RETAIL-iation: Serious and Humorous Observations on Bad Shopping Behavior

RETAIL-iation: Serious and Humorous Observations on Bad Shopping Behavior

by Donna R. Summerlin

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Spending twenty-five years in a retail environment teaches you a lot of things about shopping behavior. It also leads to a lot of pent up frustration over bad shopping habits. Donna R. Summerlin vents about the behavior store employees encounter on a daily basis in a critique that is serious, funny, and instructional. Instead of continuing to shop like normal,…  See more details below


Spending twenty-five years in a retail environment teaches you a lot of things about shopping behavior. It also leads to a lot of pent up frustration over bad shopping habits. Donna R. Summerlin vents about the behavior store employees encounter on a daily basis in a critique that is serious, funny, and instructional. Instead of continuing to shop like normal, it’s time to examine your own behavior and that of your peers. Summerlin offers insights on how store employees cope with bad shopping behaviors; ways to overcome hostility, both as a shopper and employee; tips to help you remember the importance of good manners; and observations regarding outrageous behavior that will make you examine your own shopping habits. Gain an insider’s perspective on the true nature of the retail business, and laugh along the way. Written for shoppers, store employees, and those seeking to get into the retail business, RETAIL-iation uncovers the unacceptable behavior that goes on every day, and more importantly, it provides a plan to fix it.

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iUniverse, Incorporated
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Serious and Humorous Observations on Bad Shopping Behavior
By Donna R. Summerlin

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Donna R. Summerlin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-1280-0

Chapter One

Social Shopping Behavior

Retail had never entered my mind as a career choice; many choices had, but never retail. When I graduated from college, I found myself searching for a job in my field of choice; however, after a while, my goal changed. Ultimately I knew what I had to do: get a job—and fast. Strangely enough, just as when a personal relationship you are not searching for happens to you, a relationship with retail happened to me. I enjoyed it, and I was good at it. The world of retail became my world—as far as careers go, anyway. I found it to be rewarding at the end of each and every day; however, as the years went by, I discovered that the relationship was turning into a bad affair. The attraction that bore such a strong foundation had sadly turned into a love-hate relationship. You may find this hard to believe, but, believe it or not, it was not the hard work, the long hours, or even the enormous corporate demands that ultimately brought an end to this long-time affair. It was you—the shopper—that eventually brought it to its closure. Having said that, I believe it's finally time to voice not only my opinions concerning your shopping habits, but also to have a voice for those who still cannot—at least not without the fear of termination. Shoppers, you need to become informed on just how poor—and many times disgusting—your habits are. For the sake of everyone involved in retail, become informed, break your bad habits, and be proud to be a part of making the retail world a better place to shop—not to mention work. It's time to retaliate. It's time for retail-iation.

Face it, all of us are shoppers always shopping for one thing or another—many times for things we don't even need but must have. The truth is, we simply love to shop. So, shopper, why not show some respect for the places where you choose to make your needed purchases? Seriously, what's your problem? We were all taught at very early ages—and teach our kids—to do the right things, starting with the simplest things, such as wiping your feet before entering, putting things back where they came from, cleaning up behind ourselves, saying thank you. Among all the other things, yes, we were all taught to flush. So shoppers, why do these most basic fundamentals of proper manners not apply when you shop? Let it be said to all of you who display common acts of decency, the utmost thanks and respect go out to you because, unfortunately, you are way, way outnumbered.

The Nature of the Beast

Why and when did it become acceptable for you to be so sloppy, lazy, and—most importantly—obnoxiously rude? When did retailers become so vulnerable that they allow your unacceptable behaviors to become the norm? The nature of the beast applies to every career. In retail, the nature of the beast is that TGIF is about as special as TGIM, TGIT, TGIW, and so on. It's just another day. The nature of the beast also means that holidays, unfortunately, are nothing but headaches accompanied by extended hours. These are just a sample of the norms of retail—accept it or get out of it. However, shoppers today have turned into the beast—and it is unnecessary. One by one, you are making an honest effort to save the earth by using green reusable bags instead of plastic ones. I believe that you can—even one by one—change a population of badly behaved shoppers, but it has to start with you.

Your Eyes Are Bigger than Your Budget: Employees End Up Paying for That

For years, I've been waiting to say, "Put it back yourself." Do you realize that—because of your indecisive minds—retailers now have phrases for cleaning up your messes? Go-backs and put-backs are just part of the list. I say, "Put it back yourself." Who are you to decide the extra jobs of others? No, cleaning up your mess doesn't necessarily fall within anyone's job description—you simply add this hectic task to an already hectic day. I just don't get it. You pick up items—yet when you are checking out—you simply decide that you don't want certain ones. You think nothing of saying, "I don't want these." I want to say to you, "I don't want them either." I just don't get it. Some of you have discovered interesting ways to be assured that your child will behave while you shop. Anything and everything your child may want goes right into the cart, knowing full well that you have no intentions of purchasing them. Without any regard to the store's personnel—and, more importantly, to your child—you leave all of these items at the checkout register. I say, "Shame on you." That is most certainly a pathetic path you have taken to discipline your child.

