Customer Service Experience
The first job I had was at Dunkin’ Donuts, located at Ranger Plaza, in Methuen, MA. Even with my first job, there was contention over it between me and my family. My father was very displeased that I was not able to get employed somewhere closer to home, instead of working so very far away in the next town over. Because of that reason, there would consistent arguments over this, as my father would always attempt to hang it over my head as a sign of failure. There is nothing particularly wonderful about this job, as I had no benefits, only received minimum wage, and, because the location was 24-hour, I happened to work once at least every shift. I cannot claim to miss the job, largely because it never had anything to do with my personal interests.
My next employer was Loew’s Theatres (Loew’s Cineplex Entertainment), which had recently been announced to merge with AMC Theatres. My experience working there was not much better than my previous job, though at least it wasn’t 24 hours. During my time there, I worked on Concessions, in the Box Office, and as an Usher. We were required to “upsell” on Concessions, as a rule, and when I would rarely go see a movie at the location I worked, one of my bosses did express a disgruntled attitude about why I didn’t purchase on my co-worker’s upsell. I believe I may have bought a soda, and some candy, but she appeared dismayed that I didn’t chose the larger amount, and popcorn.
The reason for this was pretty easy, I was working around popcorn all the time, for hours on end, and was rather sick of the stuff. My managers, on the hand, could often take refuge into the office, or at the managerial front desk, but because I was entry level – not me. I frankly didn’t want to see popcorn, much less have any, I wanted to enjoy the movie I came to watch.
Working as an Usher was the most disgusting job I probably have ever worked. One experience included cleaning human feces (likely from a small child) from the sink in one of the restrooms (using gloves, of course). The reason why I was requested to do this was because I was the most willing person to do the job I was hired to accomplish, so often times, it became apparent that the most disgusting work everyone else did not wish to do would then go to me, if I was on shift. Of course, I was still working minimum wage, and no benefits, so doing cleaning disgusting things didn’t lead to being more secure in any way.
The Box Office was one of the best places to work. I loved working this the most. Usually, the customers were much, much nicer here compared to further down the line (concessions, in particular). The only drawback was that it was also closest to the door, so during the winter it was very cold, while during the summer it was very hot.
Finally, one of my last and longest employers was working as a Cashier, as well as occasionally on the Floor during “down times,” at Sears (as seen in the picture above). Like Dunkin’ Donuts, working as a cashier is quite a difficult job, and, yet again, I only worked part-time with no benefits. According to Tough Nickel‘s article, “Cashier Jobs: The Truth About Working in Retail“:
First of all, you are on your feet for many hours at a time. You stand in one place for hours. I did work as a cashier for a total of about two years. Once, I did it while I was pregnant. Trust me, standing on your feet for hours at a time, while carrying around thirty to forty extra pounds is not as much fun as it sounds. I know, it doesn’t sound like any fun at all.
Some stores allow you to wear sneakers, or tennis shoes. But, a lot of them, mostly higher end, or boutique shops, require you to dress nicer, and thus wear nicer shoes. These shoes are usually harder on your feet than a decent pair of sneakers, but they are required. Where I worked, I was required to wear black dress shoes, but since I was pregnant, I was allowed to wear my sneakers. Why the requirement for nice shoes? No one sees your feet behind a counter, right? This is true, and I never understood it, either. Don’t ask me to explain something that obviously makes no sense.
Second, the pay isn’t great. As a cashier, you are lucky to make a little bit above minimum wage. So, unless you are desperate for any job that actually pays you money, you just need a little extra income every month, or you don’t really need the money, a job as a cashier may not be right for you. It’s hard to make ends meet when you make minimum wage. But, then again, sometimes, it’s that little bit of extra money that is just what you need.
On top of that, cashier jobs, and any other retail jobs, are not recession proof. Retail stores across the country are downsizing, closing down stores, or going out of business all together. Drive down the street and you will see what I mean. Businesses around me are closing, or laying off employees. Several stores have gone out of business since I first wrote this hub. Job security is not very high in the retail environment. On the other hand, turn overrate in the retail environment is often rather high, so the need for cashiers is usually pretty steady.
