13 Reasons To NOT Work In Retail

The Premise

There are many jobs where a person never interacts with the public, but retail isn’t one of them. Whether serving food and drink at Olive Garden or Starbucks, handling transactions at Wells Fargo, cutting hair at Great Clips, selling blouses at Nordstroms, or purveying patio furniture at Christy Sports—you’re going to interact with buyers. You know …

  • Those folks who pay our bills.
  • The lifeblood of our business.
  • The people who vote with their dollars.
  • Those who tell (or don’t) friends about us.

The Story

When I called Christy Sports Friday morning, the fella answering spoke so fast, I didn’t get his name. I asked if our deck chair had arrived. When he put me on hold, I was cut off. I called back. Reaching him again, he made no mention of the phone troubles, but informed me the truck hadn’t come and “won’t be here until Monday.”

When I asked a simple clarifying question, he became adamant the truck would not arrive later that day (Friday) and his tone was slightly snippy. I say “slightly” because it wasn’t as if he called me names, but there was enough impatience in his voice to cause me to pause. Biting my tongue, I asked his name.

“Oh, I’m Mitch, one of the managers!”

My thought: If a manager is abrupt with customers, I wonder how the employees treat them.

This wasn’t my worst retail moment ever, but it did cause me to ponder something I’ve pondered many times:

Why people get into retail when they shouldn’t.

The Reasons To Get Out

Which leads us to our baker’s dozen of reasons to not work in retail. But before we get there, a final comment on the deck chair story: The truck that positively, absolutely, and surely wasn’t arriving till after Easter did come Friday afternoon, just hours after I’d called.

Just saying. 🙂

Anyhoo, please enjoy and share our …

13 Reasons to NOT Work In Retail

1. If you don’t like people, get out of retail.
2. If you are not able to smile, get out of retail.
3. If you plan to watch the clock, get out of retail.
4. If you can’t speak clearly on the phone, get out of retail.
5. If you are irritated by customer questions, get out of retail.
6. If you habitually complain about the hours, get out of retail.
7. If you view customers as an inconvenience, get out of retail.
8. If you Snapchat your friends while you work, get out of retail.
9. If you quit mentally long before it’s quitting time, get out of retail.
10. If you are unable to answer the phone cheerfully, get out of retail.
11. If you can’t keep a defensive tone out of your voice, get out of retail.
12. If you regularly switch employers for an extra .50/hour, get out of retail.
13. If you refuse to learn everything about your product line, get out of retail.
Note: If you view this list as “negative” because it informs what not to do, here’s an idea: Turn each point around and you have an outstanding training program for retail staff!
So, as a consumer, which of our 13 points drives you away from a retailer most quickly? Can you add one to our list? Share below!

30 Responses

  1. Retail for 40 years now in some form or another.

    Love working with people, try to make a difference. Building a staff with a servant’s heart is key and so challenging.

    I have always wonder how you bite your tongue when given an opportunity to QBQ someone who is struggling…

    I was in that situation a few weeks ago also with a manager. ON the inside I am screaming you need to read and embrace QBQ! On the outside, I accepted the interaction and fired them as a hotel company in the future.

    Thanks for the blog! Awesome!


  2. I spent about 25 years in retail and reading that list I can’t believe how much of it is true as I think back. The biggest issue was watching the clock-esp. when it was close to closing time. Even in coaching basketball, you’d be surprised that the kids watch the clock for the end of practice.

  3. I loved the “13 Reasons” – and am a nurse at a Family Practice Clinic, but have been a nurse for the past 22 years. I would say this could easily apply to health care. Replace the words “Retail” with “Healthcare” and the word “customers” for “patients” — perfect!!! Loved this so much I had to comment — and I never comment 😉

  4. #2 and #7 combined. A full blown smile isn’t always necessary, but at least a pleasant look to let me know I’m not an inconvenience, makes me feel my business is appreciated.
    #14. If you have that look of pain, like it takes too much effort to get out of your chair, which you shouldn’t be sitting in anyway, to help a customer.

  5. I am a Senior Leader at our health care facility. As I was reading through the 13 reasons, I also substituted Healthcare for Retail and patients for customers! All professions need the right people for the right job with a passion for doing their best.

