Whatever Happened to Social Graces?

29 Nov

I have worked in retail now for a little over a year.  Unless you count the years I worked for my parents in their computer store back in high school.  That kind of retail is nothing compared to what I do now.

I knew going into this job that dealing with “normal” people would be much different from my clients and their families in the mental health field.  You would think interacting with The Normals would be easier.  Yes, you would think.  There are days where I think that being hit, kicked, spit at, cussed at and bit by an out of control teenager are preferable to the jackassery I’m experiencing with someone who wants something for nothing, someone tearing up a table I just zoned, or being cussed at because we don’t have something.  I knew with the teenagers that there would be an end to their acting out and for most of them, they would reach a point where they would be able to sit down and discuss their problem rationally.  The Normals seem to have no end to their form of acting out.  Some of them move from one of us to another for a long period of time to try to make their non-existent point.  I mean really.  If 10 people are telling you the exact same thing, I don’t care if we can’t say it to your face, but you are wrong.  

The really sad part is I encounter more nice people than rude ones, but the rude ones always seem to overshadow the good ones.

There are people who come up to me asking for help while still carrying on a conversation on their phone.  Or how about those people who walk through a store on their phones discussing extremely personal information.  Or even using speakerphone.  I don’t like hearing the drama over custody battles or who the baby daddy might be.  The jerks who outright lie about prices at the register in order to not pay what they should be paying.  The other jerks who cuss you out because they were told we had something that we don’t and try to make their problem your problem (just happened to me a week ago).  The jerks who go from co-worker to co-worker trying to prove that you were wrong when you weren’t and creating a scene because they can’t admit they were wrong and shouldn’t have waited until the last-minute to get that Kitchen Aid Mixed that was on sale all week.

There are kids who run rampant through the store pulling things off the shelf and racks and the parents just leave it.  Granted, if a child comes through with special needs, I completely understand, but there aren’t many that come through our store.  There are kids who scream all the way through the store for an entire hour.  Sometimes two.  Either because they didn’t get something they wanted or just because they should be sleeping.  Even the ones that are trying to get their parent’s attention but the parent is ignoring them.  “Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!” is as annoying to everyone else as it is to you. Remember when we were kids and we weren’t allowed to touch ANYTHING in a store?  Or if we started to act up our parents left everything behind and marched us right out of the store?  What happened to that?  Oh right, some parents don’t believe in discipline.

These moments of dealing with The Normals who have no social grace make me hate people.  And anyone who knows me knows I’m a positive type of person.  But, in those moments, I just want to punch them in the face.  Fortunately, I’m able to control my anger and maintain my professionalism.  It’s really telling of someone’s values in my interactions with them.  There are people who understand when they say they picked something up off the clearance rack but it really isn’t clearance.  People change their mind all the time and dump their stuff on the nearest rack.  We can’t stand around the racks or even the shelves all day monitoring for these.  And really, when I tell someone who another person must have changed their minds and put it in the first place available they either put it back without a problem or they say okay and buy it anyway.  Then there are those who insist because there is that one thing there not marked down and the rest of the regular price stuff is clearly  still regular price that they should get it cheaper and ask for the manager, who tells them the exact same thing I just told them.

I really shouldn’t have to say, “I’m sorry” repeatedly when someone decides to unleash a torrent of profanity directly at me.  We don’t have what you want?  “I’m sorry, but this is all we have.”  “But I was told you have it.”  “I’m sorry, but this is it.”  I lost 15 minutes of productivity one day because of this couple looking for thick Winter coat (not wool) in a 4x.  The man swore he called the night before and was told we had one.  I happened to work the night before and know I didn’t talk to him, nor did my co-worker in my area.  His wife tried to play the pity card because she takes 2 buses to work and only has a sweatshirt to wear.  Not only that, they were very specific that it had to be thick and not wool.  Well all the thick stuff wasn’t good enough.  This is the Mid-West people.  Most of the Winter coats are made of wool.  They had me so mad I couldn’t even get my brain to suggest other places for them to look.  Every time I showed them another plus size coat it was, “NO!”  I’m really surprised I didn’t just haul off and punch him.  Yelling at people trying to help you gets you nothing.

Black Friday, I was at the registers waiting in line to check out after I had clocked out for the day.  A woman was at the register next to me berating the cashier, who happened to be new.  She would not stop.  She kept on going and going and going and going.  It was stupid.  Really.  We make mistakes at the register.  It happens.  And when you are new and still learning, it’s intimidating.  Having someone dress you down while you’re waiting for help to arrive does not help.  All of us around kept looking at the woman.  Our stares did nothing to abate her verbal abuse.  The woman in front of me checked out and by the time I was done checking out, the angry woman was still being abusive.  It’s unproductive.  You may think you feel better after that, but it doesn’t help.  You have to realize that most people you come across in retail during the holidays are new to the store and some are new to retail period.

I was listening to the radio while getting ready for work yesterday and the deejays had people call in with their crazy Black Friday stories to compete for a prize.  Not too surprising, all the calls were about WalMart.  One woman told her story about how she spent time digging through a bin of $5 DVDs for some kid movies for her daughter.  When she checked out they all came up as different prices and was told by the cashier that the movies were color coded, not all $5, and they couldn’t override the price.  So she asked for a manager and got the same answer even after she showed the manager the $5 sign and that there was no sign indicating color coding.  I was thinking, yes, she is right.  Then she went into a description of how she started yelling, “fraud!” and “false advertising!” in the middle of the store.  She was promptly asked to leave.  So while she was in the right, she handled it all wrong.

Bottom line, or two, I think everyone should have to work in retail or other customer service oriented job at some point in their life.  And if we come across people who lack social grace, we should be able to send them to finishing school.


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to “Whatever Happened to Social Graces?

  1. Mom

    November 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Having worked at a car dealership for over 20 years I think I have seen every kind of rudeness – the ones who get to me are the ones who announce how much they have paid for a vehicle which should “entitle” them to special service vs someone who bought – say a Festiva. Or better yet – the ones who just feel they are entitled just because of their address. Every customer is equal in my eyes and is treated as such. But, it is so hard, sooo hard not to get snarky with them. *sigh*

  2. Patricia

    November 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    So spot on, Debi.


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