Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just in time for Christmas

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Shopping at Longaberger Homestead
(c) 2016 P. Lynne Designs
Here is your PSA for the week courtesy of my Facebook Status:

This is your PSA for the Week...Please, please, please be patient. I know many of you out there at the last minute are present hunting. Why? These employees are stressed as it is. I have been there. Yes, stores should be well stocked, but sometimes their buyers underestimate the crowds this time of the year. They go by what their numbers were for the same or similar item last year (2015). They have no idea as they sit in their ivory towers and laugh at the rest of us, shouting "glad I do not have to deal with this". Be glad you have to the money (or the credit, which you shouldn't) to get the item. Trust me, I have worked at a department store and a scrapbooking store, and I always hated the week coming up to Christmas.
I got yelled at for an item not being there when the customer wanted it, an item not on sale, and why can't they get a refund for an item (or raincheck).
At the same time, for the employee, please, please, please, be patient. Customers do not read minds. If a customer is asking you for something, anything, do not brush them off and talk to them down to a child's level. Do not scream at them. Stay professional at all times, don't let them see you sweat. Do not discuss your work affairs around a customer who is just trying to get home or to the next place to shop. No one has time to hear that mess.
OK, Bye, I smell a blog post cooking. Stay tuned...

The dictionary defines patience as “lack of complaint” and “staying power” (I need to explore that a bit), while my thesaurus says that the similarity words are endurance, tolerance, persistence, and stamina to name a few. 
I will admit to some that I sometimes have a lack of patience, especially when it comes to driving.  I want to get where I am going, but I am less tolerant of those who text or talk on their cell phone, and they are headed towards me with said phone in hand.  I am not in the mood of being totaled again, especially when the cause of my accident last year was me taking my eyes off the road for a second to reach for my donut.  I was not that hungry, and the donut stayed in the car, as I was being carted off by the ambulance.  Trust me, the text or phone call is not important, and neither was me eating as I was heading towards another SUV.
Patience at Christmas Time…
Starting with Black Friday until this week, thousands of people have shopped in the stores, malls, and online, hunting for that perfect gift.  This is a plus for a store. Black Friday, which is the one day of the year where stores operate in the black (making profit) as oppose to operating in the red (losing profit).  If you are a Star Trek fan (which I am), the retail sector would be the Ferengi species, who always want to get something for profit.  In the retail industry, it means sales, sales, and more sales. I wrote about my experiences as both a consumer and a business owner in this post.  It was not easy, but I made it through.  I did not get any sales, but I see the error of my ways and will try to do better next year.

As a consumer, we are a particular breed of customer.  This is the type of person, who is always looking for a bargain or a deal.  They are the ones armed with coupons, sales papers, their cell phone tuned to the latest app, or their tablet and laptop.  They do not want to pay full price for even a stick of candy (I am always armed with my phone and Ipad, the only way to shop, LOL). 
Retail stores are particular too.  They want you to come to the sale, but in addition to the sale, they want you to say, “Oh, I meant to get that last week, but while I am here, let me get it now”.  Are you familiar with the end caps (end of the aisle shelves)?  The shelves at the registers?  The endcaps usually hold the sales.  You go in for the sales and if you do not have time to go deep into the store, you can turn around and be enticed to buy something at the registers.  Retail stores do not like it when a person buys one item.  I also call the shelves at the registers, “shut the kid up” shelves because if you are standing in a long line, and your kid is constantly nagging, you can grab a candy bar, give to the kid, and they are happy.  I had to do that for a niece or nephew once or twice.  Two more points if you are hungry as well.  This is happy money for the store.  This is one of the reasons why a clerk as you if there anything else they can help you with.  They are not being nice for nothing.
This time of the year is trying for both customer and retail.  Not sure what I mean?  Re-read my status at the beginning of this post.  Not too many people can say that they survived the Christmas seasons of the past in retail, and live to write about it.  In fact, I can say that I had more patience for customers than I do for driving. I rung my last sale January 17, 2010, at Archiver’s, a Memories store.  It was a scrapbooking store.  I left in January, and Archiver’s closed its brick and mortar stores in February 2014. I made lots of friends while working there, both in regular customers and in co-workers.  I do not regret my time there, even when I started working with a difficult manager.  She was new and I had already been there for 3 years.  We did not see eye to eye, but she was not the main reason why I left, but I will tell you that P. Lynne Designs was the main reason for me leaving.  Yes, I was starting my own company.

