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Retail Sucks or Why Do You Work Here?

angry retail employee trainingYesterday I received this comment on my retail sales blog that was totally unrelated to that blog.

It read, “No offense but your other blog about what employees should never do was completely rendonkulous. I mean seriously, maybe it’s because I moved from wonderful NY to horrible Maryland, but retail is awful and simply mindless. The Christmas music starts to play in October. Over and over, sometimes on only one floor. I once told a customer “Welcome to ____” and he said “I’ve been here before.” People are awful creatures and it sucks the economy is so bad because my degree seems as useless as your blog. Please try to be more open minded and down to earth when writing these blogs. I tried to write a comment there but there wasn’t an opening. Managers will treat their employees like crap and still expect their employees to believe in their company, which is most likely meeting its demise like most retail chains. Retail sucks!!!!”

First off, the blog this unhappy person was referring to is either my classic 50 Things Retail Employees Should Never Do or Retail Sales Training: The Difference Between I Can and I Can’t. (Blogs are closed after a couple weeks to comments to limit SPAM.)

Second, I had to find out what one word meant. Urban Dictionary defines “redonkulous,” (or “redonkulus”) as significantly more absurd than ridiculous, to an almost impossible degree.

I asked my Facebook fans how they thought I should respond and fifty of them responded with a variety of ideas including:

Dave: Just like everything in life, attitude is so important. From reading the quote above, this person feels that working retail is beneath them. If they are coming from this viewpoint everything you write is going to sound like BS.

Michelle: Get a new job. Jeez, if you don’t like retail, do something else.

Theresa: This person wouldn’t recognize open minded and down to earth if they read it. They are too focused on the negative and unfortunately for them the law of attraction always wins!

Melissa: Be the first to make a change! It doesn’t need to be drastic, just do one thing at a time. Smile when they enter the store. Don’t act like it’s a chore to help them. Over time they will see the change within the store and they will change too.

Patti: Like everything in life, retail has it’s good & bad points, but that person clearly has layers of other “stuff” getting in the way of a useful perspective. I say recommend they pursue another line of work & get out of Maryland. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

Kimberly: I would tell them that is it “rendonkulous” that they have chosen retail as their profession with an attitude like that. Perhaps a job shoveling out horse poo would take better advantage of their people skills.

Eric: I believe that “He convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Would you want someone with these thoughts in their head interacting with your customers? Yikes! PS. “Welcome to ___” is the BEST greeting ever. If someones is so beaten down by the system that they still say “I’M JUST LOOKING!!” I just say, “And you’re still very welcome here!” with a smile. The obvious response to “I’ve been here before” is “Welcome BACK!!”

Alex: Suggest they go to their favorite store and observe why it’s their favorite place. Ask them what do they like about the people experience and see what they can add to the toolbox of retail that they see there. Also wish them the best of luck with their career once the “economy turns around.”

Brad: If they think people are “awful creatures” they should find another line of work! I own a comic shop in the Mall of Georgia, and we’ve had growth every month for the past 12 months, so retail is not sucking for us.

Suzanne: Hopefully he felt better after he wrote it, sometimes you need to vent.

Will: Maybe start with the parable of the Island of 1000 mirrors* and finish there. Enough said.

Peter: You choose your own attitude. Remember: 1) It’s not that tough. 2) Get with the program. 3) Cooperate and graduate.

Larissa: The Retail Doctor and this poster seem to be on the same side: there is a need to improve the retail shopping experience for the consumer. While the poster seems to have lost all hope in customer service, and maybe retreats online, the Retail Doctor still sees educating store managers and employees a valuable endeavour. Keep going Doc!

Tim: Clearly, the person who posted these comments has a degree that is useless, and is now “stuck” working in retail, which they clearly hate. Sad thing is, so many people in retail have attitudes like this.

Christina: He probably wonders why you’re not as unhappy as him.

