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Posts Tagged ‘shoppers’

Working Retail? A Shopper? This Book’s For You

In blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, news, women, work on March 24, 2011 at 1:37 am
Mall in Jakarta

Mall life....some of us survive it! Image via Wikipedia

Three weeks from today my new memoir, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” appears from Portfolio, the imprint of Penguin Press focused on business.

It tells the story of my two years and three months as a sales associate at a suburban New York mall for The North Face, an internationally known brand of outdoor clothing. In it, you’ll also hear from many other associates nationwide, and from consultants, analysts and senior executives — like Richard Galanti, the CFO of Costco — working in the nation’s third largest industry and largest source of new jobs.

If you’ve ever worked in a retail job — or any job with the public (God help you!) — you’ll find something in it to identify with, especially customers from hell, whether entitled finger-snappers or the perpetually dissatisfied.

I started out, as many retail workers do, psyched. New job, new industry, new skills, new co-workers. It was all good!

A few years later, shaking with rage, I actually ran and hid in the stockroom one afternoon after the umpteenth whiny shopper hit my last strained nerve.

“You’re being hostile,” she sniffed.

Truthfully I replied: “You have no idea what hostile looks like!”

Please check out the introduction and chapter one here.

The book — yay! — is getting all sorts of media interest. I’ve already been interviewed, so far, by the Associated Press, Washington Post, WWD, Marie-Claire (May issue) and USA Today. I’m booked on NRP’s Diane Rehm show April 18, and will travel from my home in NY to DC to do it in-studio.

Entertainment Weekly just named it “an excellent memoir.”

Please cross your fingers for its success, come check out our FB page and, if you like it, please spread the word!

When The Customer Is Totally Wrong

In behavior, business on June 21, 2010 at 7:10 am
Fast food in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Don't yell at him! Image via Wikipedia

Loved this rant in The New York Times:

Let’s face it, folks. The customer is not always right. In fact, some are just plain old abusive, cheap and crass. I say this not as a salesman but as a dyed-in-the-wool middle-class consumer.

I’m waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant while a coupon fight goes on in front of me, delaying me from my sweet, sweet weekly communion with a Southern Style Chicken Biscuit. No, the coupon does not say that you are entitled to a free iced latte. You show it to me as if I’m your lawyer, and it states plainly, “A free cup of coffee.” And, no, they are not the same thing.

Do you read? Do you think complaining loudly in front of others and belittling the teenage cashier is going to improve your situation? Why do you need a manager to come out and tell you what you already know, that you’re wrong?

I’m finishing my retail memoir this week and payback is a bitch — I’ve got a whole chapter devoted to the worst customers I endured in my time behind the register. I had a hit parade of the top five and it took some doing to make it into my short list. The champion was the woman my age who whined that I was being hostile.

I told her her she really had no idea what hostile really looks like — and quit two weeks later.

I think things are simply getting worse and worse. We live in a time of such staggering income inequality that some shoppers, people who have an entire army of the docile at their beck and call, are convinced that everyone, everywhere is their personal servant. I had customers (women were the worst, always!) demand I watch their purse while they walked away and hold down their T-shirt while they removed a sweater. What are you — three?

So I completely identified with this interview from The New York Times with the owners of Great Lake, a popular pizza house in Chicago:

Q. In online reviews, some customers have complained about rudeness or arrogance. Where do you think that perception comes from?

Mr. Lessins: I think that perception of arrogance has to do with the sense of entitlement and a lack of respect for someone wanting to do their job. We’re just trying to do the job the best we can. We’re trying to provide a quality experience for everyone who comes in. In the food service business, it’s assumed that the customers have a set of God-given birthrights when they come into an establishment. It’s like they’ve been wronged in a lot of parts of their lives, and this is their chance to even the score.

What’s the worst of this you’ve ever heard? Were you serving — or being served?

Did you say or do anything in response?

I Made This! The Appeal Of Mass Customization

In behavior, business on May 19, 2010 at 11:35 am
Jones Soda

Image via Wikipedia

Interesting recent profile in The New York Times of a 22-year-old, Fan Bi, who’s running Blank Label, a company where you can order a custom-made shirt — what the Brits call bespoke — for as little as $45. In Manhattan, that’s about three cocktails.

It’s not a new idea, but I find this notion of “co-creating” fascinating. Maybe 15 years ago, I profiled one of the leaders in this style of business, Peter van Stolk, founder and former CEO of Jones Soda, which puts customers’ black and white photos, complete with a photo credit, on their labels.

This weekend I had the world’s fastest bagger at the grocery store, a young girl wearing the coolest sneakers ever. I admired them and she showed off their mix of five different fabrics, including the lining, which she’d designed from the Converse website.

In a world where about 95 percent of anything we’ll ever own, use or buy is designed by someone millions of miles away from you, I can see the appeal of this. I try to make or customize almost anything I can. I hate most mass-produced stuff precisely because the only role left for me in using it is paying for it at the end of the global supply chain. Zzzzzzzzz.

What have you designed entirely of your own? What made you want to do it — and where did you acquire the skills or confidence to make it yourself?

