Why I quit retail

I quit my retail job about a month ago. One reason was the constant use of scare tactics that I mentioned in my previous post. In that particular job we received threatening emails once a week. These were form letters that were exactly the same each time, saying that “Your business is at risk for being removed from the line,” and so on. It pissed me off that when they threatened they didn’t address us directly, but called us things. “Your business.” I was offended by this subtle depersonalization.

We never received compliments. Ever. They handed out bonuses but were sparing about this. Thankfully, the pay was decent so most of us didn’t rely chiefly on the bonuses. They often dangled bonuses in front of us to get us to work harder or to obey more. You had to read between the lines. The amount of work you had to do over a period of days only to be put into a drawing to get a $35 gift certificate wasn’t even worth it.

I was already disgusted Thanksgiving weekend. They even called me begging me to work more, telling me I’d get a good bonus if I did. Many of us worked ourselves to exhaustion during the holidays, only to receive more threats and no bonus. I realized it wasn’t worth it to bust my ass for these folks. I even told my boss I wasn’t going to go overboard for them anymore since I wasn’t even thanked when I did.

The ratings system (Stats) was a joke. They only rated some things and not others. They rated how long your calls were, and threatened you if you spent too long listening to customers. I’m proud to say I consistently failed this, as did some of the other workers. I spent extra time helping out elderly customers who may have had very individualized needs. I feel strongly about not rushing a person off the phone. The reason is that I was routinely cut off or rushed off the phone by mental health professionals, including the Crisis Team, my own shrink (15-second phone calls!) and even the Samaritans (ten-minute limit!). I refuse to do it now.

I never saw a rating for using correct grammar and good enunciation. I never saw a rating for writing cohesive emails. I never saw a rating for showing compassion to customers. Wait! Can that even be rated?

We had something called CSAT. That was the survey ratings. This was another issue altogether. Customers had a chance to place their complaints in an open-ended question as part of the survey. Given that the company was cutting corners from the top down, many of us lower on the totem pole ended up the brunt of customer complaining. When I got low CSAT, most of time if was because the customer’s package had arrived late or they didn’t like the product, or because the website was down. By the way, our website was always down. You could browse just fine, but trying to get through the shopping cart invariably led to error messages and purchase failure. This was because of cutting corners. I know this. They could have expanded their available bandwidth, which would have been costly, but they didn’t. Every time we had a sale the website crashed due to too much traffic. Who ended up with bad CSAT because of this? Those of us working the phones. We didn’t even make the decision to cut corners and we got threatened because of this.

I stuck it out only for the money. Finally, at the end of January I received a CSAT written by a very nice elderly couple who said that after their package arrived (I had fixed the delivery issues for them) they took the pants to the store to have them hemmed and found the store employee incredibly rude.

My supervisor must be grossly lacking in her reading comprehension ability. She likely only skimmed. Maybe she only read the word “rude,” which had nothing to do with me, clearly. She wrote to me and said she had seen a comment where the customer complained that I had been rude. This was the last straw, my excuse to quit.

After I quit, I felt extremely relieved. The level of threatening is much lower at my other two jobs, which I am mostly enjoying. The other two jobs are run far more democratically. The workplace tone is more positive and encouraging. One of the jobs is monotonous, but I deal with that by letting my mind drift and using any spare moment I have to do productive thinking (or I read in secret). Or another thing I do is to consider it an acting job. I challenge myself to act more convincingly each time.

I found out that my coworkers have heard my efforts at dramatic performance and find it amusing and impressive. The customers don’t really notice, not consciously. Some realize my tone reflects a positive attitude. Some have even told me that it’s a relief to talk to a call center worker that sounds like she isn’t sick of her job. I take that as a major compliment. Will all this pay off? Will I even be considered for advancement?

I do want this, packaged with a raise, of course. I am waiting to see if it happens. If it doesn’t seem like it’s on the horizon for me I am likely not to stay.

I keep a modest aloofness at work, but still I make effort to be friendly. I make jokes a lot. People kinda see me as a character because I am fiercely independent, am single and child-free by choice, run to work and run home, am always cheerful (that’s not an acting job!), bring healthy food to eat during break, and am not your typical 61-year-old. When this is pointed out to me, I laugh and say, “I’m immature!” This might sound like a joke. I gotta laugh at how very true it is, not that I’m going to admit the exact reasons why. I’m supposed to winding down at 61, worn down by health problems and thinking of retiring. Instead, I’m at the prime of my life, running ahead. If I look back, it’s to assess, with much amazement, at just how far I’ve come.

Feedback and comments welcome!