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Ask Terrah 1— Retail and Customer Service








Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee: Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson

Numbering: Issue 2: Here We Go

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: Question Time

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,017

Keywords: philosophy, Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Terrah Short.

Terrah Short earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy (Analytic) with a Minor in Disaster Risk Reduction from Western Washington University in March 2017. She is a product of a working single father and the Puget Sound area of Western Washington in the United States of America. Here we talk about retail.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: A significant number of North Americans work in retail. The stores will come from a variety of brands but also will attract different customers from the high SES to the poor. What is the basic premise of retail service?

Terrah Short: When I think about the basic function, it is to be one of the middlemen that helps keep the flow of supply and demand, and to be the face of a store, essentially. As a retail worker, our roles can be as high up as being the manager of a store, an assistant manager of a particular section, to cashiering, stocking, and cleaning/ maintaining a store. Personally, the function I serve as a cashier is to assist customers, be the last face they see, and ensure they had a positive experience during their time shopping and completing their transaction.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the more grotesque forms of poor treatment by the customers to retailer workers seen in your retail work?

Short: When I’ve been on shift, I’ve been yelled at, cursed at, a customer has thrown things at me before. Thankfully these sorts of things don’t happen all the time, but they do happen and it’s upsetting. Some of the more uncomfortable situations have been when a customer feels entitled to touch me or grab me. The folks who do this tend to be middle-aged to older, white men.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the more heartwarming times?

Short: Working my first job, which was in retail, an older woman came into my work and myself and another coworker helped her find the things she needed. We were an office supply store, and she was so grateful for our demonstrated commitment to helping her, when she had many questions about the products, she made her purchase but told us to wait a minute. She went out to her car and brought in two hand-made teddy bears. She said she made them and loved to give them to people who deserved them. We were so warmed by this gesture. Experiences when we can provide genuine service to people, those are things I look forward to in my job. When we are able to go above and beyond for a customer, everyone is happy, and in those moments, it feels good to be recognized for our service.

Jacobsen: On average, are most people civil and respectful with retail workers?

Short: For the most part, I find that most people are just going about their day and treat others with civility and respect. There are people who are just having a bad day or had a bad experience, and we try to mitigate those situations, but not everyone is going to be happy or kind.

Jacobsen: What is the code of conduct and ethics for retail workers?

Short: Basically, be courteous, follow company policy, try to provide genuine service, and make it a positive experience to the best of our abilities. One thing I have noticed as a trend is giving more authority to retail workers to stand up to the abuse we can sometimes have from customers, especially women and minorities.

Jacobsen: If you look at the ways in which retail is done, what are some of the basic tasks and responsibilities given to rookies, newbies?

Short: Most often I feel we get thrown in with minimal hands-on training. An orientation that packs a lot of information in a short amount of time, cheesy corporate videos we have to watch, and maybe a couple hours of training and shadowing, depending on the time of year and how busy we are. At times new folks are just bodies when there’s going to be a busy time and availability is minimal. But most often, rookies/newbies are given the responsibilities listed in the job description right off the bat. This leads to a sink or swim environment, in my opinion.

Jacobsen: As an employee gains experience, how does this transition into more advanced skills and higher-responsibility positions?

Short: From what I’ve experienced, more advanced skills and responsibilities come from having a good attitude, improving your speed and efficiency, and being able to provide consistent customer satisfaction with minimal negative experiences show managers that there is a reason to move someone up. A lot of the time, you can be excellent at your current position but your availability isn’t right for moving up. There is upward mobility in many retail jobs, but often it means little pay or benefits increases for quite a significant amount more work. It really depends on the corporation or business, as well. However, I find that retail workers build an incredible amount of skills that can bleed over to other types of jobs or future schooling opportunities.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Terrah.

Image Credit: Terrah Short.

License and Copyright


In-Sight Publishing and Question Time by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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