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Graeme’s Take on Training: Wearing Many Hats

This is the second in Hardware Retailing staffer Graeme Haase’s series of posts about three days of training that he completed at Cardwell Do it Best Home Center in Indianapolis. Haase went through this training program to get a firsthand account of how a new sales associate’s training goes and to share his experience and impressions with other retailers. To read the first post in the series, click here. To read more about recruiting and retaining high-quality employees, see our story, “Finders Keepers,” in the January issue of Hardware Retailing magazine.

It only took me 15 minutes working at Cardwell Do it Best Home Center before I made my first big mistake. But let’s talk about that first 15 minutes first.

After entering through the back employee entrance, I was greeted with a fresh employee uniform shirt, training manual and walkie-talkie, complete with an earpiece. I was feeling pretty confident as I strolled toward the front of the store to meet the head cashier, Michelle Raczkowski. Michelle politely introduced herself to me and we jumped right into things.

I started off by observing Michelle ring up two customers and talking me through what she was doing. Before I could collect all the information thrown at me in the past couple minutes, Michelle gave me a nod and said I was up!

I took a couple of deep breaths, did some stretches and stepped into the control center (AKA the cash register). I refer to it as a control center because it was decked out with notes: reminders of where to locate certain products in the store, how to interact with customers calling or entering and exiting the store, and more. This station was ready to tackle any task.

Michelle took me over the basics of how to greet customers as they walk in the door, answering the phone and ringing orders up.Then a voice over came over my brand-new walkie talkie: “Do we know anyone who drives a black Jeep? They’re parked in Jeff’s spot and need to move.”

And there went all my confidence. A feeling not unlike one of being stood up on a first date sunk in. Jeff is Jeff Cardwell, the owner of the store. And I just happen to drive a black Jeep.

My step was, of course, to move my car. (And when Jeff came in a few minutes later, I was quick to apologize. He gave me a smile and told me, “No problem.” Whew!)

Thankfully, with the training manual and Michelle by my side, I was able to recover quickly after that incident.

My first few times ringing customers up at the register weren’t the best. Any time a customer walks up to the register, the cashier is supposed to ask a few questions: “Hello, how are you doing today?” “Did you find everything you were looking for?” “Are you loyalty rewards card member?” I was fine with the first two questions, but for some reason, that last question about being a loyalty rewards card member would just not come out of my mouth right. I’d stutter, forget what I was saying and turn beet-red, feeling embarrassed.

At one point, Michelle had left my side to help a customer sort through a few products in an aisle right by the register. I had gotten in a groove at this point and felt more comfortable at the register.

I greeted the next customer, asked him the opening questions, offered him some popcorn and began scanning his items. As I clicked “enter” to finalize the purchase and get his total, the customer I was helping pointed out I had forgotten to scan one of the items. Not a big deal; luckily there wasn’t a line at this time. While Michelle continued to help the other customer, I told the gentleman checking out that I was sorry for the mistake and I’d been working here for a total of three hours. He chuckled a little bit, probably to make me feel better, then came back with, “Yeah, I could tell.” Ouch.

I wish I had been shown around the store before stepping behind the register. It would have helped me become more familiar with the layout and learn where product categories were located, which would have been helpful, as the cashier is responsible for greeting customers, and many initially asked where certain things were located. Also, when learning how to run the cash register, I thought it would have been helpful to either watch a couple more transactions before taking over, or practicing a few fake transactions. This would have also helped me learn ahead of time how to ring up special orders for products that didn’t have a barcode to scan.

Before I knew it, the rest of the day had flown by, and Michelle had started cleaning up the register area. I helped her out, then went on to some other tasks—cleaning the popcorn machine, dust mopping the floor and cleaning the men’s restroom. After that, we counted the cash drawer out, and I said so long to my first day.

Day 2, Post 1: Learning More — and Getting a Workout!

Day 2, Post 2: My Day, Step by Step

Day 3, Post 1: The Importance of Good Customer Service

Day 3, Post 2: What I Learned From Working in a Hardware Store

About Graeme Haase

Graeme graduated from Butler University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Shortly after walking the stage, Graeme started working as a graphic designer for Hardware Retailing magazine, where he designs different parts of the magazine and assists with other custom publications. Graeme also does video production and editing. In his free time, Graeme is accustomed to trying new things (at least once!), such as musicals, water skiing and bungee jumping.

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