Yeah, how about those customers  --  08/31/05

Yesterday's entry drew a lot of comments... including one from my daughter wondering where she should go to post her rant about the annoying customers that she has to deal with (working in a supermarket bakery department).

Hey, Jill, you've got your livejournal... and you probably still have a Geocities site as well... (or you could write down your complaints and give them to me if you didn't want to inconvenience your own electrons)

I had been thinking about writing about some other annoying things I have encountered as a customer, but Jill's comment got me to thinking about strange customers I had met back in the days when I was working in retail.

I have worked in a furniture store, two supermarkets (well, actually three, but one of them was on third shift crew while the store was closed so I didn't meet any customers), two department stores (one was a discount store where I first worked in the housewares and hardware department and then later worked in the camera and electronics department; the other was a mid-range junior department store), and I also worked as a waiter in a resort hotel.

Yes, lots of public contact in those jobs.

The main part of my work in the furniture store was as a delivery assistant. That is, I would help the driver load the truck, ride along with him, and then help him carry the furniture into the customer's house (which sometimes involved taking things apart and then reassembling them when we got them inside. [My other duties included things like going down the street to a greasy spoon restaurant to bring back coffee, assembling simple furniture (such as coffee tables and end tables) both for delivery and to put on display, mopping and sweeping and vacuuming and dusting the furniture showrooms, and just about any other odd job they could think up.] I learned a couple of things about people and the nature of the universe
One: People who live on the third floor of old Victorian houses that have been converted to apartments (i.e., no elevator) will be the ones who purchase the heaviest sofa-beds (which are much heavier than a normal sofa) and the largest and heaviest or most awkward to carry version of everything else..
Two: customers who seem to have the least to spare will be the ones who will give the best tips and those who seem to have the most (live in the biggest houses and buy the most expensive furniture) will probably not tip at all.

Working in a supermarket while in college really gave me customer contact: I spent almost ninety percent of my time working a cash register. As a male cashier (which seemed to be rather rare, at least in that particular supermarket), I rarely had a bagger ("Hey, I've got to give the baggers to the girls. You can't expect me to give you a bagger when some of the girls don't have one.") and if one of the register stations had a conveyer belt that was acting up, that was the one I would be assigned ("You're a guy. You can't expect one of the girls to have to move all that stuff along manually.") and I would be last on the list to get a break even when I'd started my shift an hour before the others [I'd often work 4 to 9 while most evening cashiers worked 5 to 9] ("You can't expect to have a break before the girls get their breaks.") Hmmmm, do you see a pattern here?

That supermarket job convinced me that a majority of Long Island housewives had serious spinal injuries. ("Don't pack so much stuff in that bag; I've got a bad back.") However, they also wanted everything double-bagged. Management, on the other hand, preferred that nothing ever be double-bagged. Getting caught double-bagging would result in a reprimand for wasting bags. Unless, of course, a customer complained to a manager that we were not double-bagging, in which case we would be reprimanded for failing to double-bag. (Yes, two customers later, we'd be back in trouble for double-bagging.)

Express checkout -- ten items or less. Yeah, right. Customers will argue that four boxes of chicken noodle soup should only count as one item and these six cans of vegetables should only count as one item because they are all canned vegetables and they are all the same price each, and so on... as they load twenty items onto the conveyor belt. And then, after they leave, the customer behind them will take you to task "She had more than ten items! Why did you take her? You should have made her go to a regular register. Why do you do that when your sign clearly says ten items or less? I'm in a hurry and I don't have time to wait for people like that! If I had the time I'd speak to your manager." And on and on...

And if you are standing at your experess checkout with no customers, the manager will direct someone with an overflowing cart to your register and tell you to do this order quickly... and as soon as he turns his back, there will be six people lined up behind the customer with this huge order and each of them will be holding just one or two items and they will be furious by the time you get the huge order rung up and bagged and put back in her cart (because you're the express checkout, you don't need a bagger) and she needs someone to help her take the groceries from the car and put them into the trunk of her car so you have to go down to another register and steal their bagger to help this customer and you get dirty looks from that cashier (and her customers) and then you start to ring up the orders for the long line of express customers who have been angrily waiting and they all say "She had more than ten items! Why did you take her? You should have made her go to a regular register. Why do you do that when your sign clearly says ten items or less? I'm in a hurry and I don't have time to wait for people like that! If I had the time I'd speak to your manager." And on and on...

Ah, but I'm sure that you have probably held down a job or two like that yourselves, right?

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