Thursday, 26 September 2013

Encyclopedic Knowledge and Christmas Stock

Where have I been? Why haven't I posted? Well the truth is I've been in prison for aggravated assault of a customer with a leek... Had you going there for a second didn't I? Did you actually think I would do such a thing?... It was actually with a frozen leg of lamb.

Anyway, lets crack on shall we. I'll start off with a subject that's been steadily getting on my nerves over the last couple of weeks and that's encyclopedic knowledge, or lack there of. As a customer service assistant it's often my job to help customers locate products and be up to speed on the latest offers. After a while, it's rather difficult keeping up with any offers we have because a lot of them get rotated so quickly, plus I'm often not working during the change over, so I'm just as clueless as the customers.

As my day progresses I often deal with countless customer queries, the most often being where certain stock is located. Store policy dictates, not only should I describe in detail where it is and how to get to it, I should also act as your guide and show you exactly where it is. That's fine, I don't mind leading people around the shop like the worlds most depressed tour guide. "Now on the left are the remains of my shattered dreams. To the right is the statue of loathing."

Sometimes though, I have no idea where a certain product is or if we even sell the damn thing! When that happens it's my job to find out. This will often add, maybe 40 seconds to a minute before I can give an answer. This isn't good enough for most people, oh-fucking-no! "Shouldn't you know? You do work here after all!" yes I do work here but I don't intimately know every little product we stock. That's thousands of items. I can't know them all and the day that I do, I'll bludgeon myself with a table leg. Again, with most of the things I complain about, it sounds trivial; But it's so soul destroying for someone to stand there and expect more from you when you're giving 100%. Then when I try to explain how I can't know everything about offers and stocks, only to receive a sneer and a derogatory comment, it drives me insane.

Yes, again. I know it's trivial. However I don't know why it's so difficult for people to understand that sometimes I just don't fucking know everything and just because I don't know that one time, I'm suddenly the scum of the earth. Hey, all the stuff I do know about working in retail amounts to the saddest specialty subject if I ever go on a weekly trivia game show!

Speaking of sad, the Christmas stock is in! I bet you've noticed and I bet you've probably bought some of it too. Yes, yes, I know "Your stocking it earlier every year!" I FUCKING KNOW! Everyday someone comes in and points out how silly it is to have Christmas stock out at this time of year, and voicing their pointless drivel of an opinion at me like I'm the grand master of stock control.

"Yes, that's Christmas stock. Yup, it's for sale. Why are we stocking it now? Oh I don't know... Well, perhaps you, as a mindless consumer is to blame? No hear me out! Every year when all the supermarkets start to stock seasonal products, you buy them. You do. You buy them in early September and continue to do so up until Christmas that's a lot of profit for something that's classed as a product for December. So next year they release that stock even earlier and you still buy from release up until fucking Christmas, giving the big super markets more profit, you are literally telling them with your money that you want it earlier, if you don't want it at that time... Don't buy it! Then you moan at me, and complain to me, the lowly store worker, as if it's my fucking fault. Go away you feeble excuse for a human!" - Is what I would say if I wasn't trained to focus on customer service and by trained, I mean reading 3 paragraphs about how people want  you to smile like a brain dead server robot.

So yes, when Christmas rolls around and you're in a supermarket tutting about that dirty Christmas stock remember, that any staff within earshot is probably thinking about trying to open you with a blunt plastic box opener. I know I am! Gah, perhaps it's just me. I fucking hate Christmas as much as the next guy. Might as well call it Invite-Your-Horrible-Family-For-Dinner-So-They'll-Judge-You-And-Won't-Appreciate-It-And-Start-A-Massive-Fucking-Argument-About-Whether-Or-Not-Jukebox-Is-A-Valid-Word-In-Scrabble-Day.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Passive-Aggressive Complaining

As a cashier I'm inadvertently thrust into being the face of the company. As I'm the person interacting most with the customers. I don't want to be the face of the company because there are a lot of people out there who like to punch faces. The last thing I want is hostility which should be directed at the company aimed squarely at me! I didn't do anything! Nevertheless, complaints are apart of being a cashier. More often I can resolve any grumble someone has very well, usually saving them some money or getting them an item for free. That's about 98% of the time, 1% are impossible to please and the last 1% are the passive-aggressive complainers.

These are people who are opinionated enough to make snarky comments about any aspect of the store, purely based on what they think at the time, rather than what they know as fact and previous experiences. Something bad goes wrong once, despite any actions taken to fix it, it's not good enough.

I had a customer like this last week. The weather was good and people were out in swarms buying all the summer products. Well the people in my area have slightly different buying habits than normal people do. Their summer items usually consist of beer, meat, and pregnancy tests. With the odd bottle of cheap vodka here or there with some vaseline and a butternut squash. You know the type, the ones who think a colour coordinated tracksuit is formal wear and washing it reduces it's swanky-ness.

