I’ll Go Get the Ma n a g er Tales From the Shop Floor Podcast Coming Soon Published May 2020 Contents 1 Introduction Yikes 2 Stories Refunds 6 Breakdown Those Customers 10 Stories INTRODUCTION Fashion retail is one of the largest private sector employers in the UK and its something that everyone has experienced before, either as an employee or a customer. No one is unfamiliar with the industry and yet the reality of how this industry operates is rarely discussed. This booklet features two stories sections which collates anecdotes from fashion retail employees regarding unpleasent customers and embarrassing situations at work. Also featured is a breakdown section where advice from retail workers is compiled to give a witty but informative crash course on refund policies. The stories and advice featured in this booklet have been taken from interveiws with fashion retail staff members. Readers can expect an accurate look into the lives of fashion retail workers and a glimpse into the inner workings of the industry as a whole. This booklet will give a sample of the sort of content featured on the upcoming podcast I’ll Go Get the Manager. YIKES Retail, like many other customer service industries, relies on interactions with customers. Unfortunatly, human interactions sometimes go very wrong. Most of the time there’s no one to blame for these situations but they are usually fairly uncomfortable for everyone involved. Working in fashion retail, you experience a fair few of these types of situations. Whether it’s customers doing something unexpected or staff members saying the wrong thing, there’s an endless stream of awkward occurances stored in the minds of fashion retail workers. OPEN I was walking around seeing if anyone needed help and I saw a customer putting a coat on in front of a mirror. Without even thinking I went into selling mode – she had a cream coat on so I was saying about how it’s a lovely basic colour and it’s so easy to style because it goes with everything. I was trying to figure out why she looked confused when I realised that the coat she had on wasn’t one of ours and the coat that she had actually been looking at was pink and faux-suede (a.k.a. not something that goes with everything). I made a very quick escape and spent the rest of the day mortified that I had actually tried to sell someone their own coat. 2 This one wasn’t particularly awkward but it was very strange. I was working a fairly quiet shift and there were no more than five customers in when I noticed a drop of blood on the floor. Not too far away there was another one, then another one and then it got to the point where there was enough blood to warrant a bit concern for whoever was bleeding. I told the other member of staff and we tried to subtly check that everyone in the store was fine but we couldn’t exactly just walk up to customers and say ‘sorry to bother you, are you bleeding by any chance?’ I once overheard my manager try to make a joke to a group of ladies, we usually have a laugh with our regular customers so this wasn’t particularly strange. What was strange was that she tried to make a joke by referencing the lyrics of the song that was playing on the radio. So I had to watch my manager (who was also my mother) walk up to these ladies, lean on a nearby fixture and say ‘let’s face it ladies, we’re all up all night to get lucky.’ I probably should’ve just quit then and there. SALE I was stood at the till point doing some paperwork and overheard this interaction between another member of staff ask the customer she was serving which went like this; Colleague: Do you have a loyalty card with us at all? Customer: No, I don’t have one. Colleague: Do you know if anyone in your household has one? Maybe your partner? Customer: Well I wouldn’t know, she left me 2 months ago. I found another task to do pretty quickly after that. 3 I had a customer go in the fitting rooms to try on some jeans and he came out wearing them. He tells me that they’re perfect, he’ll take them and he hands me the barcode tickets. When I told him about the security tag at the back of the waistband I thought that he would go back into the fitting rooms, get changed and bring them out. Instead, he jumped onto the till point and tried to get the tag to latch onto the de-tagger. We got there in the end and he was really nice but it was such a strange situation. When I was 16, I worked at a shop that had a very distinct regular customer. I use the term ‘customer’ very loosely though as she would never buy anything, she would just sit in one of the changing rooms and drink a water bottle full of vodka. We would know when she had been in because there would be vodka everywhere and an empty bottle, but we were never able to actually catch her doing it. A couple of months into working there I was in the stock room when some stock fell from one of the high rails. I went to pick them up but I couldn’t figure out how they could have fallen. Later on I mentioned it to the other staff members and they just replied with ‘oh so Percy got you’ – Percy turned out to be the stockroom ghost who was apparently pretty chill as long as we left his sock alone. This was a dirty old sock that was pinned on the wall in the stockroom that I never so much as looked at in case it made Percy angry. I ended up staying at that store for three more years and during my time there most people only had small experiences with him. It was usually just like a weird gust of wind, the sudden smell of smoke or strange knocking. 4 It was almost to closing when I went to through the back to get some cleaning equipment which we kept in a gap between the wall and the side of the stairs. What I needed had fallen right to the back so I leaned forward to reach and somehow slipped straight out of my shoes. I fell into the narrow gap and I was wedged in, almost completely horizontal. I started to panic once it passed the ten minute mark but every attempt to try and get myself out just wedged me further in. Eventually the door opened and I heard another member of staff shout me. At this point I was hyperventilating so I couldn’t tell her where I was. Eventually she figured it out though and she later told me that what had tipped her off was the fact that there was a pair of perfectly placed shoes just outside of the gap. My store was being refurbished so we had to clear out the shop floor and because I wanted to be as helpful as possible, I had someone just pile stuff into my arms to take upstairs. I was halfway up the stairs when I felt something that I was carrying move and thinking that I was about to drop something, held them tighter against my chest. It wasn’t until I went to put everything down that I felt a pain in my chest and then I realised that one of the items that I had been carrying was a de-tagger. At this point in time our de-taggers contained a very strong magnet and I had a nipple piercing. I think you can tell where this is going. 