[ADVENTURES IN RETAILING] Needles to the Thieves

Once again today, I was put over at self checkout. While, much to my surprise, I initially liked the area, I have begun to heavily dislike it. I don’t know if the amount of customers who can’t use the machines properly has started to get to me, the fact that one of the co-managers decided we only need one cashier over at self checkout and not two (one is fine on slow days, but when we’re busy, we ABSOLUTELY NEED TWO), the pressure that you need to watch customers to make sure they don’t steal something or if they need help, or just everything. I’m completely worn out from it. In fact, I’m worn out so much from it, I wish they would just force me into the Smokeshop where they have me permanently assigned.

I feel particularly terrible today about self checkout. While it started off decently, the end of the night turned out rather terrible.

A customer stole an item while I was right there.

I feel TERRIBLE about that.

Not just that though.

I also feel terrible about the manager who had rather aggressively called the woman over and snootily brought her to another room, utterly furious.

My store has a reputation for being horrible. We’re known for a messy, unorganized, understocked store, a rude staff, and terrible smells, among other things. I work there and I STILL know this. Some of the issues with the messy store are from the remodel we’re doing, as well as customers (INCLUDING OWN EMPLOYEES, ARGH) who don’t know how to put things back where they got them or hand them to a cashier. They just stuff things wherever there’s kind of a spot to place it when they don’t want it. The rude staff ranges from reasons – personality, attitudes, ways the person speaks naturally. I’m definitely not an exception to it, but I hope I’m not the worst. I know some customers come back to me because I was nice.

Being at the store for almost a year now, I’ve caught onto my fellow employees personalities, attitudes, and how they speak. There are co-workers who just naturally sound rude and it takes time to understand that’s just how they are and they can’t help it. They could say the nicest thing in the world and sound like they mean it as an insult! For other people, it’s just how their personalities and attitudes are. A lot of people just don’t care and don’t want to be there (which I don’t blame them – some days I don’t want to be there either…also, I swear my energy drains whenever I’m there – it’s terrible).

It always saddens me when I see these uncaring attitudes, often rude and aggressive. I’ll admit, I don’t care for Walmart THAT much, never have and probably never will, BUT I would love to see the store I work in improve, not just in look, but in staff. I have watched the store make minor improvements over time, some that nearly brought me to tears as I watched everybody work together to make the store look good for once, but it’s just not enough. Most of the time, the bad attitudes of the co-workers shine through. Work sucks, life sucks, and everybody is stupid except themselves. THAT is the kind of arrogant attitude I generally feel from the store.

I was back at self checkout today and I was watching a woman in a black polo shirt scan a sticker on a tank top she was purchasing. She removed the hanger and turned to me, asking where she could put it. I said I could take it and did so. As I was walking to place it into the self checkout returns box (we don’t have any place to put hangers at self checkout), I noticed one of the managers was watching the woman. It was a manager I don’t particularly like – she comes off as aggressive, snooty, arrogant, and rude. Her face looks like a caricature of an evil witch and she either wears a scowl or a pretentious smirk on her face that makes it seem like she thinks either everybody is stupid or everybody is bad. I could just see from her narrowed eyes she was catching something.

The other day she actually came over with a CSM and said she “had a feeling” about two customers who were cashing out together and had us watch, then told me to keep an eye on them. I personally had a feeling that she was wrong about her feeling. From what I watched, rather carefully, I was probably right, assuming her feeling that they were going to steal something. My own feeling was that they were going to be customers who didn’t really know the “trick” to using self checkout properly, which is exactly what I saw.

This time though, I got a feeling too that this woman at self checkout, who handed me the hanger, was giving it to me as a distraction. I had a feeling she was hiding something. I’m not really one for profiling people, but there was something about her plump figure, rounded face, small eyes, and the slight smugness in her voice that made me think she probably wasn’t really a good person. She seemed like the type who would gossip about others and criticize them, only to really be a hypocrite and be doing the same thing.

I turned around, getting that really weird “I’m in a movie” feeling that something was going on behind my back and my turning to the self checkout returns box. I knew too that with the manager watching, ANYTHING that woman would do would be caught.

The woman finished paying for her tank top, I told her a good night, and she began to leave. The manager, who had been watching, angrily snapped at the woman. Her voice sounded like a thousand needles soaring the air, stabbing the entire self checkout area.

I knew my feeling had been confirmed.

I also knew that I had let somebody steal something.

I was hoping I was wrong – I was hoping that the tank top was on clearance and when I had told the woman yes, she could bring it back, the manager was just correcting my mistake that no, she couldn’t bring it back.

But nope. Not it.

The manager rather aggressively and presumptuously walked the woman over to the metal benches, asking her what she took. The woman handed over a black sweater (or was it a cardigan?). Still angry and aggressive, the manager in possibly the most smug, snootiest, uptight way said something along the lines of “what else did you steal” with her voice roaring through the front of the store and brought the woman to a room in the front entrance way. The manager told me to call over the CSM, then she called an overnight crew member as a witness to whatever she was doing in there.

I was unsure how to call over the CSM, other than putting in the action codes that won’t always work (and if the CSM doesn’t have their PDA on them, they won’t see it). We don’t get walkies.

Shortly after, the CSM with a giant smile on his face walked into the room and brought back out the black sweater. He used the register I was on, put it into training mode, and printed out a receipt. I have no idea why, but he did. He also ended up needing me to log onto another register for the same reason.

I’m guessing the woman tried stealing the sweater only, because that’s the only thing I saw. I KNOW she bought the tank top, since I watched her as she did so. I was right there when she scanned it.

