Customers are NOT always King, BUT…

My first job was as a casual at a sports store when I was sixteen. I remember how eager I was to earn my own money. If I’m not mistaken it was something like ±R8,00 p/h and the hours weren’t that many, except for when I got a flexi-time contract and my rate increased, but it was mine. What I also remember about those days were that the old “Customer is King” phrase was drilled into us in those days. So much so that I had to assist people with some really smelly feet with trying on shoes.

Did I mention it was REALLY smelly? Then there were those female customers who really wanted to wear size 4 shoes but ended up walking out with size 6. Honestly I don’t know what the fuss about women and their shoe size is. Do they even know how difficult it is to find size 4 sometimes? I enjoy summer when I can walk into a store and get a size 5/6 and am the happiest camper. Yeah, I have summer-swollen-feet-syndrome, big time.

During those days I learnt some valuable lessons, lots of useless information too, but mostly life lessons. How to treat people with respect, customer service, dealing with conflict and to do what’s expected of you no matter what. You flicked your switch at the front door and you would plaster a smile on your face and could go back to being tired or miserable when you left again.

One lesson I’ll never forget was that one time a grumpy man came into the store and shouted at everyone because he came to make a payment and it took too long for his liking. He had no patience and our system was offline. The man stripped and everyone refused to help him. Since I’m one of those people who can say things and get away it, I was sent to assist. I’m not sure how the conversation started but I do remember him telling me that he was just involved in an accident in his company vehicle on his way to the store and was injured. I vaguely recall something about his ill wife too. That man had a whole lot of problems and even though it wasn’t an excuse for his behaviour, it explained it. He left our store with a smile and a request for me to apologize to my colleagues. He also thanked me for listening. That day he needed to vent but he also just needed someone kind to talk to.

Moral of the story: People can be difficult at times but you don’t have to allow their attitudes dictate yours. Most times it has absolutely nothing to do with you. If I’d been offish with the customer, I could have gotten into big trouble if he reported me.

Some of those lessons that are completely lost on some of the retail sector employees today. Especially the sports store I worked at in those days. I hardly ever shop there because whenever I do, I get the feeling that I’m entering someone’s home uninvited. The attitudes of staff there are those of arrogant store owners. I can live without that. Pity too because they cater for 1st K but I refuse to shop where I don’t get service.

This morning I wanted to exchange box hair dye I bought from a retailer (one of the biggest and most popular in SA) two weeks ago but was insulted by one of the employees when she told me that I’d lied about purchasing the item at their store. She didn’t exactly say the word lie but it was implied. Her exact words: “Sorry ma’am this is not one of our batches and you didn’t buy it here.” Being an honest goody two shoes about things like that, I explained that I’d bought it at the exact store and had my till slip to prove it. The more I explained the less interested she was in listening to me. Her tone wasn’t very friendly and she challenged me on every point. At that point I lost it. When I called her out for telling me I’m a liar she had the audacity to challenge me on that too. This woman got me so riled up that I almost left without the item. I suppose the only real reason for taking it was for the store to investigate and prove that I wasn’t lying and for that employee to realize she was out of line. Normally this is when you call for the manager but I didn’t even ask for the manager at that time because I was just too upset to spend another minute in the store. Not upset as in I wanted to cry. Ok, maybe just a little. Frustration and all. I really wasn’t lying about it ok. The upset I felt, was the kind where I wanted to toss the box at her. Don’t judge me, I’m just not good at trying to explain myself to rude arrogant people who refuse to listen to me. I wouldn’t have done it for real but in my mind I did punch her a few times.

Since I write better than I speak I decided to email their customer care department and asked for the matter to be investigated because I want to prove that it was bought at that store and report that employee for her bad attitude. As far as I know it’s not a dismissable offense (I wouldn’t go that far) but I really hope that she gets a stern talking to. It has crossed my mind that there are many people who try their luck at stores and I could easily have been one. Yet how could she be so sure about it without doing the proper checks? Sometimes I think employees just lose the plot completely. Sure I get that many people aren’t happy in their jobs, especially in retail, but what helps is taking pride in what you do. Instead of the “woe is me” attitude, why not try “I’m blessed to have a job” or just leave. Make that change, empower yourself and pursue your dreams. Attitude is everything.

Personally I don’t care for bad service. Mediocre service is doable, after all no one is perfect. I’m one of those people who pay for service and I refuse to settle for bad service from anywhere. It’s not about me thinking that I pay their salaries with my few rands I spend here and there but about not tolerating people with bad attitudes in general. No one that knows me personally will treat me the way I don’t want to be treated so why would I allow someone in a service industry do that.

Just in case you think I suffer from PAM (piss and moan) syndrome, I can assure you that I don’t. I sat at FNB for a long long time today for a letter verifying that I do not have an account with them but my time wasted was no biggy considering the service was excellent and I tweeted about it. I always rave about service excellence because back when I was in retail customers used to do that for me. It certainly made those days when I really didn’t want to be in retail anymore much more bearable. I still see some of those people today and they will always say HI and ask about my family. At the same time I’m one of those people who is nice to waiters, petrol attendants, thank bus and taxi drivers when I get out, don’t mind standing in a long queue at the supermarket to say hi to a cashier whom I don’t know but haven’t seen in ages and and and. I make it my duty to speak to the people sorting through our dirt bins on garbage day, when I’m home, to save them some trouble by telling them that we don’t have plastic bottles or cans for them to collect for recycling. You see, I’m really not all that bad 🙂

In conclusion, customers can be downright horrible people at times. Contrary to what I have been taught, customers are not kings. They’re mere mortals who can and will make your life a little difficult if they want to. They are also people, like me, who really just want to get what they need and get out with no hassles. Who wakes up in the morning wanting conflict? It’s a two way street and can lead to some amazing relationships and networking possibilities.

