Top Ten Annoying Things; or, Stop Doing This in My Store Or I’ll Run Screaming Into the Night

Phone Call #1 (Completed)

Usually, like 99.99% of the time, if we answer the phone, it means we’re open. Don’t ask the dumb question.

I was recently inspired by a post I shared on the Facebook page about things that really annoy retail employees, and it’s pretty spot-on. But it got me thinking: What are my biggest Shopper pet peeves? I have never actually listed them out before, so this was really interesting. Let’s start from the bottom, shall we?

10. MONEY HANDLING

In general, currency is interesting but ridiculously disgusting. If you don’t believe so, think about how many people touch a coin in the course of its life. Yeah, all those germs just hang around on there.

Yeah. Nasty.

So, we’re not starting from a great point. Throw in some summer heat and humidity and you might as well be wearing a hazmat suit.

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Beyond that, there’s customers just being mindless asses in regard to paying. From just setting it all down on the counter, as opposed to actually handing it to you, like a normal, considerate person, to flinging it at you, my personal favorite, Shoppers are fucking horrendous when it comes to money handling. As with all things the Shopper does, it’s truly remarkable.

9. DISCOUNTS

Shoppers beg for discounts so often, you’d believe they were destitute. In my industry, it’s understandable, as aviation is incredibly expensive across the board, but it’s still vexing to hear them ask for discounts constantly. No, you don’t get a student discount here. Our own students don’t get a student discount here. You know who does? Military and staff. That’s it. And do you know how much military gets? 10%. Let me spell that out for you, Shopper. That’s sales tax plus a little extra. I know, every little bit counts, but it makes you into a little beggar, and we hate listening to it, especially when we’re bound by this little thing called “Store Policy”.

8. GROUPS

I’ll admit that this is a slightly specific thing, but I always find it weird when a small herd of Shoppers comes into the shop and only one of them buys something. It’s nothing bad; it’s just…weird.

7. BACKORDER/OUT OF STOCK

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C’mon, Pete. You know they don’t read things.

This is something that will always amaze me. It’s one of the simplest concepts in the service industry, and it’s basic economics: Supply and demand. Especially in a small business setting, supply and demand is carefully watched and regularly adjusted. So, when demand suddenly takes an unexpected upswing, supply depletes. It happens from time to time; demand for certain items comes in irregular waves.

The bottom line here is: Things sometimes run out of stock, and then it takes a while to get them back in stock. Sometimes, demand rises and stays steady that it takes a while for stock levels to adjust to them fully.

We had an issue along those lines with a brand of headsets. They introduced a new line of headsets to compete with one of the best selling headsets on the market but at a much lower price. They were an instant success. So much so that every time I went to order more, I had at least a three week backorder from the manufacturer, which never went over well with Shoppers seeking out these hot headsets. There was always a groan and then the begging began, in the hope that I’d know who might have one in stock. Here’s the answer I always give to that one: I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you to go to a competitor, especially when that’s not my job and you’re perfectly capable of seeking it out yourself. Beyond that, I don’t know which stores have what stock on which item. You want it bad enough? Call around. It’s not hard.

That brings me to another thing: Backorder. I know there are some people in the world who don’t know what “backordered” means, so I explain it to them by telling them, “I’m not sure when I’ll get it.” The funny thing is the follow-up question I always get: “Will it be in tomorrow?” Seriously, what part of what I just said made any indication that I would be getting it in tomorrow? Yes, there’s a possibility, but that possibility is so minuscule, it’s not even worth entertaining. If it’s on backorder, it’s probably going to be a while, i.e. weeks. Usually, when an order ships, I receive a confirmation telling me when I can expect delivery. If I don’t have that, it’s not going to be in tomorrow. Otherwise, I’d have said so.

This is getting into one of my bigger pet peeves, though, so I’m going to end this topic here and move on.

6. PRICE

“Wow! This is pretty expensive!” Lemme tell you how much I love hearing this one. I don’t. It’s hot garbage, and I’ll tell you why: This is aviation. Everything is expensive, from training to supplies to maintenance. It’s all expensive. Please, the sooner you learn this and process this, the sooner we can all move on and cease this vexing line of discussion.

Here’s the other kicker: We’re not expensive. In fact, most of our pricing is set at the MSRP. You wanna complain about it? Go to the manufacturer and let your whining fall on their deaf ears. And actually, a few of our distributors force us to sign agreements to sell their products at a price no lower than the price they have set. That’s where we price our items, so don’t complain to me about it.

