Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why Do People Misbehave In A Store?

Flickr Image courtesy of Scurzuzu
I’ve been in the business for a long time and have seen just about everything one would see in a public place.   I saw an old man fall down a moving escalator and injure himself so badly it looked like we were filming a slasher movie in the store that day.  I saw a mother yelling at her child so harshly as they left the store I followed her into the parking lot and placed a secret Batcall to 911 after I saw her license plate number.  I saw a child throw up on the floor in my store and rather than take the child home, her mother continued to shop without missing a beat (not even a mouth rinse).   And it’s more common than you know to find used sanitary napkins and tampons strewn about on the ladies room floor…like the menstrual reclamation center in the typical stall is sooooo far away and hard to reach.

Why do some people feel it’s OK to behave this way in an upscale store?  Is it a socio-economic thing?  Are people in some way mad at the store (yes, this happens)?  Do people just not care and think someone else will pick up their goo?  Do you think they do this in their own home?  While I’ve never been able to definitively answer these questions, these occurrences are always fodder for conversation among the associates in the store, and although we would never speak about this openly, you better believe we are talking about behind closed doors.  When you deal with the public, you are always analyzing people's behavior to get a better understanding of what drives them to do the things they do.

Here’s my theory…I know there are some undeveloped humans who are so stressed out, so frustrated in their own lives, that they carry a lot of anger around with them….sort of like an extra ass.  So if at the end of their long work day, this angry individual must come into the store and deal with a “sales person” (ugh!) who they feel is at the bottom of their personal food chain, they will snap at the first thing that sets them off….because they can.  They won’t do it to their boss or their doctor or their attorney, but they will do it to us, and for a brief moment, they feel better.  We, however, recognize these people as they approach our counter and we send out messages to each other when we see them coming, much like a primal form of semiosis or Choctaw code talking.  Unfortunately, because I am the manager, these people are usually coming to see me.  My approach is to immediately put them on notice that they are behaving badly and should be ashamed of themselves (in so many words).  My favorite is “there is no such thing as a jewelry emergency” and calm the hell down.  Is this really the worst thing in your life right now?  My job is to take care of whatever they need and once they realize I will do this, they calm down.  No more exploding heads.  Sometimes they are even a little disappointed I’m not going to argue with them. 

Here’s something else I know.  I was told (more than once) by one of my superiors that people who work in retail are only one step up from the fast food industry.  Apparently people start at McDonalds and go directly to Neiman’s.  She didn’t pull this statement out of her hat but rather was given this information by industry analysts who follow employment trends.  However, I don’t really agree with this.  Over the years, I’ve worked with all types of people.  Some with advanced degrees, some without any degree at all, and I’ve come to believe that people who have the kind of skill required to work with all types of people, from kind to difficult, possess the type of education you don’t find in school.  You are born with it.

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