Attention, WalMart (and Other Retail) Shoppers

I’ve now been working at Wal-Mart (or as a disturbing number of relatives, friends and passers-by insist on calling it, Wally World) for a little over a month.  I’ve gotten the basics of the job down pretty well, and have been working hard, even if the job is far from what I expected to be doing with my life at this point.

As I’ve gone about my daily work, I’ve noticed many things that, well, just plain annoy me.  So I’ve decidedthat the best way to change some of this behavior, is to note it in my blog.  What follows thenis a list of do’s and don’ts for Wal-Mart and other retail store shoppers.

DO Ask for Help When Necessary: The people working at Wal-Mart or other stores are there to help. I obviously can’t speak for every single retail worker in the country, but the ones I have met, are generally eager to help customers whenever possible.

DON’T Interrupt Other Work: That said, there are times when I and other Wal-Mart workers will be occupied with other tasks that require our attention (such as stocking high shelves with heavy objects).  If you require assistance during those times, please just wait for a moment or two while we finish doing what we were doing (or at least have set down anything we might drop on our own or someone else’s head), and then we’ll be glad to help you.

DO Ask If There Is More Of A Product In The Back: Try as we might, we can’t refill the shelves as fast as you, the customers, can deplete our stock; you simply have too much of a numerical advantage for us to win that game.  (Especially when there is only one person assigned to refill the shelves in a particular section, a situation in which I frequently find myself.)  If you ask (preferably politely), we can go into our store room, look through the products we have, and perhaps provide you with what you need.

DON’T Get Angry If We’re Completely Out Of Stock: Our backroom, alas, is not a magical tesseract that connects us to the production floors for all our items, effectively giving us an infinite amount of any item you want.  Sometimes, we’re just plain out of something.  In those cases, getting angry with the low level worker (such as myself) that you’ve encountered on the sales floor will do no good.  If you really need to acquire the item, the best chance you’ll have is to go to customer service desk and get a rain check.

DO Feel Free To Ask When The Next Shipment Will Arrive: If you do opt to get a rain check, or simply want to come back when we have more of the product in stock, you can ask when the next truck carrying that product will be arriving.  It might take a little digging, but we can usually find that information out easily enough.  (Just bear in mind that the time when the shipment arrives and when we are able to get the product out on the shelves for you to buy might be several hours apart, especially when, as mentioned, there’s few people doing the stocking of the shelves.)

DON’T Ask For Products To Be Put Aside For You: Generally, the rank and file (and frequently the managers) in a large retail store have no power to put aside items in the back for your future purchase.  Besides the fact that we can hardly guarantee that the products won’t go out on the shelves the moment we leave the store, you can hardly expect us to hold products for customers who may or may not follow through on their promise to buy it in the future.  You’re not completely out of luck, though; you can have products set aside in some cases (usually at stores that still offer layaway) or get a rain check that will enable you to purchase the item at the desired price when you want to in the future.  Either of those methods will have more success (and get the employee in less trouble) than asking someone to put aside a product for you under the table.

DO Ask About Any Specials: Employees can direct you to any possible savings in the store, showing you where the discounted products are kept or letting you know about any pending sales.  There might be ways to save money that you didn’t know about, which the employees can clue you in on.  Not everything will be on sale, though, which brings us to our next point…

DON’T Try To Pressure Employees Into Giving You A Discount: The average retail store worker has no incentive to overcharge you on your groceries or other goods; you’ll be able to pay the listed price on everything you purchase.  Trying to get the cashiers to give you an ’employee discount’ or otherwise decrease your bill will not only annoy the cashier, but can lead to a big scene.  (If the employee does take advantage of their employee discount or otherwise illicitly decreases your bill, they’ll likely face disciplinary action and possible job loss; hence, the number of employees who’ll acquiesce to your desires is fairly small.)

DO Be Courteous: Remember that the people working at Wal-Mart or other retail stores are just like you: hard-working, capable and eager to help.  Treat them with the same level of courtesy you would treat those in your everyday life.  If you treat them well, they will do the same for you.

DON’T Be A Jerk: This should fall under ‘being courteous’, but it deserves its own mention.  There are times when things will go wrong on your shopping trip: the store is out of one of the items on your list, a sale expires, or you simply can’t find what you want to buy.  Taking out your aggression on the employees will do nothing to improve your shopping experience, and only make that employee much less likely to want to help you in the future.  Treat store employees as you’d want to be treated, and everyone will be much happier.

There you are, several tips on how to behave at retail outlets, from someone who’s spent more of his past month there than he ever intended.  Enjoy your next shopping trip!

5 Responses to Attention, WalMart (and Other Retail) Shoppers

  1. This is so true. I worked at Wal-Mart for 11 months to fund a hobby (I also worked at K-Mart for a few months). I was a cashier, and it was unbelievable how many people were rude, aggressive, or dismissive. My husband used to say, “You’re not a person to those people; you’re furniture.” He was right. People cursed me out if their credit card came back insufficient funds, or if their id didn’t match their wick check id. One older woman grabbed my arm when I picked up her item thinking it was the woman’s in front of hers. I asked her not to touch me, and she fussed at me for not paying attention. If you don’t use the divider or leave a large space, how am I supposed to know whose items are whose?

    The worse people were the ones who refused to talk to me. I would say, “Hi, how are you?”, and they never answered me, never even looked at me. I’d say, “Thanks. Have a nice day.” and they just took their bags and walked off. It’s no wonder that cashiers don’t greet people anymore. That sort of attitude is very rude.

    Anyway, great post! Working at Wal-Mart and then at K-Mart gave me a new appreciation for the people who work there.

    • @Rhonda: Yes, it’s amazing how many stories I’ve heard from cashiers, in particular, about people being, well, jerks, simply because they could. I work stocking the shelves, so I don’t have to deal with quite as many people (most people will generally ignore me unless they need help finding something or that, in which case they are (generally) fairly polite). I couldn’t imagine working as a cashier and having to deal with dozens, potentially more than a hundred people each hour.

      @Evan: Yes, I mentioned it about a month ago or so; I remember that Financial Samurai posted a response that was something along the lines of ‘Don’t be embarassed about doing what you have to do.’ It would be nice if this was all common sense, but alas, as Rhonda’s comment illustrates, that’s a sizable portion of the population that could use a refresher course in retail store etiquette (and basic human decency…)

  2. Another thing I would add to this is “Treat Employee Like Human Beings”. Sometimes you see people walking into a Walmart and treating employees like second class people.

    Just because someone works at a store like that, doesn’t give you the right to abuse them.


    .-= POS Programs´s last blog ..Point of Sale Programs =-.

  3. @POS Programs: Depressing but true, most people could stand to use a refresher course on “Just Because They’re Working a Crummy Job, Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Deserve Respect.” Here’s hoping that this blog entry helps to spark a little bit of a return to respectful behavior…

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