  6. I’m an Executive Assistant and even though I am not in retail, these are thought provoking for any job. One way or another, I have a customer – for me, it’s my boss and coworkers.

  7. If you keep trying to sell a customer something when the customer has repeatedly said they’re not interested, get out of retail.

  8. My last encounter with Wal-mart in York, PA ended with a similar experience. Something I needed and wanted and could not find for many months, I noticed on display while there for something else. I finally had the money to buy it yet no means to transport it home, which was five minutes away.

    I asked if I could pay and pick up in an hour and was told no. I asked if I could lay it way or have it delivered, and was told no. The employee kept trying to get away from me as she had so much to do. The message: Why didn’t I understand that if I bought it, I needed to take it on the spot?! But no worries. Even if it was sold until I returned, she assured me that this item comes in on a truck daily! When one goes out another comes in, she told me! I was in such disbelief about that, I had to question it. She had two other people verify her story, as she was a manager and could not spend ay more time with me.

    By now we may have been at fifteen minutes. I hated leaving the furniture item there, but having lost the battle, I left. I returned the next morning and, of course, the item was no longer there! The people who attended to me did not think they even carried that item. Fortunately, I had taken a picture and sent it home in the excitement the day before. I showed them, so they went to the area and there was a completely different item there!

    Finally, admitting defeat, I went to Big Lots and found a less-than-equivalent and bought it just out of spite. It cost more, and does not have the look I wanted but serves the purpose.

    On the bright side, that store manager not only reserved it for me, he had staff take it outside to an area where I could return and pick it or come see him for a refund! What a difference!

    The Wal-Mart person needs to get out of retail and the Big Lots person should train others or be promoted! I have needed to share this story since it happened weeks ago. I do not do much lightly, and rarely shop, and was just so disappointed by the whole thing. Thanks for this opportunity to tell my story. Wal-mart York, PA needs QBQ!

  9. This is so true in any business where you interact with the public. I work for a church and all of the same principles apply. You need to remember that YOUR CUSTOMERS (congregation members) ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PAYCHECK. If there are no customers, no one needs you.

  10. I’ve been a financial advisor and insurance broker for 34 years. Sometimes customers/clients can be difficult, but it’s usually that I haven’t taken the time to listen to them. (#5). I’ve learned that a question is simply a request for more information, so I’ve come to welcome them. It shows that they are listening to me, so I’d better be listening to them.

  11. John, curious… why are these statements only directed to retail? They seem to make sense in all business/work environments! I was in life insurance administration for many years and we always referred to our friends in other departments as our customers… we received work items from others and others depended upon the work items we produced, thus we were both provider and customer.

    Peace, love, and please pass the gravy,

    Mutt Helms

  12. The thing about your list is it applies to everyone in any field or endeavor. Working in College & University Food Services for the past 38 years, all 13 apply and I try my best to use the reverse of your list to stay “appropriate” for my “calling”.

    The old saying was “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. I think the application can be made to any and all occupations.

    A long-time listener, reader, and QBQ addict,

    Terry Waltersdorf

  13. I work in healthcare and could substitute “retail” with “healthcare” and “customer” with “patient” and the same applies.

  14. #11 is my Retail Kryptonite! Easter weekend, I decided to take the family on a 3 day Texas History journey in part to educate our exchange student from Thailand on why we brag so much as Texans, and in part to allow the family to benefit from the large amount of Hilton Honors points I accumulate while being gone so much. I booked a nice Hilton Brand hotel in Austin using my points. The email confirmation confirmed the date, time, room and an expected balance of $0.00. Upon checkout, I noticed that my credit card had been charged $121.00 AND the Honors points deducted from my account. When I asked the “friendly” guy at the counter what was going on, he responded. “I’m not sure, you would have to get with home office about that.” Home Office? I asked why he couldn’t help, he said that I would have to talk to someone at Hilton. I informed him that he is Hilton and all I wanted to know is why I was charged the full rate for the room and the points. He became very defensive and said, “Sir, I have no idea, that decision wasn’t made by me. I politely asked him for a copy of the receipt and walked away thinking that Marriot will be a great place to start spending the ten’s of thousands of dollars my department spends on hotels every year! I will begin my journey of “contacting home office” later today!

