Back to Being My Own Person; or, The Things I Have to Do to Forget About How Big of a Pain in the Ass You Are

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Working in the service industry is remarkably stressful. From dealing with regular duties to putting up with Shoppers all day, decompression is an absolute must. If you do a search for the hashtag “retailproblems”, you’ll get a good idea of the kind of crap we have to put up with on a daily basis. It’s staggering how terrible people can be without giving a damn about anyone else but themselves.

So, relaxation is of utmost importance. Unwinding is critical. Venting is a necessity. Every now and then, you hear comments complaining about how all we do is bitch on Twitter. There’s a phenomenal reason for this: If we said out loud half the things we tweeted about, we’d be fired in a heartbeat. We can be treated like shit, but we can’t return the favor. Fun double standard, isn’t it.

Anyway, when I clock out and pull into my driveway, the first thing I do is change clothes. You’d be surprised just how much that alone can help. Next step, I get out the booze. Usually, it’s a beer (being summer, my current favorite is Lienenkugel’s Summer Shandy), a scotch and soda (yes, I’m secretly an 80 year-old man), or an Arnold Palmer (yes, of course, with vodka; don’t be stupid). After that, I grab a book, followed immediately by my hammock. I then park myself in said hammock and the rest of the world can fade away.

Now, I don’t do this every night, or as often as I’d like, for that matter, but I at least do one or two of these things every night. Finding activities that you enjoy that boost your well being are as important as eating and breathing, because if you can’t let off that steam, you will explode, and it will not be pretty. You don’t want to be the one who ends up on local news for yelling at and strangling a Shopper.

Regardless of how you do it, just take the advice of Jimmy Buffett: Close the world at five and go away. How do you unwind after a hard day?

-The Retail Explorer

Need; or, Inigo Montoya Calls B.S.

Beautiful inigo montoya meme Demystifying Chicken Picking Fretboard Anatomy

It’s because they don’t know what it means.

If I could put my finger on the most overused word in my store, it would be “need”. I hear it every single day, and it is never used correctly. “Need” is defined as “to be in want” or “to require.” It’s simple but always misused. The word has a connotation of importance to it. When you say you need something, you are required to have it; you have to have it. To the Shopper, however, this is not always the case, as “need” is constantly downplayed to something along the lines of “I’m required to have this for my studies, but only if it’s not too expensive.” At that point, “need” becomes “nah,” and I commence with the eye-rolling.

More often than not, I’ll get a phone call looking for a product of which they are in need, or they’ll wander into the shop needing something immediately, only to have them either not collect said item or put it back and not purchase it because they deem it not worthy of the price. If you truly needed the item, you would have picked it up ASAP and purchased it regardless of price.

Now, I get it; people want the best bargain they can find. I can’t blame them for that, but it’s not like they’re getting gouged here and can find these items for half the price we sell them. So, what gives? Why does this keep happening? Here’s my theory.

Part of it is based on circumstances. The bottom line is, and I cannot stress this enough, aviation is expensive. All of it. From training, to maintenance, to management, to ownership, it’s all fucking expensive. Many people come into this field with incredible misconceptions, and they’re shocked when they understand the truth: Everything in aviation is expensive. If you cannot afford to do it, or arrange funding to do it, DON’T DO IT. Aside from instructor fees and plane rental fees and class fees, there’s always supplies to buy.

The other part of it is ego. The Shopper always thinks he can get a better deal elsewhere, and thanks to places like Amazon, that’s often the case. Here’s the bottom line with that though: You may find a better price, but you’ll have to still pay for shipping and then you have to wait for it to arrive. Want it there sooner? Well, then you’ll pay even more. At that point, I want you to stop and think about just how good of a deal you got online and whether or not, all things considered, it’s still worth all that. Or you could come to my store, buy it for our price, and take it home today where you can begin to use it. The choice is the Shopper’s.

Honestly, we don’t give a crap which way you go. We’re just annoyed by the semantics of it all. Don’t come in saying you “need” something only to turn around and not buy it for one reason or another. Why does that get under our skin? Well, we’re taught certain skills as customer service agents, among which is to assist the customer as best we can and with relative urgency. So, when a customer comes in throwing around the word “need”, it signals to us that help should be given because the customer is seeking an item of importance.

Here’s an example. What’s the difference here: “I need a sectional chart for Chicago,” and “I’m looking for a sectional chart for Chicago.” Which sounds more urgent? While both sound equal in requiring an employee’s attention, the use of “need” clearly elevates it. There is the indication that the shopper requires this item for their life to function properly (in this case, for them to be able to fly around the Chicago area without potentially getting fined by the FAA or busted by an examiner on a check ride). Now, if they turn up their nose at the price, and decline to purchase the chart, then you know they’ve lied to you about it. They didn’t need it after all.

