A Conversation for Modern Etiquette

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Post 1

neilfish, purveyor of the finest confusion since 1442

I'm not sure if this counts or not towards the modern etiquette or not, but I'll contribute it anyway. Presumably etiquette covers the attitude of assistants to customers as well as vice-versa?

The attitude of shop assistants to customers shows a very wide range of politeness, from utter rudeness to very helpful assistance delivered with great consideration to the customers needs. The traditional guide to shopkeepers of “The customer is always right” may not, now be suitable to modern retail and could do with a significant rethink, but it is certainly a starting point. The most important thing for assistants to do, at least from the viewpoint of customer satisfaction, is always to always consider what the customer wants and to help him/her to get it as quickly as possible. The modern market place is a complicated place, with more choice that ever and that is why the major complaint I have against some shop assistants, particularly in shops such as mobile-phone shops, is that I have had to drag information from them. I am not an impatient man, but when I enter a shop I expect to be helped to a decision with efficiency, not merely given answers to questions but to be advised.
To this end I suggest a list of guidelines to help retail assistants deal with lengthier enquiries from customers:
Ask people in the shop if they need help when you see that they do, not when they have just walked in the door- it puts the customer under pressure.
When you do see people standing around, offer your assistance promptly. If you are with another customer try to get another assistant to help.
Listen to what the customer asks you, or tells you, then give a brief summary of their options (ie what phones or tariffs would be suitable for them, and give the benefits and drawbacks to each).
Give the customer all suitable options, when available, and tell him/her what you think would be best for the customer.

I know this all sounds elementary stuff, but you’d be surprised by the number of times I have had a bad shopping experience by people not doing these simple things.

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Post 2


I agree....to a point......however....

I work for a well known coffee shop.......sometimes getting information from customers is like squeezing blood from a stone....

"Hi there, how can I help you?"
"I'd like a coffee please"
"Certainly, do you have any idea what kind of coffee you'd like?"
"A normal coffee please"
"Okay then sir, but everyone has a different idea of normal, do you take your coffee white or black?"
"Right, would you like a filter coffee to which you add your own cold milk or a latte which is made with hot milk?"
"Just a coffee."
"Fine. I recommend the filter coffee......which size would you like?.....our mugs come in these three sizes...*points to mugs which have names written on them and are displayed in ascending order*"
"I just want a cup of normal bloody coffee*
"Fine. If you don't want choice...go to McDonalds...don't come to a speciality coffee shop."

Not that I mind helping customers who are genuinly bewildered but the bloody minded ones drive me potty.

So. Please be as helpful as you can when answering questions....we don't ask random questions for fun...there is usually a reason behind everything.

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Post 3

EncyBass-: Not going to be around much next week, cos I've got a new job...

Completely agree with you.
I used to work in a cinema. This actually happens all the time:
Me: Hi, can I help?
Customer: I'd like to see a film.
M: Which one?
C: Don't know.
M: Any ideas which kind of film?
C: No.
M: Right.... well, this one's quite good. Won some Oscars.
C: Who's in it? (whilst staring straight at the poster)
M: Well, him. And her.
C: Don't like him.
And so on. My suggestion to anybody and everybody is this: At least have a vague idea of what you want before asking people about it. If it's in a shop (such as the aforementioned mobile phone shop), have a quick look to get an idea. Nobody minds being asked questions, and will be happy to help if you have a rough idea. It helps us customer service plebs to get the right thing for you, and everyone walks away happy.

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Post 4


I never fail to be astonished to see a customer go in a fast food restaurant, stand in line for five minutes, and then suddenly have to look at the menu to make selections when the server asks for their order. You cannot make me believe that someone has never been in McDonald's before, or that it didn't occur to them to check out the menu while waiting. It is a miracle that more serious injuries DO NOT occur due to the thoughtlessness of customers.

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Post 5

EncyBass-: Not going to be around much next week, cos I've got a new job...

You mean like gherkins being thrown in people's eyes by irate counter staff?
That kind of thing?