  15. 14. If you can’t stop complaining to another co-worker while
    trying to check-out my purchases and failing to acknowledge
    my existence, then get out of retail.

    15. If you can’t even fake an insincere “thank you”
    after I pay you, then get out of retail.

  16. I’m in government, my customers are the taxpayers. If you are not servant minded, you should not be in any profession where you have to interact with any other person in any way. The highlight of my day comes when my customers thank me for providing exceptional service. I consider this my job but they don’t expect from government.

  17. If you can’t handle conflict in a positive way that satisfies the customer ..don’t get into retail or any means of work dealing directly w people ! ?

  18. So true, and it never ceases to amaze me. Not just that people get in who shouldn’t, but that managers ALLOW people in who they shouldn’t. It’s SO easy to see, when people don’t belong there, and SO damaging to the company’s image. How can they not have standards that keep it from happening? Just boggles the mind. Fun to think about the painful examples, though. 🙂

  19. 14. If you genuinely don’t care of people’s complaints and don’t do anything to make it better, get out of retail.

  20. As usual, you hit the nail right on the head! As a retail manager for the last 22 years of my life, I am constantly floored to find sad, disgruntled, non “people person” help on sales floor. Why on earth would someone that hates interacting with people even consider the job? More importantly, why can’t leaders be courageous enough to help those folks find a passion that aligns with their skill set?
    I had an employee once that flat out told me “I wasn’t hired to talk to customers..”. What?? Needless to say, we found a better spot for him!

  21. 5. If you are irritated by customer questions, get out of retail.
    Customers/clients are reasons why business exist.
    “If you can’t wait to clock out after you clock-in”, get out of retail. Your time will be consumed by watching the clock!

  22. 5. If you are irritated by customer questions, get out of retail

    I actually just dealt with a bank/former employer where the manager hung up on me because she had another customer waiting, and when I called back she said “I am busy now and will call you back later.”

  23. I love all the 13 reasons to get out of retail. The one that struck a cord with me was speaking clearly on the phone. I just had a retailer call me just the other day. She spoke so fast I could not understand a word she said. I had to keep asking her to repeat herself. After a few times, I just had to ask her to speak a little slower. It was very unnerving and made me feel stupid.

  24. Even though I am not in retail, I am still in the customer service business. For us, customer service is beyond important. I always try to treat those who come in or call like I would want to be treated when I am seeking services. It is important to me that they feel like I can assist them even if they are looking for a different area or even something that has nothing to do with our entity.

  25. I believe any of these 13 could be found in most any type of business that requires interaction with people. I work for an electrical contractor and good “people skills” are necessary on a variety of levels. But as to the question of retail; speaking for myself personally internet shopping works best for me. It seems every store I walk into lately has at least one employee with problems 1-13 and experiencing that is just not worth it to me. But that’s just me.

  26. I enjoyed the 13 points. Above all else, start with someone who has a great personality. Skills can be acquired and job functions can be taught/learned. Personalities can be encouraged or discouraged, but only we have the ability to transform our own personalities.

  27. If you can’t say “thank you for shopping with us today”. Get out of retail!

    I’ve been conducting my own “survey” the last few months after it dawned on me that I can’t remember the last time a retail clerk, cashier, employee, said “thank you” to me after I purchased something. So here’s what I’ve gotten after I purchase something from them, in order of frequency.
    1. Have a “good one” (85%)
    2. Here you go (10%) – as they give me change or hand the item to me
    3. Would you like a receipt? (2%)
    4. Have a good day (2%)
    5. Thanks or thank you (1%)

    Pretty sad….seems business, large and small, aren’t training their staff that consumers and customers pay the bills, which includes that employees salary and benefits….seems like job #1 is to say “thank you” to someone’s who just spent their hard earned money in their store, restaurant, etc.

    How many time do I say thank you as we conclude the transaction?….100%….conditioning I suppose….I “grew up selling” in retail through high school and college and I had great role models in those roles, and my parents, who all taught me how to say two simple words, “thank you”.

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