Festive challenges of a supermarket worker: '˜One man brought back a turkey he'd already eaten'

It's that time of year again - shops shelves start to fill with overpriced and even smaller boxes of Quality Street and the queues at the till reach round the store.

If you ask someone in customer services what their least favourite part about Christmas is, it’s definitely their job.

Most people get to go to work, have a laugh with their colleagues, do their work and come home with their sanity. Every job can be stressful, but customer services walks that thin line between ‘this is okay’ and ‘get me far away from this place’.

We’re lucky if we survive one shift without getting a mild to sizzling hot roasting off a customer over something that is far out of our control.

One thing we should all remember whilst working in a supermarket over Christmas is that the customer is not always right.

If you work on a customer service desk in a supermarket, you know the struggle of Christmas food ordering. Most customers are kind enough to fill out their order form before they attempt to pay for it, but there’s always a few customers that assume that makes our job too easy and we should browse for them as if we’re personal shoppers. We definitely don’t get paid enough for that.

But that’s the easier part - what’s even better is when customers want to make a whole food order only two or three days before Christmas, and give us the side eye when we tell them they’re about a week too late.

I mean, we can’t do anything other than listen to the tirade of abuse and derogatory terms coming our way. Again, it’s not our fault.

When it’s the Eve of Christmas Eve - it’s is the worst day of the year for supermarkets.

Everyone has the same idea of ‘let’s beat the Christmas Eve queues, we’ll be in and out in half an hour’- so naive. All the tills are occupied, the queues are stretching down the aisles, managers and supervisors are running around like lunatics, and then there’s customers that have to nerve to say we’re doing a bad job.

There are breaks to cover, there’s people finishing their shift, and there are customers that want to complain about it. We still need to eat our lunch. Surely, we deserve that much.

But now comes the storm after the hurricane, tornado and tsunami. Christmas is over and we’re starting to prepare for the new year, or in the world of customer services, preparing for a plethora of returns of mostly used and now useless items.

There are always the folk that return their Christmas jumpers because ‘it didn’t fit right’ which roughly translates to ‘I’ve gotten my wear out of it but I don’t need it now’. Then there are the customers who bring back used electrical items such as electric razors and epilators and claim they’ve not been used, despite the shreds of hair in them that they didn’t spot in their attempt to fool us.

The thing that continues to amaze me each year is the customers who bring back the empty wrapper for their turkey/chicken and claim that it tasted ‘off’, but you still managed to eat the whole thing? Be warned, we know your game.

If you’ve ever been to a supermarket after Christmas, you’ll know that most of the seasonal stock will be reduced at some point. But unless it has a reduced sticker on it, I wouldn’t advise you to ask a colleague to reduce it for you, it’s a firm no. And also, don’t be the customer that takes a reduced sticker off another item and sticks it on your own. It won’t magically scan at the reduced price and we will check because we’ve dealt with a million other customers like you before. It’s the oldest trick in the book and we are so over it. On the note of Christmas stock, don’t be the customer that returns cards you haven’t used, just use them next year! Cards are not perishable. They will pull through until next Christmas.

My advice? Be kind and courteous, and don’t do your shopping last minute!

Staff stress

One in 10 shop workers say they have been physically assaulted by staff, according to figures from trade union USDAW.

Their 2016 report revealed 44 per cent of staff have been verbally abused and one in four have been threatened as they go about their daily jobs behind counters and tills.

John Hannett, general secretary of USDAW, said: “Life on the frontline of retail can be pretty tough for many shopworkers and there is still a lot to do to help protect them.”