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Post 6

neilfish, purveyor of the finest confusion since 1442

i totally agree, the supply of information- needs to be two way. i'm not expecting shop assistants to be pyschic, merely to answer the questions i ask. when it comes to detailed enquiries in places like electric good shops, or specialist coffee shops then the assistant is PAID to be an expert. the customer has to know what he wants, or at least have a vague idea as to what would suit him, but it is the job of the assistant to match the custmoers desires, which may not be for a specific model, with the correct choice.
the standing in line and not checking the menu annoys everyone behind the offendor, a quick look to check the pronounciation etc (i sometimes find that i know exactly what i want all the way up the queue and then, when i get to the front, faced with the pressure my mind blanks. i panic. and so a quick look to the menu is needed, but there is no excuse for the decision process to take place at the point of sale.
in a similar vein, the customers who wait until they get to the front of the queue to get out their wallet or purse (although i have to say, trying not to be sexist here, that IMHO the offenders seem to be mostly women), which is at the bottom of a very big, very full bag also irritates me, both as another customer who has to wait while they extricate their change and, having been a salesperson myself, when there is a huge queue which you are trying your hardest to get rid of.

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Post 7


Ooooh, the handbag one really annoys me.....is the same with buses....people whinge about waiting 10 minutes for a bus but in those 10 minutes they don't think to get their fare ready.....eejits

I agree about the specialist thing....I am paid to be an expert on coffee but not every customer wants to enter a lengthy discourse on brewing methods, some do just genuinely want a coffee....they want to sit with a latte and read the paper....but I don't know they want a latte until they answer my questions....and as for the cup size....don't get me started....maybe I should think about a career that isn't in the service industry!

You can always (well, mostly) spot someone else who does a similar job though, they are the most thoughtful, considerate customers you can have.

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Post 8

neilfish, purveyor of the finest confusion since 1442

except for doctors and medstudents. they make the WORST patients (so i have been told). actually, on that note- what better example of a "paid expert" is there than a doctor, but they too do not always give out enough information to their patients (a major complaint from patients about their GP was that they didn't tell them enough abou what was happening or would be happening). i get treated very well by doctors though, if they find out i'm a medstudent, i get told all sorts of extra things that most people wouldn't to hear.

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Post 9


Thanks to EncyBass, every time I start getting irate due to the menu reading business, I'm going to think of gherkins and start laughing! That took the starch right outta my shorts. Now if I can just think of something funny like that for everything that annoys me here in the tourist land, I'll spend my WHOLE DAY laughing.

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Post 10


Ooh yes, the person who is surprised when they have to pay - SO annoying. Then there's the (usually) young male student who thinks that his ten bags-worth of shopping is going to pack itself - doesn't start packing it til after he's paid, thus slowing up everyone behind him. AAARGH!

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Post 11


not etiquette, but pet hate:
i hate it when 'shoppers' grab loads of bargain goods just to sell for double in their shops......... tight gits!!!

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Post 12

neilfish, purveyor of the finest confusion since 1442

A pet hate of mine, that seems extremely prevalent at the supermarket I use when at university, is shop assistants that have a very long and involved "routine" for dealing with card payments. I enclose the following as an example of a routine that I have seen one shop assistant use:
1, Act startled when handed a credit/debit card by customer.
2, Appear to ignore it while swingin chair 'round to face other direction and picking up thick envelope with long piece of string attached to it and a pen.
3, Unwind the string, that has been previously wrapped around the envelope.
4, Then swing back to fac the customer and place envelope on metal desk thing in front of you.
5, Finally accept card. Swipe through machine.
6, Wait for receipt to be fully printed. Tear from machine and fold in half. Place on top of envelope.
7, Ask the customer to sign the receipt.
8, When he/she has done so pick up the envelope, leaving the receipt where it is.
9, Wrap the pen and string back around the envelope.
10, Spin to face the other direction again and stash the envelope from whence it came.
11, Turn back to face the customer, again, appear to search for receipt, pick it up, then search for the card which has been stashed somewhere else.
12, Compare the signatures, making frequent glances at the customer as if to assess their dodginess.
13, Finally accept that the two signatures match and searchm on the till for the 'OK' button. Press it, gingerly.
14, When the till opens, unfold the receipt and smoothing the fold line place in till.
15, When the final sales receipt has finished printing tear it from the machine. Fold neatly into thirds and hand to customer.
16, Turn to face the next customer, apologise for the long queue, which is "beyond your control".

