Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My apologies

So, after a few people complained about my lack of posting I figured I should probably make a new post and explain why I haven't for such a long time. First of all, the time period between my last post and now was filled with the wonderful shopping splendor of Christmas. Oddly enough, I don't have any crazy, unbelievable or amazing stories from this year. It was relatively uneventful and easy to handle. I suppose this is primarily due to the fact that over the holiday I was promoted into a new position, and have since been spending my time in training, away from the craziness customers bring. So, what can I do to please you sick sadistic people who enjoy reading rants about my suffering? I have compiled a list of shopping do's and dont's that I have noticed over the years. A summary compilation of all the things I have noticed that customers do that ultimately makes their shopping experience more difficult and less enjoyable. I'll just do a few for now.

1. If you want prices to be low then put shit back where you found it. Every time you stick something on the shelf in the wrong aisle or just toss it aside because you decide you don't' want it, someone who works there has to pick it up and put it away. Now they're not going to do that for free, they want to be paid. So I have to up my payroll to accommodate that. Upping payroll means you have a higher overhead, which means you have to pay for that somehow? How do you suppose stores make their money? By selling you crap. The more we sell it to you for, the more money we make. The less money we need to make to cover costs such as payroll, the less we have to charge you. Do the math.

2. Be polite. Let me just lay this out right now. If you have a complaint, or you want to return something when the return policy you agreed to when you bought the merchandise says you can't, you should approach the matter politely and with decorum. Why? Because I don't have to give in. I don't have to let you return the merchandise without a receipt, and the company will back me on it. I don't have to do a damn thing you ask. And if you are going to be rude, obnoxious, confrontational or otherwise unpleasant from the onset, you can be sure I am going to be more likely to enjoy telling you no.

3. Flatbeds and pallets are heavy. In fact, they are really heavy. A pallet jack weighs about 50 pounds empty. An empty pallet weighs about 60 pounds empty. So, even if I am pulling around an empty pallet that is 110 pounds I'm dragging. Now imagine a pallet with, oh let's say a stack of plastic rubbermaid totes on it. That doesn't seem heavy, does it? Well, they come in 4 stacks of 45, weighing in at 80+ pounds. So, when you see a sales associate pulling a pallet of plastics they are pulling around 190 pounds of merchandise behind them. Keep in mind that pallet jacks don't come with anti-lock breaks. Now for a little physics lesson: an object in motion tends to say in motion until acted upon by an equal or greater object. So when you cut my ass off while I'm walking down an aisle or even worse when you see me coming 30 feet ahead of you and decide that you don't need to move that means I have to counteract 190 pounds of moving mass. Let me tell you it's a bitch. When you see someone tugging that around, it's not fun, it's not easy, it's hard work, so MOVE OUT OF THE DAMN WAY!


