How To Be a Good Customer

Okay, so I work in a bookshop, and in general, my customers are smart and intelligent and all good things, because, let’s face it, you have to be at least literate to want to go to the bookshop. However, sometimes they do stuff that drives me crazy. Since I am not allowed to tell them to get a clue, I am telling you all instead. It’s not really a rant, so I am posting this in MPSIMS and not the Pit.

  1. Please don’t get angry if I can’t find a book when you have no information on it. “It’s blue” does not count as information, by the way. (Notable exception: if the author appeared on Oprah. I will recognize the description of the cover of any Oprah book.) If you’re not really sure of the author or title, try to do a little search on the net before coming in. We at the bookstore will be eternally grateful.

  2. Please don’t get upset/insult me if I haven’t read the book you’re interested in. I work in the bookstore! We have thousands of books! Really, what is the likelihood that I have read the stupid trashy mystery that you’re thinking of buying? (I don’t even like mysteries, but I can’t tell you that, of course!) A few months ago, when a woman asked me if I had read a certain book and I replied that I hadn’t, she nodded and said, “I can tell you don’t read much.” It’s true, I don’t; after all, I haven’t read every book in the store yet. Unlike you, I’m sure.

  3. Please don’t walk away from me while I am leading you to the book you are interested in. (A customer did this to me today. She expected me to just go fetch it for her. I wanted to scream. I’m not your servant; think of me as your guide.)

  4. Please don’t walk away in the middle of a transaction because you suddenly remembered a book you wanted to get. Finish the transaction and then go get the book. I’m sorry if you have to write another check, but it is very inconvenient to leave the register mid-transaction.

  5. Please think for a moment before asking us where our “Amish” section is. (I swear, a lady asked for that a few weeks ago. I can see that maybe in Lancaster, PA, but this is Northern California.) We don’t have a “historical fiction” section, we have fiction. We don’t have a section on the Spanish-American War, we have a History section. It is not feasible to break up the bookstore into every little tiny section that you might be interested in, so don’t get upset that you might have to do a bit of hunting for a novel of the Spanish colonization of Mexico.

  6. Finally, don’t ask if we have that in paperback. With the exception of classics, if it’s there in hardcover, it’s not in paperback yet. It takes a year for a book to go from hardcover to paperback, and as soon as we get the paperback, we send the hardcovers back to the publishers. If I had a penny for every time someone asked me this, well, I’d probably have about 50 cents by now.

That ran kind of long. Wow. Okay, is there anything you would like customers at your place of business to know?

I’ll admit. Sometimes I’m a bastard. I’ll ask if they have “that one book I heard on the radio from the author. Did you hear that program today? It sounded really good. The DJ was male, do you know which one I’m talking about?”

Half the time they’ll know I’m joking. The other half of the time they’ll give me a really strange look before I tell them what I’m really searching for.
Maybe I’m going to Hell for it…or maybe Heaven for breaking the monotony of their day.

I must disagree with you on #6 though. There are plenty of books out in both hardcover and softbound. Yes, smack the person who asks a month after it’s come out, but there are quite a few times I’ve had a choice of which version to pick.

Good post though otherwise. I’ll second most of it.

True, but we tend to carry only paperbacks, unless they are new. We have a sign above the new hadcovers that says “New Fiction”. This means it’s new. This means it’s still in hardcover. I guess it’s too obvious. (Confusion over the Harry Potter books is excusable though, since Scholastic has totally screwed around with release dates on the paperback editions, and even though the first two are available in paperback, the hardcover editions are still bestsellers.)

What, no one else feels the need to tell us how to behave at their place of work?

Kyla- I spent a summer at a cafe/bookstore. Agreement with everything you said. Ones that go for where I worked:

  1. When there is a long line, do not hit on me, ask me what’s good, and spend five minutes ordering a mocha.

  2. That crap you’ve been drinking at Wawa is not cappuccino. I can make you one that is perfect in every way, including exquisite foam. It is, however, going to take more than 30 seconds. Deal with it.

  3. The children’s section is supposed to be kid friendly. This doesn’t mean that Slackjaw Jr. has the right to rip, smear food on, or otherwise destroy the books.

  4. Your pet dog is only welcome if they do not cause a disturbance.

  5. Yes, we have Irish people work here in the summer. Don’t make fun of their accents or assume that they’re stupid, you nitwit. They can make change as well as any American who works here.

If you’re in a clothing store-

  1. There’s nifty things called size stickers. You will find them on the lower right of the garment. Guarenteed. They exist so that when you are looking for your size in a pile of clothes, you can go through them instead of unfolding all of them until you find your size.

