This is the time of year when customers can be at their best and at their worst. As anyone who’s ever worked retail has quickly learned, there are times when retail is torture; there are also times when retail can be amazingly fulfilling. Today, I want to take some time to express some of the things that I appreciate in customers as a retail worker.
- Thank you for coming prepared with shopping lists or ideas. I really appreciate the customers that understand that I am not an on-demand psychic. Finding a gift takes mutual effort. When a customer comes in knowing what they are looking for, or at least a good idea beyond “I heard about it on the radio but don’t remember what it was exactly,” it makes it so much easier for me to help them. And the customers that are willing to interact, give feedback, and put in their own efforts to finding something are such a pleasure to work with. I’m thrilled when we finally arrive at the perfect item for them.
- Thank you for treating me like a human being. Simple things like saying ‘hi,’ responding to my greetings, and acknowledging my presence and efforts can really make my day easier. With the hi-tech culture we live in today, I am especially thankful for those customers who refuse to talk on their cell phones when checking out. It’s nice to know that they remember that I am not one of those self-checkout machines but a living, breathing human standing there ready to help them in any way I can.
- Thank you for watching your children in the store. Sometimes I wish I could outright hug parents who actually keep an eye on their children while they shop. I can’t thank such customers enough for not expecting me to babysit and for not viewing the store as a play pen. Even if a store is for or contains a section for children, that doesn’t mean the store is safe to play in, and it definitely doesn’t mean that merchandise is available for play right that moment. Customers who keep their children away from danger and prevent them from damaging merchandise deserve some sort of super-customer award.
- Thank you for respecting my time. While I love to spend a half hour or more with a single customer during the slower months, that’s not always possible during this time of year. I love it when a customer tells me, “thank you, that gets me started. You can go help someone else now.” That allows me to slip away while they’re still looking without feeling horribly rude that I left them hanging. It lets me know whether I’ve met their needs sufficiently instead of having to guess that I helped and apologetically take my leave. Perhaps that’s just a personal thing for me, but I really appreciate that tiny little cue that I am okay if I need to leave.
- Thank you for recognizing the limits of my power. While at the place that I work, my co-workers, boss, and I willingly do whatever we can to make a customer happy, there are limits. I cannot magically conjure up items that I haven’t been given enough time to order. I don’t control the weather. I’m not consulted on the design or layout of books, cards, or toys. I’m not even in charge of price or whether there’s a sale. I do feel responsible if a customer is unhappy though . . . even if it’s not my fault. I want to help, but there are limits to what I can do. Sometimes the best I can do is offer empathy. And it’s easier to empathize when I myself am not being unfairly attacked. I’m so glad that there are customers out there that can see I’m not the one they are angry at (e.g. customers who don’t yell at me because of the design logo on the back of the card).
- Thank you for respecting closing times. I love that Planet Fitness, before they were open 24/7, explained they closed because their employees had lives too. That’s a very fitting description. I have a life outside of my job. Sometimes I have really important obligations to get to; other times I just really need a night with friends. I’m not going to kick anyone out because they stayed one second beyond closing time, but when a customer shows a conscientiousness regarding the time and makes an effort to let me close when I am supposed to, it really makes me feel valued. Especially closer to the holidays . . . like on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve . . . I try to respect that some people are desperately finishing up last minute errands, and I love it when they respect that I have family celebrations later too.
- Thank you for handing me your payment. I have to smile a little wider when someone actually puts their money into my hand rather than tossing it on the counter. It’s just a tiny little thing that goes a long way to letting me know that they see me.
- Thank you for not waving your decision to come to a local store rather than go to Amazon in my face. I can’t even begin to express how much I loathe Amazon. I love people who make an effort to shop local and fair trade, but I don’t appreciate people who use that decision as a coercive tool to try to get something out of me. Telling me Amazon has it for cheaper doesn’t do anything other than remind me that Amazon is playing dirty. If a customer wants to come in and tell me they saw something on Amazon and are wondering if I have it or can get it, that’s great! I’ll do my best to find what they want. If they want to come in and bitch about Amazon, I like that too. But more than anything, I love a customer who understands that buying local isn’t like buying from Amazon—and that’s the point. They don’t mind paying the extra cost (which isn’t really “extra” when you take into account that Amazon often sells below cost value) because they know it goes to benefit their local economy, pay good wages to workers, and fight the monstrous corporations that are trying to systemically suck the life out of the entire world. And I feel passionately enough about this that it just might turn into a blog post of its own later, but for the time being, thank you for not going to Amazon, and thank you for not expecting me to be like Amazon.
If you’re a retail worker, what are some of the things that you appreciate from customers?
As a shopper (because we’re all shoppers at some point), what are some of the things that you do to try to make the exchange with a retailer rewarding for both of you?
Happy shopping! Happy working! Happy Holidays.