Thursday, November 17, 2011

Working Retail at Christmas? You Can't Choose You're Customers, But You CAN Choose Your Attitude

Being on the front lines during the Christmas shopping season can be a stressful endeavor for even the jolliest of hearts. At first, your heart is buoyed by the holiday music playing, the festive decorations and the merry demeanour of customers and fellow employees alike. Everyone is looking forward to the holidays and it seems to put a spring in their step. However, as the calender counts down and there are fewer days between now and "C" Day, those happy smiles tense and those footsteps lose some of their spring.

As a retail worker, whether it be at cash, customer service, the sales floor, or even in behind the scenes, it can be one of the hardest times of the year. Quite frankly, I found it took all the fun out of the holiday for me. It simply just wears the cheer right out of you. When I worked, you weren't allowed to take time off during the holidays. That meant working until 11pm Christmas Eve, Christmas Day off, and then back the next day to face the crowds looking for deals on Boxing Day. There is no time to slow down and enjoy the holiday. However, it is what it is, so you might as well make the best of it. It would be very easy to turn a difficult situation into a terrible one if you let it. You can't control a lot of things in life, but the one thing you can control is your response to it. My advice to you is choose your attitude. It is probably the one thing I learned from my former employer that has really stuck with me all these years.

There are a lot of things that can make working during this busy time of year stressful. Poor management, not enough employees on hand, scheduling conflicts, sick calls, the crowds, the noise, the increased workload, and the equally stressed out customers. Why are they playing Rocking Around the Christmas Tree for the sixth time already?? There really isn't a lot you can do about these things, they are, for the most part, out of your control. Wait, don't burn that Christmas tree down yet! How you respond may make a huge difference to how your day goes and every one's as well.

Customers are why you have a job. That's a cold hard truth. If not for them, there would be no store and you'd have a lot more time on your hands. As stressed as you and they are both, they are not the enemy! How you respond to them and your job is very important. This is the choose your attitude part. That being said, there are some difficult situations you may find yourself in. Here are some helpful tips.

1) Smile! A lot of customers are already stressed out and angry before they even get to you. Don't give them a reason to lash out. A surly expression is just the excuse some people are looking for to let off some steam. Acknowledge that they're there, say hello, smile, sympathize with how busy it is. Make eye contact. People just want to be recognized half the time.

2) Don't stand for abuse! Some customers, despite your best efforts, are looking for a fight. They can be rude and down right abusive at times. It is not your job to stand there and take it. Though perhaps some customers think it is, and that's why they think they can get away with it. If you find yourself in this situation call a manager or supervisor to diffuse the situation. That's their job. Do not lose your temper. Move on to the next customer as soon as you can.

3) They are always watching. An important thing to remember is that other customers are always watching you. How you interact with another customer has an impact on future interactions. This applies equally to how you interact with other employees too. When it's really busy, no customer wants to see a bunch of employees goofing around when they should be working. It totally peeves them off! Why shouldn't it? If they're standing in a line of fifteen people they are probably wondering why you aren't helping out. Don't add fuel to the fire!

4) Be aware and proactive. If you notice the lines are getting bigger and it's getting increasingly busier, call for back up! Call before it gets out of hand. Know who you are going to call if you think you'll need someone. If no one is available, call a manager or supervisor. Again, it's their job. You do not control how many people are working that day. At least the customer sees you're trying to do something. Be prepared! It's not just for boy scouts.

5) Pay it forward. It is the holidays after all! If you see a customer that is in need of assistance, give them a hand before they ask. Be friendly. Take an interest in what they're doing. While you're working it doesn't hurt to make a little small talk. Don't slow anyone down by any means, we're all busy these days, but it's nice to feel like a person every now and again. If another employee needs some help, by all means give them a hand! These are the sort of things that brighten a person's day! By going out of your way to make someone's day better, you make everyone's day better. Even your own.

The basic golden rule here is treat others as you'd like to be treated. You might work in retail, but you are a customer too. You have certain expectations when you're looking for assistance and on the other side of the counter. Make those your Jiminy Cricket while at work. After work, have a stiff drink and soak your feet!

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