Rambling Retailer

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Customer Comments

I don't think people realize that when they fill out a customer comment card, or fill out a survey on those little machines in the corner of the store, that the information doesn't only go to a corporate office, it goes directly to us as well. In fact where I work we consider the information and comments on each survey public knowledge and we post them on a little board in the hallway. Nine times out of ten the comments are positive, complimenting a particular employee or the store in general and even those that have suggestions are usually very well thought out, helpful and in good taste. However, you always have some where people feel the only way to get through is to be rude or vulgar. I find these particularly funny because these are also the comments that typically have the worst spelling. I was looking over the comments for the month, and one in particular stood out to me. I will type it, word for word, before giving my response:
"Checkout problems. I bought an item for $34.47 and gave the checkout person $100 bill. He was going to give me $5 in change. When I correct him, he said 'Oh! I made a mistake'. I asked for the Manager and a floor supervisor came over and I told her the transaction and told her that the checker did not make a correction on any tape or any form and that he just gave me the correct change. I informed her that his actions are why stores get money taken b y employees. Hope this helps someone to cut costs and to hire competent employees. Dr. _____ _______"
Now, I left the actual name out because I believe in privacy and am actually considerate to other people, but let's begin. Something about this particular comment really bothers me. Well, several things actually. First the change thing. First of all, it is a fair assumption that the checker was giving change back as if the man gave him a $10.00 bill for a $3.47 purchase. Hence the mistake. However, the man did give the checker a $100.00 bill for a larger purchase. The big thing here is that there is no reason at all that any documentation has to be made about said mistake. No tape needs to be corrected, no notation needs to be made. Why? Well, the register is a simple machine. It obviously showed a total of $33.47 before the good Dr. even handed any money over. Had the cashier actually made a mistake that matters, I.E. typing in $10.00 instead of $100.00, then the register would have still showed a balance due of $23.47 and would have not opened for the cashier to even hand the doctor a $5.00 Thus, the mistake was irrelevant to the total in the register, and was nothing more than an honest mix-up. In fact, I'm personally glad it was this kind of mix-up. During any one day a single register operater handles close to $40,000 in cash and coin. You figure the average sale per customer is around $50.00 that's a crap laod of transactions, and everyone is bound to have a slight mess up at least once a day. But somehow these amazing people who work checkout lanes almost always manage to balance their register out, and if they don't, it's rarely a difference of over $5.00. I think that is quite an accomplishment. Secondly, the fact that the good Dr. felt that by pointing this out we would be able to "lower prices and hire more competent employees." The first half of this couldn't be more off. Even if a register had $100.00 shortage, at the end of the day that represents so little of a percent of the stores gross profit that it would have absolutely no impact at all on prices, store inventory, payroll, or anything at all for that matter. But let's be fair and assume that he meant lower prices through payroll in that we wouldn't be paying "incompetent employees" such as the poor bastard who was unfortunate enough to have this jerk in his line. Well, if we to hire "more competent" employees, such as college graduates or those who have special training or skills for a simple checker position you can be damn sure we'd have to pay them much more than we do now. Well, in order to pay someone more, our store has to make more money, which means we have to charge more for our goods to increase our gross profit. Hardly what Dr. Dick seems to want. But what really bothers me is the simple lack of understanding or compassion this man has for the hard working individual who checked him out. Rather than realize that it was an honest mistake and be on his way, he took the time out of his life to point this out. Being a doctor you think he would have more important matters to deal with, but this man actually felt he had to point out the inadequacies of a checker in a retail store. Can you get any more high and mighty or self-righteous? Plus, these are supposed to be anonymous comments, and he felt he needed to not only put his name, but that he had to put Dr. in front of it! What a pathetic attempt at validating his point. This is a particularly touchy subject for me because my father is a doctor, and he refuses to put M.D. or Ph.D. or Dr. on anything he does that isn't directly related to his job. Why? He doesn't abuse his title. He doesn't think people owe him anything simply because he is a doctor. He is a doctor because he wants to give to other people. Now this guy is a doctor who thinks his job makes him better than other people. Another perfect example of assholes who think that those who work in retail are below others. Yet this doctor has no concept of basic math, market analysis, product pricing, or how payroll, prices, and gross product are really related.. So my comment to you sir is step back a moment and think what it would be like if you made a mistake that was quickly fixed and had no impact on anyone at all, only for me to go to the AMA, or better yet a member of the ABA and formerly register a complaint or comment about it. Respectfully, Rambling Retailer - Manager

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"I Passed the MENSA test!"