  2. The wash instructions say what they mean.

  3. If you want to leave stuff in the dressing room, fine. Don’t leave it in a wad, though. That’s just rude.

  4. Don’t take it personally when I ask for ID. If you don’t have your credit card signed or if I don’t think the signiture is close enough, I will ask for it. It’s my job. Be relieved that if someone stole your card and was buying thousands of dollars worth of stuff, they couldn’t get away with it here.

  5. Read the fine print on the coupon. Arguing with me will not change what it says.

Over the summer, I worked in a little health food store. It was the perfect job, save for some of the customers…

  1. Please do not ask me to loan you money. I don’t care if you think you’re close with the owner, there is absolutely no way I will give you $50 from the cash register.

  2. Please do not witness to me. I’m thrilled that you’ve found a belief system that you’re passionate about, but this really isn’t the time nor the place to convert me.

  3. Please do not ask me for medical advice. I am not a doctor. I cannot diagnose your ailment, no matter how many symptoms you list. If you have a burning rash that has lasted for weeks, I’m begging you to see your family physician.

  4. When I tell you that we’re out of something, please believe me. There is no back room for me to check in. We’re a very small store. If you’d like, I can put in an order request for you, but I can’t guarantee that it will be in by tomorrow.

  5. Don’t argue with me about prices. I know that many of our products are expensive. I can’t help it that organic peanuts cost eleven dollars. It’s not up to me.

  6. Please don’t ask me personal questions about my boss. I know you feel close to her – she’s super friendly to all of her customers – but it isn’t my place to tell you how her granddaughter is doing or how her surgery went. You’re more than welcome to leave a note for her, though.

  7. Please do not tell me that “Debbie said I could have a twenty percent discount.” Debbie does not own the store. Debbie doesn’t even manage the store. It’s not within Debbie’s power to hand out random verbal promises of discounts, and it’s certainly not within my authority to honor those discounts.

as a webpage-designer and webmaster, I have had to put up with a lot of Bullshit.

  1. First off, if I do not know a HTML coding, do not make fun of me. that is like biting the hand that feeds you.
  2. Please do not think that just because I’m 15, I cannot make a webpage. I’ve been doing this for 3 years.
  3. Please have a domain name set up when I get there… this happened once, they didn’t get the domain name, and thought I’d pay for it.
  4. Please do not get my job confused with a Network Administrator. I know how to set up a network, but please, do not make me register IP’s for you.
  5. Do not argue with me. Computer monitors do not have cartridges, computers do not get “confused”, and if your keyboard doesn’t work, don’t ask me why it doesn’t until you are sure it’s plugged in.

whoo… that felt good…

Well, I’ve got a lot of experience dealing with customers. I spent a year working as a help-desk/service bench tech. at a local computer shop. I lost all faith in humanity there with such comments as:

  1. I need a new rat-wheelie thingy
    2)My speakers aren’t working-all I can hear is some funny dialing sounds when I connect to the internet [this was the same guy, got the same call about once a week]
    3)This brand new game won’t work on my brand-new, 5 year old system, I wan’t a refund
    and many, many more…

Although, I spent 3 months working at a fast-food joint in a resort town to make some cash before returning to school, and if people don’t get more pissed off about a $5 meal than a $5000 computer…it’s frightening, it truly is.

Don’t work retail any more, thank goodness, but here are some tips for toy store customers:

– Do not ask the clerk which Beanie Baby is her favorite. She hates them ALL. Trust me.

– Similarly, don’t ask which Beanie Baby is the most valuable. If ANY of them were valuable, we wouldn’t be selling them for seven bucks.

– Children have personalities and interests. These are not necessarily gender-linked, so if I ask you “What sort of a kid is he?” don’t answer, “Well, he’s a typical boy.”

– I know this is a toy store, but that doesn’t mean the staff want to play games all the time – especially with adults. If you want to know where the Play-Doh is, I will be happy to show you. I am NOT going to play “Hot and Cold.”

I work in a bookshop, too, and I’m afraid I am going to have to disagree with you on most of your points.

Feel free to ask me about a book even if you don’t know the author and/or title. There is a chance that I may know exactly what you are talking about.

Example: “My daughter told be about a book…something about hiking…” “Is it A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, about hiking the Appalachian Trail?” [showing her book]. “Yes! That’s it exactly!”

People rarely get annoyed when I don’t know what they are talking about becuase I do my best to try and figure it out. And if I can’t, I give them our card and invite them to call when they have more info. And not everybody has web access.

Customers should feel free to ask whatever they want.

Nobody gets upset because I haven’t read a book. I find that using a vaguely apologetic tone when telling them I haven’t read it works well. I also try to offer whatever information I do know or re-direct their attention.

Example, “No, I haven’t read [new Nora Roberts book] yet, but a lot of people have told me it’s wonderful.” Or “No, I haven’t read any of Danielle Steele’s books yet. Are they good?”

Are you entirely sure that you are not letting your negative attitude towards your customers’ choices show through?

