Five Ways Employees Should Act

I just returned from a trip to my local grocery store. The store manager, who has been with the company for thirty years, was at the front of the store greeting customers. The employees who have been working there for the past ten years smiled and said hello as I walked by them. Indeed, most of the people I encountered in the store were quite friendly and pleasant.

Then there were the more recently hired people who work at the store. I walked by one young man who has seen me at least two or three times per week for the past year that he has been working there. I said hello, as I do to everyone who works at the store as I walk the aisles. He responded with little more than a grunt and did not even bother to acknowledge me by looking at me to make eye contact. A few aisles later, a representative of a major beverage company was taking an inventory of his shelf space and completely disregarded my cheerful hello as I walked past him.

I realize that people who are working cannot get their jobs done if they are stopped every three minutes for a conversation, but people who work with the public have to be ready to at least be polite and friendly so that customers feel welcomed and appreciated. That is the most important task of every person who works in retail. Sadly, based on conversations with store managers, it grows ever more difficult to hire young people who have the social skills that retail requires.

Employees who lack social skills will stop me from going to a store. If I am going to offer my cash to a retail establishment, I want to offer it to people I like, even though I know that the money will be headed off to a large corporate parent that is not located in my community. If you own a retail establishment, however big or small, here are the five things that you should require of your employees to help ensure that you keep my business (and the business of anyone who thinks like me):

Be Friendly

A smile and a cheerful hello can very quickly make a patron forget about inconveniences experienced in a store. Cashiers can do their job and still exchange a few pleasantries.

Don’t Be Too Friendly

There is a cashier at my local grocery store who I have avoided for years. I am not alone because it seems that only tourists and newbies visit her checkout line. She shares inappropriate details about her life. She talks far too much and I don’t think any regular customers want to be caught in her conversations. If she were the only cashier, I would turn around and leave the store immediately.

Be Hygienic

Everyone gets coughs and colds but try not to emphasize that to customers, especially when handling their food products. Wiping the tip of one’s nose with a finger and then picking up my jar of olives in order to scan it is just a bit too gross for me.

Don’t Share Your Problems

When a customer asks how you are doing, you are always doing well. Remember that. Customers have their own problems and unless your customers are also your friends — your close friends — you do not need to dump your problems on them.

Be Knowledgeable

If you work at a store, take the time to learn about the merchandise, especially where it is located. Know what is on sale.

Offer to help customers who look confused

Employees are not ornamental. They are there to help customers and employees who do not know about the products sold will be of little help!

What do you look for in the employees of the stores in which you shop? If you work in a store, what frustrates you about your co-workers?

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10 Responses to Five Ways Employees Should Act

  1. Annie Jones says:

    All your points are valid, but it’s the second one that hits home with me. A sales clerk or waiter/waitress who is too chatty is a big turn-off for me.

    Also, an employee, shop-owner or even someone holding a garage sale who tries too hard to push merchandise and/or up-sell will cause me to turn around and leave.

  2. Ann says:

    Annie semi-mentioned one point that turns me off — being too helpful/in-your-face.

    When I was a teen, I worked in a clothing store during the summer. I’d been there about 6 weeks, when someone came in from corporate to “observe” us. Two things about this job and my behavior — we received a slight commission and I would say hello and tell anyone that, if they had a question or needed my help, just let me know and would be in their sight but not their face until they indicated they wanted me.

    This lady from corporate told me that I needed to constantly be at my customers’ sides suggesting and pushing. I told her to look at the commission records — I earned twice as much commission as the other two full-time people… who had been trained by corporate.

    I’ll walk out of a store, if a sales person is constantly bugging me or suggesting something to me, when I’ve indicated I’m just browsing.

  3. Great post! I agree! Loved your comment about employees not being “ornaments”. I hate it when employees act like they are doing me a favor just for doing their job (and poorly at that). I’ve worked as a secret shopper in the past and you would not believe how hard it is sometimes to fulfill my requirements for the assignment because of employees who act like I’m NOT THERE! Too bad it is a no-no to write in a report: “Apparently, the employeed was blind, deaf, mute, and grumpy!”

    On the other hand, DH and I ran into a cashier at Walmart that was absolutely wonderful. (I know – REMARKABLE!). I don’t recall ever meeting her before, but DH said he remembers her from the entire time we’ve lived here (6 years) and she is always like that. She was nice, friendly, funny, and an excellent bagger. She took EXTRA care with our groceries. Wow!

    There’s one particular store here that I love to go to because the employees are friendly and always say “Merry Christmas” during the holidays and “Have a blessed day!” any other time of year. That may not be everyone’s thing, but *I* do appreciate it.

  4. Bben says:

    I don’t work in retail, but in an industrial service company. My boss requires us to be friendly at work, not just to customers we meet with during our work, but with any competitors we run into. He says you never know when you may need a favor. We also have a live receptionist to answer the phone. And if she is not there someone else answers so anyone who calls will first talk to a live human who sounds like they really want their business – It works. Customers are not an imposition, they pay our salary.

  5. Jaime says:

    One thing to remember also is to give people the benefit of the doubt – customers and employees. The employees or merchandising reps may not have heard you say hello, they may not have been ignoring you. Or, the grunter might have recently come from the dentist and not been able to respond with more than a grunt but still be able to do the physical part of his job.

    Certainly don’t go overboard and forgive bad behaviour, but for something so minor there can be a host of reasons why you got an unsatisfactory response that doesn’t mean the employee is rude.

    Other than that, I agree. Having worked retail and currently in customer service, it’s easy enough to be pleasant. I am both more and less understanding depending on the situation, since I’ve often been in their shoes.

  6. Wondering... says:

    Although I couldn’t agree more with this article, I fail to see what it has to do with Saving Advice.

  7. bailey says:

    ha ha ha trust me if the store was the store within 100 miles, you would buy from a filthy goat. just get your stuff and go, so what..who cares, i do not need most employees at every business, just one, “RING IT UP”. Taking this stupidness personally is a very interesting tell-all into your extreme lack of confidence and obvious loneliness. I dont care who says hi, i dont care who looks, “PUT IT IN A BAG, BYE”.

  8. Wondering ~ Thanks for your query. As a customer, you won’t necessarily save anything by reading my article but if you are an employee somewhere, you just may save your job or advance your career.


  9. Kevin Vellacott-Ford says:

    Troll much?

  10. ciel8538 says:

    I liked the part about the too friendly cashier. I have the same thought about this. For example when I have a favorite cafe and I go there every now and then,I do not feel comfortable, when they start to be too friendly with me. I would go there any ways sometimes, but I do not like if they want to make me feel like that,that I am obliged to get my coffee there,because I am “their customer” and I “cheat” if I take my coffee also from other places sometimes. Same with small clothes shops, I do not like when the shopkeepers run there every 5 minutes to ask if they can help..If I need help, I will ask for it:).

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