5. RETURNS

This is not to say that all returns are bad and annoying. I get it; sometimes, a purchase just doesn’t work out. My problem rests with the Shoppers who feel that any return is an acceptable return. It’s not. On the bottom of every receipt is printed our return guidelines, which must be made within thirty days of purchase and must be accompanied by the original receipt, original, undamaged packaging, and if it was a credit card, the original card used to make the purchase. These are basic, simple guidelines. So, why is this so hard?

Too often, it’s either damaged packaging or outside of the return window or without the receipt or without the credit card. Something is always wrong. Item-for-item swaps are different and simple when their prices are the same. Sure, you can swap out a chart for another one. I’m still going to think you’re an idiot because you don’t know where the hell you’re flying, but it’s a harmless and easily corrected mistake.

But if you want your money back and expect me to make an exception for you? Nah, piss off. Store Policy is the law around here, and I’m not going to risk my boss coming in and holding me responsible for something that I did that was against that policy. I may not like my job, but I do like the income it provides. So, read the receipt and don’t expect me to bend the rules for you.

4. CLEANLINESS

This is a big, overarching one. When I say “cleanliness”, I mean everything along those lines: Personal hygiene, misplaced items, leaving trash in the store, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through the shop and found an item placed literally one hook away from its rightful spot. What. The fuck. Even. Is. That?! How do you do that? Honestly, someone tell me how that’s possible. It’s one hook away. It does not take that much brainpower to look at the item, look at the wall, and place it on the correct hook. Nor is it so hard to replace a hook in the wall that you moronically pulled out of the wall because you have the motor skills of a five year-old. (Sorry. That was a big insult to five year-olds, who are not that bad in eye-hand coordination. My apologies.)

Beyond that, how do you not smell your own stench when you just reek? I know I do, and you know what it does? It embarrasses the hell out of me to the point that I just want to get home and shower as soon as possible. Also, don’t wipe your nose and then hand me something. Or leave your fucking latte cup sitting around. Or track mud into the store. Or let your little spawn wreck my shop.

All of these things are just examples of the larger issue of Shoppers being so inconsiderate of other people, so uncouth, that you wonder how they’ve survived this long in the world without incident.

3. BAD JOKES

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Yeah, smile. That’ll help…

“Doesn’t scan? Must be free!”

“I printed them this morning!”

“Working hard or hardly working?”

“You look like you need something to do!”

If you’ve ever thought any of these were funny, or have ever said them to a retail worker, please, never do it again. None of these jokes are original or funny or good. We HATE them so much that we might put our heads through the front window out of pure insanity.

You know what we do enjoy? Actual, pleasant, genuine conversation. Don’t lead with the “I’m sorry you have to work today” or anything like that. Just a “How’s your day been?” and go from there. How easy is that? Just act like you give a crap and acknowledge us as human fucking beings for a hot minute. We’re not automatons installed to serve your every whim and take all your abuse with gentle grace. We’re living beings with feelings. Just act like that’s a thing that matters to you, and go from there.

Just, please, no tired old jokes. They’re worse than dad jokes.

2. READING

The top two slots on this list were neck-and-neck, really, but this one is slightly less annoying than #1.

We are taught from an early age of the importance of reading. If there is a skill you use literally every single day, it’s reading. You read signs on the roadway; you read instructions on food packets; you read articles on your phone; you read everywhere. When you come into my shop, you’re bombarded by reading opportunities. I’ll list them in order of appearance: Hours of operation, Open/Closed, “Please, Use Other Door”, item names, item descriptions, prices, sale racks, total due, receipt, return policy. How much of that do my Shoppers read? I’d say around 20%. I’m not kidding. It’s that low.

I constantly get questions, from Shoppers in the store, about our hours, our return policy, how much this item costs, or where they can find that item. It’s maddening because it’s all so simple. You use your eyes to take in the information and then your brain makes sense of it and moves your muscles accordingly. So, if you have a wall of charts, which are alphabetized, figuring out where St. Louis is should not be difficult. Neither should the price tag. There’s one on literally every single product.

Signage is the biggest issue. I honestly don’t know why I waste my time sometimes. I could have the largest “Closed” sign up in the universe, and I would still have Shoppers yank on the locked door. It’s remarkable.

I once had a Shopper, a particularly aloof one, walk up before I had even gotten there (I actually watched him walk into the main building as I parked) and complain to me about his wait:

“Oh, there you are!” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.” (Suuuuuuure you have.)

