June 25, 2007


When I have a knitting class scheduled, I have to call in to the store in the morning to find out if anyone has signed up. I am always amazed at how put-out the cashiers seem when I call. I am always cheerful and it only takes them a second to look it up. But I always get gruff, one-word grunts from these sullen people. Is there anyone in my class today? "Hang on. Nope. Click." Do they not know how rude they sound?

I work for Michaels. I make about $50 per month, which is so low it makes me laugh. I can spend that in supplies for the class. But I love teaching people to knit, and Michaels gives me that opportunity. So I do everything I can to make people happy in the store. I take people's email and phone numbers and go home to find information for them. I type up patterns for them. Currently I am helping an elderly lady change her lace pattern to a larger size. Not easy. And she already knows how to knit, so I get nothing out of it. I don't get paid to do it, and she'll never take a class from me. But I want her to have a good experience in the store. That's part of my job, right? They didn't hire me to be stingy and grumpy.

I taught my mother-in-law to knit when she visited, but she was having trouble with a stitch once she got back home. We were unable to figure out the problem over the phone, so she decided to drive up to her local Hobby Lobby to ask for a little help. She brought her needles and yarn and just wanted someone to watch her to see what she was doing wrong. They refused to help, saying it was against store policy to spend time helping customers on individual projects. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? My mother-in-law put the yarn back on the shelf that she was intending to buy and left. They could've taken ten seconds to help her purl and then would've made $15 in sales. Instead they got nothing.

I don't understand most workers. Yeah, it may just be your crappy minimum wage job to answer the phone, but your grunts and gripes aren't even worth eight dollars. Take some stinkin' pride in what you do instead of doing the bare minimum, and think about something larger than yourself for five minutes. You represent a company, and they don't owe you a paycheck for mediocrity.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:32 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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1 When there is a pattern of obnoxiousness in a business, the fault usually lies largely with management. It is management's responsibility to hire the right people, set the right climate, and get rid of those who don't measure up. There are many employees who will do their best whatever the circumstances, and others who will do a lousy job in pretty much any situation. But there are also a large number whose behavior and attitudes are strongly influenced by the leadership--or lack of same--that they get. I believe it was Hal Rosenbluth (founder & CEO of Rosenbluth Travel) who observed that the attitudes displayed by employees to customers often reflect the way that they themselves are treated by management. Specifically in retail, there are far too many store managers who busy themselves with paperwork and don't spend enought time out on the floor helping and observing. There seem to be real industry patterns in this. Grocery stores, for example, seem to generally have hands-on management and pretty good customer service. Chain book stores are generally pretty bad, as are drug stores.

Posted by: david foster at June 25, 2007 06:40 AM (gguM0)

2 Bad management or not, it is self-destructive to carry & display a bad attitude in even the most menial of jobs. For instance, a young woman takes a generic counter job at a generic fast food joint. She does that job cheerfully and efficiently for about two weeks, and then she's not there anymore. Fired? No; a customer was a manager who happened to have a substantially nicer job opening at his establishment, and was favorably impressed and .... well, she was gone. Every day in a customer service job is potentially a job interview for a better job. Not to mention, your whole day goes better if you at least pretend to be enjoying it - your 'act' bounces off your customers back onto you, and isn't an act anymore, and it WILL infect you.

Posted by: Glenmore at June 25, 2007 08:40 AM (TYZsn)

3 Glenmore...I completely agree with you about the indidual responsibility of the employee. But where there are whole packs of people with bad attitudes at a place, something is wrong at a higher level. One factor that I think is involved in attitude problems is the insane focus on "self-esteem" on the part of schools and many parents. The constant inculcation of the message "you are wonderful" seems to often lead to the conclusion "nobody else matters." Another (related) problem is the emphasis on credentials and "skills" to the exclusion of metaskills and attitudes. The case you mention is an excellent example of the importance of attitude.

Posted by: david foster at June 25, 2007 09:02 AM (gguM0)

4 David, I couldn't have said it better. Unfortunately, my manager is a douche. In a recent promotion of mine, I was lifting heavy items with some of the people in my department, and my manager pulled me aside. He said, "Forget all this 'lead by example' crap. Why should the home run hitter be doing the bat boy's job?" He went on to tell me that I should be standing around making project lists for others - not actually participating in the projects myself. Anyway, long story short: bad employees are ultimately the result of a bad manager. My guess, Sarah, is that Michaels doesn't have very strong managers.

Posted by: Erin at June 26, 2007 05:07 AM (XRza7)

5 Erin...you might be interested in this story.

Posted by: david foster at June 26, 2007 05:55 AM (gguM0)

6 Thank you, David. Loved it.

Posted by: Erin at June 26, 2007 12:31 PM (XRza7)

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