Like many people at one or more points in their lives, I too worked in the retail space. I managed to do it for what seemed like decades, but was actually probably closer to just a few years in my twenties (retail has a weird way of making some days feel like years I suppose). Most of those retail jobs were about what you could imagine such as working for low wages while doing menial tasks, like stocking aisles or helping customers. It was never really too bad, I guess. I mean I obviously hated it with a passion while I was doing it, but looking back… eeeehhhh, it wasn’t so terrible. I at least ended up making some decent friends over the years, and have some fairly fond memories from some of those jobs. Obviously there are exceptions though, and today you good people get the honor of reading about the worst retail job experience in my entire life: Working at a big box electronics store.
I originally got the job in a time when my previous job had shit the bed with the Government over back taxes, as I found out when I showed up for work and was locked out of the building. Unemployment is never fun, so I threw out a ton of applications to see if anyone would bite, and the first that called was none other than everyone’s favorite [unnamed] electronics store. I went in for the interview, basically got hired on the spot, and so began my new life as that guy that hangs around the store floor and asks if you need help with whatever. Hey, it’s a job so I didn’t really care, and it seemed easy enough for what I was getting paid. Or at least it was in the beginning.
For whatever reason, something changed after the first month, and things got really, really bad. There were days where I would literally be sick going into work because of how much I detested what I did on a daily basis. It was a constant stream of awful customers, non-stop sales pitching, inept management, and just an all-around atmosphere of no one wanting to be there. So join me, fine readers, on a journey into Retail Hell and the worst things about it.
First things first though. Let’s start with the most obvious thing.
The customers I dealt with in electronics basically boiled down to them being either completely clueless, or sure that they knew everything about computers, but still completely clueless. Most customers that I helped had almost no knowledge of anything computer related. This is fine. I enjoy educating people about technology. It’s fun to tell people about the WiFis and the GBs.
The problem comes from the second group. People that THINK they know things, but in actuality have learned most of what they know about computers through their 8-year-old kid, or rumors and hearsay that they may or may not have thought up themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I cringed so hard I hurt myself when a customer started off with “My brother told me…” It was usually a goddamn nightmare from that point on. I once had a customer convinced one of our laptops played PS3 games because his son told him so AND WHY WOULD HIS SON EVER LIE TO HIM so obviously I was dumb as shit and didn’t know how to do my job. That was the time I went and hid in the bathroom stall for fifteen minutes.
There were also the crazies. Customers that just would absolutely lose it if they didn’t get their way. You’d think such behavior would have been left behind at age of three, but I would see it on a daily basis by people that would claim they were adults. One such customer had previously bought a computer at some other store thinking it was some baller-assed gaming machine. Here’s a pro-tip, though: You can’t buy a gaming computer for $300. So upon seeing his computer couldn’t even run Quake II without it looking like a slideshow, he brought it to us to put a graphics card in. No problem, except the customer had also bought one of those super slim desktops which allow almost no room for any sort of graphics card. We kindly explain this to him thinking that maybe he would:
A: Understand the situation and return the computer for something better.
B: Maybe accept a far less powerful graphics card that would fit as an alternative.
We were surprised when he chose to:
C: Lose his cockfucking mind and threaten to kill all of us, including the other customers in line.
He then went on yelling of how he had been in Iraq and had killed more than his share of people, and wouldn’t think twice about doing the same to us. He continued his tirade of insanity to the point where he was eventually escorted out while calling everyone in the store “a bunch of big niggers.” The best part though, is that I had nothing to do with any of the above. I was on lunch across the street, and just happened to be walking back to the store when he was leaving. Spotting me, he decided to floor his car straight at me, causing me to fling myself over into the grass to avoid being splattered across his hood, while he drove by saying he would come back later to kill me. I can’t even explain how happy I was that I almost got seriously injured for something I had no idea even happened. Good times.
Having to deal with the above over and over on a daily basis was more than enough to lead one into a life of drinking problems. But I haven’t even got to the actual job yet, and it’s just as bad.
Selling You Everything You Don’t Want Or Need
My job, as I was led to believe during training, was to sell and service computers. Fine. After all, I’m a pretty good salesman. I was also aware that I would be trying to sell our basic warranty service along with the computers, but this was never focused on much in training. I was eventually shown the rundown of the warranty and how to sell it, and even though I would never want such a thing, I realized it was my job to try and sell people on it. At this point, things weren’t so bad. I understood why warranties are offered, and just about every place on Earth does it anyway. The problem started when things started stacking up on top of that warranty, to the point where I was literally forced to sell upwards of twelve things to each customer, not even counting the warranty. Yes, I’m being completely serious.
So what exactly was I offering to you, the customer who probably wants a cheap as shit $300 laptop? Well let’s start with the warranty. At the time there were multiple price ranges for two separate plans. One for standard repair, and another for accidental. Okay, so you declined that. How about in-home networking to set up a router and your computer? No? Well you’ll need anti-virus and we have a deal for… Oh, you already have antivirus. OK, I’d just like to tell you about our tech support subscription that we can offer that is separate from the warranty… Yeah I can see why you wouldn’t want that if you didn’t want the warranty. Would you be interested in getting on the Internet from anywhere? We have mobile hotspots that allow you to do just that! No again? Okay well we have… oh you’re walking away? But I have a few more great things to tell you about! Like our awesome financing! Oh, and we can get you set up with a Cable TV plan as well! What about the great deal for Microsoft Office we have for every computer purchase! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE BUY ONE OF THEM.