Most of the time, you don't even wait until you reach the checkout register to display your inability to decide what you want and do not want. Most of the time, you—without thinking anything about it—go through the store and begin remerchandising it, leaving all types of items that you have chosen in all kinds of places—obviously where they do not belong. One word says it all: lazy. You have no regard for the value of an item if you've decided you no longer want it or can afford it. In many cases, you create an astounding amount of waste. I'm here to inform you that frozen and cold foods are just that—frozen or cold—and should remain that way while in a store. If you choose to toss them in your medicine cabinet when you get home, by all means, do so. Otherwise, in a store, leave them be if your eyes are bigger than your budget. Add it up, folks—you all do it. Add up the costs, which, by the way, ultimately fall directly back on you. Whether it is a landfill of go-backs that can go back, or those that must be written-off, the loss due to extra payroll and waste will always end up coming out of your pocket in the end. So if you don't want it, resist it. If you can't resist—but find that you can't purchase it—put it back where you got it. Stop being so lazy—it's not that hard. My suggestion is if you know you shop with your eyes rather than your budget, then make a list and train yourself to not just check it twice, but to stick to it. Stop being a shopping slob and, one by one, a difference can be made. That difference can start with you.

Out of Order

Ban them! Ban all restrooms from the public—at least until members of the public learn to clean up their act. That's all I have to say about that. After all, it is a crappy subject.

Cash Management 101

I've never had a card thrown at me or randomly tossed all over the counter. Cash, however, is a completely different ballgame. You toss your crumbled bills—and your many pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters—all over the place. It makes no sense. You don't like to wait, but your bad action causes a wait—not just for you, but for those behind you. The funny thing is that they have a tendency to do the exact same thing. What is it? What thrill do you achieve? Clearly, there is someone there with an available hand to receive your payment. It is degrading to have to pick up your pennies, nickels, and dimes. It is degrading to unfold your bills. I just don't get it. Do you want your change returned to you in that fashion? It can be done, but someone would lose his or her job. It would please no one more than the person behind the counter that you so degraded to treat you with that fashion of payment. I guarantee you that you would demand his or her termination. Terminate yourself first. No one likes to be treated with such disrespect. I believe that many of you don't even give it a thought; however, you would if it happened to you. Those of you who are control freaks, well, you are understood—not forgiven, but understood. Note that this is not a good thing. Those of you who are germaphobes, well, it's too late—everything has been touched already, including the money you're about to so rudely toss. I know that we will eventually become a cashless society. I also know that it will not be soon enough.

Blinded by the Light

Wow! Who knew that register lights serve a purpose? In most places, the days of people leaning on their register, cleaning out their fingernails while smacking on a piece of Juicy Fruit gum are long over. Multitasking is the name of the game. Companies get more bang for their buck with one person doing the job of two—and many times three or more. Simply said, that is how it is. So, stop with the "duh, where do I check out?" look and go to a register with a light on. One of the most ridiculous questions I've ever heard is "Is there someone to check me out?" So many times I've wanted to say, "No not today—we're too busy." Seriously, what do you think? The registers have lights so that you know where to check out—regardless of whether someone is waiting there. The registers are being watched by those assigned to them in addition to their other tasks.

Multitasking is becoming more popular; the concept has proven to be successful without sacrificing the top priority: quality customer service.This may not be true for all, but I will stick my neck out and say that I do believe it is true for most. Also, there is no need to yell, "Hello" or bang on the register. It's especially funny, however, when you're not even at one that is running. We get a good—maybe cheap—laugh out of that. You make fools of yourselves when you do things of this nature. You simply need to understand that—in between customers—everyone is required to be productive in other ways. Quality customer service is the top priority and can be achieved while simultaneously achieving other tasks that ultimately benefit you, the shopper. So stop making fools of yourselves—dive right in, take a chance, risk it all, and simply go to the damn light. It works like magic.

