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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tales from a Mall

So we spent the better part of Saturday wrapping up our Christmas shopping.

And while trudging like an angry child behind my wife as she speed-walked from store to store, I realized something about retail employees: After a while they become like the products they sell.

You know how they say husbands and wives start to look like each other after so many years of marriage? It's sort of like that.

It's also similar to bank teller syndrome, where the tellers give you attitude as though you've asked them to give you their personal money.

Seriously, we went into a couple of low rent stores, and the clerks behaved as though they couldn't care less about the product or selling it. They were like the Clerks. And we went into high end stores - an even worse experience, in my opinion - and the clerks were haughty and, like the bank tellers, acted like we were invading their space and taking from their home wardrobes by trying to buy stuff. And not to be a snot, but I couldn't help but think that the employees at both types of stores were probably in similar financial boats. So why the difference in 'tudes?

Weird phenomenon to me. Maybe it just meant the more valuable the product the more pride the employees took in their jobs. Likewise for the cheaper products and non-existent pride of those employees.

There may be something to this. In high school we were forced starting in my senior year to wear uniforms. Every student protested vehemently. But when were finally in our khakis, blue blazers, and Dead Poets Society neckties I have to admit we stood up straighter, held our heads higher and walked with a little more pep. And though my buddies and I would never have admitted it to the faculty, it was all 'cause we felt more high class ('cause our uniforms were more respectable than our "civilian" threads), silly as that might have been.

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  • you bank at the w.r.o.n.g bank.
    ..... we, who only put our money in checking/savings/ and if we are lucky a few CD's, are peons.
    Banks make their money on the loans, especially commercial loans.

    So, they just put up with us so they can use our money to make money.

    I feel sorry for the retail clerks at Christmas time. I'm sure they don't make enough money to put up with some of the shoppers I've seen.

    Not you or me, of course. {;

    By Blogger Pamela, at 1:48 AM  

  • Your theory makes a lot of sense James. Just look at the people who work in book stores at the mall, those employees almost always wear glasses. Or how about all the Goths that work at coffee shops? Yeah, we are a completely brain washed society.

    By Blogger captain corky, at 3:02 AM  

  • It's all in how you're treated. For each story you can post stating the service matches the goods, someone can recite a story where the opposite is true. Love Walmart or hate it, I've heard that as a whole, Walmart employees are amongst the most satisfied in their profession, and they credit management for that. Are there disgruntled Wally World workers? Of course! But I believe that your observation of a connection between value and customer service may be coincidence in some cases.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 7:40 AM  

  • You are a brave man to go into those high-end stores. I've never managed it, especially high-end-feminine-apparel stores. I walk in, realize that I'm in a crowd of South-Beach-Diet-starved women with higher credit limits than myself who are ready to snap at any time, and hightail it out to do my shopping on the internet.

    I'm a coward.

    Hope you got your shopping done so you don't have to take another foray into the retail jungle.

    By Blogger QofD, at 12:57 PM  

  • Invitation to comment on my 100th post.

    By Blogger lavender, at 3:00 PM  

  • i hate malls. I suffer them occasionally because I do like to shop. I haven't been to the mall yet for Christmas season. I'm scared...all those people pushing and shoving to make their way...ugh

    Interesting about the high end and low end...I thought the high end stores made commission, which you would think would make them be nice to people, but apparently not. And the low end...what do they care? they get paid the same either way. Sad...

    By Blogger Claudia, at 3:39 PM  

  • It is weird. I didn't see this in every store. But Claudia, I think you're right about the commission thing. Didn't seem to matter.

    I do feel bad for 'em - not 'cause retail jobs are bad or lowly or anything like that, but 'cause like Pamela said this must be a miserable time of year to have to do a job like that, what with angry, hurried shoppers taking their angst out on you.

    Queen I hate 'em too. I was just doing one of my husbandly duties. And Claudia, when it comes to malls if I'm shopping for me I try to go in knowing exactly what I want and what store to find it in, so I don't have to do any window shopping. I can get in and get out swiftly.

    Captain, you make a good point. Coffee shop clerks do seem to include an inordinately high number of Goths.

    Lavender, I will check out your 100th post.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:14 PM  

  • let me let you in on a little secret, after doin the college student thing while working retail during an xmas season or two, retail is a real bitch.

    it doesnt even pay the bills!!! its barely a lifeline. and what sucks is even though you may be the most respectful AND! respectable client, 99.9% of shoppers are assholes trying to get through the xmas season without killing each other.

    after some of the shit i have been through during the xmas season workin the sales floor, i totally and utterly sympathize. and when they look at you like they are goin to hang themselves in the stock room or that you are completely ruined their day, i try to crack as many jokes as possible and make them smile. ya know why?

    because they get treated like shit by quite a few shoppers, their bosses, corporate, and everyone else you can think of

    i know you want to be treated well, and i understand that... but cut them some slack. and don't be afraid to call them out on their shitty ass attitudes. my favorite has always been

    "Damn i used to hate working retail during the holidays" then i'de smile. they cant help to smile back because they know i know what its like being stuck at work till way past midnight folding, hanging, and counting products left scattered to the wind by shoppers.

    love them. they need it.

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 4:38 PM  

  • "Husbandly duties"!! Ha ha! Been there. (Today, in fact.) And ya know, the "get in and get out" is the stereotypical guy thing, I hate to admit it. Why do you think they put all the women's stuff in front of the store and all the guy stuff in the back at Sears? So by the time the guy gets all the way back there, buys his stuff and wends back to the front to find his gal, she's gotten a head start and may have actually narrowed down her selections somewhat.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 4:58 PM  

  • James, there appears to be a whole class of people who work these retail jobs from high school and do gravitate toward areas with which they identify. You might think retail workers would pick their places of employment randomly, figuring one lower-wage job's as good as the next, but this is apparently not the case.

    Visiting a high-end men's store recently, one very petite older woman laughed at me for asking about pants w/o pleats (I think you discussed this before). I'm average height w/ broad shoulders and I was informed that "small men" should wear pleats so they don't look smaller. Then she laughed and had to cover her mouth w/ her hand b/c it was so darn funny.

    By Blogger Matt, at 4:59 PM  

  • Yas, I feel you. I worked retail too back in the day. I sold Nine West shoes. It wasn't fun. Kneeling all evening after school helping women squeeze size eight feet into size seven shoes. The worst was when their feet were jacked up. It was like kneeling over an old stale bag of Doritos.

    But that's why I was careful to point out in this post it was just some stores I went in.

    Again, not an indictment of the ones I saw. Just an observation. Seriously, the ones who were selling crap in their stores didn't seem to give a crap. The ones selling gold covered peanuts or whatever it was, they seemed to take a little pride in the gig.

    Maybe I'm way off.

    And yes, Sarc, I'm learning the rules of husband duties during shopping trips, which is why I try as often as possible to shop alone.

    Queen, don't know if I said it before but yours include some of the reasons I too hate the mall.

    And Matt, don't listen to her. It'll give you the illusion of having lady hips.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 7:24 PM  

  • Having done "both sides" on the retail thing - I guess more shoppers need to read your blog, James!

    & that's one of the reasons they have school uniforms.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 4:43 AM  

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