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 🙂