Retail Sales Clerks Get Undeserved Black Eyes

by D. Kendra Francesco

Dear Store Manager:
I’ll never shop at your store again!
Sincerely, Mrs. Ima C.U. Stomer

What Happened Here?

Ah, retail therapy! That indescribable feeling of buying something (anything!) that all department stores thrive on. Every now and then, it’s good to go shopping. Especially in brick-and-mortar stores.

However, recently, retail therapy isn’t as fun anymore.

And it isn’t price related at all.

Why Isn’t It Fun?

In three words, poor customer service.

I see it all the time: sales staff ignoring the customers. They talk among themselves, rather than interact with a customer. Even when ringing up a customer, they talk to each other instead of the person paying. The customer walks away, sighing about the rudeness of sales clerks.

And it is rude. Customers keep the company afloat by purchasing the products. Ignoring them is not only rude, but stupid as well. If customers don’t buy, the store flounders in a river of red ink. If the bottom line stays red too long, the company sinks like the Titanic into the sea. Usually upper staff survives the wreck. They get severance packages, and the like. The rest will be lost in the ocean of unemployment lines.

I’m tempted to say that it’s only the younger folk. Those under age 30. Or even under 45. But, I’d be generalizing. And wrong. I also see the lack of service in baby boomers. They who should know better from living so long.

Granted, not every person falls into the sales “clerk” status. There are true sales professionals who understand the principles of service in sales. No, the lack of interest in customers is mostly shown by those who are there simply marking time; they’re there for the paycheck. Nothing else matters to these folks.

That Has to Change

Agreed. Moreover, I blame the company for most of this prevailing attitude. (The sales staff isn’t getting off scott-free. They could be a little more independent outside of work, and learn what they need on their own. But, that’s another post for another day.)

Um, what?

Too often, the store manager, or a specific department manager, doesn’t do right by its new hires. They’re especially lax with seasonal help. They don’t give the old-timers any help either. It’s too easy for managers to point the finger at their sales staff. “They aren’t doing their work!”

Have the managers taught their sales staff how to do their work? No?

Customer service isn’t a natural thing. Sales is natural; we all do it in one form or another every day in order to get what we want. Service is not. Like anything else, it must be taught. It’s the education of a company’s sales clerks and professionals that make the difference.

Sales staff is not taught now that good customer service matters. Or even what it means to give customers service. They’re shown “how-to-do” a list of chores when hired: how to run a cash register, how to fold clothing, and how to straighten up the stock room, etc. But, they’re never taught how to approach, observe, and sell to a customer – or why it matters.  

 Why Not?

Good question, that. I have a pretty good idea of some of the issues. It comes down to the work ethics of the managers. They often are:

  • Shortsighted, especially with seasonal help
  • Lack personal knowledge of the sales process
  • Lack personal understanding of the sales process (knowledge and understanding are kindred, but not the same thing)
  • Disconnected between customers, sales staff, and senior staff
  • Aren’t focused on the mission of the company
  • Lazy; they simply don’t want to take the time to teach

So, the Answer Is…?

It’s time that managers teach their sales personnel. Any retail company that hopes to survive – especially in the wake of online sales – needs their sales personnel to know what it means to serve their customers. The focus needs to be on observing, approaching, listening, and a host of things that creates sales.

Sales that keeps the company afloat.

The Takeway

Managers: Take the time to address the above issues. Fully embrace the company’s mission, and teach your sales staff to do it, too. Learn about the products, understand how they help the customer, and teach your sales staff what you know. Ask questions of the customers who come in, especially those who return again and again. Ask questions of your sales staff about the customers; allow them to ask questions of you.

Then, keeping the customer in mind, go out and interact with them!

What’s the worst – or best – customer service lesson you’ve given? What’s going on with your sales staff? Be bold; leave a comment below. 

(Comments close in 90 days.)

Time to Share

I recently had the opportunity to encourage others to become copywriters. It’s a great field to make a living in. Yes, you do need to turn a blind eye toward the bright, shiny promises of get-rich-quick gurus. Copywriting is for those who are willing to exercise patience, even as they exercise their brains and marketing skills.

I’m going to share here what I told them.

It’s quite an interesting field, and very broad.Training is anything from teaching yourself, to investing in decent courses and subscriptions. Begin by looking up “copywriting as a living” (with the quote marks).

First listed after the ads is with Carol Tice. A few links down is Next page is


Carol Tice

Chris Marlow

Bob Bly (

Steve Slaunwhite

Avoid odesk, elance, and the dozens of other writing sites that pay too little, or bid sites that encourage you to race to the bottom of how much you’ll accept as payment.

After looking through those, you’ll get a sense of where you want your writing career to go. Be brave! Follow that sense, and do the diligence (and use your work-smarts).

See you in the writing world!

New Directions

Once upon a time, I thought I could change the world. Some part of  still thinks so. The view of forest and tree has changed considerably between the 15-year-old in 1971, and the 58-year-old today. My beloved forest is now mostly scattered trees, and sparse landscape. However, that has distilled the distance into clarity. Those trees that still grow are more precious to me because there are fewer of them. There are more chances to save them than the entire forest.

This blog is changing directions. Instead of a copywriting sales platform, you’ll find opinions and ruminations and suggestions for changes. You’ll read the good, the bad, and the yawn. You’ll agree, disagree, or shrug. My purpose is to move you beyond the yawn and shrug. Hence, the new direction.

Come, view the remaining trees with me from the peaks and valleys. Smell the tang of fir and pine in the air. Taste fruits and nuts, burrow for veggies and truffles. Hear the life around you. Mostly of all, touch those around you, and make a new direction for yourself.