I’ll gladly fetch a book for a customer. It’s called “customer service.” I’ll gladly do anything that a customer wants. (Within reason, of course!)

Inconvenient for who? You? Again, it’s customer service.

I don’t know what to tell you, because I don’t know how your register system works, but if that happens to me, then I just cancel the sale, wait on other customers, and then re-ring the books when the original customer comes back. No problem. And if he/she buys an additional book, great.

Why is that an unreasonable question? How is the customer supposed to know what sections you have?

We have a section called “U.S. History–Pennsylvania.” I would a. direct the customer there, b. help them look for books on the Amish in that section, c. do a search in our database for books on the Amish.

And our books on the Spanish-American War are not in “History.” They are in “Military History.” In fact, we have sections on the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Books on other wars and on military history in general are on the shelves marked “Military History.”

We may not have the specific sections that these customers asked for, but we don’t tell them to search through the entire History department, either.

Customers should feel free to ask whatever they want.

This is the complaint I understand least of all. How would the customer know what your policy regarding the stocking of hardbacks and paperbacks is? My store stocks them both simultaneously, and at times they are not right next to each other (usually because one might be on “display”) We do not send hardbacks back to the publisher when the paperback comes out. Many customers prefer the hardbacks–not becuase they are “finer,” but because the larger type is easier for people with bad eyes to read. And many prefer the paperbacks–not because they are cheaper, but because they have arthritis and the paperbacks are lighter and easier to hold.

Again, customers should feel free to ask whatever they want.
Kyla: I have worked in retail long enough to know how annoying customers can be. And I have had some doozies, believe me. But it sounds like your customers are “good customers.” You can not expect them to conform to your standards. They are just people–a little clueless, a little preoccupied, a little thoughtless–just like everyone else. If you don’t like dealing with customers, then perhaps you should reconsider working in retail.

You’re 15? AAACK!

Please remove my quote from your sig, I knew you were young, but I didn’t realize you were underage! (not that it has any impact on your intelligence)

I’ll be happy to reinstate that for your 18th birthday, but I’d prefer not to be thought of as a pedophile.


I haven’t personally worked in a bowling center, but my husband has, and my son does currently.

Tips for bowlers:

  1. Do not let your kids run all over the place. Other people can trip over them or be run into by them. This is not “fun”.
  2. Do not let your kids roll all over the approach (The part you stand on when preparing to roll the ball). This is distracting to more serious bowlers.
  3. Do not bring drinks and food into the pit (where the chairs and scoring unit is). Spilled food and drink is very hazardous if gotten on your shoes, as you will stick or fall and hurt yourself. Other people will use the lanes after you, too. If you spill on the floor in your house, don’t you clean it up? (Or call the desk.)
  4. Do not attempt to go after a stuck ball down the lane. There is lane conditioner (oil) on the lanes and it is very slippery. They pay people to retrieve “dead” balls and pins.
  5. Please remember there are other people around you who want to have a good time, too. Don’t be obnoxious. Your good time should not interfere with my good time.
  6. Don’t throw more than one ball at at time! This could seriously injure the pin-setting equipment.
  7. Most people aren’t aware that serious league bowlers take turns in stepping up on the approach. If you are bowling next to someone who seems to be a serious-type bowler, wait for him to throw his ball before you step up to throw yours. This is called “lane courtesy.”
  8. Parents: don’t leave your children unattended in a bowling center. It is not a baby-sitting service.

Sorry for the long rant. Pet peeves…

I have worked in retail, for about three years now. Compared to most of my co-workers, I tend to be pretty good at dealing with the, High-maint. customers. However, I do think there should be a limit to the customer is always right motto. I know that sometimes a person gets attatched to a particualr item in the store, when we don’t have there size, i am more than happy to call around to the other stores in the area to find it. However, it should not be my job, to find an article of clothing that we have been out of for months and is backordered through the catalogue.

I had a customer, call in the store, the day after thanksgiving and demand that I find her a particular jacket, in a particular color (which we had never carried in our store.) when I asked her for her number so that I could work on the project when the floor slowed down, she was infuriated. She demanded to speak to a manager. She wanted to know why the customers there were more important than she was, when she also was a paying customer.

Well After I called 22 stores, I was able to locate the jacket, in New Mexico, which we sent to her for free and gave her a twenty dollar gift certificate for her inconvience.

I know this reply, is long, esp. for my first post, but it touched a sore spot with me, because this type of thing happens a lot.

One other pet peeve. Pun intended. We allow our customers, to bring there pets into the store. We have a lot of women who shop with small dogs that they carry in there purse as fashion statements, so to avoid shunning any customers, we just let them bring the animals in.