Originally, I decided that I never wanted to dedicate an entire blog posting to just one person, but I have to make an exception this time. A little back story: I was helping a disabled (or mobility challenged for all you P.C. folks) customer out with plastics, using a tape measurer to help her decide which size she needed when another customer came up to me and, without even pausing for me to finish my current sentence with the first guest, asked me if we still had a particular paper towel. I told her I wasn't sure what she was talking about, but that I would be with her momentarily after I finished with the customer I was helping. The guest I was helping had several questions, and truly did require extensive assistance with her shopping needs, so it was awhile before I was able to help the other customer. Once I did she told me "Yesterday you had some embossed paper towels on sale that where regularly 9.99 and were marked on sale for 6.99." So, I checked the regular aisle and none of the sale items matched, or even came close to that description. I called up front to have them check the ad, as all of our "sale items" are listed in that ad, and the person up front said that no such item was on sale this week. I informed the guest that all the sale items for this week are properly marked, and that we didn't have any Bounty on sale this week. She then made me follow her to the end of the aisle to show me that it was on an endcap just yesterday evening. Now folks, I work an average of 12 hours a day, which leaves only 3-4 hours each day that the store is open that I am not there. None of the endcaps have changed for the past week. Being the king of customer service that I am, rather than telling her outright that I knew she was wrong, I explained to her that I work afore mentioned hours daily, and the endcaps that are here now are exactly the same as they were when I left the store yesterday. She told me the sign said "was 9.99 now 6.99," in an effort to prove she was correct, not realizing that our signs are only capable of showing one price at a time. I gave in, just trying to get her to accept the fact that whatever it was she thought she saw wasn't here anymore and told her that while I still wasn't exactly sure of what she saw yesterday, we currently have no item that meets that description. Those were my exact words. Immediately afterwards she bellowed "I'm not stupid! I passed the MENSA test!" I must admit, I was more than a little confused how we suddenly went from paper towels to her feeling the need to 1) tell me that she wasn't stupid, and 2) back it up by saying she passed the MENSA test. For those of you who don't know, the MENSA test is and I.Q. test, and a society, developed by Roland Berril, and Dr. Lance Ware who was a lawyer in England. These two guys felt they needed to establish a society of people who's only membership requirement was their I.Q., and it had to be in the top 1 or 2% of the country to join. O.K., so now that you know that, how the hell does that in anyway have any barring on the fact that I don't have any paper towels on sale for 6.99? What was her motivation for telling me this? Was this some kind of logical fallacy where she appeals to a higher authority in an effort to substantiate her claim? (Which by the way, if she really was a member of MENSA she would have realized the error of her logic and would have never have done such a thing in the first place) Would the fact that she is a member of one of the most elitist and snobby groups in the world make me suddenly realize the error of my ways and magically find the paper towel she was talking about? Was she, in a round about way, implying that I am dumber than her because I didn't pass a test I would never dream of wasting time or money on to take or because I work in retail? (Which by the way, is another confusing aspect of her statement. I mean, most people who only have a high school education or lower don't even know what MENSA is, so if she thought I was stupid then why prove her intelligence though a group that I had little chance of even knowing about?) I am without words on this. Usually I'm pretty good at reading people and fairly sufficient in tracing the logical steps of a conversation, but how and where she pulled the MENSA statement from is beyond me. So, after being baffled beyond belief for a brief second, I told her I never said she was stupid, I just said we don't have what she is talking about, and if she was correct in that it was here yesterday, it probably (again, just giving in for the sake of getting her out of my store) was a temporary price cut or clearance merchandise that we needed to clear out. She responded by saying, "well then, you need to give me something comparable." Those of you who have read previous posts already know how I feel about customers who feel they are entitled to stuff, so you can imagine how quickly my desire to please this woman left me after this comment. I told her we only did substitute items or rainchecks on advertised items (just like EVERY other store out there) and I couldn't substitute for a price cut item (assuming that the item was even on price cut, or clearance, or existed in the first place). She just huffed and stomped away, leaving her empty cart (which means I didn't lose a single sale because she didn't have anything in the first place) in the middle of the aisle. The only thing accomplished by all of this was that I now know that some random person who was blatantly wrong about something in my store potentially passed the MENSA test, but wasn't smart enough to purchase said item when she saw it the first time, or to realize that in a store we sell things and if it is no longer there we don't have it anymore, or to figure out a better way to express her belief she was right than to say what she said. People are frikkin' nuts.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Day After the "Day After"

Black Friday. Is there any real way to describe it? A day where the power and depths of human greed can be seen at every corner. This was my 101th Black Friday, but my first in this new store. While there is plenty I could marvel about, I think I got off relatively easy compared to people in Wal-Marts throughout the states. I would describe my day as organized chaos. I only had to deal with one "upset" person, and has a store we only had 2 people the whole day who got a little out of control. Like always, we had people in line as early as 4:30 a.m. foaming at the mouth over saving a few bucks on some crap that is over priced as it is. For example, we had a series of small appliances (blenders, coffee makers, toasters and the like) that were on sale for $4.14 each. Seems like an amazing deal. However, we still made a reasonable profit on each item sold, and they were the lowest quality kitchen appliances you could possibly buy, like the kind you would find in a flea market in the rural areas of Mexico. Yes, we had some good deals on some decent items, as all stores do, but like everyone else we had limited quantities. So, my day was spent telling those who didn't get up early enough that we were out, that I didn't know when we were getting more in, and no they couldn't have a raincheck because the advertisement said "no rainchecks." Since I am much too tired after working until 1 a.m. yesterday and then having to be back at work at 6 a.m. today to write a long rant about all the crap I dealt with, I think I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A post of a different color