How do you feel about customer service?

It can be said that I talk too much… Say it ain’t true by sharing your view. All comments are welcome 🙂



10 thoughts on “Customers are NOT always King, BUT…

  1. yup – treat people the way you want to be treated is def my motto.

    I actually avoid returning anything and will do my best to get hubby or someone else to go on my behalf because I fear exactly that very comment “you the customer are lying about said product” – I’ve had a lady ask me if I wore a jersey I was returning with tags still on – it took everything in me to not slap her silly.

    I get to a till and I greet you I expect to be greeted back

    I greet car park attendants and make sure to remember their name

    I’ll email a store looking for a product and got told they’ve looked in all the stores only to do my own hunting around and found it – laziness and poor customer service really gets me if you not happy move the fudge on

    Ps: love the PAMS you should be on my cpf group and see the PAMS going on there about water restrictions , the surprise that there’s fireworks and and and.



    • Thank you for stopping by Ana 🙂

      You’ve got a point there with sending your hubby. They never get asked 20 questions or given flack for stuff. From now on I’ll be sending the hubby too. That is if I manage to come up with a good bribe.

      Can’t remember when last I’ve asked a store to look an item/product up for me. Like you I’ve also had a run in like that so I prefer to do my own looking, that’s if I really really want it.

      Ps: I’m almost envious about your cpf group right now. Then again my heart is not always strong enough to deal with PAMS. And I tend to roll my eyes too. Can only imagine how it will go down when one of them see me doing that. Ha ha

      Have an awesome day 🙂


  2. I’m totally with you, customer service is the make or break for me when shopping and I really don’t enjoy shopping. This week we got a refund from Masons (a furniture store), they were good enough to include interest but we ordered a lounge suite 7 months ago, and were still waiting. The worst thing was that they NEVER came back to us, did not return phone calls or keep us updated with the progress on our order. I am also someone who shops around for the best price when anything costs over R100 but I put this aside when dealing with Yuppiechef because their customer service goes way beyond the call of duty. When I do come across good customer service I try to remember to Hello Peter about it


    • 7 Months! I’m happy you got your refund. It really does suck though because it’s like repeating the process of finding “the one” again. Good luck.

      Communication is a huge problem. If only they take the time out of their day to give a courtesy call it would make a world of difference. And word of mouth is still huge. I’d much rather take a referral any day. If I’m not mistaken furniture stores work on commission too. Their loss though.

      You hit the spot there Sula. I suppose if I liked shopping more it wouldn’t be that bad. I do sprints in stores if I really have to go or alternately I send Keith. You know, I always make it a point to send notes to the stores and/or their head offices but I guess the better alternative would be to tell my friend Peter. Will keep that in mind next time. Thanks for that 🙂

      Yuppiechef have some really awesome products. Many of which is on my wishlist.


  3. I’m so sorry you got such bad service. But I am glad you yourself can handle difficult people. 🙂 I’ve had good service experiences mostly, apart from cellphone providers, now that’s another story…


    • Heather I’m like a magnet for these kind of things. Not sure why though because I’m as peaceful as can be. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve got that “not the brightest crayon in the box” look or I was a terrible person in some past life 😀 Thankfully enough my cellphone providers don’t give me grief. #touchwood


  4. I don’t think I’m a difficult consumer. I demand that the store assistant greet. They need not smile…but it would be nice. But they should always greet. I remember when you worked at that store as well. There was always a vibe back then. I haven’t purchased from there for so long because I always get the feeling I have muck on my face or I stink every time I walk in through their doors. The vibe now is that they think they’re better than us mere mortals. So sad. Lack of customer service has become an epidemic in most stores. My favourite is when the cashier and the packer are having a conversation about their epic weekend whilst I stand there unacknowledged. Pet peeve of note.

    I love going to the garage to get my coffee order en route to work in the mornings. I don’t really do mornings but those folks! I walk in and everyone knows me…knows my order. As I walk through the doors one of them shout “Triple Cappuccino!” and the others shout “Oraait!”. I get a “Hello Lovey”. Generally, I do not do the “lovey”, “darling” and “sweetheart” thing, but with them I don’t mind. The are my fire-starters for the day and I love them for it.

    Great post, Celestial 🙂


    • You’re not being difficult. Common courtesy is the least many of us expect. Happy to know you have such an excellent start to your day “Lovey” 🙂 I really don’t mind the odd “Lovey” or “Dah-ling” when they put a smile on my dial. We have that (amongst a gazillion other things) in common too.

      The vibe back in the day was awesome. We really were a great bunch. It’s no wonder no one who worked with me in retail back then are still in retail. We lived, learned and moved on to be successful at what we do. Even if some of us (mostly me) are struggling up and coming business women who is struggling to find decent work with decent pay. Those who are still in retail are enjoying the behind the scenes parts of it.

      As for the cashier dilemma I know exactly what you mean. It’s annoying. Next time they do it, give them a tut on how to start a blog and tell them to blog about it instead. Have you ever bought a basket full of items and not asked if you want plastic bags? It’s like geez I know my handbag resembles a shopper but it’s not meant groceries but for all kinds of junk that maketh a woman’s handbag.


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