Dispatches from a negative workplace
Where she works, the customer is always right, and the employees are expendable.
Working with the public is always an adventure. You never know what the attitude of the day will be. Large corporations usually work hard to please all of their customers to keep a steady customer base. Some companies become overzealous in trying to make all customers happy at any cost.
I work for an overzealous company.
Remember this slogan, "The customer is always right"? That is an untrue sentence. It cannot be at all times. Yes, products are shelved in the wrong place, tags are missing, or something is damaged. Mistakes are made every day. However, there are also cranky people with personality disorders who come in looking for a fight.
They shout, spit, and throw things. Some feel that every store clerk is out to cheat them. Some want every rule bent just for them. They will swear that everyone else allows them to use a starter check, or that the other clerk took a Dannon coupon for a Yoplait product.
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Some workplaces are incredibly positive. Management is polite, workers are encouraged, and all is right in the world. Other places can be a tad on the negative side.
When walking down the hall to the time clock at my workplace, I pass several bulletin boards. One side of the time clock has notices and reminders.
- "You must fill out this form correctly or else."
- "You must be in proper dress code at all times, or face termination."
- "Discussing pay rates with other employees is an automatic termination."
- "This is how our store is ranked according to our customer surveys. You must do better or we will hire new workers to replace you."
On the other side of the time clock is a chart showing cashiering scan times, among other things. They list the bottom performers here with their names.
On the opposite wall is a bulletin board with a sign above it that says "Wall of Shame." On this they place mistakes cashiers have made, with their name. They also have a list hanging next to this that says "Top Offenders." This list is for people who make more than one mistake.
There was an incident recently where an employee was almost terminated. A young employee noticed his name right under the Wall of Shame header. It amused him so he snapped a picture of it and posted it on his Facebook page. The office manager snooped about and saw it online, called corporate, hauled him into the office and made him remove the photo. The employee said corporate wanted him fired immediately but the manager said that other than this he's a good worker and she wanted to give him another chance.
This company is striving to please every customer and build a loyal fan base. They make use of those surveys attached to random receipts. After shopping, a customer can call in to rate the service and leave comments on a machine.
Some people call in with genuine compliments and occasional complaints. Others just rant about some random weirdness. Of course, corporate takes everything seriously. Another list that makes it to the wall occasionally is entitled "It Had Better Not Be Happening Here!" This list details customers' complaints. Several people have called to complain that they were turned away from a 10-items-or-less checkout lane. Another complained that someone refused to take his $4 in loose pennies. One complained that the air conditioner was too cold.
Cloak of dread
Working here makes me feel as if I am taking part in that old fable about the old man and his son taking the donkey to market. People complained that the old man was walking while the boy rode the donkey, so they switched. Then others complained, so he made his son walk. At one point he carried the donkey. The moral is you can't please everyone at the same time.
When will this company realize this, make some rules and stick to them. As it stands now, the place is teeming with negativity. So many changes need to be made. As I put that uniform on, I feel a cloak of dread wrapping about me. It doesn't need to be that way, but that is the corporate culture.
Hey, big companies, treat your employees well. You know, the ones your customers see every day, the ones who help you bring in lots of money. Make a positive environment for them, train them well, and don't let a few unruly customers mistreat them.
Your sales will go up and you may be able to keep some of your workers longer. Just a thought. You can make a positive change or keep carrying your donkey as usual. Your choice.
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Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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