broadsideblog

When Working Retail Resembles Hell

In business on November 30, 2009 at 6:42 pm
Jabba the Hutt

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I left early today. I might even get fired.

This is what today’s Customer From Hell looked and sounded liked as she railed and shrieked at me. This, after I asked her, politely and calmly (and according to company protocol) that deeply provocative question — “What is your zip code?” Yeah. That’s exactly why she decided to start shouting at me: “Don’t you file your taxes? Don’t you know your own zip code?”

Well, hon, I actually don’t live in the store.

If someone decides to start shouting at you at the top of their lungs, would you just stand there and take it? “You’re being hostile,” she screamed. “You’re upsetting me.” Funny thing, I told her, so are you. Then I walked across the room to escape her special brand of insanity.

Freeman Hall’s new book, aptly titled “Retail Hell”, describes his time in the trenches as a sales associate for a major department store. He lasted 15 years. I simply cannot imagine how.

  1. There’s something about being in a service position that makes (some of) those in need of your services instantly disrespectful. I worked at a sample sale and kept fighting the urge to give my credentials to people so they’d stop treating me like I’d never learned simple math. I think you did the right thing.

  2. Do you think it’s worse because people are stressed about money? Or are some people just nasty?

  3. I think this woman was actually mentally deranged. She did not even make sense, but her threats to “call corporate” were the usual cudgel.

    I’m totally sensitive to people who worry about money — and do my best to help them. It’s usually the richest who are the nastiest, funny thing.

    Her spewing was like being sprayed with battery acid. You know intellectually they’re “just” a crazy person looking for someone to verbally assault — and it’s your lucky day to end up in their path.

    Explaining your credentials is essentially meaningless, believe me. You should see people’s faces when I start speaking fluent French. Work retail you are, de facto, stoooooopid.

  4. What’s the difference between a customer and a fly?

    You can swat a fly and not get fired.

  5. One of the worst jobs I’ve ever had (actually there are several that fall under that category) was being the guy on the receiving end of an 800 number. The last call I took went like this:

    Me: How can I help you?

    Caller: I have a question about your awning cleaner.

    Me: What’s the problem?

    Caller: Well, I don’t understand the instructions. It says mix one part cleaner with three parts water.

    Me: Yes?

    Caller: Well, what’s a part?

    Me: It can be anything you want it to be.

    Caller: I don’t understand.

    Me: Do you have a shot glass?

    Caller: Yes.

    Me: Well that could be a part…one shot cleaner, three shots water.

    Caller: Well, indignantly, that won’t be nearly enough.

    Me: How were you ever able to find your way home from the store?

    Five minutes later the boss came to my cubicle and told me to pack my kit and get out.

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