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July 11, 2006

Like a home

I'm going to try something a little different with this post. In the past, most of my blogging has centered around politics and society, with some notes on my personal preferences of sports and a little on entertainment. But I would like to relate some of my personal experiences outside of these topics. With the recent calls for bloggers in Virginia to try to be a little more original, I figured it would be worth a try to do something different.

In the past, I had a number of jobs in retail stores, mostly in the summers between each college year. I would certainly not classify any of them as my favorite job, but I have made good friends at each position and acquired experience that should prove invaluable to me in life. I understand that I provided a service to people in helping them acquire the things they needed, not to mention being part of the economic process. However, one thing I have noted is that many shoppers do not tend to treat stores (and sometimes, employees) with much respect. I have become very aware of this and try to apply these experiences; however, this does not seem to be a priority for many.

The main rule of thumb that I prefer to live by when it comes to shopping is to treat a store like it is someone's home. I am their guest. Certainly, as the hosts, employees are supposed to go out of their way to make sure that their guests are comfortable, but there is a certain etiquette that the guests do not seem to consistently live by.

I have noticed many people go into clothing stores and pick up clothes to look at them. This in itself is not unusual. But when there is a mannequin not two feet away wearing the same piece of clothing, it should be rather unneccessary to take a folded shirt unless purchase is intended. Moreover, many people who pick up the clothes, rather than making any effort to refold them, just throw them back on the table, and may do this multiple times; similar things may happen in book stores, where books are carelessly tossed back, or an electronics store where people pull out objects to check them but do not properly replace them. I have seen a number of employees work hard to refold clothes in a section, only to have to go back and refold them again ten minutes later because a shopper had to look through all of them and not buy a single piece. It is understood that a shopper can look through all the merchandise, just as they might browse magazines or photo albums at a friend's house, but would they pull out all the pictures, cards, or whatever else and scatter them randomly on a table? Why treat a store and its employees any differently?

A related case concerns dressing rooms. Taking a bunch of clothes in and trying them on is normal. And a good employee should be ready to take those clothes back from the customer which are not bought and replaced to their proper place. But I have entered dressing rooms which employees had not been able to get back to and found clothes piled up in a corner. This is not just rude to employees, but also to other customers. How many of you like to purchase clothing that has been sitting on a floor that, while assumed regularly cleaned, may not be as clean as, say, on a hanger?

One excuse commonly used is how much of a hurry a person is in. If a customer is really in a hurry, I would think they would come in knowing exactly what they needed and would move quickly to get it, rather than perusing everything, then acting as though they only have two minutes to exit the store upon entering the line to be checked out.

Policies concerning food and pets should ALWAYS be followed. If your kid is hungry, take them outside and give them something there. Finish the iced coffee before entering the store (why, just yesterday I saw someone drop their beverage in a store, and when none of the sales associates were free to clean it up). And it does not matter how cute your Paris-Hilton-wannabe-toy-dog is, pets can potentially be messy, and people will pet allergies become very uncomfortable in the store, even later in the day.

If you get to the register to make your purchase, then realize you forgot something, do not go back and get it, forcing the cahsier and everyone behind you in line to wait. Finish the purchase, then go get what you missed in a seperate purchase.

If an employee is helping someone, whether at the register or on the floor, wait your turn. I cannot say how many times I have had to deal with someone cutting in front of me while in line to ask a question they could have gotten in line to ask later.

Put yourself in the shoes of the employee. Particularly in these summer months when there are many sales and stores see increased foot traffic, retailers have a harder job than some people may remember or realize. While a professional attitude would have them acting patiently with people, they may be stressed from thier activities both in and outside of the store; adding more is inconsiderate. Do not be demanding, but instead, thank them for their work.

When at the register, let the cashier do his or her job. Upon the total, if there appears to be some discrepancies, let the cashier know then politely. They will fix it quickly and apologize for the error. If something is marked "50% off" and does not come up immediately when scanned, perhaps the cashier still has to take off the discount himself. And if you do not like what you hear when it is finished, do not walk out in a huff, leaving a full sale undone. Ask if anything more can be done and try not to leave the employees to the mercy of a manager simply because they could not finish a sale.

And if it is close to store closing time, do not force the employees to keep the store open for too much longer. One time, I was working at a store that was forced to stay open an extra half-hour for a couple that could not make up their minds, all while telling others they could not enter the store. It had already been a long, stressful day, and it was extended, meaning less time for me to spend with loved ones or prepare for the next day. Come back the next day for the item.

Shopping can be an enjoyable experience; even working retail can be fun under good circumstances. Shoppers are guests in stores; would you mess up a friend's house, act rudely to them, then overstay your welcome? Take some of these hints into consideration and shopping may become more enjoyable for everyone involved.