Customers Don’t Shop Here, People Do

I understand the machinations, but have failed to accustom myself to the new retail moniker "guest," as when I am in line, and the cashier says, "next guest please." I am not a guest. My guests do not stand in line. The retail experience and expectation is not improved by what is said. The retail experience and expectation is transformed when better service is provided.

People need to sit down. Retailers who do not provide chairs and benches risk loosing and alienating customers. Retailers’ floors are crowded, packages are heavy, and floors are hard– especially for women in heels. Guests are always invited to make themselves comfortable upon entering someone’s home. Customers are not cattle. Invite your customers to have a seat and offer them a glass of water, and they will remember who treated them so nicely.

People need and want assistance, but people are reluctant to ask for help. Walking into a store is like walking into a party where you don’t really know anyone. So retailers need to approach their customers, smile and say, "Thank you for coming, how can I help you?" Way back when, more than 100 years ago, many department stores had pages to personally escort ladies to their destination in the store and even carry their bags. It was simply a nice way to help customers. That was service. Can you imagine receiving that level of service today?

People need a second opinion; people need advice and suggestions. People watch makeover shows. Instead of having sales people, hire stylists to assist customers. Older people with good taste, students in fashion school, people who love shopping. Have them strategically stationed to help customers find the right size, offer options for add-ons like "would you like to see some belts for that pair of pants" or "do you think you’d like some matching hosiery for that new skirt" and "we just got in tops that would be perfect for that, can I show you?"

Customers are people. People shop. Some doctors treat patients, the best doctors treat people– not patients. The best retailers sell to people, not customers.

–Ron Knoth, Guest Blogger


  1. Customers are people, and people are people 24 hours a day. I work in retail and I have yet to understand why the rules of the world should be suspended when I or anyone else walk into a store. If I am going to be shopping, I don't have the expectation that someone will carry my bags or offer me a seat. I have the common sense not to wear heels and to know what I am getting into before I leave the house. I don't expect retail employees– who are all people like me– to read my mind and offer assistance. If my concerns are not important enough for me to ask, then they're obviously not important enough for anyone else to care about either.

    I would say that the "problem" with people is that the definitions of "customer" and "person" are exactly the opposite of what Mr. Knoth suggests. Rather than "people" with common sense and personal responsibility and accountability, shoppers expect to be treated like "customers," no longer subject to the rules and expectations of real life. Customer interactions are a two-way street; the best are built on equity and honesty, not outmoded and selfish ideas of servility.

  2. Dear Dani,

    I'm sorry you feel the way you do, but I do take issue. There are very differnt expectations for every set of circumstances and situations in life, including shopping, and our behavior changes accordingly. Going to Church, is different than going to the movies, sitting at the the movies is different than sitting in a hospital waiting room, sitting in a hospital waiting room is differnt than sitting at the DMV. Holding appropriate expectations is not a form of dishonesty, inequality, selfishness or outmoted "sevility" as you have charactorized it. "Real Life" as you seem to have described it is based on responsibility, accountability, common sense and speaking up for one's self, while laudible, for some people to practice, it may be an unreasonable expectation for the disenfranchised like the elderly, the disabled, the emotionally frail, the poor, children, mothers with infants in tow, foreign visitors, citizens with poor english skills, etc…to bow to your standards. (read The Wretched of the Earth, transl. Constance Farrington (1963: New York, Grove Weidenfeld) The inability to express one's needs is not a form of weakeness, or an indicator that their needs are unimportant. Yes, I expect business' to rise to the challange, raise their standards, welcome customers, treat people nicely and accomodate their basic human needs beyond that of a mere sale.

  3. oh please I work in retail for so long and deal with people with entitlement syndrome for way too long. I started being so nice to everyone and my boss loved me for doing that. But what do I get? A long day of " why cant we combine this coupon with that coupon?" sorry mam, thats the policy. "you re taking forever doing my return! Im going to the other register!!- Sorry mam, but the computer is a little slow. " how come your fitting room is always full. i was here first! how could you tell me to go to the next room? -Mam the next room is only 2 doors away.
    I could go on and on..but these bitches who treat retail employee like shit and wont even look us in the eyes like human being has made me what I am today. I stopped being nice and eager to help people like beofre. Because when I did, they just screwed me over and over. i think there should be a requirement for everybody to work in retail/ service industry for a year so they will feel how to be treated like shit and not being acknowledged as a human.
    Oh..and I do work in a high end dept. store.