Retail Reporters Keep Getting It Wrong: My Black Friday Report

In business on November 29, 2009 at 8:07 am
In a mall... a funny fair... crazy!!

Image by Antoine Hubert via Flickr

Every day, I read the business section of The New York Times and I read The Wall Street Journal. I listen to NBC Nightly News, BBC World News and PRI’s business show, Marketplace. The received wisdom is: people aren’t shopping, people are only buying what’s on sale, people are only buying hot, trendy items like fake hamsters.

Not at our store. I’m forbidden from giving specific figures, having signed an NDA when I started working there, but in our wealthy neighborhood — with shoppers streaming into the mall from big bucks enclaves like Scarsdale, Greenwich, Cos Cob and Darien in their shiny new Range Rovers, Escalades, Mercedes and Lexuses (Lexii?) — they’re spending plenty. I had a four-figure sale to a woman heading off with her family on a ski vacation in Switzerland, the largest single sale I’ve ever had.

It was the usual Black Friday madness, our entire staff working together re-making every pile of sweaters every five minutes like some retail Augean stable. The place looked like a plague of locusts, albeit bearing fat wallets, had swept through.

I worked 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., getting off easy; one of my co-workers, a single mom with a long bus commute, had to wake at 3 a.m. to get to the store by 6 a.m. Our breaks were 30 minutes, not the usual hour (unpaid) but our boss supplied boxes of pizza and bottles of soda to fuel us through it all. We now know enough to drink as much water as we can and lube up our hands with moisturizer many times a day; we get dehydrated and handling clothing all day sucks the moisture from your skin. Sometimes it gets so dry it cracks.

Many shoppers asked if we were having a sale and, with only a few things marked down, harrumphed and left. That’s nothing new, though. We’re asked every single day for every form of discount: military, students, teachers. Who does do this? Not our company.

Working a sales floor, even part-time, affords me an interesting perspective on this recession and on who’s spending and why. I tell you one thing: people with money are whizzing through it as though it’s 2005, not the second full year of the worst recession in 70 years. The wealthy are so insulated, with their 8-carat diamonds and Birkin bags and four-ply cashmere. Whoever’s hurting out there, it ain’t them.

I'm Working Retail Black Friday — Here's Some Shopping Tips

In business on November 24, 2009 at 7:52 am
Facade of Shoppers' Center The Gateway

Image via Wikipedia

Last year, a stampede of crazy people killed a sales associate working on Long Island on Black Friday. This year, fractured foot and all, I’ll be safely stashed behind a heavy, fixed metal sales counter working the register at The North Face, in a fancy White Plains mall called The Westchester. Come say hi!

If you’re heading out this week on a mission, a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pre-shop on-line or using our catalogue first, if possible, to determine the name, size, color and prices on items you want to find fast within a busy and crowded bricks-and-mortar store. If you wander in, as many do, asking for “that jacket, the one with the belt”, we  can’t do much for you. The more detail you can offer, the more quickly and easily we can help.

2. Build in plenty of extra time for finding a parking spot and/or standing in line to pay. Please don’t roll your eyes or sigh or curse or threaten to call corporate if things don’t run perfectly smoothly. We’re dancing as fast as we can.

3. Please, please, please bundle your requests: if you want to see something in black, brown and blue, or two different sizes, ask us once. We’d rather bring them all at once than run and schlep to the stockroom over and over. It’s only once for you, but it’s dozens of times in our long day.

4. Don’t throw tantrums over items we don’t have, whether gift boxes or a certain object you crave. Almost every retailer this year is hedging their bets with much smaller, tighter inventories.

5. Eat, drink, pee. Bring water, energy bars, aspirin, Pepto-Bismol — whatever it takes to keep you relaxed and comfortable. Stay hydrated. Take breaks and sit down. It will significantly improve your stamina and your mood. Ditto for anyone shopping with you.

6. Don’t freak out or take it personally if we’re watching you more closely. Shoplifters love Black Friday and holiday shopping — lots of crowds and, ideally for them, distracted associates. We have to keep a close eye on everyone. It’s our job.

7. Say thank you and please to the people trying to help you. Really. We know you don’t have to, but it makes the day a lot easier and so much more pleasant for everyone.

8. If at all possible, leave the kids at home, especially smaller ones who get bored, noisy and run all over the store, worrying us, if not you.

9. The store is actually not a garbage can. It’s not like going to the movies, no matter how entertaining — so do not dump your half-eaten pretzels and cookies on the floor or your loose-lidded soda cups filled with sticky fluids high on a shelf where someone is going to knock it all over the clothing/items.

10. If you are truly getting nowhere with an associate ask, nicely, to speak to the manager. Don’t abuse the help. In most instances, no matter how bad it can get, many of us are really trying our best to help you.

11. Get off your cellphone/Blackberry while we’re cashing you out or speaking to you. It’s rude, slows everyone down and makes it difficult for us to communicate with you in order to accurately and quickly fill your needs.

12. Have fun! Shopping can indeed be an exhausting and overwhelming ordeal. Remember it’s a great blessing if you still have the health, strength, mobility and income to even head into a store these days.

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