Singapore’s bad customers

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By Nicole Chang and Trinity Chua

“They never call us by our names.

“Five years, I have been here. Whenever they need me to pick up a new piece of item, or to get them a different-sized blouse, they call me Hello.”

“It is the tone of their voice that eats at you. They can be so rude, like you do not mean anything to them as a person.

“Our culture in Singapore teaches us to say Please and Thank You. But, really, no one does.”

Ms Fina, 24, is a retailer in women’s fashion. She and many of her fellow retailers, stand in the frontline, facing rude and unreasonable customers every day.

Just in Ion Orchard alone, more than 10 fashion retail shops admit to having a constant stream of bad customers – Singaporeans or otherwise.

Labour chief Lim Swee Say has called for better appreciation of workers, and the need for better customers.

He said workers providing a service are not servants of their customers.

“Instead of complaining that the service standard in Singapore is still not good enough, why don’t you ask yourself ‘Are the customers in Singapore good enough?’” said Lim, the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) Secretary General.

These service staff, with claims of bad customers, mainly work in women’s fashion. Among them Warehouse, Forever 21, Fossil, Cath Kidston, Aldo, Topshop, Swatch, Bobbi Brown, Ted Baker and LeSportsac.

They tell The Independent Singapore about their experiences with their customers, on the condition of anonymity.

Some customers, they said, are downright unreasonable:

“A customer walked in with a bag she bought from our overseas store. The strap had worn out, and she wanted an exchange or refund. We couldn’t because she had already used it for one year.

“Very angrily, she said, ‘Give me a new one or give me a refund.’”

The most common comment about their customers is how rude they can sound:

One retailer said: “Some try a lot of clothes here. I am fine with that, but when they walk out of the store, they would not even look at you. You’re invisible. They don’t say thank you. They throw everything everywhere.”

When a retailer tries to offer his assistance to a customer, he said: “They look at me and say, “Don’t even talk to me. When I want your help, I’ll let you know.

“But our policy requires us to serve each and every customer that walks into the shop. Yet every time we approach them, we always get dirty looks.”

And what is worse than unwarranted accusations thrown in your face?

One retailer said: “I was minding the cashier that day. I was removing the security tags for a customer. I accidentally dropped one of the purchased items. The customer immediately wanted a new piece.

“I apologised quickly and said that item was the last piece. She yelled at me, “Can’t you be more fucking careful with my clothes?

“She yelled at me for that, can you believe it?”

Another retailer similarly recalled:

“One time I had to get something from our warehouse for a customer because the store did not carry that item anymore.

“It took a while because it was raining. While I was gone, apparently the customer said to my colleagues, ‘so where did she go ah, did she go for a snack or something?’

“When I came back, the customer was yelling at me, in front of everybody in the store, saying I was so slow and so stupid!”

Yet all these retailers have chalked up their bad experiences as part and parcel of their job, they said.

One retailer who has been in the industry for almost five years said: “We are retailers, workers for everyone, we hope everyone will appreciate. We don’t care if you buy anything, or if you take half an hour and then leave without anything, what we want is just a thank you.”