5 There is no universal refund policy, each company’s policy will vary slightly and some companies might be more lenient than others. Having worked in retail for a number of years, I can honestly say that most problems have something to do with refunds. I do think that a lot of the time customers think retail workers are being difficult but we have policies to follow and if we don’t, it’s our job at risk. With that being said, here’s a little crash course in refund policies made up of advice from retail workers themselves. Condition of the Item The core point of any refund policy will probably be that it has to be returned in the condition it was sold to you in. I have a little bit of sympathy for customers with this part because I think a lot of customers genuinely misunderstand it – but it should be taken as literal as possible. The item shouldn’t be worn, it should have all of the tags on and – I’m shocked I even need to specify this – it should not be modified in any way. The peak of my career was watching a lady argue with a member of staff that she should still be able to bring back a pair of trousers (apparently too small) that she had shortened by about two inches. 6 Refund without a Receipt Refunds without receipts are tricky; they are almost always possible but from what I know most places handle them differently. Whether or not you get a refund or a credit note varies and the value of the refund can change depending on the company. Where I worked, we could offer cash refunds but only for the current price of the item. This is because we have no proof of when you paid for it or how much you paid so we have to assume you bought it at the current price – even if it’s less than what you actually paid for it. Cash or Card Most retailers will only give refunds in the form they were paid in; if you paid cash when you bought it you get the refund in cash, etc. This might not always be the case but from what I know about the industry, this is pretty much the standard to go by. The only big difference between the two is that card refunds have a lot more security around them – not only do we have to make sure were refunding it onto the right card but also that the person using the card for the refund is the account holder. With that in mind if you’re going to buy something that you think you might bring back (or have someone else bring back on your behalf) always pay cash, it’s just a lot easier for everyone involved. 7 Be Aware When I was trained as a sales advisor everyone was told to inform customers about the refund policy when they’re at the till and it makes sense. It’s important information that the customers need to know and us taking measures to make sure they are aware just works out better for everyone. Unfortunately it’s a lot harder to do in practice, sometimes a transactions too quick or the customer doesn’t want to hear it. Having said that there is no legal obligation for staff to verbally tell you about refund policies. Companies include their refund policy on the back of receipts and failing that there’s always the internet, you can even phone the store you bought it from and ask them. Point is, the information is always accessible to you so it really doesn’t matter if you were verbally told about the refund policy or not. Faulty Items The only exception to a refund policy is if the item is faulty. This means that there was a physical mistake during its production, such as a weakened seam, gathered fabric or a broken zip. A fault can’t just be something that you don’t like about an item that was obvious to you when you bought it. In most cases you’ll be offered an exchange but if you’ve worn the item for an extended period of time the retailers will consider the possiblity that you damaged it whilst wearing it. 8 The Customer’s Not Always Right Last but not least, please remember that unless you follow that exact companies refund policy completely – you are not entitled to anything. I say that in the nicest way possible because I know that there are circumstances when things go wrong. I’ve processed goodwill refunds outside of the refund period for customers who have not been able to get in because of health reasons or other situations out of their control. Retail workers aren’t heartless and most will want to help as much as possible. However a customer coming in and saying ‘I’m really sorry but this has happened and I’ve only just had the chance to come down, is there any way you can help me?’ is very different to a customer wanting a refund two weeks late and then acting as if its the staffs fault that they can’t get one. 9 THOSE CUSTOMERS If you’ve ever worked in customer service then you’ve met these customers. The kind that are any fashion retail employees worst nightmare. Whether its demanding unreasonable acts or just simply being rude, these customers remain unforgettable in the minds of retail workers. One time I was helping a lady find some things and she kept asking for things that weren’t on the shop floor so I was running up to the stockroom for her. I really didn’t mind doing this at all mainly because it was what I was being paid to do and it was a Sunday morning and there was genuinely nothing else for me to do. Eventually she said how sorry she was that I had to keep going upstairs for her but I told her that it wasn’t a problem and it gave me something to do. Up until this point she had been quite pleasant but for whatever reason she thought it would be appropriate to respond to me with ‘Yes, well I suppose you could do with the exercise.’ It was a real shame that I couldn’t find what she wanted. 10 A lady wanted to bring back a cardigan that didn’t have the barcode tag attached so I asked her if she had it at all. Technically we’re not supposed to refund something if this has been removed but I was willing to because sometimes the tags do just fall off and it didn’t look like it had been worn. She told me that it must have fallen off at home somewhere but it didn’t matter because our refund policy didn’t say that the tag had to be attached. We went around in circles for 10 minutes with me saying that the item wasn’t in the condition it was sold to her in because she didn’t have the tags and her saying that it was in the same condition because it hadn’t been worn. It was my last shift at that store and I was getting really frustrated so I just left her to sort it out with the manager. SALE Christmas is a really bad time for people buying something, wearing it once and then bringing it back. One year we had a top with glitter detailing – which got everywhere. It was such a pain to deal with that staff made sure customers knew that a certain amount of shedding was in the nature of the material before they bought it. It was maybe the last week before Christmas when a lady came in wanting to return this top claiming that it was faulty. All the tags had been removed and she told me that she had worn the top all night to a Christmas party. Both the assistant manager and I tried to explain to her that she couldn’t bring it back because it wasn’t faulty and had been worn. We told her that we were very sorry for any inconvenience but that she could ring customer services as there was nothing more that we could do. She was a couple steps away from the till point when she turned around claiming that she had no use for the top and threw it across the till point towards the assistant manager – who was quite noticeably pregnant at the time. 11 I once spent almost an hour on the phone with a customer because she wanted to swap a bedding set that she had bought from our store. I told it she was fine to swap it for a different one but we would have to order it in for her as we didn’t have in it stock. She insisted that we did because there had been a whole shelf of them there when she had bought the original one the day before, which was impossible as the store I worked at didn’t stock homeware. Of course when I told her this and asked if she could’ve bought it from a different store, she got very exasperated (as if I was the one who was confused) and said that it was definitely from our store. Eventually she hung up stating that she would be coming in the next day to speak to the manager – I asked the other staff members if she ever came in and she did not. I had a lady come in who wanted to bring an item back but the card she had didn’t match the one on the receipt. She insisted that it was the card used for the original transaction – which it wasn’t – but eventually admitted that her daughter had purchased the item. At which point I had to tell her that she still couldn’t get a refund regardless because if it was her daughters’ card then her daughter would need to sign the receipt. The lady was actually furious at the fact that I wouldn’t enable fraud in order for her to get an £8 refund. 12 It happens all the time when customers throw out the fact that they used to work in retail so they know that we can get around certain policies for them. These people genuinely think that those three months working at a completely different company eight years ago informed them enough to tell me how to do the job that I do more or less every day. My favourite was when a lady told me that she knew how things worked because she used to work at a certain company – a company which hasn’t had an open UK store since the year I was born. When I was about 18 I got promoted to a supervisor and it was less than an hour into my first day of running by myself when we had a power-cut. All the tills went down, half the lights were out and we were barely allowed to stay open because of health and safety. We had just gotten set up to do manual trading when a guy came in wanting a £200 refund from an online order. I explained to him that unfortunately it wasn’t possible as we currently had no power. He wasn’t happy with this and demanded a cash refund which we also couldn’t do as it’s against company policy – plus the fact that this was a Sunday morning and there was not a hope in hell that we had £200 of cash on site. Eventually I called the manager as the gentleman wasn’t happy with anything I had suggested and I was getting a bit frustrated and upset. In the end he stormed out of the store, continuing to shout at us until he was out of the door and he actually came in the next day to complain about us to our manager. His version of events were quite different to reality and he ended his complaint with the stellar line of ‘well, they could’ve just turned the system back on.’ At this point my manager explain that as she had been on the phone with my colleague during the conversation so she knew exactly what had happened and backed us up asking the man if he enjoyed making young girls cry. 13 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First of all I would like to acknowledge that at the time of publication, UK government guidelines are being reviewed in regards to reopening non-essential reatil stores. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive global impact and whilst steps are being taken to return to normality, we have no idea what the new normal will look like. This is no different for retail workers, many of whom know that their jobs are at risk when stores eventually reopen. With that being said I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this project. I greatly appreciate the retail employees who sacrificed their time to be interviewed, especially during such uncertain times. I would also like to thank the illustrator of this booklet, Caitlin Russell, who produced the illustrations featured whilst working from home due to the global pandemic. This booklet and the infomation it contains was collated, edited and published by Amy Russell as part of a final year university project.