“Well, we don’t open until ten, so, I just got here.”

“Oh, well, how was I supposed to know that?”

As we approached the front doors of the shop, I pointed out the “hours of operation” sign and informed him that our hours are clearly posted right there and I would be with him in a few minutes to open the shop. When I went to unlock the front doors a few minutes later, he was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure it was embarrassment, but you know what? I really didn’t give a shit at that point. I still stick to the mantra of “I shouldn’t have to hold your hand like you’re a kindergartner.”

1. LISTENING

There is nothing that pisses me off more in the universe than having to repeat myself to a Shopper. I know I’m going to have to, but dammit if it doesn’t just piss me right off when it happens. It’s exacerbated by the fact that it’s usually a response to a question posed to me. How the hell can you ask me a question and then not pay attention to the answer? What the hell is wrong with some people?

I have some customers who make me repeat things THREE TIMES or more. And I know as soon as they walk through the door I’m going to have to do that. And the worst part is it’s usually in concert with #2 on my list, which means they’ve come into my store, turned their brain off, and just decided to let me do everything for them. Not. Fun.

I shouldn’t have to tell you twice the basic specs of a headset if you ask me about them. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice about your total. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice about anything really, especially if you’ve asked me about it.

So, there you have it, my top ten list of infuriating Shopper tendencies. Now, I’m going to go have a burger and a beer and a shower.

-The Retail Explorer

Need; or, Inigo Montoya Calls B.S.

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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

Shirts

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Always say “yes”. It makes a sale and moves them along sooner.

If there’s one item that causes me more headaches than any other, it would be the pilot uniform shirts. “Bane of my existence” really doesn’t begin to describe my loathing for this particular item. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked! It boils down to two basic aspects: 1. There are way too many varieties, and 2. The sizing always causes issues. I. Hate. Dealing. With. These. Shirts.

No one ever knows what they want, and no one ever knows what size they wear. And don’t get me wrong: I absolutely get it. If you’ve never worn an actual dress shirt, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. For those of you who haven’t, here’s a crash course. All of our shirts are by neck size, at half inch increments, unless they’re long sleeved shirts, which are both by neck size, but at one inch increments at the half inch, and sleeve length. There are three different styles, which have slightly different features and fits. Also, they’re available in tall sizes and tapered, but not both, and not in long sleeved. Confused? So am I.

When a customer asks about shirts in the store, my first question is always: “Short or long sleeved?” It really helps narrow it down more than you’d expect. Then comes the big question that never gets a straight answer: “Which size?” Deer in the headlights 90% of the time, and that’s no exaggeration. Really, in my experience, that’s par for the course with any item in my shop. Normally, the answer I receive is a prolonged “uhhhh…” but occasionally I’ll get some interesting ones. The other week, I had a customer come in looking for a shirt. I asked him which size he needed. His response? “My size.” Shoot me in the face with a bazooka. Please.

The eventual answer I get is, “I don’t know.” That’s fine, so I simplify: “What size do you normally wear in shirts? (Small, medium, etc.)” When you get an “uhhh” there, then you can begin worrying about that person and their ability to function properly as a human being. When you know the general shirt size, you can narrow it down from there. It just becomes a trial and error situation.

Minivan Moron was my most recent fly-in-the-ointment. He came in one week to try on some shirts and order a bunch of them. After going in circles for a few minutes, we finally land at a size 18.5. (He’s a big dude.) However, he feels the 18.5 is too baggy (because it is; that’s a lot of fabric), and the neck of the 18 is just a little bit too tight. So, we suggest the 18.5 tapered. We order them, and he returns to try them on. He thinks the tapered ones are too short (they’re half an inch shorter than the regular cut), and he’s worried about having to tuck in his tail all the time, while I’m honestly seeing no contest between tucking in my shirt constantly and looking like a fucking blimp all day long, but whatever, they’re not my shirts, and I no longer gave a crap.

So, we ordered the eleven shirts and told him that if they were here by Friday, they’d be waiting here for him to pick up on Sunday. Spoiler alert: They didn’t arrive by Friday. Come to find out Monday morning, he had raised a stink, saying he had an appointment with me for Sunday and a whole bunch of other nonsense. Go figure.

The bottom line is I get more trouble from these shirts, and I get more pushback from customers here than on anything else in the store. I mean, what do I know? I just stare at them all day and fit people in them and fold them (Oh, god, the folding!) and repackage them. Every. Single. Day.

What do I know? I just work here.

-The Retail Explorer