In the beginning, they were simply clerks.
Then they became associates. And now at places like Nordstrom’s they’re personal navigators.
Whatever the name, their job is still the same — helping make shopping easier for you.
However, there are always a few apples that spoil the reputation of the whole bunch. We’re not just talking minor nuisances here. It’s the full Monty of rudeness from people who are unclear on the concept of customer service.
Keeping in mind that 99 percent of the time clerks do a good job and .9 percent of the time you come across clerks who are exceptional, I present my nominations for the worst of the remaining one-tenth of one percent. (Store names have been deleted.)
1. WORST CASHIER CHIT-CHAT. One evening as we pushed our basket up to the cash register to have our cat food and various weekly supplies scanned, the cashier paused for a moment when an associate came by and engaged in a real “personal” conversation.
Not that scanning our items while talking is annoying in itself (forget about acknowledging that you’re a paying customer who helps cover their pay checks) and bad enough, but this young lady set new standards in what not to do.
The two of them were engrossed in a discussion of the cashier’s date the previous night with a certain Ryan who we gathered was a store stock boy. That was bad enough but when the cashier mentioned that they “did it” and the other associate asked her “how good was it,” they had gone over the line. The cashier’s reply was borderline X-rated and way out of line for the place and time. We were so stunned we didn’t say anything nor did the lady behind us whose expression was one of shock.
2. WORST PRODUCT PITCH: One Christmas I was desperate to find Chanel No. 5 perfume, a classic fragrance if there ever was one. I saw a full-page ad hawking Chanel No. 5 in the Chronicle placed by a famous New York-based department store that I had stopped patronizing years ago because of clerks who took a slightly elitist attitude.
I decided to finally let bygones be bygones and drove to the Vintage Faire Mall. Perhaps I should have realized when I walked up to the perfume counter and was greeted by a 20-ish clerk — pardon me — associate who had blue and green streaks in her hair, some type of lip piercing and clothes that looked like they were made by Saran Wrap and Reynolds Aluminum that to proceed much farther would be a mistake. But like a fool, I asked if she had Chanel No. 5.
She said no, I replied thanks any way and started to leave when something clicked somewhere in her mind that she wasn’t supposed to let a customer walk off without trying to make another possible product suggestion if the store didn’t have what they wanted.
“Chanel No. 5 is an old lady’s perfume,” she blurted out. “Perhaps I can interest you in Red Dior.”
Needless to say, I have a hard time spending a dime in the store to this day.
3. WORST “I’M HAVING A BAD DAY” CHECKOUT STANCE: I was in line at a cash register where they make you take the stuff out of the basket. It starts with the clerk not acknowledging our presence even with a “hello” or a “go to hell.”
She goes in a “Stepford Wives as cashier mode” scanning the items without speaking. I pick up a bag of cat food for her to scan, which she ignores for at least 15 seconds. I let go of it and it moves down the conveyor belt where it hits something and falls back into my basket. This routine is repeated again. Then I pick up the cat food and drop it unceremoniously on top of about seven remaining items.
She finally scans it and pushes it back toward me where it hits my arm and flips into the basket. Thinking I may have been a bit rude, I say nothing and go about writing out the check for the amount she announced without any sign of civility such as the word “please” coming from her lips.
I have my wallet flipped open to my driver’s card when she tells me in an annoyed, condescending tone that she couldn’t read my license because it was fuzzy due to it being still in the wallet window. I took it out, she looked at it, put it back down and didn’t say a word.
She then handed me the receipt and I said “thank-you” and started pushing the basket when it hit me: She hadn’t even said as much as a thank you to me when she took my money or handed me the receipt.
Yes, these are the exceptions to the rule. But clerks who act as if they’re doing you a favor or who are just so far over the line forget one important detail and that’s retailing is as much about customer service as it is having the product at the right price.