Since I’ve started working retail again, I’ve had my faith in humanity shaken, rattled AND rolled. I’ve thrown away the empty coffee cups people leave on the shelves like out-of-season Easter Eggs. I’ve picked up our magazines people cram under furniture. I’ve explained (repeatedly, to one person) why a company will not, ever, stack a 40% coupon on top of an item that’s already 40% off. And then that person rolled their eyes at me. I’ve been yelled at for doing what I’ve been told to do. I’ve been coughed on. I’ve even been bled on.
I’m not sure what it is about shopping that leads to a person ignoring the basic rules of politeness (“Keep your elbows off the table, cover your mouth when you sneeze and, oh yes, don’t bleed on people”), but it’s common and not restricted by age, ethnicity or class. Although, I will say that tourists are usually the nicest group of customers. I have a feeling that it has something to do with the mood enhancing effects of being on vacation.
It’s not even that I expect a lot from the whole employee and customer interaction. Here is what I want to happen, the Platonic Ideal for all Customer Interactions:
Employee: Hello, can I help you?
Customer: I am fine, thank you. I will ask for assistance if I require it.
Employee: Okay, I will be over here if you need help.
Customer: Hello Employee, can you help me find this item?
Employee: Yes, I can.
(Note that the customer says “Hello” first and doesn’t just charge up and bellow out “ITEM?” and that the Employee is not being a snarky smartass)
(at the register)
Customer: Hello, how are you? Let me place the items within reach of you and not halfway down the counter so you don’t have to reach over me to ring me up.
Employee: I appreciate that. I also appreciate that you’re not on your cellphone and you’re actually making eye contact with me, in spite of the fact that I’m a lowly retail employee.
Customer: Thank you for ringing me up in a timely manner. Here is my credit card. I will not hold you personally accountable if the card is declined.
Employee: Thank you for shopping here and for not holding up the line by dumping a handful of dimes on the counter and then slowly counting them up over the course of five minutes.
Customer: You are welcome. Have a good day!
I don’t think any of that’s too much to ask. And here’s the best part: Every time you treat an employee nicely, you’re ensuring that the employee stays sane, happy and chipper for just a little bit longer. You know all those awful employees you see, the ones with the hollow eyes who just grunt and roll their eyes when you walk up to the register? Or the ones who hide and you can’t find them when you need to know where the parsley is? Chances are, a long time ago, they were happy once. And then they worked a Black Friday or during Christmas. And that happiness died.
Treat us like we’re people and we’ll respond in kind (most likely).