From Behind the Register: The Training Student Retail Workers Really Need

04/27/2015 04:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2015

Ah, retail. A job field that most of us college students have experienced at some point in our lives.

What sometimes makes retail stressful are the situations that you have to figure out for yourself. Your boss or trainer only told you the basic things (or maybe they didn't) and then you had to fend for yourself.

Here are a few things that people wished they had been taught before having to awkwardly figure it out on their own.

Fake hundred dollar bills.

Your boss probably showed you how to check for a fake, but did they tell you how to deal with it? They might have said, "Just don't accept it from the customer," but if you've ever worked in customer service, you know that customers will get quite defensive if you say their money is bad.

1. It's embarrassing to them since there might be people around, and 2. If they are the kind of person who is trying to scam your store, they aren't going to care about getting a bit feisty. So what should you do?

One of my co workers just told me to tell them that we don't have enough money in the register to give them enough change back for their hundred. They still get annoyed, but the situation is a lot less awkward than the original idea. I'd also recommend getting another coworker to check the money, to make sure you aren't making a mistake, and to show the customer that you have back up so they should just leave with what's left of their dignity while they still can.

Bosses should try to come up with alternative ways to tell customers that their money can't be accepted, in a way that doesn't make the employee take the fall for the customer's mistake.

Working commission.

Commission is one of those things that sounds a little bit hard, but the benefits of getting a big bonus at the end would be worth it, right? Not exactly. Holli Tomlinson, a recent grad from FIDM, has recently begun a job in commission, and it is not what she expected.

I honestly didn't know how gnarly and competitive it was going to be. You literally have to fight for your sales. I thought other employees would respect your sale if you were the one helping the customer, but that is definitely not what happens.

In this case, it would be wonderful to get a full sense of the situation before being thrown into the job.

"I think that managers should show employees how to act respectfully towards one another, and though the work place is competitive, make it a little less stressful," Tomlinson said.

It's no wonder that people who work commission are more likely to quit before someone who isn't working commission because of how stressful the work environment is and how it's really every person for themselves.

A warning needs to be given, and some training in edict, so that commission doesn't have to be as awful as it is.

Dealing with the register.

At the store I worked at over summer, we didn't accept checks, only I wasn't told this. So when a customer started filling out a check to buy some clothes, I searched the register for the button to enter the check. Not finding it, I asked my co-worker for help, and she told me we didn't accept them.

When I told this to the customer, she was furious at me, saying both the store and I were stupid for not wanting to take her money. Yeah, because it's totally me who is making up the policies...

I just stood there, mouth open, not knowing what to say. It would have been helpful if I had known from the get-go that we didn't accept a certain type of payment. And I also think it would have been good if that was in fine print somewhere by the register, so customers would know ahead of time.

Lindsay Banks, a third year psychology student at UC Santa Cruz, also had some trouble when it came to checks. Since they are more of an outdated way of paying, she was never trained in how to run them through the register. When someone paid with it, she had to ask for help, and it turned out to be a pretty lengthy process where she had to scan it, write a bunch of stuff on it and then tuck it into the register.

"It would have been really helpful to know how to do it ahead of time, because watching someone else do it quickly in the moment for you isn't a good way for you to remember it later," Banks said.

Employees really need to get a full run down of the register before they are told to man it by themselves, because it can be pretty embarrassing and nerve wracking when you don't know what to do.

Dealing with returns.

At the boutique where I worked, we had a 14-day return policy. A lady brought in some shoes that she had ordered online, and since it was past the 14 days, my co-worker told her she couldn't get her money back. The lady was outraged since she had just gotten it in the mail, and quickly said she was going to report my co-worker to the higher ups.

Of course, people like this never joke about that, and a few days later my boss got a nasty call about my co-worker. Apparently, if the item was bought online, the person had 30 days to return it to account for shipping. None of us had ever been told this, and because of that, we got a bad write up.

It's always good to be trained in every detail of the company's policy, and to have the key rules written down where the employees can easily access them.

Dealing with rude customers.

The customer is always right, and Ian Dominguez, a third year engineering student at Palomar college, said that his work always just says to hold his tongue if a customer is getting nasty. This is what most places will tell their employees, but sometimes, enough is enough.

There are some customers that will just need to leave, and it would be great to get some training in how to give calm but stern signal phrases that the person better get out.

Dealing with people is awkward, especially if you have to make it up on the spot, so having some predetermined ways to get out of a situation would be very helpful.

So there you have it, a few things that would have been awesome to know before having to learn the hard way.