TDmonthly Magazine!
May 2015 | Vol. XIV - No. 5


7 Critical Things Your Retail Employees Won’t Tell You

One of my earliest retail consulting clients was a coffee house.

One day I noticed the tip jar had $5 and $10 bills in it.

While one could dismiss the large bills as a result of making change for the register, I had to find out the truth myself.

One morning I stationed myself at a table that had a clear view to the register and tip jar.

I came to find out those $5 and $10 tips were in exchange for items ordered but not rung up. Since they were all doing it, no one told the owner.

That’s why We're Stealing From You is the first thing your associates won’t tell you.

Here are 6 more...

2. There Might Be A Better Way.
  Associates who have to do things over and over often see a better way, but it first requires you to show you are interested. Millennials, in particular, would love to give input on how to improve store operations, if only they knew you could let go a bit.  And while new employees often have ideas to share with you...ideas that you may have already dismissed years ago because they didn’t work...they will quickly stop caring when their ideas are just dismissed or ignored.

How to avoid it: After an employee is trained, simply ask them if they have any ideas on how to remove frustration in their job. You can also have a suggestion box, but face-to-face is always best.

3. This Is A Bad Enough Situation To Quit. Many times retail workers put up with a lot, but when there is a situation or personality conflict, many feel too powerless to tell their managers about it. It could be anything from I had to pick up the slack for another worker again to dealing with a tyrannical shift lead.

How to avoid it: Oftentimes job dissatisfaction shows up in behavior. Initiate regular one-on-one conversations with each member of your team. When someone has suddenly low KPIs (key performance indicators), or they’ve started coming in late, it signifies something has changed. Don’t assume it will fix itself on its own.

4. We’re Running Low On Supplies. Sales associates are used to supplies of all kinds like receipt paper, price labels, and tissue paper being there. As long as they get what they need, they rarely are proactive and tell you supplies are running low until they come back and say, "There are NONE left."

How to avoid it: On the first or last of the month, have a standard inventory taken of items you use regularly with number that should be in stock at all times. Make someone in charge of ordering enough to bring the inventory up to speed without over-ordering.

5. You Are A Bad Manager. While they might be your best pal, associates like managers who set expectations, follow through, and do what they say. When that isn’t the case, bad managing leads to high stress, lower productivity, and improvisation in using whatever means necessary to try to do the job they were hired for. This is often the root cause of high turnover.

How to avoid it: Whoever is in charge of your team needs to have their respect. That comes from deadlines, expectations, and inspecting what you are expecting on a regular basis. They are your employees paid to work, not your friends helping you out.

6. They Want To Move Up Or They Want A Raise. Most associates would rather look for a new job than tell you they deserve a promotion.  Most are also afraid to ask for the raise they think they deserve. For fear of rejection, many would rather hop from job to job to get 20 cents more an hour than address the issue with their current boss.

How to avoid it: Make sure you have a regular review process. As part of that review, ask if they would like additional responsibilities. If they do, find ways to teach them, and give them ownership over aspects of your business you feel comfortable with. But know that for them, more responsibilities means a raise at some point in their near future; titles without more money means little to them. Other than that, make sure your review process includes the opportunity for raises based on performance.

7. Cyberslacking. The lure of the smartphone runs deep. Like a slot machine that might deliver 3 sevens and a big jackpot, many associates go online for social media, games, and to relieve boredom.

How to avoid it: While some would advocate that installing more cameras to catch people slacking, accountability is the key here. Many times employees slack off because there is nothing else to do, so have a list each day of what needs to be done with a place for them to initial when complete. Don’t let them use, "We were busy" as an excuse - check the POS.

In Sum

The bottom line is that If there's a problem and they are covering it up, you can't fix it. Besides formal reviews, find ways to get input so you aren’t being jerked around.

Many times the mind leaves before the body does.

Bob PhibbsWriter's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author


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