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Untrained Staff in shops

(28 Posts)
Newatthis Tue 12-Oct-21 14:47:38

Yesterday I went into three different shops and needed to ask some questions to the sales staff, in each shop, with regard to product details about some things I wished to purchase. In two shops the answer I got was 'I don't know" and in the third shop the response was 'I feel as if I should know but I don't'. None of them went off to ask someone who might know. Am I being unreasonable to think that the shop assistants should have some product knowledge?

wildswan16 Tue 12-Oct-21 15:04:57

There are a lot of "new" workers in shops just now, post Brexit etc. If they are unable to help you then they should ask their manager - but if they haven't learned to do this then why not ask to speak to the Manager yourself?

If the Manager does not appear, or is unable to help - then I think you have reason to complain.

AGAA4 Tue 12-Oct-21 16:43:30

It takes time to gather enough product information to be able to advise but they should call someone who does have that experience.

JaneJudge Tue 12-Oct-21 16:54:23

They should know whether they are new or not and they should know enough about the layout to point out items or alternatives. I don't know isn't good enough. It doesn't necessarily mean it is the staffs fault though, they may not have received the correct training. It is best to just report it on either to the in line manager or head office. You might be helping them!

Lexisgranny Tue 12-Oct-21 16:55:07

Nowadays it it quite an achievement to find an assistant to ask!

welbeck Tue 12-Oct-21 17:01:10

seems normal for uk unfortunately.
in other countries more is expected, eg in germany i believe you have to train to sell shoes.
there is a much more professional approach to many jobs, and sense of responsibility, and pride in doing the job well.
also i noticed when visiting ireland, young saturday girls working in shops were alert, polite, hardworking, well spoken, keen as mustard.
none of this, dunno, shrug, turn away to continue chatting to pal or on phone, waynetta slob behaviour.

Chestnut Tue 12-Oct-21 17:12:17

I'm pretty sure that if I worked in a shop (which I have done years ago) I would make an effort to find out about the items for sale. You should know what you're doing so you don't look like an idiot if you're asked something. It seems that today:
people don't have common sense
people don't care if they look like idiots

Nonogran Tue 12-Oct-21 17:20:08

My mantra and one which I have actually said to their face, with a kindly tone of course, on occasion is:
“Know your product!”
I have to say I was recently really impressed with the product knowledge of a National Trust franchised coffee shop employee when I grilled her about an edible product on offer. She knew every single answer & responded confidently to all my queries without hesitation! I was impressed & told her so. It made such a nice change!

MerylStreep Tue 12-Oct-21 17:24:54

A lot of retail staff feel under paid and under valued.
I know from one friend that this was the feeling in Debenhams for a few years before it folded.

Kali2 Tue 12-Oct-21 17:27:07


I'm pretty sure that if I worked in a shop (which I have done years ago) I would make an effort to find out about the items for sale. You should know what you're doing so you don't look like an idiot if you're asked something. It seems that today:
people don't have common sense
people don't care if they look like idiots

Well yes- but surely it is up to the shop owner/manager, to allow time for proper training and mentoring, and time with a more senior experienced person to get to know the products, with proper support.

Sago Tue 12-Oct-21 17:30:08

I went into an independent toy shop years ago for ping pong balls.

The staff member said they didn’t have any, when I said are you sure, he said certain, we're always getting asked for them!


Lucca Tue 12-Oct-21 17:33:01

It’s about being able to communicate well isn’t it? If assistant doesn’t know they could say “I’m really sorry I don’t know but let me go and find out for you if you don’t mind waiting”.

Kate1949 Tue 12-Oct-21 17:36:51

I asked in a travel agents once if they had any brochures on the Scilly Isles. The girl said 'Are they part of the Canary Islands?'.

Bibbity Tue 12-Oct-21 19:26:54

I think it would depend on the shop. I wouldn't expect a Tesco worker to know every product. But when I worked in Anne Summers it was easy enough to read up on all the toys and learn about them.

CanadianGran Tue 12-Oct-21 19:49:15

Sometimes I will look for a more experienced (older) cashier and they will know, or better yet, ask one of the stock workers.

I was just complaining to a co-worker that the stock-boys (and I call them that because they are almost always young men) are working all hours of the day loading shelves and getting in the way of shopping. It used to be that shelves were re-stocked on an early shift before store opening. It's a bit frustrating to shop around them. But they do know where everything is, and most will walk you over to the exact spot.

Trisha57 Tue 12-Oct-21 19:58:43

When I worked in Sainsburys many, many years ago as a young mum, I was trained along with all the student workers on produce in particular. We were regularly tested on various items of fruit and veg so that we could identify them when putting them through the checkouts. My most favourite was Mooli, which caused frequent giggles from the 16 year old girls just because of its weird name, closely followed by Ugli Fruit. My two young GC still don't believe that Ugli Fruit exists! I have searched for it in various supermarkets in vain. Anyone seen one lately?

I do think it's down to the retailer to provide proper training. Unfortunately it's something that seems to have fallen by the wayside as a "cost-cutting" exercise in the last few years. Get them on the shop floor selling as soon as possible with the least amount of training input seems to be the modern mantra....

welbeck Tue 12-Oct-21 20:17:02

you must live well out in the sticks, never to have heard of mooli, and ugli fruit.
what about ladies' fingers.
loads of them round here.
i saw a dragon fruit last night outside a shop; so pretty.

welbeck Tue 12-Oct-21 20:18:25

not that i eat hardly any fruit and veg myself. a few toms and pepps.
but you cant help seeing them.

Trisha57 Tue 12-Oct-21 20:36:22

Actually welbeckat the time I was living near Ilford in London! Ladies fingers - yep, we had them too smile!

Trisha57 Tue 12-Oct-21 20:41:24

And I had heard of them. I grew up in Hoxton and Dalston which both had markets selling all sorts of wonderful fruit and veg, particularly in the 60s and 70s (sort of cross-references with the Ridley Road thread elsewhere) But the student workforce had never heard of them!

GrandmaKT Tue 12-Oct-21 20:49:26

I agree about poorly trained staff. I was in a branch of Zara recently when an alarm sounded. Everyone hovered around waiting to see if it was a false alarm or not until a staff member started directing people to leave. So we all stood outside on the pavement for over 20 minutes. During this time two staff members came out and wandered off in the direction of a coffee shop. A group of about 30 new recruits to the shopping centre were taken in and wandered around the store. All this time not one staff member came out to tell the customers what was going on. I gave up in the end!

Katie59 Wed 13-Oct-21 07:00:47

I did a few months for a supermarket call center answering queries about products, so had to look up the product details, there is no way checkout staff could possibly know in depth details on hundreds of products.
It’s better to say you don’t know, possibly loosing a sale than mislead the customer

Riverwalk Wed 13-Oct-21 07:48:11

Not unreasonable if you were in specialists shops e.g. phone, bike or bakery to expect the staff to have some knowledge of the products.

What were your questions and what type of shops?

Esspee Wed 13-Oct-21 07:51:18

For some unknown reason I often get asked for assistance in shops. I know I could just say I don’t work here but if I know the answer I’m happy to help. I assumed it was because I was dressed smartly for work but in M&S I was assumed to be the manageress by one lady while I was dressed in (smart) jeans and a t-shirt. Causes hilarity when out with friends.

Katie59 Wed 13-Oct-21 08:43:33

Specialist shops, even when you are buying a car the level of training for the salesmen is pretty poor, you cannot rely on the answers they give you.
If a professional, a solicitor or estate agent, gets it wrong the classic excuse is “ sorry, we misunderstood the question”