mean it is the end of the shift for you. You will probably need to do a bit more tidying and sorting out of stock before you even begin to cash up the tills - only to find it has an imbalance, meaning you have entered an incorrect number somewhere so you have to do it all over again before you can even think about going to the locker room to get your stuff and go home. Only for you to come back in tomorrow and start it all over again.


Expect Part 2 just after the weekend with another 10 more points about what it is actually like working in retail.




14 comments:

  1. Such an informative post! Makes me realise the extent of the work shop assistants go to and can go around appreciating everything much more.

    Katie. x

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    1. Thank so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it! x

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  2. Hahahaha. I have literally (last weekend) finished 2 years in retail and I can completely relate to every single one of these. GOD its a bore. I think I might even write a post like this!!!!

    xxx | daisydaisyxxo
    ENTER MY GIVEAWAY HERE

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    1. If you do send me a link! :D Glad you liked it, I still work in retail and it's definitely not what I was expecting when I signed up! x

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  3. This post is so accurate it hurts, everyone should work in retail at lease once in their life. I had one customer who ignored me when I said 'Hello, how are you today?' and any form of communication as she come through my till, I scanned through some dried prunes and she THREW them back at me onto my chest and snapped "THOSE are the wrong price, they say £1 on the shelf, I suggest you go get someone to check". so frustrating.

    Tanya xo

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    1. I agree - yes it's not the best job in the world, but you do learn a lot whilst you there and some people definitely benefit from it! x

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  4. The worst one I used to get when I worked in the perfume shop - "it's half price at boots." GO TO BOOTS THEN. and they never understand why you can't match that. It's not my decision!

    Katydesu.blogspot.co.uk xx

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    1. I know! I don't understand why people think just because you wear a name badge means you can alter the price to suit them! x

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  5. This is so helpful. I'm currently looking for a job in retail for weekends and this have given me some ideas on what to expect x

    daisy-drops

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    1. I'm glad you liked it! :D There will be another post just after the week with more points about what it's actually like working in retail. Good luck with your job hunting! x

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  6. Agreed to EVERYTHING you wrote about on here hun!

    Although I don't work in retail anymore I can relate to all the customer service related jargon. xD

    http://theremightbecoffee.wordpress.com/

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  7. Had to comment on this, amazing post. I can relate to *everything* and it also brought back all those depressing retail feelings, haha! I loved this post. You hit the nail totally on the head and I do believe everyone would benefit from these experiences. I am SO nice to people working in retail now, and whenever friends get annoyed at them for trying to sell things or asking if you need help when you wana be left alone - Im like, be nice! Do you think they want to do this?! Lol. Brilliant post x

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    1. Thank You so much for your lovely comment! I am, I can't be mean to someone who works in retail now after being on the other side. Expect Part 2 soon! x

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Amy xo

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