Which brings me to today... My Big Fat Retail Gripe session.
For those of you who don't enjoy gripes...retail...gripes about retail...turn back now. Also, if you are easily offended about your buying habits, save your hate mail and just click elsewhere. How about watching cat videos? I hear people like those. I'm sure there's a Kardashian doing something inane somewhere.
To the griping...
Black FridayI have an apathy/hate relationship with Black Friday. Way back in the long, long ago - as my good friend, Velma Nightshade, would say - I used to have fun working the opening shift on Black Friday. I didn't necessarily want to be there that early, but it ended up being an entertaining shift that was over before I knew it. As my years in retail have gone on, and I've stopped working at big box stores, Black Friday is less of a crazy free-for-all insanity rush to get a $6 flat screen television (and hours upon hours of entertainment for me watching people act like absolute idiots for a few hours, running around like they had a moral imperative to buy as much sale crap as possible) and more of a general bitch fest from customers.
In fact... generally speaking, the entire holiday season has turned into a giant bitch fest from customers.
Why wasn't our sale bigger? Why aren't we doing the sale that that other store is doing? Don't you all have more people to run the registers? So what that you only have 3 registers and they're all in use? Don't you have a spare register? That's what they do at Big Box Retailer, they bring out these temporary registers. Can't you do that? Why can't you just sell it to me here with an iPhone scanner or something? Why don't you have more stock? You all should be better prepared next year.
Something that our corporate office is just tuning in to is that people aren't buying gifts on Black Friday anymore. They're buying for themselves. Why do people camp out all day and night, spending Thanksgiving on a sidewalk in front of Best Buy? It's not to get cousin Norman a new TV, it's to get themselves a new TV. It's to get a new TV for $100. It's because this economy is absolute gutter trash right now, and the only way many people can afford nice things is to give in to the ridiculous demands of retailers. But...they're not shopping for other people anymore. That's reserved for online business.
This, folks, is why retailers all around the country are now making Black Friday into Black Thursday - also known as the Non-Thanksgiving - or Black Wednesday - or Black Friday Week. (We did this, and I hate us/me for it.) For us retail drones, we're guaranteed 2 holidays off a year: Christmas and Thanksgiving. I might not be able to travel to Texas to see my family for either one, but I can count on spending a full day with Partner and our makeshift family here on both of those days. Not anymore.
Increased Big Box business combined with massive upticks in online ordering have now forced businesses to remain open on Thanksgiving if they have any hope of meeting the massive and uncompromising demands of corporate, and many are opening on Christmas as well. What they fail to realize is that there's only so much money out there. It's not that people aren't spending, it's that they're not spending in stores that aren't offering a 50" television for $6.
And what the customer fails to realize is that Black Friday deals are a myth. They're bologna. One of a few things is happening when you get a Black Friday deal:
- You are getting an off-brand item that is incredibly cheap, poorly made, and will probably break on you within a year - at which time you'll go out, camp in line, and forego another Thanksgiving to get another crappy television to last you through the next year. You're not getting the nice, new Sony television, or even last year's model for the ridiculously low price. You're getting an off-brand, generic model from 3+ years ago that's been bought in bulk and sold at a profit. Oh yeah...that company is still making a big profit off that item...which should tell you something about the real cost of things.
- You're wasting your time. Companies want to make money, and the Christmas season - which starts in September for some retailers - is the biggest time of year to make said moolah. I know for a fact that our Black Friday sale wasn't even as good as the sale we had the day after Black Friday. We actually increased our percentage off to draw in what is typically low business for Saturday. I can almost guarantee that our sale this coming weekend will be even lower than Black Friday by 10%. See, all year round you can get ridiculous deals. And every weekend from now until Christmas, you're going to get just as good, if not better, a deal as Black Friday. The only reason you think it's not true is because of the $6 TV or the $5 for 40 DVD deal or whatever.
- You're still paying more than if you bought it online. Hey, I want to keep my job. I like having a paycheck. But, I'll be honest. The absolute best deals are online, and right now they all have free shipping. They have no storefronts, nor do they have as many employees to pay, so their prices are much, much, much lower. If you have no computer skills, find someone who does and have them order for you. (Also, ask yourself how you're reading a blog if you don't know how to use a computer.)
CharitiesI love charities. I recommend giving to a charity if you can afford it. Even a donation of $1 can go a long way to doing good through a charity. But, I have a real problem with the way retailers handle charitable giving. Some force their employees to give a percentage of their paycheck to a charity. Others, like my employer, pledge to give a certain amount (let's say, hypothetically, over $4 million). The problem is that the money has to come from somewhere, which is where the store employees come in. We have to try to guilt as many people out of their money as possible in order to help cover the check that our overzealous overlords wrote.