After watching all this, a ton of thoughts went through my head: I feel TERRIBLE for letting somebody steal something and I don’t feel like this was the first time; I had two customers yesterday who seemed suspicious and when I was assisting another customer with opening up some security boxes (which requires me to GO TO A DIFFERENT REGISTER because for some odd reason, somebody decided it was a super fantastic idea not to give self checkout a security box key), I saw them from the corner of my eye lifting their arms up in anger because they couldn’t pay with cash at their machine. I had put up my finger, indicating to give me a moment when they looked over at me, I went to open the boxes, and when I came back, they were gone. I have no idea where they went, but I’m hoping and STILL hoping they had went to a regular register, but I have some heavy doubts about that and I feel terrible. There was another day too when a guy had scanned the wrong bar code for an item and because I didn’t feel like arguing (and I was afraid that he was going to run away with the item) after I stopped him, I just let him go with the price he paid, which I feel terrible about too because I could have fixed it.

I should probably be fired from Walmart for all these mistakes.

Or banned from self checkout (which is what I would rather have them do than fire me).

I was wondering would a manager talk to me, discussing my incompetence at self checkout. Would I get in trouble?

How should I act? Should I pretend I didn’t know? It’s not like I didn’t have a feeling. Or should I admit that I had a feeling something was odd, but I didn’t know what to do?

Honestly, I really DON’T know what to do. None of the computer-based-learning modules have talked about how to approach people who might be stealing something. What do I say? What if they ARE stealing something? Then what should I do? What if they try to make a run for it while I’m trying to get a manager? I don’t know what to do.

I also don’t feel comfortable with the idea of stopping somebody from stealing, or rather, approaching somebody I suspect of stealing something. Some of this is that I, myself, would not want to be approached, ESPECIALLY in the manner that I have witnessed others doing. Granted, I know I absolutely wouldn’t steal from a store. I know if somebody thought I was doing so, I would be so nervous, shaking, and about to cry, if not crying. On the other hand, I WOULD want somebody who was stealing to be stopped!

I have watched how the managers, as well as some other co-workers, approach it and honestly, I’m appalled by how they go about it. They’re extremely aggressive with how they speak, furious, rude, and accusing right from the start. They always sound like they’re rabid and about to attack you with a knife. While I could understand being a bit aggressive to somebody who is refusing to show what you’re asking them to show or to somebody who HAS stolen an item (my co-workers have the right to be angry about this), approaching the person just should not be.

Approaching the person should be assertive, not aggressive. Maybe I’m just utterly ignorant of how the world functions, but I feel like if you were to approach somebody who seemed suspicious, it should be done in a relatively friendly manner, as if the person had dropped something. That way, customers who did NOT steal anything won’t leave feeling a complete and utter wreck at simply knowing that somebody thought they were going to steal something and that the customers who DID steal something…well, feel whatever they’re going to feel about it.

I know if I was a customer who had simply witnessed the kind of aggressive approach I saw tonight from the manager, I would avoid the store as much as possibly could. I would drive 30 minutes to the Walmart in the next town over or just go to Target if I needed something they sold.

I know the woman stole something, but the outright aggressive, arrogant, needle-like accusation was just painful to hear and witness.

Okay, yes, some of it was painful because I had a feeling the woman stole something.

The other part of it though was that THIS, THIS RIGHT HERE is why so many people complain about the store. That pretentious, hostile approach to people as if every single person is a criminal and/or stupid.

Customers aren’t treated with respect.

They’re treated as lowly beings who just don’t matter.

While, okay, some of them probably ARE lowly beings who don’t really matter…they shouldn’t be approached that way, especially initially.

I’m highly disgusted with the store’s approach and wish that they would adjust their attitudes. They have the right to be completely angry at somebody stealing something. However, I just feel that their knife-first approach is horrendous and simply just witnessing it will chase people away.

“Hello, ma’am, how are you today? Do you mind if I take a look your receipt? It looked like you might have missed an item.” That’s something I would have liked to hear when initially spoken to.

Not “YOU, COME OVER HERE. WHAT ELSE DID YOU STEAL?”

I’m kind of embarrassed writing this at how terrible the store is at approaching things.

I wonder if there is a CBL related to approaching a suspect? If so, when will it show up for learning? I would like to know how I should approach the situation? What do I do if I feel like my safety might end up in danger if I approach them? What if I feel like I might end up failing to stop them? What would be my consequence for failing to stop them?

If I am talked to about my incompetence at self checkout, I will tell them while I had a feeling, I didn’t quite know what to do. I don’t know how to approach somebody I think is stealing. I will also mention that when I watch the others do it, it’s like watching a rabid, crazed animal attack. I want to ask if there’s a CBL or something like that to learn what to do? I guess I should bring up too that I feel uncomfortable with trying to stop people – while I know it is part of my job to do so, I feel unable to act upon it for numerous reasons including I don’t know how to go about it and perhaps my over thinking about the situation (what if I fail to stop them if I try to?, etc.).

No idea what they’ll think about that though.

Maybe I’ll be lucky and they’ll just ban me from self checkout and not fire me.

I wish I didn’t work in the front end.

I wish I worked in the back of the store, perhaps in personnel.

Or better yet, I’d like to have a different job that wasn’t retail.

Why does retail have to be so easy to get into?

I guess on a positive note, I got to talk to a girl and her mother about Monster High. I’m actually really interested in that particular Mattel line of products – the designs are just so interesting! Whoever came up with it, kudos to them!

I brought up how the Monster High YouTube has awesome music videos (the mother asked her daughter if she saw them and the girl was like “yeah, at my friend’s house on her tablet”) that I liked a lot. I REALLY liked the “Monster High Fright Song” so much, I downloaded it.

That was a ton of fun. They were really nice too. The interaction felt wonderful.

It’s a shame the entire night just couldn’t be like that.