How to Transform Retail Hell!


Hate shopping? Surly sales staff, long lines...tune in for ways to save the day...and your temper!

Today we are going to be talking about how to turn retail hell into, well, peace on earth! Okay, at least we’ll get a piece of really great advice that will make us all feel a lot better! We are all under added stress today, just trying to make ends meet, so many things up in the air—our health care, our kids, our job security is in question for many of us, and we are simply trying to make sure we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. That said, I have noticed a few places we where we like to vie for power or get some control in a world that currently feels more out of control than ever. One is on the road; we might feel pretty cocky sitting behind two-thousand pounds of steel yelling at someone for simply getting one car ahead of us/taking the spot that we are sure was ours/just because we are self-centered and get no respect so damn it we are going to get it in the parking lot!

Then there’s the stores. The places where customer service representatives become the sounding board for all our stuffed feelings and resentments and we are all too happy to sneer, judge, dismiss, and downright treat them badly because—well, we feel bad about ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished everyone had to take a public etiquette course! A class that we must pass that teaches us how to be, at minimum, civil with others regardless of how we feel. And I am talking about people on both sides of the counter. Author John Tarrant talks about how we can never lay our negative vibe on anyone; it’s just not right. And that we should keep our energy in check—it’s toxic to lay it on someone else! I couldn’t agree more. Ultimately we will all be happier and more at peace if we do.

It’s true, there are times when I have wished and even intimated that sales associates could be more attentive and behave as though they took pride in their choice as a customer service representative. I have fantasized about calling their boss and telling them how texting a friend/fixing their makeup/being rude seemed the order of the day rather than helping a paying customer. Just as I have been the one trying to bring cheer to a messy department store scene, or cleaning up after some miserable person dumped their negativity all over the salesperson just before I arrived (or sometimes right in front of my face). Bottom line, more often than not I try to hold my tongue and collect my negativity so as not to leak it on others or spread the love. All else seems irresponsible!

Here are some tips from my friend Freeman Hall who wrote a book called Retail Hell: Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate. They can help you change your attitude on or off the road so we can be contributors of peace and love rather than harbingers of darkness.

1) Greet people you see either with your eyes, a smile or when a Sale Associate greets you, greet them back. Feeling welcome is a huge part of being connected to other people. A smile and hello go a long way and get you better service. A glare and silence makes the Retail Slave take note that you might just be a huge problem. They will run the other way. Take advantage of their greeting to ask a question or get help. If you don't need either, a friendly greeting will let them know you are not Scrooge and they'll be eager to assist you when the time is right.

2) If you have a question, ask the right person. Asking a Sales Associate where the wing nuts are in the Lingerie Department is bad shopping form and going to get you a blank stare and "I don't know." If there is no one in the Hardware department, a better question would be "Could you please call and get me assistance in Hardware."

3) Leave your Diva or "Ruler and Master of the Universe" attitude at the door. Being rude and demanding gets you nowhere. Salespeople get belittled and talked down to constantly. Don't throw a tantrum when the store runs out of George Forman grills. It's not the sales associate's fault. They didn't order the merchandise.

4) Wait your turn. Yes, you have ten million errands to run, but so does everyone else. Interrupting salespeople while they are on the phone or helping other customers because you want to be waited on immediately is a sure-fire way to get bad service. They will purposely go slow and ignore you. Be patient. They know you are there and they will get to you. The nicer you are, the more they will attempt to either get you help or help you while waiting on others

5) Don't go shopping in a rush. If you have to be somewhere in 15 minutes and you pull into the mall on Saturday around noon, get ready for some Retail Hell. Save yourself stress and aggravation by not having time constraints. You may get in and out, and you may not. Stores work hard to staff, but sometimes the Law of Retail Hell Gravity hits and everyone wants to be rung up at the same time.

6) Don't be a Piggy Shopper. It's just not cool to throw things on the floor, tear open packages, and ruin merchandise like you are a descendant of King Kong. Put things back where you found them. The pair of Spongebob socks you are dumping in the ice cream freezer could be the last ones in the store. This kind of bad Shopping Karma will come back at you when a Sales Associate tells you the computer says they have it, but the last size 10 is nowhere to be found because it's been thrown under a sale rack of babywear.

7) Be responsible. For example, you might think you're helping out by getting your clothes back on the hanger even if they are inside out, but what you are doing is making more work for the fitting room attendant and making them to want to smash their head through a fitting room door. Tearing tags off of clothes and leaving them on the fitting room floor is also a piggy-like move, and creates problems for other customers when they can't find the price. If this happens by accident, give them to the attendant.

8) It’s okay to ask for a box, just don't get angry when you are told the store doesn't offer them. Very few stores give boxes away because of the cost involved, yet customers continue to get irate if they can't get a free box for their three-dollar scrunchy. High-end stores usually have boxes and many stores sell them. Gift bags are also easy and reusable. If you don't like any of those answers, get some newspaper and string. It's the Marc Jacobs handbag they want, not the box.

9) Don't go shopping sick. The flu is a nightmare for everyone. I'm getting reports of salespeople getting sick after taking money and credit cards from customers who should not have gone shopping. I once had to wait on an old lady carrying a box of tissue while she coughed and hacked away. Yes, I ended up sick…for four months. Stay home and shop online.

10) Do a Random Act of Retail Kindness. Retail salespeople are working long hours with few days off. Let them know you care. Be kind. Pick something up off the floor or put things you don't want back where they belong. If another customer is being a jerk, make a funny face behind their back. Tell them they are doing a good job. Tell their manager they handled the bad customer like a pro. Or if you are feeling generous, buy them a coffee or candy bar. It will make their day.

This article was originally published at Maryanne Live . Reprinted with permission from the author.