So, what I'm trying to say is that it was VERY busy. I'm working as fast as I can, getting though as many customers as possible, but I'm only as fast as the people I serve and some like nothing more than holding me up. When this happens a queue forms. Standard stuff, that's how shops work. As you should know by now, when my queue gets too long, I call for assistance. Again, fucking standard stuff. This time however I had two people join me on the tills, normally it should just be one person answering but more is better. We're working as fast as we can without being rude and kicking people out on the streets. I would confidently say a customer was getting served every 15-30 seconds, that's damn good.

"Pfft, it's always like this in here. They're so fucking slow. At least bother." Excuse-the-fuck-me?! Always slow? One thing I am not is slow, I pride myself on speed and accuracy! Granted I think this is a soul sucking job that will ultimately be the death of me most likely caused by me hitting the gas pipe under the store with a fire axe and shouting "DIE YOU BASTARDS!" while furiously trying to strike some matches before I pass out. (wow, that was oddly specific) But I still take pride in what I do, and I do it well! At least bother? Again, excuse-what-fuck-is-wrong-with-your-face-me!? I'm sure having every available till manned and getting though the customers in a matter of seconds IS bothering.
So by the time this person was about to be served she happened to end up at my till. I apologise for the wait and serve her with a smile the whole time. Just before the end of the transaction I ask "would you like to make a complaint?" She looked slightly perplexed. "Why would I want to do that, you're very good at your job." Oh fuck off, I heard you. "Thank you." I reply calmly "I heard you voice your concern to the other customers." The look on her face is priceless, she's finally realised I heard her. "...Ah hah, but th" I cut her off "unfortunately due to the high quantities of customers we get we are unable to serve everyone quickly, however we often have other staff to help. On this occasion I believe serving the 20 or so customers in 5 minutes was pretty good, not too slow. Because we do actually bother. Thank you." I hand her bag to her and start serving the next person, she stood there for a few seconds then walked off.

But why shoot this person down for complaining? Well she wasn't complaining, she was just being snarky. If the service was unsatisfactory I would have been happy to have a conversation about it but this person shops with us every so often and I'm usually the one to server her. I know what it's like when she visits.

I know, as with most of my other post that I'm making a big deal out of something quite trivial in some peoples eyes. Although put yourself in my shoes, you're contractually obligated to smile and take it, there are specific policies in place just for this. Someone complains about you, making up things about you or others, in some cases, shouting and getting physically aggressive. How would you like it? You fucking wouldn't! Imagine someone pissing you off so much you want to hit them and instead of having the freedom to do that you have to smile and say "I'm so sorry the service is unsatisfactory." I bet you would hate that.

Me? It drives me mad. I often end up standing there and when someone calls me a slow, idiot cashier, I jump over the counter and deliver a solid kick to the groin followed by crazily flinging frozen chickens and bags of sugar at the person in question all the while screaming in high pitched karate noises... but then I stop day dreaming and get back to work resisting the pressure not to judo chop someone in the face.

One can dream.

The Independent Cashier - Hot Temperature = Hot Tempered

What follows is a guest post from my friend, The Independent Cashier.

It is hot. More hot than a really hot thing right now. The promised thunderstorms and rain did not hit where I live, and I swear it has just got even more hot.

And unfortunately the heat makes the majority of people rather grumpy. Myself included, however after 11 years of working in retail I'm quite good at "faking happy" and leaving my gripes until I can chat to a friend.

So I work in an independent shop, and for the most part I work alone, opening and closing the store, putting out deliveries, ordering stuff... Basically I'm really freaking busy!

Which is all well and good, I always make time to chat to customers and have a really good relationship with my regulars.

But then there are the very occasional customers (never regulars - just seem to pop in once a blue moon!) who just want to stir shit up.

Like throwing something at you because it didn't taste very nice (I work in a food shop - it was fresh in that morning!). Because thats exactly the way you should respond when you buy food and its not to your liking (would you have done that in Tesco you idiot?!)

Asking if you can return an avocado that has been reduced to 10p because its gone past the good enough to eat stage but would be perfect for face masks or even putting in a smoothie. No, I told you that it probably wasn't going to be good enough to eat, please don't yell at me when you haven't even bought it!!!! Again... Would you do that in one of the major supermarkets?!

Or shouting at me because you think the organic eggs are stale. Even when I've assured you that they come in fresh every tuesday, have a 3 week sell by date and I will always sell out before the next lot come in. I don't care that you are 70 and have eaten eggs every day of your life. I offered you the number of the local farm they come from so you could discuss it with the farmer, but you refused. I even told you exactly where the farm was so you could go there yourself. But no, you were just grumpy and needed to yell at someone and you were mean to a person who was very nice back to you! (I admit it - I had a little weep on the phone to my manager just after this incident!!!)

