The Customer is Always Right

“The primary rule of business success is loyalty to your employer. That’s all right–as a theory. What is the matter with loyalty to yourself?” -Mark Twain


Four years as an undergraduate, less than three as an undergraduate college tutor, three years as a library science graduate student, an internship, and, now, the end of a year of web design college work.  Where am I?  Where should I be?  The answer to the latter is, according to society, something akin to an entry-level managerial role.  Perhaps a full-time librarian job?  Not that?  Perhaps full-time museum work since History is my other love (please don’t call it my “subject”)?  Working in a web design firm or doing major freelance work as a successful web developer?  Well, society would be wrong.  The former question, “Where am I?,” has an unsatisfying answer.

Like many thousands (millions?) of U.S. citizens, I am applying for any job I can.  Volunteering can be rewarding, and I do volunteer, but volunteering does not provide the money.  Again, like many people, I’m going for the entry-level retail jobs that tend to populate around the holiday season.  I’ve never applied for retail jobs before.  Librarian jobs tend to be government and education affiliated.  I know I made a few mistakes on the first two applications I sent.  “When can you work?,” says the online application.  “Oh, I can work anytime, but I’d like Saturdays off,” says I.  Oh!  I wish I could take that back!  One does not do that when going for retail job, particularly during the holiday season.  They want people to work weekends as those are the best times for customer sales.  I keep kicking myself for that lapse of judgment.  I have been more studious with subsequent applications.  “Yes!  I will work for you whenever you wish within legal limits!  Just give me this job!  I need this!”  You can’t exactly say that as you come across as too needy.  I worry about being perceived as desperate, though I really do need a job even if it isn’t the American Dream job I thought I would get.  Whether it’s a temporary or permanent job, I would work my hardest at whatever job or task given to me.  I would not have applied if I wasn’t dedicated to the chosen job.  I wish hiring managers would understand that.

Librarian work involves a great deal of customer service.  Retail workers and librarians share similar environments, though the former focuses more on products while the latter focuses more on service.  They both involve working with patrons/customers.  I hammer on this fact every time I can in my job applications.  I never worked retail, but I’ve done a similar job.  People would come up to me and ask for help finding information.  I would work with them to find that information, whether it’s in the library catalog, the online databases, or in the stacks.  Does that not ring some familiarity with retail work?

The most nerve-wracking, with some exceptions of humor, has been the online “pre-screen assessment” tests every retail store seems to love.  There’s a lot of multiple choice questions and you have to choose the answer that is “most appropriate according to you.”  They want you to be honest and many of the questions would, to a reasonable person, have multiple correct answers.  Unfortunately, all the questions have the precise “right” answer.  Many of the questions are about how you view yourself or how you think others view you.  How on earth can you know the “right” answer to such questions?  Are they really looking for the most perfect Type A personalities in the known universe?  I passed one, think I passed two others (they didn’t tell me if I passed), and I failed one (at least, it told me I failed, but after it crashed at least twice during my session).  I would advise patience in doing online retail applications as you will experience crashes that may or may not erase everything.  If you fail, you have to wait 60 days to create completely from scratch another application and take the test again.

One assessment did impress me with a virtual simulation.  I had to listen to customers and a supervisor give me information and respond with choices.  In many cases, I had to input information in a mock website or inventory sheet while being interrupted by customers, managers, and co-workers.  Some activities required me to listen intently to key information in order to input the information and ensure the customer would not have to repeat his/her self or otherwise there would be dire consequences.  I had to prioritize and get stuff done while being respectful to everyone and trying to make everyone happy.  The virtual simulations, I think, should replace the multiple choice questions.  I knew I had to be completely engaged and it give me the feeling of actually being in those real-life situations.  I felt tense in the tense situations, and happy in the light-hearted situations.  It was as close the real thing as you could get!

Unfortunately, in one scenario, an irate customer wanted me to hurry up and get his product that he had ordered for pickup.  I, of course, went to the store database to find it and he pointed out the item in question from my screen.  His pickup item, however, was unavailable and I asked him to wait while I figured out from the database what was going on.  He was getting hopping mad when another customer came running up to me wanting to ask a quick question.  This brought up a menu with choices I had to rate by an effectiveness score while also choosing the best answer to solve the dilemma.  I politely asked the second customer to wait while I flagged down a co-worker who could help her while I helped the first customer.  Well, the second customer interjected “But it’s a just a quick question!” which resulted in the first customer yelling at the second customer to wait her turn.  The second customer responded with a tense “But it’s just a quick question!”  Mentally, if this were a real situation, I would be thinking “S–t just got real!” and “Do I need find a place to hide and avoid being nailed and/or shot?”  New choices came up with an effectiveness scale and I chose the “Please, I am working to help both of you!” or something to that effect.  That eventually resulted in the simulation calling in the manager.  I’m thinking it was a Kobayashi Maru scenario with no answer, though I could be wrong.  No answer I could give to the second customer could have pleased the first customer since he demanded my full, undivided attention or he would “cancel his order” and, I assume, never shop there again.  I couldn’t be rude to the second customer or she would never shop there again.  Maybe it was a test of my personality in a tense situation?  Given the Black Friday madness, I’m not surprised they would have such virtual scenarios.

Anyway, back I go.  I wonder when the recruiters will call me in the next 6o days?  Will they call at all?

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