My thoughts

Obviously, these business owners don’t feel the way this poster does. They understand that attitude is where it all begins. When you own being put upon, downtrodden and surround yourself in the misery of the moment, how can you portray anything but helplessness?

I know lawyers who don’t like some of their clients, I know teachers who don’t like all of their students, and I know CEOs who don’t like all of their employees. That’s normal.

What isn’t normal in all of these professions is thinking the entire profession and population they serve is devoid of hope.

And here’s the thing….

You know you have employees who are injecting this attitude right into the heart of your organization. They may not write it on the wall. They may not broadcast it over your PA system but it is seeping into everything you do.

As I said a few posts ago, You Don’t Have the Luxury of Time for employees like this.

What do you say retail store owners and managers? Does retail suck? Please enter in comments below:

*The House of 1000 Mirrors

A happy dog bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house, looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. He found himself staring at 1000 other happy dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and saw 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, this is a wonderful place.

In this same village, another dog, who was not as happy as the first, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs, hung his head low as he looked into the door and saw 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him. He growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again. All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on February 13, 2013.

This entry was posted in Retail Sales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to “Retail Sucks or Why Do You Work Here?”

  1. Retail in the abstract, generic whole doesn’t suck. An individual incident may not be as pleasant or satisfying as another, but rarely sucks. My shop has been open nearly three years, with growth every single month despite the economy. The reason? Every single person gets a cheerful greeting, a smile or even a laugh if I’m tumbling in from trying to restore the 2 acre wilderness. They have a break from the horrible world and have an enjoyable moment at my shop. They tell me what brings them back is the cheerful atmosphere, and that they don’t like my nearest “competition” because she never laughs or greets them with a smile. It’s a challenge, being reasonable and pleasant, but it doesn’t suck. The manager needs to reflect and model the sort of behavior the subordinate should have. ANd if the manager is snarky and thinks his/her job is ghastly, that pulls the subordinate down as well.

  2. Alan J. Zell says:

    Bob, My father had an expression that fits the topic re retail selling sucks . . . “Every boss deserves the employees they have; every employee deserves the boss(s)they have.” Re the former, if bosses don’t like what employees are doing/selling, could it be the fault that the selling environment may not help promote sales? Re: the latter, could it be that the employees do not really respect what they are selling hence, other than what’s in front of them, it comes through to both customers and management?

    From my experience, it is the former situation that makes for less than good selling environment. It may, also, promote the latter.

    As to training. Well, most often it is taking standard selling formats and trying to apply it to retailing or, more better, to a facet of retailing that is not applicable. I’ve attended many sales training sessions that so far off the mark that it brought about laughter from the employees.

    The type of taining that is missing is teaching respect for goods being sold (what it is, how it’s made, its history, etc.), the needs/wants of customers, why they didn’t buy i.e. understanding what took place before the customer came in and what may happen after the customer walks out the door.

    The other aspect that brings on negative feeling about selling at retail is the compensation system — often commission or base plus commission. Both, it is thought, will cause salespeople to be motivated to make sales. BS! No commission program will make a poor sales person morph into a good one or morph a good salesperson into a great one.

    To go along with this, goals are set by management in order to get a specified bottom line result although the goals set for departments or individuals is not stated that way. The goals may be way above what can be obtained.

    Lastly, and this ties in with the above. Management does not make it easy/possible for getting employees inputs on problems, suggestions. I outline this feedback system in my book, Elements of Selling” in the Element on Business Calisthenics on a way for management to encourage the inputs they need without employees believing they get negative points by bringing them up.


  3. Natalie says:

    Attitude is key. In this recession people still don’t want to work. They are picking the jobs with an attitude. We apply a lot of Bob’s suggestions and it works great for us. We go get people to come shop at our store by flipping a sign on the street and it works. We are not able to hire someone to do it so we do it ourselves the business owner doing what it takes to succeed. People feel they are too good for the job, flipping a sign is beneath them. Our neighbors are closing down shop and we are increasing sales. We do what it takes just like Bob says make it work. Thank you Bob.

