Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school

2.12 Recurring communication problems at a national department store (argument from experience)

Anonymous English 102 Writer

January 2021

I work at my local department store as a guest service representative. Guest service is considered the heart and lungs of the store. In our department we manage activities ranging from the typical returns to our newly popular drive up and curbside pickup service. I work with guests all day, everyday communication is a crucial aspect in effectively doing my job whether it be negotiating with a guest or simply helping them locate an item in the store. Because of the multitude of responsibilities that come with being a guest service representative a lot of stress is also expected, especially now during a pandemic. Guest service jobs during the pandemic are stressful and mentally exhausting.

A particularly stressful and common occurrence that I come across is discrepancies with our “same day different store” return policy. According to this policy if a guest purchases an item at a different department store location and wishes to return it at my location within the same day of purchase, it cannot be done. The department store not only instills this policy to prevent fraudulent activity and as a security precaution but transactions that happen that same day are not even in the department store system across the grid. Because the transaction is not on file across all locations it is as if I do not even have proof that the merchandise being returned was ever bought. This policy creates a lot of unwanted stress and problems simply because it is inconvenient.

An example of a moment I had to negotiate with an unhappy guest over the same day different store return policy was about a month ago. She had come in wishing to return a phone case that she had purchased earlier that day at the Avon  location. I told her that I was unable to complete the return because of our policy. The guest grew very upset quickly, but I remained calm and explained why I could not return it that day and that she could either go to Avon to return it that day or come back to my store the next day to return it without an issue. She refused to take no for an answer and proceeded to call me names. The only solution I could possibly think of was to return her item for store credit and use the store credit to purchase the new item she wanted. The guest agreed that it would be okay, so I got around that obstacle, but many tricky interactions do not always end that way.

A second common hassle I encounter working guest service is missed drive up orders. Drive up is an option that the department store developed for the convenience of our guests, so they do not have to come into the store to get their items, instead their purchase is brought out to their car. Due to the pandemic our drive up service has gained a ton of popularity. Just during my shift, we can run out 300-400 orders. Because the drive-up service can get very busy very fast mistakes are bound to happen. The most common mistake is missing items or missing bags from an order. Thankfully, my team usually catches the problem before we bring out the order or before the guest leaves, but sometimes a guest will call the store angry because they arrived home without some items or maybe with someone else’s items. This typically happens because the team that fulfills the orders do not label them correctly and we miss them amid the rush. At the store, we have a team dedicated solely to fulfilling the drive up and pickup orders. Our fulfilment team first shops for the desired items throughout the store (this is called a batch search). Once they have found all the items the fulfilment software tells them what items are going into what bag under what name. The fulfillment member is responsible for scanning every item before it is put into a bag. Then, the team finds a hold location, scans the bag and then the location barcode to lock it in place. Unfortunately, not all the fulfilment orders are done correctly. Some items get lost, bags will be misplaced, or some items in the order aren’t accounted for because they weren’t scanned in correctly before being put into the bag. Once this happens it is my responsibility to explain to the guest what happened to their order, apologize, and negotiate to figure out a solution. Typically, my drive-up team or myself has to quickly replace the item(s) by finding them on the sales floor. While this can be an easy task sometimes, we have a limited stock of the item we may be looking for, my team is pressed for time, and it holds us back from bringing out other orders.  On the other hand, it is also my responsibility to communicate the issue to our fulfillment team so they can hopefully fix their mistakes. Without this necessary communication our guests would leave upset and our team wouldn’t function properly.

At the department store, our guests can return almost anything. Guests can return items without the physical receipt, without the packaging, or without the tags. Once a woman came in with several items to return. All the items were missing their original packaging and tags. At many other corporations this would have been an issue and nonreturnable, but at the department store I manage returns like this is by utilizing the information on the receipt. From simply reading a receipt I can see when the transaction took place, the transaction number, and UPCs for items on the receipt, as well as the method of payment.

I analyzed a receipt but have removed the photograph because it contains identifying information. I highlighted in green is the method of payment as well as the last four digits of the card (which was a debit card) and the item UPCs that can be used to find an item without the barcode, highlighted in blue at the top is the store location and the date of transaction, and in blue at the bottom is the receipt location numbers that can be used to find further information about a transaction. So, when a guest returns an item without the original packaging or tags the DPCI is an alternate identification number. Since the item isn’t suitable to be put back on the salesfloor I defect the item out using the DPCI number and it is put into our salvage area. If a guest doesn’t have the original packaging, no tags, and is without a receipt we can always search up the transaction through their credit card or use their driver’s license and search for the item by typing in the description into our database.   

A huge issue that has been relevant for the past year is the mandate to wear masks. Given that I am a front store attendant, I am responsible for confronting any guest that comes in without a mask. This has become a growing issue because some people hold very strong to their right not to wear a mask, but it is simply my job to ask you if you have or need a mask. I have gotten countless rude remarks and responses from guests because I asked them if they could wear a mask. Sometimes guests will ignore and walk away from me then I have to call security to find the person. The pandemic and the mask mandate has added just another thing for customer service workers to deal with.  

These, amongst many other issues, are just some of the stressful situations I am faced with on a daily basis at my local store. I am prepared with communication skills, alternative options for guests, and our easy to navigate software but sometimes some guests and situations get out of hand. Although my job can be stressful at times, it shows a lot about who I am. It takes strong character and a solid work ethic to manage many of the situations that walk through the door every day.



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Understanding Literacy in Our Lives by Anonymous English 102 Writer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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