Yes, I had to offer all of the above, every time. And I didn’t even mention other things such as data backup, buyback programs, and whatever else they forced us to force on customers. The managers called this “giving a buffet of options to the customers and letting them choose.” The customers responded by getting angry and leaving without purchasing anything.
I won’t even go into the accessories, which at one point I was “coached” to essentially hold customers hostage while leading them through the four or so accessory aisles before going into my pitch for all that shit above. And then FINALLY, after twenty or so minutes of wasting the customer’s life with endless sales pitches, I was allowed to sell them a computer.
If you ever find yourself trapped in this layer of Hell, here’s another pro-tip: Browse for the computer you want in the store, then buy it online. Ironically enough, the convenient, hassle-free online sales that are eating away at big box retailers are the very reason why more and more things are pushed at customers in the stores. Maybe eventually they’ll put two and two together there.
Financing You Into Oblivion
Just about any large store you go into anymore, you will be assaulted with store credit card offers at every turn. It’s getting harder and harder not to walk from one side of the store to the other and not hear about a store’s “great financing offer!” at least four times. It’s to the point now when I go to a store, I’m honestly hiding from employees so I don’t have to listen to that damn credit card pitch again. And it’s not like they want to tell you about this shit. It’s just that their job depends on it. Most places have a very strict policy on how many credit card sign-ups employees should have per week, or they would face write-ups,or even termination. It was a constant, CONSTANT talking point for managers every day. It was also pure torture for employees, and made us resort to really awful practices. From convincing a family in debt that just ONE more credit card wouldn’t hurt, to trying to finance senior citizens who never wanted or needed a credit card. It was an act that made my stomach turn every time I was pushing it on people. But that wasn’t to be my concern. You see, according to management, we were “helping” people afford the things they needed. Need was a big word. It was repeated constantly like we were some life-sustaining product. Last I checked no one has ever NEEDED a damn 54 inch HDTV.
There’s certainly a very real reason that places want you to sign up for their credit cards, and it has nothing to do with “helping customers.” It’s all about making money for the store, and knowing that a person with a store credit card is much more likely to return to that store to make purchases. This isn’t even mentioning the kickbacks the stores get from the banks for using store credit cards over other credit cards. It was broken down to us on a whiteboard showing the amount of money the store made versus another card, and it usually came out to be a good 50% more per transaction. And that’s not even mentioning getting a customer to take credit protection and shit like that. Basically it came down to the thing it always comes down to: It profits the store. Customers be damned if they can’t pay their bills. We got our money when we sold a $2500 Macbook to a family that can barely afford what bills they have now, and that’s all that matters.
One would also think that the offers would only go out to people getting large items. Not so. We were to offer it to Everyone. Every single person that walked through the door that was able to get credit. And it didn’t matter what they bought. Got a CD and a bag of Skittles? Check out what this awesome financing can do for you! Standing around waiting for your husband to finish taking a shit so you can go to Bed Bath and Beyond next door? Let me show you what six months of no interest can get for you! And if they refused, we were actually supposed to follow up and ask AGAIN if we saw them browsing. It was just shocking at some point.
I never realized just how annoying it was until I became a customer myself again. My girlfriend and I went into the store not long ago to buy a game that was on sale. At the front of the store we were greeted with a table not allowing us to progress past it until I heard a pitch for a card. After that, halfway into the store, there were two more employees handing out pamphlets and giving more pitches. Once we got to what we wanted, another employee asked if he could help, which was just another chance to “remind us of our great financing! Here’s a pamphlet!” Heading back up front, I made the mistake of wandering near the cell phones, where I was greeted by another person standing around solely for the purpose of credit card offers. I was able to walk fast enough to ignore that one. Finally at the register, I was again offered a card one more time before I left. She also put another pamphlet in my bag. To call that a pleasant shopping experience would be a stretch for anyone. Gonna wipe my ass with those pamphlets.
The lesson here is to not get in that trap of store credit cards. While the hollers of no interest, and super cool shit may be a damn good temptation, it’s just not worth it in the long run. If you need a card, the best option is to always get one straight from a bank, or if you MUST get a store card, make sure it can be used elsewhere. Don’t let stores trap you into giving them your money.
Or hey, you know. Just pay with cash?
WHINE WHINE WHINE
Please note that this all looks like a giant whine-fest. I do not like to be that guy on the Internet complaining about a shitty job, since there is more than enough of that everywhere. This is however my personal experience with how bad things actually were, and hope that by reading it, you may think twice before berating employees next time your shopping experience isn’t going as smoothly as you wanted. Usually there are other factors in place making your purchase as annoying as humanly possible, and there’s not much either of you can do about it except keep taking it in the ass until the transaction is over. It’s kind of like a life lesson I guess. Except you only have to go through it once, whereas the employees are on that train of hurt all day, every day.
Really the thing that got me through it wasn’t the idea of getting a better job or anything like that. Surprisingly it was the people I worked with. While I’m not the most social of people ever, there’s no way I could have made it through most days without the rest of my coworkers that were just as miserable. From talks of drowning ourselves in the sink, to throwing shitty customer’s laptops across the stockroom, it was this banding together of depressive fools that made my time tolerable.
I’d still never do it again, though.