And so it all comes down to me... The humble shop worker who stands on her feet for 9 hours 4 days a week without actual breaks because she works alone in a shop.

Good thing I got a pay-rise this week (yes I am the type of person who sees the silver lining!), but I could seriously go for some colder weather to make people less irritable!!!!

Disclaimer: 99% of my customers are the nicest people in the world, and always make my day after grumpy customers!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Why Some Other Cashiers Drive Me Insane - Part 2

I really don't know why this annoys me as much as it does, but as soon as a cashier gives me my change in the wrong way I just get fed up. How can someone give you change in a right or wrong way? After a while working as a cashier I've picked up a few ways of doing things quickly and giving change in the right way is one of them. However the only time this is applicable is if the change has at least 1 note and numerous coins.

The Wrong Way
They'll give you the note first, in your open palm, and pile all of the coins on top of it. So now you're standing there trying to juggle and separate all of your notes and coins before tucking them into your wallet/purse. You'll be rushed if there are other customers behind you, so what do you do? You could stand there and try not to spill all that loose change on the floor and hold up the cashier. (I recommend this approach! If they can't do it right, fuck 'em, they can wait!) Or you can leave the store, still trying desperately not to drop your money.

The Right Way
From my experience, the best way to give somebody their change so they can put it away quickly is to give them their coins first, so they close their fist around the loose change, securing it. Then they can grab the notes with their 2 or 3 spare fingers. The notes go into the wallet/purse first, followed by tipping the coins in. Why is this the right way? There's minimal risk of spillage because all of the notes and coins are secure in the hand and they can put it away quickly. More over, when I have a handful of change ready to give to the customer, I can flick my wrist in a certain way and this moves all of the coins into a stacked pile in my hand rather than a cluster fuck of silver and copper! Not to mention I can exaggerate this if I have a horrible customer and stealthily use my hand to motion that he or she is in fact, a wanker.
This approach is helpful for the customer and the cashier, it's a win-win situation. They get to put their change away quickly and leave, and I can start serving the next person sooner.

The Really Wrong Way
This is basically the wrong way, except the cashier stupidly mixes a receipt in with your notes. Then you have to stand there and separate the notes from the receipt,  then the coins from the note and somehow put all of that shit in it's place.

Yes, I know this sounds like the ramblings of someone with some sort of mental condition, but think about it for a second. How many times have you been shopping and someone has given you change in the wrong way, did you think to yourself "Ah brilliant, I can put this away quickly and get on with my day." or did you let out a small sigh as you spent an extra few unwanted seconds carefully separating those notes and coins before trying to put them away? All the while the cashier is trying to serve the next person and you're left standing there feeling in the way of everything. So much so you start walking out of the shop still trying to put your money away?
If you don't have this happen to you, count yourself lucky. It's one of the most annoying first world problems I've come across, followed by your WiFi not working for no reason and having your favourite TV show canceled. It seems like this happens to me all the damn time, pretty much every bloody transaction that I'm a customer for. I'll get my change and then I have to stand there trying to put that shit away! Normally followed by an "Excuse me I'm trying to serve the next customer." rudely said at me. No, hang on a second. You're the one who messed this whole thing up by giving me this messy handful of origami and shrapnel you call change, then you have the nerve to talk to me as if I'm the reason why you now have to wait.

If this happens to you in the future, as a personal favour to me, just stand there and take all the time in the world to safely stow your money, you can throw in a tut here and there, oh and mention how stupidly you were given your money. If that cashier can't be bothered to hand you your cash in a manner that's easy for you to quickly secure it then they can damn well wait!

See what I mean about insane? I know it's such a trivial thing to get so worked up over but it's just so fucking annoying and bothersome, I just wanted my damn change, I don't want to feel like I'm trying to solve some stupid, obscure puzzle just to put it away!

I... I think I'm losing it.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Why Some Other Cashiers Drive Me Insane - Part 1

As with any retail job at some point you're bound to come into contact with people in the same role while you are not at work. Sometimes it can be a nice experience. Swapping horror stories, offering advice on how to deal with different problems, laughing about an old lady slipping over on some spilt milk. Unfortunately though, when coming into contact with other cashiers, especially those from different stores, the experience is often infuriating. (I think I'm an idiot magnet)

With any job you learn what is right, what is wrong, what the role entails, what the person in the role is capable of, certain procedures and just how things should generally go. Now I've been working in a cashier position for longer than I really want to. Nonetheless what I know stops me either being taken advantage of or enables me to get the service I deserve as a customer. However knowing this, is where the fury comes from, as in my experience a lot of cashiers out there are damn clueless or careless, oh and rude! All of which I despise.

What annoys me the most, now I mean, really fucking annoys me is offers. Now don't get me wrong I like retail offers, but dislike when the offer doesn't go though the till when everything indicates that it should. I get this quite often while I'm working and I know how to deal with it and it'll go down in a few ways.

