10 Things Your Retail Clerk Won't Tell You


By Amanda Greene

Holiday shopping is stressful. Between stores crowded with hoards of gift-getters and the quest for the perfect present, anyone is bound to get a little anxious. But shoppers aren't the only ones under pressure-retail clerks have their fair share of grievances to endure, especially when shoppers aren't on their best behavior. We talked to sale associates across the country to find out what they're really thinking about your shopping habits, plus got their insider tips on how to score the best deals.

1. Being rude won't help you save money.
Aside from the bad karma that comes from being discourteous to well-meaning salespeople, your rude attitude might actually cost you special deals and discounts. "If customers treat me badly, I'll withhold information that can give them access to discounts," says Freeman Hall, author of Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store. He recalls a shopping trip to Macy's during which he struck up a pleasant conversation with the cashier, who surprised him with a 20-percent-off coupon from a secret stash. "If I had been snippy to her, that's the last thing she would have done."

2. Don't re-hang clothes if you aren't going to do it properly.
While a pigsty of a dressing room is the bane of any salesperson's existence, your well-meaning attempts to tidy up may not actually be that helpful. "It's nice when people hang dressing room items back up, but please do it right-side out! Otherwise, why bother hanging them up at all?" asks Brooke, a former retail associate from Los Angeles. Clothing that's hung inside out will take a fitting room attendant twice as long to hang properly. Instead, return items neatly to the fitting room attendant so she can properly hang or fold them to ensure they get back on the floor faster. "The more organized you are, the more organized we can be so that you can find your size right away," says Tammy, a retail associate from Joplin, Missouri.

3. Respect closing time.
Strolling into a store minutes before it's scheduled to close is fine, as long as you browse quickly and leave. But if you know the clock is ticking, "Do you really need to try on seven outfits and keep the staff waiting?" asks Rachel, a sales associate from Joplin, Missouri. "Like you, we have lives and families to get back to." On the flip side, you'll find the most chipper-and patient-salespeople early in the day. "Shop in the morning to get good service," says Freeman. "The employees have just had their coffee and are most alert then."

4. Give us a chance to help you.
According to Freeman, the minute he says "hello" to shoppers, many snap back with: "I'm just looking!" "I'm like, well, I'm just saying hello," he says. "So many people will automatically assume that every salesperson is aggressive." But often that overly attentive salesperson is really just trying to help. According to Robert, a store manager in Joplin, Missouri, "Not everyone works on commission. For the most part, stores in the mall are staffed by hourly-paid salespeople who just love the idea of helping you out and making you feel good." And as Heather, a retail associate from Joplin, Missouri puts it: "If you want to be left alone, shop online."

Score the best deals when shopping online by following this expert advice.

5. Want to make a return? Play by the rules!
"People should take note of the store's return policy, which is usually in plain sight or on the back of their receipt," says Brooke. "It's frustrating dealing with people who try to return things without a receipt and throw a fit when they find out their item has gone on sale and they won't receive a full refund." Freeman hates it when shoppers lie about their returned goods. Having worked at Nordstrom, which is known for its lax return policy, he says people would attempt to return items that they'd clearly been using for years-all without receipts. Don't take advantage of a store just because it has great customer service. (But if you did happen to lose your receipt, consider making your return the week after Christmas. According to Freeman, many stores plan for a high volume of exchanges then, so they tend to be more lenient with their policies.)

6. If you're looking for good service, come to the store instead of calling.
"The customer standing in front of you is always going to take priority over the one on the phone, so if your matter is urgent, come to the store to get better service," says Elizabeth, a former retail associate from Los Angeles. Marissa, a retail associate from San Diego, gets particularly annoyed when customers call and try to shop over the phone. "If you're looking for that many things, just come in!" she says.

7. Head to the back of each department for the best deals.
Sale items are rarely stocked near the entrance of a store, because they want you looking at the full-priced items first. "At the back of each department you'll find the clearance rack or a sale table," says Freeman. "Look there first and work your way into the regular-priced merchandise. During sales, many items on clearance racks will also be additionally discounted."

8. Save your cell phone calls for another time.
Just because you consider waiting in line to be a great time to catch up with your best friend, remember that you could be slowing down the rest of the line as well as getting on the nerves of everyone around you. "Especially during holiday season, store lines are long and customers tend to get impatient," says Olivia, a former retail associate from New York City. "If you're on your cell phone you'll be distracted, which adds to the problem and holds up the line."

9. You might be able to score coupons, but don't count on random discounts.
Store employees sometimes have access to special discount codes or coupons they might bestow upon kind customers, but don't count on them to change the prices of items at will. For most stores, sales are a company-wide decision, not a personal favor. "This business exists to make a profit," says Jordan, a retail associate from Little Rock, Arkansas. "Don't try to bargain with me-try a flea market instead."

10. We aren't babysitters.
Letting your kids run rampant around the store while you shop will only vex the salespeople-they aren't paid to care for your child while you shop. "Teach your children how to act in public. Our job is to help you look good, not clean up after you," says Sonny, a retail associate from St. Louis. Brynn, a former retail associate from New York City, adds, "The dressing room is not for stroller storage, nor is it a childcare center."

Photo: © Siri Stafford / Thinstock


Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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