But, we assume that the animals are house-broken. WE have been wrong many, many times. The customers, have, in the past, either failed to bring it to our attention, or ask us to clean up little Poopsie’s mistake. We do it. Because the stupid store motto is Do What It Takes. But seriously, am I wrong in thinking, If it is your dog than it’s your mess?
I’m a mod there, and let me tell you, you guys are NOT alone.

I work at Kmart, and it sucks. I personally picture hell as one big long line of cash registers…

Another good one for waitrons:

Holy crap! All I have to do is call up your store and bitch and you’ll send me a FREE jacket and $20 in gift certificates? What’s your store number? Does your manager still work there?

I always assumed the reason why the customers in the store were more important than the ones on the phone was because the ones in the store have money in their hands they want to give me. The ones on the phone might or might not come in.

That was always my rationale behind letting the phone ring when I was busy with customers anyway.

  1. Year,Make,Model.
  2. Type of part e.g. suspension,brakes,steering.
  3. It’s not my car it’s yours
  4. I dont know whats wrong with it, your working on it not me.
  5. I am not asking questions just to hear my own voice. I ask questions,you give me the right answers, you get the right parts.
  6. NO they are not all the same. (pet peeve)
  7. Sorry, this store is not big enough to have all the parts all the time. I can order it for you and have it tomorrow.
    It was not a bad day today. Slow time of year for the DIY crowd. Christmas shoppers are out in force. One of my many failings is my inability to put together names and faces. Guy comes in Thursday, orders a complete exhaust. All the parts show up Friday morning, they are stacked in “will call”, he shows up Fri. night “Hi I’m here for my parts” “Yes Sir” I respond “And your name is?” What a look I got. 24 hours and I had forgotten him. Remembered the car tho!
    I really do like my job. If any one on the SDMB needs auto parts let me know :slight_smile: MTS

From the internal corporate help-desk side, please:

  1. Do not open a Service Request the day you are leaving for a week’s vacation. How long it takes to close an
    SR is part of the measurements of how well we are doing our jobs.

  2. Do not call me from your cell phone in your car and expect me to be able to troubleshoot your laptop.

  3. Do not just tell your admin. asst. to call and tell the Helpdesk that your computer “isn’t working right.” I need specific problems and access to the machine.

Oh, there are more, but that’s enough for almost 2am on a Sunday when I’m up with a sore throat.

I work at McDonalds.

  1. If you’re going through drive thru, at least have some vague idea what you want. Don’t get to the speaker, ask me to wait, and proceed to stae into space for 15 minutes while the line builds behind you, only to order a happy meal.
  2. Don’t make me wait while you finish a conversation on your cell phone. Kindly pull aside and let other people order.
  3. Don’t pull past the speaker, to the pickup window and try to place your order there. I don’t have a register. I just hand out the food. Go to the speaker like everyone else.
  4. A small fry does not warrant 4 BBQ sauces. Don’t shoot me evil looks and demand more when I only give you one.
  5. At night, when all the lights are off and we don’t answer you at the speaker, we’re closed. Pulling up to the windows and honking will not help. We’ll still be closed. And when you see us getting into ourcars and driving away, we’ll definitely be closed, you can leave too.
  6. Don’t ask if we have any leftover food after close. We don’t. We throw it away, and wash the dishes. And even if we did, we wouldn’t give it to you.
  7. We don’t keep a special batch of saltless frys on hand. If you order frys no salt, you may have to wait. It’s nothing personal.
  8. There’s 102 different toys right now. No, you cannot pick which one you get.
  9. If you want the big mac meal, say that. “I want a big mac and a coke” does not automatically mean you’re getting the value meal. Specify please.
  10. Just because I’m young and I work at McDonalds, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. Don’t assume that.
  11. I get to wear the pretty manager’s shirt because I have some clue of what’s going on. Believe me over the 15 year old working the cash register.
  12. We do run out of food occasionally. A 5 minute wait on chicken is nothing compared to making it yourself at home.
  13. I don’t make up the prices. It’s not my fault if you pay $20 to feed your entire family.
  14. when we’re shortstaffed, we having a much worse time than you are, trust me. Yelling and bitching will not make us go faster.
  15. Wear clothes in drve thru. Please.

Green Bean, you missed the point. I agree with everything you said. I would absolutely not complain or be rude if anyone did anything I mentioned. You’re right, it’s called customer service. If someone doesn’t know the title of a book, I will search extensively, consult with my coworkers, etc. to try and find that book. I rather pride myself on my booksearching abilities - I can almost always find a book based on even the vaguest descriptions. I work for an independent bookstore, and we stay in business because our service and commitment to the community keeps our customers loyal. I always try to remember that.

However, the title of the thread is “How To Be a Good Customer”. Dopers are smart and considerate, and I know they want their booksellers (and other retailers) to love them. Not that I wouldn’t be respectful and serve them well if they didn’t follow my tips (because I would!), but if they do, it’ll make the bookstore people much happier. It’s that simple.