And maybe that’s what really annoys me about the use of the word, similarly to how people get annoyed about using “literally” and “figuratively” interchangeably. (If Merriam-Webster says it’s fine, I can deal.) If you tell me you need something, and then you don’t purchase that something, you didn’t need it, so why say that at all? Don’t corner yourself into something and then not do it. It’s grating, disingenuous, and wasteful. All it does is make us want to help you less, because now, we know that you don’t mean what you say, or know what words mean, for that matter. It does one thing for us: It helps cement in our minds that you will not provide us with a good experience.

We don’t forget the customers who give us bad experiences. When we see them coming, we know to brace for the worst. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and if you’re just going to squander that and give us the runaround, that’s what we’ll expect from that point forward. Why should we look at it any other way? Should we be optimistic that it was an aberration and look forward to helping you in the future? Probably, but we’ve all been broken and jaded by a history of customers like you (and much, much worse) that there is no hope for you. Is that a bad attitude to have? Yeah, it is, but we don’t let it affect us; in fact, you’ll never even know the difference. Because we are, after all, professionals. So, choose your words wisely, for they will be used against you in the court of retail public opinion.

-The Retail Explorer

An Open Door; or, I Hate You and Your Stupid Face. Please, Leave Now.

Screw You Face (Completed)

Yeah, there’s usually an pretty decent reason for it.

I will be the first to admit it; working retail, serving the complete morons who patronized my stores, has broken me, and I am jaded. It’s gotten to the point that whenever someone enters the store, my shoulders fall and I groan. I shouldn’t, but I do. Customers are the lifeblood of the service industry, obviously, so I should be glad to see more of them on a daily basis. I’m not, because all customers have the capacity to be an ass, which is when they cease to be customers and morph into Shoppers.

The only reason I can find for my broken spirit is the fact that every time I deal with someone who is allowed to drive but can’t function in my store like an elementary schooler, let alone a fucking adult, I die a little inside. Every time I have to guide someone through an alphabetized store display, every time I have to explain the simplest of signage to someone, every time I have to explain the return policy clearly printed at the bottom of every receipt, I die a little inside.

“Oh, you’re just being dramatic.” Okay, fine. You come walk a grown, capable adult person through a shopping experience like they’re a kindergartner, then do it dozens of times more, and see how you feel at the end of the day. If you’re not ready to launch some of them on a rocket into the sun, you’re far stronger than I. (Of course, this is all cloud talk. I’d never want to harm any of them. Except for maybe Minivan Moron.)

Working at this new job has helped ease this somewhat. I still have to deal with some of the same nimrods I had to endure before (ahem, Minivan Moron), but by-and-large, my clientele here is more intelligent. That’s not to say they’re all bright bulbs, but the general IQ of this herd of Shoppers is far higher than that of the other shop.

Still, the stigma lingers. As soon as I see one of the other flight school students get out of their car and come to the door, I wince, I shudder, I sigh, then I stand up and do my job. I know, I should be patient with them since this is a foreign country to them, and English is a second language to them. Then, I remember that one of the top requirements to become a pilot in this country is you have to know and speak English. I don’t speak to any of them with big words at all, unless they’re aviation terms, which they should fucking know anyway, and I rarely talk with any speed, which is partially because I just assume they have the abilities of a five-year-old when they walk in. (Sorry. That was mean. I apologize for five-year-olds everywhere.) You think ATC has time for you to decipher their commands? Hell, no. Their job depends on them getting everyone arranged as quickly and safely as possible. Remember that scene in Breaking Bad? Yeah, that’s what can happen with a lack of good judgement and expediency.

I make no excuses for it. I have the thought processes of a complete jerk often. So very rarely do I act on them though. It is difficult to get me to react with any anger. It’s not impossible, just incredibly difficult. Even my boss says I’m too nice sometimes. This is my venting space. There is a community of miserable service workers who do the same. We all have to deal with customers who either don’t have the time to be nice (which is bullshit) or the patience (also, bullshit) or the manners (even bigger bullshit), but god forbid we treat them like anything worse than the VIP they feel they are. This king-peasant relationship is complete garbage that has been fostered throughout the previous century and exacerbated further by the internet. “The customer is always right,” is such a damaging mantra because its privileges have been abused for far too long.

I’m not saying a customer should not be treated with respect. They absolutely should, but that’s a two-way street. Give it to get it. We give it, but we don’t often get it. Many Shoppers tend to look at stores and employees as things that can be exploited in some way, either through discounts, freebies, or even a slight bending of the rules. Some think that we’re just out to get them and that we owe them something. And the really crappy part is, sometimes, the store gives it to them.

And that’s why we hate their stupid faces.

-The Retail Explorer