This may sound like I am exaggerating, but sadly I am not. As people who use the supermarket in the centre of Cambridge can no-doubt vouch for me. (I'm sure I'm not allowed to mention which type of supermarket it is, hence the vague description.)

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Post 13


I never realized how much I should appreciate our "swipe and go" debit cards at the supermarket until I heard that one. I will no longer take it for granted.

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Post 14

Mojo's big stick

As an ex-shop assistant, I'd like to back up the gripes about stupid customers.

I used to sell curtains. Have a quick think about the windows in your house. They're not all the same size, are they... This may seem obvious to you, but to buy curtains YOU HAVE TO KNOW THE SIZE OF YOUR WINDOW!!

When I'd ask the customer "What size do you need?" I'd usually get one of the following answers:-

- Oh, normal/average size.
- I dunno, hadn't thought about that...
- What size have you got?
- Same size as I had before of course!
- Sitting room sized. [What, 3m square?]
- About this big. [Holding out arms fisherman style]
- It's for that little white house, you know it, on Such-and-such Street...

I didn't mind people bringing in lengths of string or pyjama cords with knots in, and I could kiss the people who brought in one of their old curtains so I could measure it. But I threw my hands up at the guy who'd measured his window with a length of elastic... No joke, it took half an hour and two floor managers to explain to him why his measurements were no good.

To truly comprehend the stupidity of humanity, you have to work in retail.


(That said, I have great way of confusing assistants in electrical shops. I have a black and white television and I ask them if it will work with a VCR. I've been told; yes of course; definitley not; and maybe, but the tape will be recorded in black and white!)

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Post 15


I work as a volunteer in a Red Cross charity shop and you wouldn't believe some of the rubbish that our punters throw at us. The abrasive manner of customers is enough to try the patience of a saint and they seldom appreciate that I'm an unpaid volunteer. smiley - flustered

Some complain about high prices and attempt to knock the already ridiculously low prices down by finding the most miniscule fault on the donated second-hand article of clothing/brick-a-brac in their hands.

Items are stolen from the shop (stealing from a charity?). smiley - steam

People don't seem to appreciate that the clothing we sell is donated and they frequently ask us if we have a particular item of clothing in any other colours/sizes and when we don't, ask if we're expecting any in! smiley - laugh

Some allow their children run riot and play with the toys that are for sale but leave the shop without returning said toys to their original shelves or boxes.

We've found customers wandering into the stock room and examining items that have yet to be sorted and priced.

The mess that customers leave in the shop by not picking up clothing items they've dropped, leaving litter and chewing gum on the floor and occasionally clothing makes one wonder what state their homes are in. smiley - erm

On a lighter note, many of our customers are absolute smiley - angels and meeting them makes having to put up with the smiley - monsters tolerable. smiley - ok

How rude.

Post 16


I was recently in a clothing shop in that London. Whilst being served at the counter, the shop assistant did not make eye contact with me or say a single word to me. She did however have two conversations with members of staff. After my receipt was passed to me I said:

"I am sorry but I feel that you have been rude to me. You have not made eye contact with me and have not said one thing to me including "Thank You""

She said that she had "been busy". I would have complained to the manager, but she was the manager smiley - sadface

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Post 17



So, it's been a while, and I wonder if you are all still around on the site, but just re-read this and it made me laugh again. Best wishes to you all and may you have magnificent retail experiences....


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Post 18


I agree, it's worth a re-read now and again, just to laugh about the pickles. You have no idea how many times that has saved me from "dangerous customer service situations." And this is exactly the time of year they are most likely to occur.

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