- The offer wasn't on the system, it gets updated, the customer gets the offer.

- The offer wasn't clearly labeled, the situation is evaluated and quite often the customer would either get the offer or get a little discount anyway as an apology. The labels are fixed.

- The offer has ended but the label is still displayed, the customer will still get the offer, then the label is taken down.

- The offer, for some reason doesn't work, there are no exceptions on the label which indicate what would void it, the customer will still get the offer, it is either fixed on the system or a new label is supplied.

This is all pretty standard practice for a retail store. Now I know other stores have different policies, but there is a duty of care to the customer base and I'll damn well get it!

Anyway, I often visit another local retailer to indulge in a nice offer they have. Which includes a really tasty baguette, a snack and a drink. Those three items, when joined come to one set price. So, I grab my items and line up. Now I'm not a fan of this store at the best of times. They hardly ever call for help when there's a queue, they're rude, slow and clueless when challenged. I'm not being biased. That's just what they are. OK, I get to the till and the price is wrong. It's too high. Ugh, why is it too high?! One of the items are reduced because of it nearing it's sell by date. So the individual prices add up to more than the offer. Hang on, all of the shelf labels clearly state the price. That is what I should pay, none of the labels or signs state that a reduction sticker voids the offer. Now the arduous task begins.

"Uh... that's £3.90 love." Firstly, I'm not your 'love' you cigarette huffing slack jaw. Ugh. "That's not the right price, these are on offer." After a few seconds she repeats the price. As if telling me again will get me to pay it. Now I know what it's like to have awkward customers, so as a courtesy I try to be as nice, straight forward and nice as possible. (I know I said nice twice, but it's really difficult for me to be nice) I tell her that none of the signs indicate that this should void the offer and they're obligated to sell the items at the marked offer price. "Yeah but, one item's reduced so it don't work..." It doesn't matter. The bottom line is there is nothing to tell me it will void the offer. So I only pay the offer. I try again, this time using smaller words. Alas, it doesn't work. Time to go up the chain of command. "Could you call for your manager please?" This is simple, every till in a retail chain store should have some way of calling for assistance, be it a bell, interactive till menu or even a light. "Nah I can't." What?! You can't? No, I know you can! You just won't! "Why?" I ask, still relatively calm. "Bell ain't working." So what? "Then go and get him." OK, now I'm getting fed up, I've been standing there ten minutes, I want to eat my food! So, she finally leaves and returns with the manager. She describes the problem to him and he agrees that I should pay more. NO! No I will not! That's not how it works. I enlighten him about how this all works and used some store jargon to get my point across. "The offer is valid, the S.E.L's do not indicate that the offer is  void on reduced items, neither is there any store literature indicating as such. I would appreciate it if you press the 'mark down' button and lower the price to the right one then perhaps update your signs." Reluctantly he did so. All this fuss for a few extra pennies. I know it sounds pathetic but it's a matter of principle!

At the very least here's what she should of done, the bare minimum of customer service.

- Be polite. (I know it can be hard, Oh do I know! However you have to be polite)

- Try to explain WHY it was void. If there was a valid reason I would have paid, but if the reason is "It just don't work" that's not going to fly with me.

- Offer to get the manager before I have to ask. The manager SHOULD know more about the situation and would most likely be able to inform me of the policies in place about their offers and offer voids.

So if I was just a standard customer with no idea on how that all works I probably would have paid, but as a cashier and one that prides himself on customer service no matter how homicidal he may be, I can't let that slide.

Now that's not to say that every cashier is terrible at what they do, I should know. I'm pretty damn sweet at my job despite how much I hate it! There are others out there who have provided me with great customer service and when they do I make it known! I'll tell them, and if I get awesome customer service I'll ask for the manager and let them know. Why do I do that? Because hardly anyone does and speaking from experience it can really make your day when someone acknowledges that you're doing your best. So as a favour to me, if anyone provides you with great customer care let the appropriate people know.

See I'm not that bitter... no really, I'm rather nice... bu... But if people can't do their damn job and offer no damn attempt! Not one attempt! To actually supply decent fucking customer service in any damn capacity it just rubs me the wrong way! Seriously! For crying out loud what's wrong with these people. Do they live near a toxic waste dump or something!? Were they dropped on their head as a baby?! And if not, why not?! It couldn't have made them any worse! Are the recruiting standards now'a'days really so lax that they'll give anyone they find lying facedown in a puddle of their own filth a job!? You might as well shave some monkeys, at least they are less likely to fling shit at you! They're probably smarter too! At least know what your job is! If something goes wrong, try and fix it! Don't just stand there like a brain dead oxygen thief! Pfah! People just... Urgh!

Argh, damn it... and there was me thinking I could write an article without having an outburst.