4 things we wish South African store owners would teach their employees

I’m only 30, yet when I say things like “When I worked in retail…” or “when I was growing up…” I feel so ancient. Those types of utterances are common in my day-to-day vocabulary, and I am, quite frankly, not ashamed to say it.

My most common utterance: “When I worked as a waitress, or in a clothing store…” Jeez, people, the behaviour of some “customer service consultants” in certain popular chain stores makes you wonder if they received any training at all. And, when I say training, I refer to client relations, not the actual work. Because, believe me, the training manager will not skimp on the hard-skills. It’s the soft skills that need toughening up.

Here are the four things I wish these chain store managers would drill into their employees

  1. Be aware of your surroundings and respect the customer’s space

Just today I was walking in the store. There were two guys wearing the uniform who were chatting away merrily and walking. The one bumped into me because he was not looking around to see where he was walking. I’ve been told I have a very expressive face, and I think the lady at the vegetable weighing station saw my reaction and she told him to look where he was walking.

In fact, this is not something that should be taught at work, it’s something that your mom tells you as a kid, “Nicole, look where you are walking, don’t bump into people.”


  1. Serving the customer is a priority. Your attention goes to them first.

I could not find something in the store – silly me, I thought I was in the Tokai branch but was instead at Capricorn – so I walked up to one of the ladies talking to a fellow colleague. My polite “excuse me” was met with a dirty look and a very listless response.

When I went for training I was told that I was not allowed to talk to my colleagues in case a customer needed help. Oh, how I hated that rule, but now I see why it was important. There was another rule for when standing at our stations: don’t remove your red peaked-cap. Oh, Lor’ ha’ mercy, but that was the most horrible cap I was ever forced to wear! (I worked at Meltz as my first job)


  1.   Always give the customer right of way

Something that sticks out from my training I received all those years ago was this rule. That means that if a customer is walking, do not jump in front of them or make them wait for you to pass. This happens quite often and really gets under my skin. Anyone else?


  1. Should you need to ask your colleague something, don’t shout across the aisle

I also get really peeved at the group of coloured girls (and I can say coloured because I am a coloured meisie myself) who tend to shout at each other from across the aisle, “Sementaaaaa, waa’s ie wassing powder?”

Dear lady, no wonder people from all over the world look at us and think we are super gee-ay-em. You may not be able to speak well, but at least walk over to your most knowledgeable colleague and whisper, “Sementa, waa’s ie wassing powder?”

That was my little rant. Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Comment below and you could win a 16GB OTG flash drive valued at R150. Draw to take place on 14 September. Competition open to South African readers only.

2 thoughts on “4 things we wish South African store owners would teach their employees”

  1. Omh. I too am amazed at the customer service these days. I remember going for customer service training years back and am appalled at the attitude of employees and lack of excellent service. I wish to challenge employers to upskill their employees and bring back the good old days of customer excellence. People, it’s a win win situation. A smile is free, gratis, mahala and assisting someone without complaint provides you with a feeling of warm satisfaction and guess what? You will be rewarded in a very pleasant manner .

  2. Ah all these points i agree with 100%. It annoys me on a regular basis.

    I have never received training on this kind of service but to me its common sense. When someone walks into my office, i greet them with a smile…even if i don’t particularly like them. The point is that they are the client and so i will treat them with the good manners my mommy taught me. Simple things like:
    1. Smile when u greet someone
    2. Look at people when u talk to them
    3. Pay attention when they talk to u
    4. Speak properly, you are a lady

    These are things that can easily turn a bad experience into a good one

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