The world of retail can be daunting at times, what with difficult customers, long hours, and night-marish holiday seasons like the infamous Black Friday. But knowing what common obstacles retail workers face will help you become better prepared for the job ahead. The key is to open to the experience, learn new skills and knowledge throughout the job, and to give the best service you can possibly give.
- The First Day
First day jitters! Everyone remembers the feeling before your first day of work in retail. The doubt lingering in your mind, wondering if you’ll do something wrong, and if you could even have the capability of handling everything that your manager throws at you. The answer to that is, yes, yes you can! The jitters are especially high if it’s your very first job, but it’s not something to fret about. Being nervous on your first day is a completely normal, human experience, and with time, your job will feel second-nature to you. These are some common things that should be done on the first day at work:
- Befriend one of your coworkers: Someone will be in charge of training you and teaching you all the ins and outs of the job, and that’s usually one of your coworkers. Ask a lot of questions, in fact, ask too many questions! Understanding all the little details is the first step to overcoming that first-day fear. Absorb all that information they give to you like a sponge. Each job is unique, so ask them for advice on how to improve yourself, or things that the manager dislikes so you can avoid making those mistakes. Despite this fact, even with all this newfound information, mistakes are inevitable.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! This fact is true not just for the first day of your retail job, but within the first few weeks. You may misplace an item somewhere, count inventory wrong, or get a little too frustrated with a customer, and that’s completely fine! No one is perfect. Even your coworkers who have had retail experience for years make a mistake every now and then. What matters is putting yourself out there and not shying away from the fear of doing something wrong, because how else will things get done?
- Rude Customers
With more and more experience in retail, there are some things that can’t be avoided, and that is the dreaded rude customer. Rude customers are like that annoying itch, they’re difficult to get rid of and they just won’t go away. No matter how many times you explain to the customer that you’re just a worker and the situation is out of your hands, they still may not listen. These are common solutions to dealing with rude customers:
- Deescalate the situation: The customer might just be having a rough day and are just taking it out on the poor retail worker, which in this case, is you. Sometimes they aren’t rude, they’re just upset and want their problem to be solved. After it’s solved, they usually go back to their merry way. With these types of customers, it’s best to not yell back. Speak in a calm manner and don’t react, as that will merely fuel their fire. If you can fix their problem, then simply explain to them that everything will be alright, and that you’ll just go ahead and solve it for them. If it’s out of your hands, explain to them the limits to what you can do, or suggest other solutions. At this point, it’s best to bring in a coworker or the manager to help handle the customer.
- Take a different approach: With truly rude customers that simply want to make you mad and get a reaction from you, there are different policies that each store may take. Some may be able to refuse service, other times the security can be involved and escort the customer out. Remember that you are never on your own, and that there are other people to help you.
- Rude Managers
A problem that is less common but not unusual in retail are difficult managers. While not all managers will be this way, after a few retail jobs, you’ll start to see common patterns. Rude managers may do things such as get overly angry for small mistakes that you make, and show favoritism by giving other coworkers better hours. They may make you feel lesser than by speaking to you passive aggressively, or treating you like you are dispensable. A recurring problem is discrimination in the workplace, when it comes to things such as gender, race, or sexual orientation. Though it may feel discerning, there is a solution to every problem.
- Communication is key: If your manager is giving you unfair hours, rather than avoiding or complaining about the problem, it’s best to face it head on. Speak to your manager, tell them what is causing you trouble, and tell your terms. Do not be rude, but rather, show them respect and speak politely. Don’t let them shut you down, and be strong about believe.
- Contact corporate: If your manager is being discriminatory, it’s a good idea to contact corporate so that they can handle the situation. A manager is supposed to be fair, and if it is not reported, then the workers after you could also be treated unjustly.
- Switch stores: Another option is to switch stores. If they do get to the point where they won’t cooperate, then that is the best time to start thinking about relocating to another branch of the store. It’s important to contact someone within the company to see if that’s possible, and switch to one near your location.
All in all, though retail work can be quite a handful, every obstacle can be solved with just a little bit of problem solving. The most fulfilling part of the job is developing new skills along the way and gaining unparalleled experience that couldn’t be gained anywhere else. Remember, with confidence and hard-work, anything is possible.