  4. Randy says:

    Bob, if I may, I’m going to have to play devil’s advocate with you. Yes, I agree that the commenter who posted that on your blog came across as angry, disgruntled and even immature. That said, you have to remember that not everybody has that personality type built for retail, and that doesn’t make them antisocial or bad people, it just makes them have a different niche than you. To put it this way, think of being in retail like playing in the NBA. You, Bob, have the height and build to be a good basketball player, and you couple that by training and playing hard. On the other hand, a short, stocky guy might put the same effort that you do but is simply not a fit for the sport, and would be better suited for something like wrestling or powerlifting.

    While the economy is improving right now, it is still quite lousy out there, and there are a lot of educated and experienced people who have to take work they are overqualified for because that’s all they can find at the moment. Jobs in the service sector have seen the largest increases, so naturally, more people are going to be working in customer service positions, even those who don’t necessarily want to work in customer service. When I graduated college, I took a retail job to make ends meet, and while it was something I didn’t want to make a career out of, I worked hard at that job and kept searching until I finally landed my first professional job.

    Yes, attitude it key, but it’s also not something that is clearly black-and-white. You can have the most positive attitude in the world, but if it’s like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, it’s not going to be completely effective. I can’t help but be a little disheartened when I see the cries from some of your commenters to “quit and find another job!” If it was that easy to do in this economy, wouldn’t it have been done more often? You’re a retail person, Bob, and you’re very good at what you do, but when you’re as good as you are and when you have the type of passion that you do for your industry, it can be hard to look at the perspective at somebody who wants to be in a different industry.

    In conclusion, the commenter came across as very immature and rude, but I can sense his frustration.

    • Thanks for your considered response Randy. I appreciate it. Maybe what makes me so upset at this is that I used to work with people like this in a store when I first started out. I began to feel my degree in music was useless – after all I “had” to work retail because I couldn’t find a job- not that I looked that hard – teaching. I was fortunate to meet a guy who introduced me to the concepts of goals, attitude and doing whatever it takes. That was a retailer. Changed my outlook entirely.

      My degree was not useless – the skills I learned helped me process information better, have better command of my language skills and analytical skills. If it were indeed useless I would have been the same person after four years as I was when I began. I was not.

      I know several immigrants who came to this country who had a lot of learning but still became front desk agents, retail clerks and even housekeepers. But they didn’t swallow the bitter pill every time they went to work. They were glad for the chance. Yet it is perfectly acceptable to whine and complain about how awful the world is and there is this “they” out there making your life miserable. No, you’re just miserable.

      Until someone masters that concept, they are worthless as a valuable employee with or without a degree. I think working retail gives you the opportunity to master that by serving potentially hundreds of people a day and becoming a student of customer behaviors – and your own in response.

      I’m a person who has had success in retail from selling some of the most expensive items to cups of coffee – it’s just people skills. Lots of people can be frustrated but choosing to say how much something sucks to me means they should quit and find something else. Every time they feel they are either better than or settling for a job is going to play out on their performance. Like attracts like.

  5. Joel says:

    I feel this person’s frustration, but it comes from many sources.

    No matter how wonderful our attitudes are,or how happy we feel inside,we are affected by outside forces. You can be walking down the street singing a song,then get hit by a bus. Happy you is still going to be ER bound. Your inner joy couldn’t control the bus,and it can’t control poor managers and irascible,demanding cusomers either.

    The solution is to understand that the poor experiences you have at work are just that, poor experiences. They are temporary, and momentary. Letting the bad stuff go, and moving on to create something good is the key,because the unpleasant stuff is never going to stop. No matter how successful you are,or what field you work in, there will always be moments that are unsatisfactory. Just let them be that,passing moments. That is where your attitude will really pay off.

  6. Carol says:

    Your attitude will determine what kind of day you will have. Think about it. It’s your choice.