The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Having worked retail for the past 4 years, it is a topic I like to write about and feel I am fairly knowledgeable on. I love talking about common issues and misconceptions minimum wage employees face while working in retail. For this article, I am going to talk about a topic that might be controversial to most retail workers: When can you ask to speak to the manager?
To start, the vast majority of the time a customer asks to speak to the manager, it pisses us off. I say this having the question posed to me as both an associate and a manager. At least in the stores I have worked at, customer service is a priority. This means that there is very little the associates are not authorized to do or offer that the managers would be able to do for a customer.
I will say that contrary to the belief of many promoters of the “Karen” concept, it is actually rather infrequent that a customer asks to speak to the manager. While I have witnessed it multiple times,only one icident has really stuck out to me. That said, it was for a ridiculous reason.
First of all, it happened on Christmas Eve. Why people must shop on Christmas Eve, forcing minimum wage employees to infringe on their holiday just to allow customers to procrastinate for one more day and bitch about the fact that we do not have a fully stocked inventory on CHRISTMAS EVE is a topic for another day.
So this older lady came in to purchase a gift card. Sure. At the time it was only myself and the 19-year-old manager working. She was in the back so I was on the floor but surely I could handle a gift card. The problem? We were out of the little paper envelopes we give the gift cards in.
Now these envelopes were unnecessary and typically we only gave them out when they were specifically asked for so I just put the card in a little bag and handed it to the customer. She looked down at the bag and then back up at me. You would have thought that I just handed her a bag of shit.
“You didn’t put it in anything,” she said.
First of all, I put it in a bag. Unfortunately, I did not know we were out of envelopes so I went to grab one for her. I saw we were out so I apologized and told her we didn’t have anything else to put it in.
“What are you going to do for me to make up for this?” She snarled. I offered a few weak suggestions like wrapping it in tissue paper or putting it in one of the pink paper bags we used for jewelry.
Her response,“Yeah I think I am going to need to speak to your manager.”
At this point, I was angry. I went to the back and told the manager who was only two years older than me that a customer wanted to speak with her. When I explained why, she seemed just as annoyed.
When we came back out, the customer had picked up a $20 dollar wallet and told the manager that we could just give that to her since we didn’t have any more envelopes.
The manager explained why we could not do this and that gift card envelopes were not a guaranteed service. Many passive aggressive, then flat out aggressive words were exchanged until eventually, the lady left the store leaving the parting words of “this is ridiculous.”
Wow that was longer than I meant it to be but in short, this is an example of when not to ask to speak to the manager.
While I would say that as a customer you should almost always go against your instinct to ask to speak to a manager, if you truly feel the employee does not know something that is making an unfair situation for you, ask.
This realization came to me because of my mom. Hearing my horror stories she knew that retail workers did not appreciate having customers ask to speak to the manager.
One day she was in a store trying to return a candle that she had purchased the day before with a debit card. The girl working told her she could only give her store credit. I will speak more on return policies later, but typically when you have purchased something the day before on a card and the item is unused, unless specified otherwise, you should get it refunded to your card. My mom had made similar returns at this store and was not aware of any policy changes. Since this was a store she shopped at often, she was fine with store credit. If that had not been the case, this would have been an acceptable time to ask to speak to a supervisor or even just another employee.
Why? When you shop, you could be working with a manager who has spent 20 years in retail or a 16-year-old working their first job who received very minimal training. Sometimes the associates legitimately do not know a policy or what they are or are not allowed to authorize in terms of discounts. I have seen this happen multiple times with newer employees and luckily in those moments, I was able to step in and help. If you truly feel an associate is not aware of a policy you are certain exists in that store, kindly, this being the keyword, ask if they might want to check with someone else.
Other than that, DO NOT ASK TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER