Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I don't wanna work, I want to bang on the drum all day...

Now that I finally know where I’m headed in the fall I’m anxious to get this party started.
Especially with spring springing up like gang busters this week, I’m more than ready to clear out the old and make room for the new. We had a tag sale at church over the weekend so I hauled over a load of crap….ahem…I mean “fine, sellable goods”…..and I’m happy to say that most of it is now cluttering up someone else’s closet. The box of foot and body lotions that someone re-gifted to me many Christmases ago – Sold! The Mo Vaughn bobble head (a baseball player who is no longer with the NY Mets and who sucked when he was) – Sold! The 9-year-old printer that came with my first desktop computer and hasn’t been used in 5 years – Donated! (My pastor snatched it from the remainder pile at the end of the sale….please God, let it still work!)

Between the tag sale, Worship, and the Ministry Council meeting I’ve spent six out of the last seven days at church, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I didn’t have to work last Thursday it would have been 7 out of 7. My hours at the bookstore have been cut down to 1-2 days a week and quite honestly, that’s 1-2 days more than I want to work.
I took the job so I could pay down my credit card debt before starting school but now I’m working so few hours I have to ask myself: “Is the aggravation and soul sucking that I experience at this job worth the $50 a week that it’s bringing in?”

There are things that I love about the job – shelving books, opening the new shipments, helping the customers – and there are things that I hate about the job – having to deal with an incompetent and overbearing manager who just leaches the energy right out of me, and the endless heap of promotional “chatter” that we’re expected to dump on every customer who walks in the door (that’s the part where the soul sucking comes in).

First, we have to approach/accost every customer entering the store, ask them if they need help and tell them about our weekly promotion whether it looks like they’d be interested or not… “Excuse me sir, I know you’re only killing time while your wife is in Lord and Taylor, but all of our Chicken Soup for the Soul books are Buy-1-Get-1-Half-Price this week!”

Then once we have the customer at the cashwrap (corporate speak for “cash register”) we have to ask them the following:
“Did you find everything that you were looking for?”
“Will there be anything else today? Any candy or gift cards?”
“May I have your Rewards card?”
“Oh, you don’t have one? Here, it’s FREE! Just fill out this form with your email and phone number and you’ll get great coupons, in-store specials and earn rewards!”
If they say NO, we have to say “Oh, but it’s Free, it only takes a second to fill out and we keep all of your information confidential!" (but we will bombard your Inbox with junk email every week). If they say NO again, and it’s my manager that’s helping them, she’ll slam down the form, give them a dirty look, and talk about how “rude” they were once they leave the store.
If they already have the card but didn’t bring it with them we have to say….”I can look it up for you!” (at which point they give us six variations of their email and phone number none of which we can find in the computer, which means they don’t get the Rewards and all the people on line are pissed because it’s taking so long to ring up one customer)

After the Rewards push is over, we have to note what they’re buying and suggest other titles that they might be interested in (as if they’re going to get off the line to find our suggestion and go through this process all over again)
We also have to push a weekly “cashwrap” item that is propped up in front of the register (and leaves little room for the customer to put their purchases on the counter). It’s either a book that the company is overstocked on or a special “Rewards Member Only" item like a tote bag or cheesy recipe gift set.
After pushing that, we often have an “end of sale promotion” like “Would you like to donate to the First Book foundation that gives first books to children?” or “Would you like to purchase a book for us to donate to the local Women’s Shelter?” Both of which are great causes, but at this point in the transaction most people are secretly shouting “Enough!” as they politely grit their teeth and say “No thank you, not today.”

The kicker is, we’re expected to do this with every customer, regardless if it’s a teenager buying a magazine or an overwrought mother who’s dealing with three screaming kids and who just wants to pay for her book and get out of the store.

Finally, every couple of months we have to hand out “Customer Service” survey forms, and instruct the customer to call the phone number on the form, take the survey and get a 15% coupon. During the survey the customer is asked if the bookseller asked them all of the above questions and if they say “No” (whether it’s true or not) our store’s “CSI” scores plummet beneath the desirable “response/positive percentage” level. Then the District Manage berates our Manager and she berates us for offering bad customer service. It doesn’t matter how friendly we are or how much time we spend helping the customer and making sure they’ve found what they’re looking for…..If we fail to push every promotion that the corporate office expects us to we can be written up or fired.

Our monthly job performance reviews are based on our UPT score (units sold per transaction) and our Rewards percentage (how many people use their cards or sign up for the card when we’re on the register). My Rewards percentage is hovering around 54% while my manager consistently brags that she has an 89% and “if she can do it, we all can do it” – Never mind that she often picks and chooses who she rings up (someone carrying a pile of books who’s likely to already have the card) and will continue to push the card after a customer says “No” until they finally say “yes” just to get out of the store.
My fellow employees have percentages in the low 70’s but they’ve outright admitted to me that they cheat. They scan the card and stuff it in the customer’s bag even if the customer says ‘No’ or, if they can’t find the customer’s info in the computer they choose any email on the list that pops up so they get credit for the sale but some other customer is earning the rewards. I have vowed never to stoop to cheating regardless of how much the manager berates me because she “knows that I can do better.”
What do I care?… I’ll be gone in a few months, but my fellow employees (who are all great with the customers) are almost forced to be dishonest in order to keep their jobs.

Each employee is also required to read the company’s daily online “E-News” which is full of mind-numbing corporate speak like “increase your upsell” and “Correct placement of EGC and the RDC is critical to fourth quarter earnings elevation.”

Can’t you just hear my soul being sucked out as we speak?

I’ll take church aggravation over corporate aggravation any day…
At least parishioners arguing over the choice of carpet in the sanctuary will never say things like: “The impending selection of ground level covering is not within the parameters of our previously requisitioned selection, therefore we will need to move forward with an alternative product to satisfy our core base, otherwise revenue intake in the coming quarter will suffer a reduction, thus affecting our intake/outtake ratio”

Translation: “Pick a different color rug or the offering plate will be empty this week”

Somebody get me a drum, I gots me some banging to do!


add said...

There are a few additional details that can enhance the overall polish of a customer survey. A survey should be an exercise in communications excellence.

Suzer said...

Oh, Gawd!!! I remember having to do all that ridiculous nonsense in retail clothing sales as well. I wasn't aware bookstores were so heavily into it now, but come to think of it, I think all those sale-sy gimmicks were quoted to me at the last bookstore I went to. Aargh. Don't the marketing folks realize that this bothers customers more than influences them to return? It would be nice to have someone who is truly helpful and knowledgeable, rather than robotic questions that are asked of everyone. (Not to say you aren't knowledgeable or helpful, it's just that management should realize that individual attention is so much better than the same mass upsell to everyone.)

In fact, I can feel the soul-sucking happening right now, even though my last retail sales job was over 10 years ago. Lord save me from ever having to do another one! Glad you'll be escaping soon. :)

MoCat said...

I agree 1000% percent Suzer, personally I'm less likely to return to a store if I know I'm going to get the hard-sell every time I go in there. Unfortunately my manager (and her corporate buddies) just don't get it: "the customer can always say 'no', what's the harm in asking?"...yeah, yeah, and what color is the sky in the world that you live in? ;-)