The Retail Struggle And Language Barriers

There are so many language barriers in retail.   Every few minutes of everyday I cross paths with a customer who does not understand my speech.   We both may speak English, and we both may be fully capable of articulation, but when I speak, when I reach out, their responses are not the appropriate responses to what I have said, at all.

Let me demonstrate:

Me:  “How are you doing today,”

Customer: “Just looking.”

We speak different languages not in relation to our common tongue, but rather our vernacular is skewed through our life’s experience.

Dear customer my goal is not to pull the money from your wallet but to put a smile on your face.  That is what I love about my job, the amount of lives I can touch, the lost souls I can seek, and average days I could fill with whimsy.   I may not speak for all of retail kind, but I speak for me.  I speak my language.

My language defers from their’s, and their language defers from each other.  We are all unique, that’s what makes this world so beautiful and retail so thrilling.  If I ask an employee to keep the floor replenished, they may interpret that not as the urgent matter that I intended it.  Inventory restock may only happen at night if I had not specified otherwise, because that’s their experience.  As a manager I take the effort to find my employees’ language, understand their interpretations, and learn their own tongue.  This is not a task that be completed, because each day, week, and year alters us through new life experiences.

We are living Babel, we walk the streets not truly understanding the meaning as it may have been intended.  We may have a glimpse, pick up on fragments, but we can never truly know.

So when asked,

“Did you have a satisfactory visit today?”

the correct responses is not, “no thank you, I already have plenty.”

Perhaps it is time for us all to reevaluate our listening and tune in to the words that are spoken so that perhaps, we can hear the voice and less of our own experience.  Back then is never today, and growth can only come from listening.


Until next time fan boys and girls—>



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A response to Linda G Hill’s SOCS prompt: “Language”

15 thoughts on “The Retail Struggle And Language Barriers

  1. I’m studying non-verbal cues in my library course right now, and how important it is to “read” your customer. I think that as long as you know that you are polite and professional, there’s only so much that you can do.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One of the best things on my phone is a translator app. Works very well if we keep the sentences uncomplicated. The customers seem to get a good laugh out of it as well.

    The just looking folks, I always let them know I was too, looking for love, the perfect taco and my mind. I almost always got a conversation going with that. Sometimes people would start singing, or mention another food they love… the mind one got the most responses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOVE THAT!!! I had a bf, he worked for the same company I did, when I visited his store I had such a blast because he had fun snarky/witty remarks he made to his customers all the time. He always had the store laughing and the customers talking. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved getting my customers to dance, that was the best. Laughter happened more often than not. And I made some real connections with some real amazing customers. Being transferred to corporate killed my spirit.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up in a retail ladies clothes and shoe store. I speak southern English but still get those customers who don’t want anyone to speak with them. They want to come in, look around and either buy on their own or leave empty handed. I’m sorry you’re having folks who can’t understand you. I’m also glad you wish to make their day’s brighter with a kind word. Good for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. When I go to my local mall (which is rare these days) I almost feel as though I’m in Mexico at times. People are mostly speaking Spanish and store signs and many intercom announcements are in Spanish as well. I realize that this reflects the demographics of where I live, but nevertheless as an American citizen this can be somewhat disconcerting to me.

    But you make a good point. I think many times in stores people really are just looking or meandering and don’t want to be bothered. This doesn’t necessarily excuse the decency of courteous human interaction, but still I think this is the mindset of many store wanderers. Also, so many people are distracted by things in their lives or focused inward or have their minds somewhere beyond where they are. I see this while driving, in waiting rooms, or other public places. People on their phones or thinking about something other than the here and now. It can be disturbing and sad in many ways. If people aren’t paying attention to their world, they can miss so much including interacting with other people.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 2 people

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