At some time, and at some level, we all feel a periodic need to take control, to have some power over our lives. This power is not so easy to get in a harsh economic climate, and in many ways we can feel like the stress is just too much to handle. Dealing with bills and health care and hanging on to our jobs is hard enough, and sometimes we don't always get everything right. So we shift our power struggle to the things we think we can control, no matter how insignificant they may seem on the surface. The retail experience is a good example of this. We fight through traffic, with harsh words and unkind finger gestures for anyone who behaves in a way we don't like. Getting parking space is like a battle of wills, one of the ways we try to assert our power.
Then, as bundles of pent-up frustration and negativity, we hit the stores. The sales associates have to listen to all our indignation and disgruntlement, even if they didn't have anything to do with it. We have negative feelings about ourselves, and we push them onto sales associates that we don't even treat like real people. It's an awful attitude, and it doesn't improve anyone's life or outlook.
Author Freeman Hall, who wrote Retail Hell: Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate, gives out advice and tips on how to give yourself an attitude adjustment when you're shopping. These tips can help you be the breath of fresh air that turns around what might be an otherwise hellish experience for both you and the people you encounter when shopping.
- Shopping is not something to squeeze into a tight schedule. You can not expect to be anything but irritated if you're running late for an appointment and traffic is impossible. Sometimes cashier lines are long, and sometimes stores are busy. Do your shopping when you're not in a hurry, and save yourself a lot of frustration and aggravation.
- Don't go in with the attitude that you're the mighty customer, and the salesperson is your personal slave that you can treat however you want. Retail can often be a thankless job, and sales associates are often forced to deal with people's negativity even if they did nothing at all to bring it on. Sometimes stores run out of the product you want. It's not something the salesperson planned because they wanted to ruin your day. They have nothing to do with stock, and they can't control customers coming in and buying up all of the items you wanted.
- Remember that you are polite and courteous. This is something that often goes out the window in retail situations. If you are greeted with a smile, it won't kill you to return the greeting and smile back. In fact, it will make both of you feel a lot better. Also, a smile and a kind attitude can get you all kinds of great service, whereas ignoring a greeting sends out a clear signal that you are a customer who could be a problem. Let them know right away that you're actually quite approachable, and when you need help, they won't hesitate to give it.
- Patience is a virtue. It's very easy to get caught up in thinking that your life is just so much busier than everyone else's, or that your errands somehow take precedence over the errands of the people who are standing in line in front of you. If you let yours flare or take it out on sales associates, they'll be sure to pay you back by taking their time and getting to you as slowly as they can. Be kind and understanding, and they'll do their best to get you out of there as soon as possible.
- If you need help, aim your questions toward the right person. Getting frustrated with the kids shoes associate because he doesn't know where the dinner plates are doesn't make any sense. Ask at the information desk if you can get some assistance in housewares instead, and get your information from the appropriate person.
by Maryanne Comaroto of Maryanne Live