So, I found out today that I am get another promotion. I really have no idea why, but I am. That will make it 3 promotions in 3 months. Though I am already a Senior Manager, I will now be an Executive. Crazy. Who would have thought I would ever have that kind of title. What is killing me is that this whole retail this was supposed to be temporary until my ankle healed and I got in shape. But now, I'm faced with a moral dilemma. Well, not really a moral dilemma so much as a money dilemma. As I was finding out about the promotion, I also was informed about the pay rate and promotional schedule from there. Basically, if I stay where I am working now, in 5 years or so my salary will be in the mid $100's, which is impressive. What is even more impressive is that you also get a bonus that is based on a small percentage of your stores total gross. I work in a $40 million a year store. Even 1% of that would be one hell of a bonus. So where's the problem? Well, I want to a cop. I went to college to be a cop. I studied to be cop. I completely and totally understand and thrive in the realm of law enforcement. I feel at home with other cops. When I get pulled over I get out of the car and talk with them for hours. I fit in there. But, if I become a cop, the most I will ever make is $60k. I know it isn't all about money. But I have to start thinking about how best to provide for those I love. My boss lives in a huge house in a classy neighborhood, owns 2 jaguars and property in California, New York and some island somewhere. While I don't think I would go that crazy with possessions, it would certainly be nice to know I could put my kids through college without breaking a sweat. But the truth is... I hate retail. I'm probably one of the best there is, hence my rapid ascent up the corporate ladder, but I can't stand it. I guess I should be so lucky to have such concerns as these. I mean the worse case scenario is I make a lot of money, so I shouldn't complain. It just boils down to me feeling like I should be doing something more meaningful with my life than facilitating the greed of rich casino owners, providing a great shopping experience to all our customers, and making money for the man.

Ah Christmas Time

Yes that's right: Christmas time. Now I know it hasn't even been Thanksgivng yet, but in the world of retail Christmas begins mid-October. What exactly does that mean? Well, it means that I will be working about 60 hours a week. It means that the number of trucks shipping to my store moves up to triples a day. It means that we will rake in about a million dollars a week in sales, minimum. (t means, and I best most of you don't know this, that no one who works in retail is allowed to take a vacation, because after Black Friday (the day after Thankgiving) vacation schedules are blacked out, and a retailer is lucky to have one day off a week. But most of all it means hypocrisy on numerous levels. And nowhere is this more prevalent than the example of the "Holiday Shopper." In a time when the best of people should be coming forth, I tend to get the worst. In past Christmas' I have had my life threatened over a Tickle Me Elmo doll. I have had people tell me I was an asshole because my store only received 200 XBOX's and the particular shopper arrived to the store at 9 p.m. the day of release, long after they had all sold. I have been told that I was solely responsible for destroying an entire families Christmas because I was out of Harry Potter on Christmas Eve. My personal favorite was when, at a previous corporations store, we were selling 19" TV's for only 88.00. We had around 200, which is a lot considering it was a small town of 19,000 and our store was lucky if it did $40,000 in sales a day. I had placed most of the TV's in shopping carts and had them lined up nicely, so that as people came in they could simply grab one and scram. Well, as expected about 500 people were waiting at the door before it opened, and they all ran down the main aisle as if in a marathon. They tackled, shoved, tripped and pushed one another until the first one made it to the carts. I began to ring up those who brought their carts to me, but the funny thing was, that as they were distracted by paying for their TV, another customer would snatch it and run to another register. It is unbelievable the extent people will go to get what they want. In all reality, the most stressful job in the world during the holiday season is working in retail. We are expected to provide everyone with everything they want and we are at fault if a customer wasn't prepared enough to arrive early on a particular sale day or smart enough to shop ahead. We get yelled at on a regular basis, all while being expected to maintain a degree of holiday cheer. I have worked through 9 holiday shopping seasons in my short life, and all I can say is I have never once met a person in any of the stores I worked at, who truly expressed what the Holiday is really about. For me, Christmas is a demonstration of impatience, rudeness, selfishness, violence, sneakiness, lying, long hours and headaches. Happy Holiday's Everyone!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Some people shouldn't have kids

