September 21, 2020

BY BETH CROUSE

The old adage, “before you judge someone you must walk a mile in their shoes” may seem dated and old-fashioned, but in today’s society, consumers should remember this before entering stores.

When working in retail you come to expect certain things: crying children, indifferent parents and ignorant customers, but nothing prepares an employee for the onslaught of abuse given by people.

Consumer culture has created a beast so terrifying that many employees gather around the water cooler and share stories of those sightings.

These people come into stores prepared for a fight, armed with their attitudes and arrogance.

They are the mothers who wait until mere hours before their two children have two separate parties to attend, and demand a poor, unaware employee who made the mistake of asking them how their day was to magically make the most popular toy of the season appear, despite being sold out for weeks.

They are the fathers who come with computer printouts and flyers from competing stores in hand, and demand a toy be price adjusted because some store on the other side of the country is offering it for two cents cheaper.

They are the students who wait until last minute to remember that they need an obscure book written by an unknown author for their class the following morning.

No matter what an underpaid retail employee does, nothing will please these monster-customers short of cutting off their own arm or offering up their first-born child. Nothing satisfies these people, except the sight of tears welling up in the eyes of the salesperson.

A long-standing joke in the retail world is that every single member of society should at some point be forced to work in the retail for one calendar year. Then, and only then, would customers remember that the person behind the cash register, the person asking if there was something they could help them with, the person who commented on how lovely the day is, is just that, a person, too.

Screaming, yelling and throwing a temper tantrum like an unruly toddler won’t make the most popular toy of the year appear, won’t lower the price of an item and won’t make a book materialize. Treating the employees like verbal punching bags won’t help remedy the situation either.

The only thing that should rule in these cases is common sense. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin shopping for a pressing event. Don’t blame the lowest level of staff in stores for decisions made at head office. Don’t blame your faults on someone who is working as hard as she possibly can to help you. Take responsibility and place the blame where it belongs.

Employees are people too, so before you corner a 16-year-old girl and berate her for something completely out of her control, remember that these people are made minimum wage. They don’t make the decisions about what amount of product to stock or the prices on things. Most of them are told to go out of their way to make customers happy. So treat them with respect, which is exactly how you would expect to be treated.

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