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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Customer Interactions

I am new to retail sales. I've never done anything quite like this before, and I'm kind of enjoying it. Especially dealing with the customers. I'm not sure whether I've just had good luck, or whether I have a soporific quality about me, but I haven't really had to deal with any customers that I would call "belligerent" or "trouble-makers". Even when I've been stuck at the register, unable to get it to do what I need it to do, they have been patient with me. I'm still working on balancing priorities, but the pace has mostly been reasonable.

Mostly. Two days ago my coworker Julianna went on her lunch break around 5:00. (They call it lunch no matter what time you take it. One more bit of Wal-Mart culture that I will probably never understand.) For the first 30 minutes, I walked around straightening items on the shelves, picking up the random bits of jetsam that Wal-Mart shoppers tend to leave willy-nilly as they wander through the store. Then a customer came. And another. And another. At one point I was helping one while three others were waiting. Fortunately none of them asked me to do things that I don't know how to do, like putting something on layaway or doing a back-flip, but they kept me hopping. Of course Julianna came back from her break as I was finishing up with the last customer.

They were all very nice about waiting to be helped. One of them even told me to go take care of another customer while I was in the middle of helping her.

This lady was something else. I had seen her earlier in the store, riding one of the little vehicles Wal-Mart has for customers who have trouble getting around. She had a tattoo that I found to be almost offensive. It made a political statement that I disagreed with, and I found myself thinking that she was probably a very simple person, and that maybe I was lucky I didn't have to deal with her.

Still, I don't let that kind of thought affect how I deal with people, so I offered to help her just like any other customer. She wanted to return a watch that she didn't like (though she used more colorful than that to say so) and get a new band for her old watch, which her husband had given to her before he died, and which she knew how to operate. She spoke in an accent that I couldn't quite place, Eastern European somewhere. It reminded me of our church friend who immigrated from Poland. And she talked a lot.

She was quite patient with me, and let me help stop to help other customers. And those customers were also patient as I dealt with this woman. I understand that as we approach Christmas the level of politeness drops considerably, but so far I can't complain.

(Speaking of holidays, we've already got our Halloween stuff out. Can you believe it?)

In the course of getting a watch band that she was happy with, I learned that she had married a G.I. to come to America. I asked if this was the same husband who had died a year ago, and she told me this:

"No. The G.I. was a mistake. He was my ticket out of Russia, but it was a mistake to marry him. My husband who died last year was my true love. My destiny. And I didn't think I could go on without him, but here I am."

I'm trying to fit a pin for a watch band, and I feel like I should be having a beer with this woman. I felt bad for judging her based on her tattoo, and was genuinely happy that she had come to the jewelry section while I was on duty.

By this point, Julianna had returned, and all of the other customers had been dealt with one way or another (none of them lethally). When I wrapped up my sale with the Russian woman, she shook my hand and thanked me. I sincerely told her that I hoped to see her again, and she promised to say hi if she did. And so I was once again reminded that people with whom I disagree are still very much people, and that I should not judge a book by its cover.

I think the best thing about this job is that every day it gives me many opportunities to practice loving my neighbors. In some ways they are ideal opportunities, because they don't last long. I get a fresh start with each new customer.

On a slightly different note, Wal-Mart encourages us to interact in a friendly manner with customers, and if there is only one customer, there's no reason not to have an extended conversation. However, problems arise when one customer is ignored over another. People have actually been fired over this. It puts me in the uncomfortable position of telling someone, "I'm sorry, but I need to help another customer." I hate having to do that.

In closing, I'm learning my way around the cash register. The problems of three days ago are history, and I have only my future problems to deal with. Yesterday I was on my own from 6 p.m. until closing at 10 p.m. No problems. I am supposed to take a 15 minute break sometime in the evening, so I called in a manager to take care of jewelry stuff while I was gone. Things were slow until then, and when I got back she was helping someone, a customer was waiting, and one more customer came before she left. I also had a small register problem, which she quickly resolved.

I swear, once I figure out everything on the register, I will have achieved some sort of god-like status, and I will be ready to take over the universe.

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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.