Welcome to 12 Days of Retail. My last day (for real this time) at Old Navy is quickly approaching and this series serves as a sort of wrap-up to my time there. I've rounded up the worst customer offenses into 12 general categories. Some are truly terrible and some are relatively minor, but together they cover almost everything that is terrible about working retail, in my ten years of experience.
When you walk into an Old Navy, there are certain things you should expect and certain things you shouldn't. Old Navy has no qualms admitting it's not high-end. It's not a boutique. You can expect an associate to help you and answer your questions and look for an item for you, yes. But you can't expect the kind of personalized, one-on-one, long-term help you might expect at a nicer store.
But here's the thing: You don't want that. Because if you got that, you would also be spending a whole heck of a lot more money on the clothes themselves. Personalized, boutique service requires more man hours than we can ever realistically have, and that costs money. Lots and lots of money.
The one place where people spend way too much time in the store also happens to be the place I'm stationed most of the time—at the cash register.
For value clothing brands to function at maximum efficiency, they need to be getting customers through the line as quickly as possible. At Old Navy, for example, the goal is for every transaction to take two minutes or less. Obviously, sometimes that's not possible when it's a larger transaction, and that's fine. But two minutes is plenty of time for the vast majority of transactions.
Let's look at some of the reasons why transactions might needlessly take more than their allotted time, shall we?
Some people use the register as a secondary shopping space. They come to the register with far more clothing than they're intending to buy with the idea that once they get to the register, they will determine what they do and don't want. Don't get me wrong here—to some extent, arriving at the register unsure of what you're going to be buying is fine. Changing your mind about stuff in the moment is totally reasonable.
What's not reasonable is intentionally bringing bags and bags of clothing to the register with full knowledge that you're only planning on buying two or three items. You know what, though? Actually, if you were able to decide quickly, I would mostly be okay with that. The problem is that this is never the case. When people come to the register with the plan of editing when they get there, they are always the ones who spend a full minute deciding about each individual item, ask us to wait while they run and get another size, and have us take items off and put them into a maybe pile which they then have to re-review at the end. It takes far too long and it can just as easily be done in any given corner of the store, or even the fitting room, where one employee doesn't have to dedicate their full attention to you just because you are in their physical space.
Another way people waste our time at the cash register is by insisting they have a coupon or reward code and looking for it for far longer than is reasonable. Whether it's a physical coupon in a far too messy purse or an email that they swear they didn't delete, people will un-self-consciously search for these coupons for more than five minutes if you let them.
One of the perks of working somewhere for ten years is that you figure out polite ways to not let people get away with this. But as a new employee, it's pretty difficult to tell someone you're going to have to take the next person and you'll get back to them when they find their coupon. It takes assertiveness that you might not develop until year three or four.
Overall, we can’t afford to have you using the register area as your personal space for deciding what you do and don’t want and looking through your email for a $5 off coupon for twenty minutes. Be ready to go when you get to the register or don't walk up to the register yet.
Today's pro-tip: If you have a coupon on your phone, take a screenshot of it before you go up to the register. If your browser accidentally refreshes and takes awhile to load or you lose connection for any reason, you can just pull up the photo!