There are magical moments to working in a mall. The silence and stillness of a mall in the hour before it opens, when the only people you see are the occasional mall walker or fellow mall employee. After the mall closes when the lights are dimmed and the maintenance crews are slowly cleaning up from the chaos of the day. The quiet back hallways that only mall employees know about. Of course, the sales that are specific to mall employees are a great bonus too.
There are also the moments when you get to help a customer find that absolutely perfect item to make their day perfect. There are the times when you help someone find the perfect gift and they leave with a brilliant smile on their face. There are the beautiful babies sleeping in their strollers as their parents enjoy a few moments to pamper themselves. Sometimes, working in a mall is magical.
The same is true in any service based profession – whether you’re a waitress at a family restaurant, a cashier at a fast food joint, or work stocking shelves at the local drug store, there are things that make that job magical that aren’t just getting a paycheck.
But there are the bad aspects as well, and often these are worse than the magical ones. If it weren’t for the things that I absolutely love about working in service-based industries, I would probably go completely crazy. The thing that makes most of the bad even worse is that most of the things that drive me crazy are totally avoidable. They are bad habits that customers have that they don’t even realize are infuriating. People who work in service are pretty set in their pet-peeves, and they are all from the same categories. What annoys one cashier invariably annoys another. Yet hundreds of customers will walk through our doors each day or week and exhibit these behaviors despite how insensitive they are.
Most customers don’t think about their behaviors in stores or restaurants. They’ve watched their friends and family do many of the same things they are doing and they never get admonished for their bad behavior. But there is a very simple reason why customers never get told their behavior is wrong – the worst saying to ever come into existence, “The customer is always right.”
The customer, I am sorry to inform you, is rarely right. As you read this blog, hopefully you’ll recognize a few bad habits of yours. Everyone has them. I’ll be honest, some of the things I find most annoying as a cashier are some of the things I do myself. Every time I go out and encounter people in a service job I try very hard to avoid the things that annoy me. While my ultimate dream may be for everyone to read this blog and miraculously become a better customer, I know that people aren’t perfect. What I really hold as a goal is for everyone who reads this blog to recognize just one or two bad habits and fix them, because in the long run that will help everyone. By “everyone” I mean it won’t just help me, the poor retail employee. I mean that it will help you as well. Suddenly you’ll find that you’re getting better deal and spending less money. Your local lunch haunts will suddenly start giving you a drink for free here, or a meal for free there. People in service jobs remember customers who are great to them, and they will go out of their way to make sure that those customers get the best possible treatment.
Many of the stories and experiences I’ll talk about in this blog happened to me. I’ve clocked 7 years in retail and 3 years in service jobs, and I’ve seen some pretty crazy things. I’ve worked 6 holiday seasons in a mall, and I’ve run the gamut of fantastic customers to customers we’ve had to press charges against they were so bad. Sometimes, however, my experience won’t be enough to properly display how bad customers can be. In those cases I’ve pulled on the stories I’ve heard from countless co-workers and friends in the industry. At times I’ve made composite customers to illustrate the worst possible scenario. Finally, as much as possible I’ve disguised exactly where I was working when any particular incident happened – I love all the places I’ve worked and don’t want to accidentally cause a backlash against those employers. The point here is not, “all the employees who work at store x totally hate their customers”, it is “regardless of the store customers do things that are easy to hate.” I’m sure if anyone tried really hard to figure out where I’ve worked they could probably do so, but for the purposes of this blog I don’t think that information is necessary.
You may think you walk through life a very likable person. Your neighbors like you, your boss likes you, even your teenage kid likes you. You may think that you couldn’t possibly be a “bad customer”, because you’ve never done anything particularly bad. There’s a very good chance that if you’re reading this that you’re not one of the people who will start shouting at an employee just because they can’t give you a discount. Despite how likable you think you are, however, I guarantee that there are people out there in the world who hate you. Salespeople, cashiers, stockers – you’ve done something to someone to make them hate you. That is what "People you don't know" is about – ensuring that you’ve got the best possible habits when you shop to make sure that you continue to be a likeable person.
People you don’t know hate you. Let me tell you why.