We've all seen them. The ones who walk into a store with two or three children in tow, literally dragging the child around the store from aisle to aisle. They yell and scream at the child, threatening them to behave. Some use physical force, while others simply think ignoring their child's cries is the best approach. It's truly unbelievable. One thing in particular truly bothers me at my place of work. It is when parents think that a retail store is a giant babysitter, particularly the toy department. They'll drop their children off while they pursue other departments, and expect those who work in the store to be alright with the child tearing through the toy department like a bat out of hell. Even worse or those parents who are incapable of instilling even the most basic concepts of manners and human decency in their child, such as those who come back to pick up little Timmy who is sitting in the middle of the aisle amidst a pile of toys he has thrown all over the floor and then leaves the mess. I doubt said parent would let Timmy leave a hurricane scale mess on the floor in her own home, why should my place of business be any different? It's NOT my job to clean up after Timmy. Those who work in retail are not maids, and are not intended to clean up after those who shop in the store. Our sole job is to maintain an acceptable level of merchandise so that you have options, and to help you make a decision. Yes, that means straightening up the expected result of a typical day of business, but that does not imply that a customer is without responsibilities of their own. Shopping at a store is a privilege, and just like any other business in the world, we have the right to refuse service outright, or to ask anyone to leave the store, if we feel you are abusing that privilege. But more importantly, it's not too much to ask that parents clean up after their own children, and after themselves. Whatever happened to setting an example for our children? I wonder if the lady who opens all the packaging on a product simply to put it back on the shelf, or who casually tosses an item she decides not to buy on a shelf, ever stops and thinks about the basic concepts she is teaching her child. Through her action, and inaction, she is telling the kid that personal responsibility is unimportant. That putting things back where you found them, and that respecting the property of others are irrelevant. (And yes, everything in the store is OUR property. When you break an item, that is destruction of private property; when you open a box of plates and then leave them strung about the floor, it is the equivalent of me walking into your house and dumping the contents of your cabinets all over your kitchen and then leaving.) I'm not exaggerating when I say that the majority of young shoplifters we catch in our store are the children of the parents we have noticed doing these things (yes we keep track). So it's really important that parents understand that notions of morality, personal responsibility, and common decency are taught not just through words but by action as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

That's False Advertising!

Man if I had a dollar for every time I heard these words. Let’s just get one thing straight right now: IT IS NOT FASLE ADVERTISING! I don’t care what has happened, whether a product is sitting on a shelf in the wrong place, if something rings up differently from the sign placed in front of it, or if you come into the store for an advertised item and we are out of it. NONE OF THESE THINGS LEGALLY QUALIFIES AS FALSE ADVERTISING! I can’t believe how far people will threaten to go to simply save a few pennies on something. I have even had one man, who clearly was mistaken about the powers particular members of government, claim that he was going to contact the Attorney General and file a lawsuit against me, and the company I work for because a lawn fountain he saw online, which said “online only” under it, wasn’t in the store, and because another fountain was smaller than it looked in the picture. How in God’s great name can any one tell the actual size of an item from a 1x1 highly pixilated image in a newspaper? Today, I had a couple who wanted me to sell them an Eddie Bauer stroller/car seat combination, retail: 230.99 for 99.99 because one of the boxes was on a shelf that had a label that read “Cosco White Stroller, 99.99” I explained to the man that a difference in price that great will not be met simply because an item was in the wrong spot. He demanded to see my manager. I told him I was the manger, and as he looked at me as if I was a liar he replied “Man, that’s false advertising. You HAVE to give it to me for that price.” O.K. lesson time: No matter where you are, no matter what you are buying, ALL prices that are on an item are not final. They are not set in stone legal documents that have to be adhered to. They are merely “offers to negotiate,” if you want to use legal mumbo jumbo. That is why a store can sell an item for 9.99 one day, and then when it is in high demand or a big seller, change the price to 19.99. That is why price cuts and sales are possible. If you walked into my store and picked up a pack of gum that had .99 plastered all over it, I could still charge you 200.00, as long as I charged everyone the same amount. Heck, if you really wanted to, you could even try to engage in price negotiation with me, it’s your right. I’m not going to negotiate in return, because I don’t want to get fired, but it is possible. What an item rings up that is what it is selling for. Get over it. And more importantly, just because the item is sitting in front of a label whose numbers read 99.99 doesn’t mean that is what the price is, nor does it mean you are entitled to it for that price. Take the time and actually READ THE LABEL. All retail stores, even stores that only do clothing or groceries, have more than numerical printing on their labels. There is ALWAYS a description of the product as well. So, if you find a 16 gallon plastic tub sitting in front of a label that says 5.99 and under that it reads “4 Gal Plastic” that means it is in the wrong place and is NOT that price. Maybe we stocked it there on accident or maybe another customer put it there. Regardless of the reason, you are not entitled to that price, and there is absolutely no requirement that I give it to you for that price. Imagine you go to a car dealership just after it rains, washing away the 1 in the 19,000 on the price painted on the windshield. Do you even realistically believe that you could ask for it for that price? Hell no. Why should a retail store be any different, especially when not only do our prices have numbers, they specifically say what item is that price? So step back, stop trying to be so greedy and realize that YOU are not special. YOU don’t deserve an item at a price different than the next person simply because you found an item in the wrong place. You’d be pissed if you had to pay full price if you knew someone else got it for cheaper right? So why are you such a hypocritical asshole?