If Retail Sucks, Why Do You Work Here?

Woman with arms crossed not smiling

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Recently I received a comment on my blog 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 most likely my classic 50 Things Retail Employees Should Never Do. (Blogs are closed to comments after a couple of weeks to limit SPAM.)

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 50 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 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 the original poster does. They understand that attitude is where it all begins. When you own being put upon and 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.

You don’t have the luxury of time for employees like this.

The House of 1,000 Mirrors

A happy dog bounced happily up the stairs of the house and looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. He found himself staring at 1,000 other happy dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile and saw 1,000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the house, he thought 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 1,000 unfriendly-looking dogs staring back at him. He growled at them and was horrified to see 1,000 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?