EVER WONDERED WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE THE ONE SCANNING THROUGH YOUR STUDENT SHOPPING? WHIPPING UP YOUR VANILLA LATTE? ANDREW DAVIES GIVES AN INSIGHT TO HIS RETAIL REALITY, SHOWING US WHAT LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CHECKOUT IS REALLY LIKE…
Edited by Imi Byers
Where the retail journey began
Over the summer I got my first job (woohoo) working at my local Marks and Spencer. Going into my first shift, I didn’t really know what to expect.
I’d never properly been exposed to a professional working environment, let alone working with customers.
Quickly, I found myself having to learn what’s what on the go (I’m now an expert on Lochmuir Smoked Salmon), and even ended up building a shelf mid store.
I also sold a chicken to Mary Berry
… I can feel your jealousy already. Nevertheless I survived a good two months at the store before being deported back to uni. During my short but sweet time working at M&S I learnt the ways of working in retail, so here are some of my experiences:
Awkward “your card has been declined” chats
There will come a time when you’re on the till and a customer’s card is declined. The first time this happened to me I felt a combination of guilt and discomfort but mostly, an overriding sensation of awkwardness.
There is truly nothing worse to have to say to a customer than
your card has been declined.
Thankfully, this didn’t happen to me that often, but every now and then it did. If you’re lucky, the customer will apologise and pay with cash, or try a different card. If you aren’t fortunate however, you’ll awkwardly have to call someone over to put back all the items that didn’t make the cut. Fun all round.
You’ll (hopefully) love your managers
I was extremely lucky with my team of bosses (shoutout to them if they’re reading). They all took me under their wing from the day I started; the managers were my at-work parents. They would solve any problems I had and even took the brute force of angry complaints. I am fortunate enough to not have experienced a ‘bad manager’, but I can only sympathise with you if you’ve had to endure one. I would definitely not have survived without the help and guidance mine showed me.
My store manager also supplied a rather lovely spread of cheese and bread during a team building evening
(it wasn’t just any cheese, it was M&S cheese (apologies I had to include that somewhere)).
Customers are always funny
Anyone that’s experienced working in retail will have perfected the fake laugh only used on customers. As a customer assistant, it’s your duty to find any jokes the customer may use on you extremely funny.
Even if it is eight in the morning and all you can think about is the bliss that is your bed, you have to laugh, and I mean laugh, when they tell a joke. Unfortunately,
I only worked at M&S for two months, so mines still a work in progress.
Things out of your control are your fault
I once got blamed for the fact that the store temperature was too cold.
Unaware of the fact that I had the power to change the climate of the store, I had to explain to the customer that I have no control over the temperature. Not to mention the fact that I have had to spend the past 7 hours in what feels like sub-zero conditions. It was also my fault that the store stopped selling fresh pasta… obviously. Hey ho, we aren’t all perfect.
Customers make the same mistakes
I’m sorry I forgot my bags
Ever since the 5p tax on carrier bags was introduced into the UK, it’s now vital that you bring bags for life with you on every shop. If you don’t, you’re obviously a bad person and don’t care about the environment. “Would you like a bag?” I would ask each approaching customer. I was usually greeted with “well if you’re giving them out for free” in response, *insert fake laugh here*.
When the customers happen to forget their trusty bags for life, a large majority become overridden with shame a guilt. Cue a profuse apology and statement that they either left them in the car or at home.
So there we have it, my experiences so far of working in retail. Of course, there is much more to it than just being blamed for the air conditioning, but you get the general gist of things. Having spent a time working in a shop, my appreciation for shop and customer assistants is now infinitely greater. They truly are the unsung heroes of the shopping world.
So the next time you’re in your local Sainsbury’s, House of Fraser, or any shop for that matter, make sure you give the people working there a cheeky little smile and if you’re going to tell a joke, please make sure it’s actually funny.