My issue comes in that when we can't seem to get enough donations, our overlords come down on us...hard. We have to go on conference calls and get snide emails and get put on lists of "the underperforming stores" and get shamed because we can't seem to coax money out of people's pockets for a charity we may or may not care about. It's like police departments that have quotas. (Did you know that this was a thing?) If an officer is supposed to write 100 tickets in a month, you want to make sure you're not anywhere close to speeding in that final week, because you will most definitely get a ticket. Beginning of the month? Pretend like you're on some German freeway.
The point is that quotas, guarantees, pledges...they force an imbalanced approach to the situation. I don't mind asking if someone wants to give to a charity during the holidays, but I shouldn't be told by the upper echelons of my company that I should continue to ask, and continue and continue until the person is obviously upset. I'm also supposed to ask them to sign up for a credit card and pay for shipping, gift wrapping, and do an intra-district order for them... I don't want to add one more thing to the cashier's task list.
I love charities. But, I wish they realized what retailers put their store level employees through in order to get the big donations they receive. I've had discussions in which it sounded like my job might be in jeopardy if I didn't get enough donations...that isn't really the spirit of giving, is it.
Goal SettingI don't have much to say in this category except...
IF WE DIDN'T MAKE THE GOAL LAST YEAR, OR ANYTIME IN THE LAST 5 YEARS, CAN YOU QUIT RAISING THE GOALS EVERY YEAR AND BERATING US FOR NOT REACHING THEM? MAYBE THE DAMN GOALS ARE TOO HIGH FOR THIS STORE IN THIS AREA AND THIS MARKET, YOU DIPSHITS WITH THE CALCULATORS AT CORPORATE!
There... I feel better.
The CustomersPeople. People are interesting. They're funny, fascinating creatures, and I love studying them. Woohoo Sociology and all that. But, there's an disgusting thing that happens in service industries. The busier it gets, the less customers see employees as human. You know, with feelings and families and lives and such. We're just the moron who isn't moving fast enough or dared to get your order wrong or had the audacity to be out of stock of the item you wanted. We're the ones who wrote the return policy that states you can't return your shirt from 8 months ago that you just spilled bleach on last week, and we're the ones saying you can't get any more discounts just because you think you should.
We're the people standing in the way of you getting everything for free. But, dammit if you don't try and get it by shouting at or belittling us.
Listen, the holidays happen to all of us. We're tired, too. I understand you had a long day at work, and that's why you're using the fact that I'm not going to give you a return on the coat you bought 3 years ago
Personal note: for the last 2 months, about 1/3 of my time has been for free or nearly free at work. Awesome.
So, I urge you, if you're not in a good mood, please just buy online. Please. I don't want to have to be treated to another 30 minute yelling session like the one I got yesterday from the woman who wanted to return her birthday present from last September, using a gift receipt, but wasn't getting back as much credit as she thought she should have gotten - despite the fact that the gift receipt doesn't show prices....and she cannot possibly know how much she was supposed to get back.
One Last ThingFOR THE LOVE OF ALL THE GODS, PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU GOT IT.
Whatever it is. Whatever store it is. Could you just put it back where you got it, in the manner in which you got it. If I came to your place of work and threw your files around, turned over your water cooler, and placed all your chairs sideways...wouldn't you be upset about putting all those things back? Wouldn't it be nice if you realized coming in to my store and absolutely demolishing it is THE SAME EXACT THING?!
Also...allow me to blow your mind for a moment: THE BACK ROOM IS A MYTH!!! I don't have an endless Wonderland of merchandise in the back room, especially during the holidays! I might have a tiny amount of excess sizes in merchandise that's overflowing off a table, or things like spare parts or something in the back, but stop getting upset because we don't have it "in the back". Unless you're a big box retailer, your back room is just big enough for a tiny bit of overflow, a criminally small break area, an office, and a place to send and receive shipment. Many times, all of that is the same space with a computer sitting on top of a refrigerator with a microwave on a shelf above next to a stack of ready-to-assemble boxes.
So...yeah...nothing is in the back room. You know what we do when you insist on us checking? We go to the back and check our phones or drink some coffee. Many times that's my "Excedrin break", because you're giving me a headache.
Retail Rioters, feel free to add your own gripes in the comments section. I'm sure there are many.
Love and Lyte,