Retail workers deserve more respect

Alyssa Cravens, Staff Reporter

Working a retail job is something many people will do at some point in their lives—whether it’s a first job, a transitional trade or a lifetime career.

One thing all retail workers can attest to is that people can be brutal, and sometimes ridiculous; difficult shoppers can often make a fun and fast-paced job challenging.

While I don’t buy into the idea of angry or disrespectful shoppers being a new or worsening issue, I still believe it an important matter to discuss because I think awareness is a great way to begin solving problems.

Here are a few things to remember when entering a retail store:

Retail workers are people

The person behind the counter checking customers out and carrying items to a dressing room has a life outside of that position.

That person has friends, family, thoughts, emotions and hobbies.

It is easy to forget, but retail workers are not just magical little store elves, bred to be at beck and call for anyone who may need them.

Like most other humans, they have ears which can hear what customers say on their cell phones, in the dressing room or to their friend in aisle four.

Even if things being said aren’t directly about a worker, private conversations become public when discussed in a storefront.

Store hours are not a suggestion

As stated above, these people have lives; they may not arrive an hour early, answer the store phone in the middle of the night or be able to stay past closing time.

If a store opens at 9 a.m., there should not be a person beating on the door at 8:45 a.m.

Workers generally have opening and closing duties; they cannot open the doors until those duties are completed, nor can they leave the store immediately at closing time without sweeping, counting the drawer, etc.

In my experience, there is nothing worse than a customer walking in the door a minute before closing time.

Showing up late may cause a worker to miss their plans, the start of their favorite television show or their child’s school play.

Retail workers’ time is not any more or less important than a customer’s time.

It is rude for people to expect a store to stay open and workers to suffer at their expense on the part of poor time management or schedule conflicts.

Everybody has bad days

Bad days are an inevitable part of life.

Customers should not take their misfortunes out on retail workers, and retail workers should not take their frustrations out on their customers.

While no one is perfect, I try to remind myself that, whatever side of the counter I am standing on, there is always someone somewhere who is having a worse day than I am.

Acting rude, mean, unpleasant or impatient is not going to make a situation any better, but empathy and kindness may.

Retail workers are not babysitters

Retail workers are present to sell merchandise and run a store front; if they wanted to watch children, they would have gotten a job at a daycare center.

It can be frustrating for both the customer and the worker to have a child running around or touching breakables when people are trying to shop.

While the behavior of a child is not always the fault of the parent or guardian, it is never the fault of the worker, and most definitely not their responsibility to care for children while their parents shop.

Retail therapy is not actual therapy

Sometimes retail therapy is exactly what I need after a stressful, busy, emotional and exhausting week.

What can I say? I like to shop.

However, when I have had a rough week, the cashier at American Eagle really does not need to know about it.

When retail workers ask how customers are doing as they walk into the store, it is not an invitation to sit down and talk things out.

Greeters and cashiers do not need about the personal problems of their customers.

If customers overshare with retail workers anyway, the employees are often sympathetic, but they are still strangers who are just trying to get through their work day; if people need to discuss their issues, they should call on a friend, relative or licensed mental health professional.

Some things cannot be changed

Two little words often cause the most dreadful drama in retail shops: “store policy.”

Perhaps most important of all, no matter how big of a fit customers throw or how much complaining they do, the workers in a storefront can only fix so much.

They are generally not the employees making store policies, and they want customers to be happy just as much as the customers do themselves.

Retail store workers are true middle men, and bending or breaking the rules could cost them their jobs.

Customers should be patient and understanding, and if a problem is too large for a worker, consumers should seek help from a manager or customer service agent.

Alyssa Cravens is a junior communication major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].