Ah, the joys of working in retail. Áine Kenny gives us the five customers you encounter without fail in your part-time job.
A lot of students this summer will be starting part-time jobs, and many of them will be working in retail. I had never worked in retail before this summer, and let me tell you, it was an eye-opener. The entitlement of some people was astounding. Then again, you often get very sweet customers who you can have the craic with. I have realised that there are five distinct types of customers in most stores. If you work in retail, you will definitely recognise them.
1. The bargain hunter.
This individual is always on the hunt to get the best deal. They ask if there are any other special deals on, because yes, we have secret deals that we only let certain customers in on. They are always trying to get items reduced- there is a scratch, they are having a bad day, they saw an ad on TV. Usually these customers require a manager to deal with. “Can you not just give me 20% off?” they say. Not if I want to keep my job. I can’t just reduce items whenever I feel like it. These customers also make you feel like it is your fault that the items aren’t reduced to what they want it to be. Sorry now, but we can’t decide the prices of items on an individual basis.
2. The change-giver.
“That is €20 please,” I smile. “Here you go,” the customer says, dumping two plastic money bags on the counter. Usually I welcome the sight of change, but in this case I was horrified. Two bags of 20c, with €10 in each. I was left to count the bags of change, glad that there was indeed €20 worth in there, and dreading the cash office’s reaction. There is also the person who is not looking for change- “I’ll give you these coins then you can give me €10 back,” they say with ease. Meanwhile, I am trying to do quick mental maths, and two years of an arts course has eroded that part of my brain quite severely. This is a public service announcement: once the cashier has entered in the amount of money you have given them, please don’t start rummaging in the depths of your purse for a stray 2c. Our tills will be out and you will send us into a mild panic about handing out the wrong change.
3. The busy family.
My heart goes out to couples trying to shop with toddlers and babies. First of all, there is an endless amount of entertainment in shops for children. They are constantly picking up things they want but do not need, which exhausted parents tell them to put it back. The sweets are sneakily placed beside the tills, so the children run towards them in excitement and proudly place them on the counter-top, much to the dismay of their parents who only came in to buy milk and bread. Sometimes, parents let their children pay for the items which is usually incredibly cute. Other times, a parent has sent their children in to buy something for them. Occasionally, every child’s worst fear strikes- you parent has not given you enough money and you have to leave the shop, thoroughly embarrassed. My heart goes out to those kids.
4. The no bar code or forgotten item customers.
You hold the item in your hand, frantically turning it over, searching for a bar code. Your heart sinks. The item isn’t in the bar code book either. “This doesn’t have a bar code on it,” you explain to the customer. “Oh, I think it’s €12 or something,” the customer says while texting on their phone. Glad we cleared that up. I will just enter “€12 or something” into my till. You ask where the customer got the item and dutifully leave the till, even though you aren’t supposed to. In fairness, a lot of customers do apologise and go get another item. Some just stare at you as if it is your job to memorise 12 digits of every product in a vast store. Other times people are just about to pay for their items and realise they have forgotten an important product and just casually saunter away without a word. Do I suspend the sale? Wait for them to come back? Apologise profusely to the other waiting customers?
5. The angel.
These customers are the best. They have exact change, they make conversation, all of their products have bar codes, and they say thank you. I have met some customers who I could have chatted to all day if not for the queue growing at my till. These customers make working in retail bearable!