Blinded by the Light? You Can Find a Line in the Dark

Ah, the dreaded line. You know where to check out, but what do you do? You bitch about it. Drive-through lines, traffic lines, theater lines, and of course, the most dreaded of all—lines on your face—all occur. How many long traffic lights have you sat through only to sit longer because of those in front of you? Lines occur every day. They occur everywhere. Accept it—and get over it. You don't abandon your vehicle if you get stuck in a long line of traffic, but you most definitely will abandon your shopping cart if the mood strikes. If you choose to continue in the line, you grunt, you huff and puff, you do everything but blow the house down. Take a pill—lines happen. They happen for so many reasons and, believe it or not, the retailer dislikes them much more than you do.

Lines occur for too many reasons to count, and, no, they are not pleasant to be in—unless you get to know your neighbor. People do call out for their shift for various reasons: they have to (per OSHA) take their well-deserved breaks, technology sometimes fails, and many times you're not ready with your payment. You know you have to pay for your purchase and have waited in line, but you wait until the last minute to realize that your money is in the car. So many times you—the shopper, the one complaining about waiting—create an even longer line by simply not being ready. However, it's okay then because it's all about you. In a perfect world, there would always be people on the bench to back up any shortages of help whenever needed. In the real world, however, that doesn't happen. There is no payroll budget big enough to accommodate a second string of players to get into the game.

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank someone I don't even know—and, sadly, she will probably never know it. I can't even remember if it was a Christmas Eve or a rare snowy morning, but I was in the store by myself because of an unusual circumstance: call-outs. As manager, you have to drop everything and do what first and foremost has to be done. You open up and tend to your customers at checkout; you cannot afford to be anywhere else or do anything else. My line grew—and continued to grow—no matter how good or fast I was. In keeping with courteous customer service, I was working as swiftly as possible to keep the line moving. Someone happened to overhear me say that I hadn't even had my coffee. No more than fifteen minutes had passed before a cup of McDonald's coffee was handed to me. Someone said, "Heard you hadn't had your coffee." This was many years ago, but it hasn't been forgotten. To this day, that still remains one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had—not because of where it came from, but from the kindness it stemmed from. No one likes to wait in a line, but because many times they are inevitable, show some restraint, accept it, and move on. There are worse things.

The Gender Gap in Shopping

Yes, there actually is a noticeable difference in the way men and women shop. Males, without a doubt, make better shoppers. If there is not a list in their hand, there's at least one in their head. They still possess the common tendency to buy on impulse while shopping. If they pick it up, it's in the bag. Ladies, you could learn a thing or two by observing their technique. They tend to be direct, meticulous, and definitely methodic. Women, on the other hand, don't seem to possess quite the same amount of finesse. List or no list, women always seem to be questioning their choice of purchases. I guess that's where a woman's prerogative comes into play. Guys, you get the thumbs-up from me for shopping with a sense of style.

Can You Hear Me Now?

You ask, "Can you hear me?" How can I when you're busy yapping away on your cell at check-out? Rude, rude, rude, rude, and more rude. Just in case you don't know by now, allow me—it's rude. You should only shop in stores that provide self check-outs. I've often had the urge to pick up the register phone, or even better yet, pull out my cell and make a casual, random call while checking you out, but I could never allow myself to stoop to such a low level—you know, your level.

Wow ... Free Day Care

First and foremost, we are not your babysitters. Our job description includes many tasks and requires many talents, but child care is most definitely not one of them. Seriously, you drop your kids off and then proceed to shop in other places that your kids might not be so enthusiastic about. If they run wild and you're not around, we suddenly become guardians.

There are times that you have to pick them up from school because of illness—whether it is chicken pox, strep throat, or head lice. What do you do? You bring them with you to do your shopping. It makes no sense—at least not to me. The reasons are quite obvious why they have been sent home from school. It may sound cruel, but retailers should be able to do the very same thing. Take them home—that's where they belong. By the way, when you're sick, you also need to stay home and stop spreading your nasty germs all over the place.

As for healthy kids, they run around opening toys and playing with them while you're around. The funny thing is, you don't feel as if you should pay for them because you didn't tell them that they could have them. Your kid just made a sellable product unsellable, yet you don't think that you should have to pay for it—ridiculous. This brings to mind a phrase that has stuck with me throughout the years: bad action. I heard this phrase from a customer and use it sometimes to this day, but usually in a sarcastic fashion. This woman's kid was a tyrant who tore up everything within sight and reach. In her modern-day method of parenting, she said, "Bad action." By the time I was finished tallying up the losses incurred, she really didn't care for her bad-action bill.

We shouldn't have to be the ones stopping your kids from running throughout the store, throwing footballs down the aisles, kicking balls, spraying crazy string everywhere, and the list goes on. All in all, these kids belong to you—not the store. Stop expecting us to raise them.


Excerpted from RETAIL-iation by Donna R. Summerlin Copyright © 2011 by Donna R. Summerlin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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