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No Help In Sight?

Spencer Platt/Justin Sullivan/Scott Olson, Getty Images

A Facebook friend was venting the other day about the sad state of customer service at the retail level.  Many years ago I was one of those people.  Yes, I rocked the red vest at K Mart.  We looked silly.  Black slacks, white shirt, tie and that ridiculous red vest.  It was like wearing brown shoes with a tux.  It just didn’t fit the wardrobe.  But that was corporate policy.

Now, did wearing that vest make us smarter?  More knowledgeable?  Better looking?  Nope, no and no way.  It is not the vest that makes the sales clerk.  And frankly, the hottest girl in the store, I’ll call her ‘Rose’, couldn’t make that stupid vest look good.  And believe me, she made most anything else look good.    Something does seem to have changed over the years.  I don’t think anyone’s using the vests any longer.  I’m talking about attitudes.  People just don’t seem to care anymore.

Now, before I go any further, let me say this: to those of you who work in retail and honestly do the best you can every single day-thank you!

But why to those people appear to be the exception nowadays, rather than the norm?  What could it be?  Low pay?  Long hours?  I come from the school of thought that hard work, loyalty and dedication should be properly rewarded.  But the fact is some people cannot make enough money.  There almost always seems to be that crowd that are overworked, underpaid and under appreciated.  Are some people really enduring those conditions?  A few, perhaps.  But most are just whiny complainers who find no pleasure in life unless they can smear their putrid misery on someone else. They just cannot be paid enough.  They look miserable just standing there.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that everyone in retail is this way, so let’s not get all bash-and-protest-the-talk-radio-guy bummed out, okay?  But we’ve all encountered it.  You go into one of the ‘big box’ stores and ask for help finding something.  More often than not, you get the deer in the headlights glare; that stare that tells you you’ve just ruined their Saturday afternoon Whatever It Is Mart employment adventure.

I suppose, in part, I take it so personally because I was one of them once.   And I’m not ashamed to say that I busted my butt to help people, straying into departments I didn’t even work in to see to it that service was given where service was requested.  Sporting goods was my specialty, but I sniffed out more that a couple of pairs of women’s panty hose, so to speak.  I even sold a diamond bracelet once.  To this day, they can’t figure out how I got that jewelry case opened without the key.  I’ll never tell.

But here we are, it’s 2012, and we’ve all encountered the young cashier who can’t count back the change correctly, the stocker who can’t tell you where the Little Debbie cakes are or the ‘front end’ manager who won’t lift a finger to run a register, even though there’s 55 people waiting in line and only 3 of 14 check lanes open.  What’s up with that?  It’s not right, but it happens.  But why?  Lack of training is what I suspect most, but there’s a cultural aspect to it as well.  People seem so concerned with themselves, that they care too little about others.  But it’s not confined to the retail store.  Just ask the lady who cut me off on Fairway last week and gave me the ‘finger’.  Some people just don’t care.  No amount of training can actually fix that issue.  That’s something we have to fix on our own.

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