As a customer service associate for the store, and working years earlier at a local department store called Schottenstein’s Department Store for 2 years (I also worked at Sears but in the office-no customer contact), I have received my share of customer rants and raves. When I explained with a simple “no” and a reason why not to the customer, I received answers from a simple “Ok”, to “I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOUR MANAGER, NOW!!!!” I was to remain calm at all times when that was shouted in my face.  I sorry customers, but stores cannot be all things to all people.  I hated when the manager came out, explain the store policy to the customer again (after I have explained it), then to keep peace between the three of us (me, manager, and customer), by issue something that has them skipping out of the store, which was usually money or a lower price on a product.
Customers, please, do not talk down to a person, who is trying to help you with what you want in the store.  Like I explained in the status, the number of products in a store is determined by sales from last year.  Sometimes, a buyer is brain-dead to the stats of the store you shop at.  They do research all the time, but they cannot catch all the data being fed to them.  If the store you are shopping at is a low performing store with not a lot of traffic, there is not a lot of product to choose from.  How does a customer know this?  You don’t, but it would not hurt to ask the manager on duty.  Have a conversation with the manager.  Don’t have a long drawn out conversation, get to the facts on hand.  Please, do not explain how much your child would love the latest Hatchimal, explain where you have been looking in that store.  If no luck, go to a quiet place, and search on your phone while in the store.  If it is at another store, for instance, you search for another Target store while in a Target, ask a manager or a service desk person to call that store to see if they have the item.  If so, see if they can hold it.  If not, ask for a raincheck if possible.  If not, check online when in the store.  Most stores have free WIFI.

As a customer, the last thing I want is for a clerk to do is talk to me like a two-year-old.  I feel like as a customer, your attention should be on me as I talk to you to ask a question or if I am paying for my purchase.  On Black Friday, it was me and my mom looking at a few things.  Come check out time, a person helped my mom, and was wonderful, except during the checkout process, she was talking to another co-worker about another co-worker, who had quit her job, another one who was late, and yet another one who was new.  This convo went on for about 15-20 mins, and we as her customers could have been finished in 10 mins.   No customer wants to hear that kind of talk.  You should be present with the customer, asking them questions about the item they purchased, reminding them about current and future specials, and so on.  Once you are off for the day or on your break, feel free to talk about those co-workers.  A customer’s time is valuable.  Courtesy also has its rewards.  Say a customer calls in to find out if your store has an item for sale.  Do not repeat, do not hang up on them.  If you do not have a product, kindly tell the customer what is the store policy when you sold out of a product.  Again, the customer is not a mind reader.  God does not equip us with those abilities. 

Long Lines

Last thing…. Long lines.  They will come, and they are everywhere.  Don’t like them?  Hire a personal shopper or shop online.  Simple.  You can even arrange when to have it delivered.   If you are stuck in one, play on your phone.  I do.  If you have kids with you while stuck, have them play on your phone.  My sister does. If you and your spouse are shopping together, have that person take the kids to the car.  Problem solved.

My take away for you:  This is a stressful time of the year.  We all go through it, and we try to people please during this time.  Cut the stress by doing something with the family that is meaningful.  In fact, I insist. Helping one another means more than some present that is only going to be tossed aside by someone if they do not like it or it gets worn from overuse.  Love someone, care for someone, never let go of that feeling.  Once they are gone that’s it.  

Take care and Merry Christmas.