Lastly, people can be MEAN!!! No matter what, you will take the blame for everything from an unhappy customer. You will have to listen, and often be berated, for some policy, or problem that is not your fault. I have dealt with numerous customers who were unhappy for one reason or another, that had nothing to do with me, yet I had to hear about it, and somehow, in their minds, it was all my fault.
Cashier: “I am sorry, you cannot use this coupon along with this discount. You have to choose one or the other.”
Unhappy customer: “What??!! How is that fair? I qualify for this discount, and I have this coupon! Why can’t I use them both?? This is crap!”
Cashier: “I am sorry. It is store policy. You cannot use two different percent off discounts together. It says it right there on your coupon. Percent off discount cannot be used with another discount.”
Unhappy customer: “I have never heard of such a thing. This is ridiculous! I am never shopping here again. I thought I would be getting a good deal, and all I have gotten is lied to. I want to speak to your manager.”
Cashier: “I can get my manager for you, if you would like. Give me a moment.”
Unhappy customer: “Ugh! I don’t have time for this!”
I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to go through something almost exactly like that. If you don’t give a customer everything they want, even if it’s against policy, and would mean you might get into serious trouble, or even loose your job, they can get very nasty! Being insulted by an angry customer is never fun, and it isn’t for the overly sensitive. I was almost brought to tears once by an irate customer. Who yells at a pregnant woman, anyway?
People try all kinds of ways to cheat stores out of money. From trying to combine discounts that they can’t, to trying to pass off coupons from an entirely different store chain, to attempting to returning items purchased at another store chain, to all manners of deceitful practices. Being able to sniff out these tricks, and resolving them without potentially insulting a customer, who may have just made an innocent mistake, is difficult.
Also, during this job, I was traveling over the state line all the time, as many people who work in Salem, NH also live in Massachusetts. So, at least 4 times a week, I had to travel from Lawrence, MA to Salem, NH regularly. Additionally, at one point, both my parents had worked at Sears while I was employed there. My mother briefly worked on the Floor, and was let go from the job, which received a lot of cries of injustice from my parents. There was a lot of insults I heard, needless to say, from my parents about Sears on this issue.
My father worked at Washers & Dryers on the first floor, commission only, and always played himself more than he ever was: An exceptional salesman. For them, because I worked there, and so did they, this was (as they indicated to me prior to any job interview) a way for them to monitor, and watch me at all times. When I was work, they could talk to my co-workers, and it would allow to recant anything I might say that they don’t like, or simply make fun of me to their co-workers, which I heard my father do several times. So, at work, they could exert their agenda over me because we existed in the same environment, and if my father heard something that contradicted what I may have said happened in work – it was easy for them to punish me over it. They tended to prefer me always in the wrong, so this happened countless times. Meanwhile, at home, there was no way to exert my own agency because it was their house, their rules, and as I working two jobs (having worked at the Lawrence Public Schools as a Cafeteria Substitute, of which my mother was employed for years) I was broke by the amount of money my parents charged me for living with them – even though I didn’t want to live there. They complained all the time about my purchases, wanted to dictate everything, and acted like this was perfectly acceptable. Even though I was working two jobs, in two different states, I had no money while living with them to enjoy the money that I earned.
Ironically, despite all these things, I actually felt like I was most useful at work. There was no way to reason with my parents about anything, but I could reason with my co-workers. Additionally, I felt I could be more of myself in the workplace due to strong workplace protections on protected classes according to our state constitution (which includes race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as the sex object, genetic information, or ancestry of any individual to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual). Unlike at home, where my parents tended to take credit for everything, especially things they did not do, I could receive such credit in the workplace (if I worked between this time and that time, there was certainty of this on record). So, untimely, I happened to feel the most successful there, and not even remotely around my own family.