Over a month into my new job as a customer service assistant in a local supermarket I could not resist temptation of writing about it. It has been a challenging experience and oddly enough the longer I’m in the job the harder it gets. Not that the work load changes but the expectations of the people around you increase. Speed is a key element for success in retail and apparently I’m slow, in fact rumour has it I got ‘beaten by a girl’ (she’s so fast that I’m starting to believe she’s a machine), as if a female individual could not be better than me! Another day I was asked if I were a man as the way I was facing up ‘looks like the way a woman would do it’. The thing I get told off most for is, in fact, ‘facing up’. This, I’ve been told, is one of the most important jobs in a shop and it literally means pulling all the items forward and putting them all neatly on the same line. No brainer, the nicer the shop looks the more people are enticed to buy. Thing is I keep missing items on the shelves and I get told off on a regular basis by the manager. Most alarming thing is that he apparently watches the CCTV footage so even when you can’t hear his distinctive cough that announces his presence, you’re still under his scrupulous gaze. He checks the way you work even when he’s not there. It’s like being on Big Brother just that ultimately your job is on the line, as I’ve been reminded on more than one occasion. Gender and the paranoia of being constantly under scrutiny aside, it has been so far an interesting and enjoyable experience.
The customers are obviously the stars of the situation. From the lady that was looking for raw prawns to feed her cat to the man who insists on scanning his own items at the till or to the really short lady who always buys cigarettes asking for ‘the tall ones’. Some people put you in a real good mood like Linda who always smiles and compliments me on my work or others that ask you how you are doing and try to engage with you .Some instead treat you as if you are a machine with total indifference sometimes not even looking at you or are on the phone, others even worse, are plainly rude to you. Like a clear case of racism when one day a lady came into the shop asking for a refund for a light bulb she had bought but did not have the receipt. My colleague who was serving her is of Indian origin and when the customer demanded to speak to the manager on duty she called him, who also happened to be of Indian origin. The discussion on the refund quickly escalated and the lady ended up saying that she had been told that she could get a refund by one of them. When asked by who she pointed out that she did not know as ‘they all look the same’. At that point the manager flipped and threatened to call the police.
When serving customers I’ve noticed that my colleagues and I, change our voices to a special ‘customer tone’ that tends to be more gentle and friendly then our usual voices. Another thing I’ve noticed is the surprising number of people who shop and smell strongly of alcohol or cannabis. This just goes to show how much of a problem excessive drinking is in our society. When scanning items I see what people are buying and always try to understand what their meals and ultimately their lives must be like. Another thing I should really stop doing is judging people by the newspaper they buy, like the builders who buy the Sun or the elderly ladies who opt for the Daily Mail.
Overall it is an interesting experience, question is how long will I last in there? Time will tell.