Retail therapy: Horror stories from the retail front

Every sales person knows them: customers who want to make your life hell. Sure, there are days when everything works out, and even the most stressful regular who is all problems and drama finds something so that the commission puts a smile on your face for the rest of day that for once is only parly fake. But those days are the exception.

Most days on the shop floor are rather those when customers try to return a sweater that is 25 years old, or pull out their size from the middle of a neat pile of freshly folded jeans, without worrying about keeping the pile intact. To work in retail or in customer service and to remain friendly, and helpful can sometimes be a real challenge but often, there's also reason to chuckle. FashionUnited have gathered a collection of anecdotes that are based on actual situations with customers.

The customer is always right

This has to be the meanest rule of them all and has probably been thought up by Lucifer himself. Of course we all know that the customer is not really always right but that is obviously irrelevant beause THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. So that means smiling, nodding and trying not to lose faith in humanity in the meantime. Even when a customers throws items of clothing at you or you are trying to decipher for half an hour, which label he or she is trying to pronounce. And accuses you of not knowing your merchandise. And even when a customer lines up behind a row of mannequins, put near the entrance for decoration, and complains why the check-out line is not moving.

Retail therapy: Horror stories from the retail front

Do you work here?

Oh, how many passive-aggressive answers would come to mind upon hearing this question! "No, I'm on my way to a convention of sales associates in uniform" for example, but unfortunately, that's not an option. Instead, it has to be "Yes, how may I help you?".

Remaining polite, always

In college, I worked for a luxury fashion house in Munich on Maximilianstraße. Apart from being a lousy sales person – which is why I lasted only three months on the job – at size 38, I was apparently too fat for the company uniforms, which had been tailored in Italy. Thus, I was standing on the shop floor of a high fashion boutique in cheap black clothes and shoes. Eight hours in heels – no leaning – for 8 euros an hour plus commission were good training for me in terms of insights into the human psyche and some self-awereness.

Smile, nod, lie

I learned in particular that in the glitzy world of retail, smiling, nodding and lying in a friendly but firm manner are all that matters. Be it when the female relatives of an extended Arab family who have occupied all changing rooms squeeze themselves into the tightest clothes ever made or the last customer one minute before closing cannot decide which colour of key chain he likes better or when the sugar daddy wants to quickly disappear into the changing room with his 21-year-old model girl-friend. No, the first rule is: remain friendly and keep a firm eye on the commission.

How do I look?

This question gets covered again and again in training, however, sometimes there are just no right answers (especially when one still has a conscience). Once, a quite aged lady who was not ready to admit her own transience, tried on a dress with a striking plunging neckline in the back. She was very slim and the sagging skin on her back was no sight that one could sugarcoat. As much as I support a positive body image - in my opinion, everyone should be allowed to wear what they want - this revealing back could not be supported. She was not responsive to my suggestion that "we have a very nice (meaning high-necked) evening gown that I can picture you in very well". The commission I made on this plunging neckline eventually helped in overcoming my bad conscience.

Customer service does not fare any better

Drawing from their collection of 'customer requests from hell', a German fashion company put together a few anecdotes. The funniest example: "I have bought a dress, which I was planning to wear for my engagement. Now my engagement has been cancelled at short notice, for personal reasons. Since then, I have kept the dress in the closet of my one room apartment. I am a smoker and in a one room apartment, it is hard to prevent the smoke from entering every crevice. Today, I wanted to return the dress because as I mentioned, the engagement was called off. And I mean, what to do with a 145-euro-dress if I can't wear it without being reminded of this horrible situation. In any case, the lady did not want to take it back because it smells of smoke?! She did not want to concede and persisted she won't take it back because it smells of smoke. My question to you: how can I proceed from here? I don't want the dress near me any more. Please help me."

Retail therapy: Horror stories from the retail front

Real friends are priceless

Convincing a customer to make a purchase is trying at times but not when something is not for sale. For example in this situation: "I have a special request: my girl-friend was in Australia to learn wave boarding and is very enthusiastic about it. She would like to decorate her apartment with such a board. During my last visit, I noticed your decoration (surfboards) for the latest collection. So my question is: would it by possible to buy one of them after the collection gets changed?"

Even this request requires immediate help: "I hope someone can help me. Today I passed by the store and in the window display were large photos of Alexa Chung! My girl-friend is totally crazy for her! Now my question is if I could have the possibility of buying one of them once the campaign is over? That would be awesome! My girl-friend would be exstatic with joy!"

Superheroes in brand uniforms

Sure, we all complain about our job at times. But do you even know how lucky you are? Other people pay a lot of money to practice inner peace and tranquility. You are getting it for free, no, even better, you are getting paid for it. Just look at it as meditation practice. After all, the great thing is: never mind what customers have in store for you today – you know you can handle it. You are a superhero in brand uniform!

Illustration: Studio Iva (IGM: studio_iva)

Originally written by Barbara Russ for FashionUnited DE; translated for FashionUnited UK by Simone Preuss.

Retail therapy: Horror stories from the retail front For all reads on on the theme, click here.
 

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