Day 6: I really don't have that much power

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.

You know, for customers thinking retail employees are idiots, they sure do think we have far more control over things than we actually do. Almost every single day at Old Navy, a customer will tell us something they would like for us to convey to corporate or just tell us that we need to change something even though that thing is not at all within our control.

You want examples? Oh boy, do I have examples. Each of these links to an old blog post, so click away if you want the full story.

1) People who think we should carry literally every size that exists

This is a problem that happens with every type of clothing and every department pretty often. We always direct them to the website, which has far more sizes than we could ever carry in store. The most ridiculous infractions of this type are when parents get upset that their kids are having to move up to adult sizes. I have had this conversation so many times I've lost count:

"Why don't you carry XXL for little girls?"
"We do on the website, but if she needs an XXL she can move up to women's clothes."
"That's just ridiculous."

Okay, sure, sorry.

2) People who want every item to be made from 100% cotton

I understand that some people have issues with various fabrics, so if you need your clothes to be made of 100% cotton, I get that. But Old Navy is an inexpensive clothing brand. We just can't afford for all of our clothes to be made of 100% cotton. Some of them are! And yes, I agree that in the past, more of our clothes were 100% cotton. But that's just not how it is right now.

So, whether you're upset about that or not, telling an employee at a store does exactly nothing. We don't have a direct pipeline to corporate, and we obviously have no say in the actual design of the clothes. I mean, come on.

3) That woman who wished we had told her we don't take checks

One time I had a customer who wanted to write a check, and it was about a year after we stopped taking checks. I politely let her know that we didn't take checks anymore and she got very annoyed. She said, "Well geez, I wish someone had told me!" and I just thought that was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. Like we should have called her up personally and told her that we were changing the forms of payment we accept? Or like we should have had an ad campaign about it?

4) People who get really upset about the fact that we don't have boxes

Guys, we don't have boxes. And we don't have boxes because we're just not that kind of brand. Like, we're selling shirts for $5. We're not really building the cost of gift boxes into our profit margins. And again, as usual, what are you trying to accomplish here? Did you want me to call corporate and tell them, "Hey, people really want gift boxes," as if they've never heard of this or considered it?

I promise they've heard of gift boxes, considered them, and decided against them. And they probably revisit the idea every once in a while too.

5) People who think we have control over the music

This is pretty infrequent, but it does happen. Old Navy is pretty good about being family friendly, music-wise, so I've never had any content-based complaints, but people get really annoyed about Christmas music. Though people who complain about the fact that we're already playing Christmas music on November 10th annoy me, I just laugh it off and faux-pologize. One of my coworkers once had a customer in the store just to return some items who got really huffy about the Christmas music and said that she would have stayed and shopped more if we hadn't been playing it. Like, that is too much, and also, we have no control over it.

6) People who can't accept that a store closed

When I was in college, I worked at a store that was about 15 minutes east of campus. It was technically in Okemos. (This is the store that the vast majority of stories on this blog are based on.) Apparently, at some point before I worked there, there was also an Old Navy at the Lansing Mall, which is about 20 minutes west of campus. I don't know when it closed, but it was before I started at MSU.

The entirety of my time there, which was about three and a half years, I fielded questions about the Lansing Mall store. People were aggressively confused for such a long time about it being gone. And every time someone asked about it, without fail, they asked with an accusatory tone. Like ... calm down, guys. It's only like a thirty minute drive and I didn't even live in Michigan when it happened.

Today's pro-tip: Low-level employees of a national chain have little to no control over anything. Understand that and accept it.

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