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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Employees Are People Too

I love flowers.

And I'm not saying that just to hint heavily to my husband to buy me more of them, because I'm perfectly capable of buying them myself, only I rarely do. Because there is something rather pointless about a boquet of flowers, no matter how pretty it is and how much it pleases me to have one on my living room table. Because, well, they're expensive, they don't actually do anything apart from looking pretty, and they die rather quickly. This stems (flower pun!) from my opinion that there shouldn't be anything in my house that doesnt have some function, even if that's secondary (which is the case of many of my pretty boxes which I attained primarily because they were pretty, and then I justified that by saying look, I can put things in them).

So maybe that was part of the reason why I didn't pursue the flower arranging carreer path. Plus, I like to look at things I've made even years after I made them, so perishable art was sort of redundant. But an equally important reason for me not wanting to be a flower arranger was that I don't really like customers.


Whoah, whoah! Take a pause there before you think "what?! But I've been/am/plan to be a customer of hers, how dare she!!" because of course this does NOT mean ALL customers! Let me explain.

In retail, there's a rule that says that if the customer has one bad experience in your shop, he or she needs ten good experiences to weigh up for that. Which means a lot of ass-licking, let me tell you. But the same goes for shop employees. If I'd had a day full of nice customers, I was content and pleased. But if I'd had a day in which there were 99 nice customers and one bad one, my day was ruined, and I'd be angry about that for days afterwards. See? Goes both ways. Check out this website to get an idea of what sort of weird customers there really are out there.

Remember: even if the employee smiles and nods understandingly while you whine and complain, this is how he or she feels on the inside
Photo from here

When I opted out of the flower carreer, I was a little worried that I'd wasted a whole year and quite a lot of money on an education I'd never get any use for, but then I got a part-time job in a gardening center where I became somewhat of an expert on indoor plants and cut flowers, and I got to drive the forklift truck seeing as I've got a forklift driver's licence (yes! I do!). I worked there for a couple of years, and I had lovely colleagues and I got to faff about with plants and flowers as much as I liked, only trouble was customers.

"We love gender stereotypes in our stock photos!"
Photo from here

I remember two older ladies coming to complain about some plants they'd bought, but brought with them neither the plants themselves nor the receipt for them, so there really was no evidence of them buying anything whatsoever from us - yet they got mad at me for not "trusting my customers".

Also, people could yell at me about the number of snails in the outdoor plants section, and I patiently had to explain that of course the snails preferred our gardening center to the neighbouring area (such as the car park), seeing as there were, well, PLANTS there, and that we constantly removed (i.e. killed) snails whenever we saw them.

Or the classic "this plant is much cheaper because I found it on the table over there and the price there is lower", disregarding that the plant was obviously misplaced by another customer and looked nothing like the rest of the plants on that table.

Or, you know, customers disregarding the flower care advice we gave them and carried unprotected exotic flowers home outside in below zero temperatures and then complaining that they died. The flowers, I mean.

Not only did Jack Nicholson forget to wrap up his orchids in tissue paper, he also forgot to put on a hat and gloves, silly
Photo from here

I have many, many examples.

So my advice is that yes, of course the employee should be nice and polite and do everything in their power to make you happy, but sometimes YOU ARE NOT RIGHT and employees are people too so be polite back.

Thank you for your attention.

Later I'm going to tell you about my fun year in a toy shop, in which I got to decorate a Hallowe'en display window and wrap up many interesting things that defied the natural laws of wrapping paper that resulted in birthday presents that possibly made small changes in the space/time continuum by their very existence.

Have an interesting customer - employee story to share? Do so in the comments!