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Crusty Wants Retail Slaves To Answer The Phone During A Rush

Carolanne chanelCall me Eyes, because I work in an opticians. Bit of back story required: been there 3 1/2 years, started off with 5 other members of staff, things happened and for the last 6 months there's only been me and two other people. 5 days a week we've had two opticians in, and due to staff holidays and sickness, most days since January there's only been two of us working, meaning one person per optician.

This means a minimum of 25 patients a day, plus people coming in to book appointments, collect and order glasses and for repairs. On a busy day, this could reach 100+ people coming through the doors, and we have to speak to every single one of them, and take time to help them - could be two minutes to make an appointment or 30 minutes to dispense glasses. On top of this, people phone us to make appointments or check if their glasses are in or to discuss any problems. Some days the phone doesn't stop ringing, which is where my story comes from.

One day was one of the busy ones; me and my colleague were rushed off our feet, and the phone was ringing off the hook, but we were too busy to get to it. A customer comes in at possibly the quietest part of the day to cancel an appointment that he had booked for about 30 minutes after he came in. After happily canceling and rebooking for him, then he decides to rip into me, changing from custy to crusty.

Crusty: I was phoning for ages earlier.

Eyes: I'm sorry, sir, we have been very busy this morning.

EmployeedroidCrusty: But you should have answered the phone.

Eyes: We have been with other customers since we opened this morning. Unfortunately, the phone gets put to one side.

Crusty: You must get customers call you all the time though.

Eyes: Yes we do, but -

Crusty: So you shouldn't ignore them. Your customers are important.

Eyes: But -

Crusty: I worked in retail for over twenty years, and I always answered the phone when it rang in my shop.

Eyes: (This is where I start to get a bit snappy) We've been with customers the whole time, sir. I don't feel it right to leave my customers who have made the effort to come down to see me to answer the phone.

Crusty: I think your customers will understand having to wait two minutes for you to pick up the phone.

Eyes: Sometimes a phone call can take ten minutes. If I was a customer, I wouldn't appreciate being left for someone to be on the phone for ten minutes. I would actually think it quite rude. People who call the shop can call back again without any problem. It's company policy to deal with customers in the shop first.

Crusty: Maybe you should reconsider your policies (WTF?!) Surely (and this is the kicker, the bit that made me scream at this crusty in my head) all of your money comes through your phone.

At this point, I just have to smile and shrug noncommittally and bid him farewell, burning up inside, a fire which could only be stopped by a nicotine fix (Naughty Eyes!)

I just wanted to vent a bit, but wanted some advice/opinions on this - if you work in a similar environment, what would you do? Would you answer the phone in a stupid-busy shop, or let it ring?

--Eyes signing out!



I would highly recommend an answering machine/service. If you've had to cut back on staff, then I can understand the frustrations of trying to get through. Not everyone (such as myself) would be able to come down to get questions answered or get appointments set up. I realize you can't drop everything to answer the phone, but to just let it ring and ring and ring is also very unprofessional.


Let it ring.

cashier slave

Let it ring. I work in a grocery store, and I let it ring all the time. There is one phone at the tills that calls the outside, and if its busy, and no one is in the office, and no one is working that particular till, it just rings. If I'm busy with a line of customers, even when I'm on that til, there are times when I let it ring. 9times out of 10 it's just someone asking what time we're open 'til, and half the time its the same people who are always calling (to the point where I recognise their voice over the phone). Our hours haven't changed in 3 years. You shouldn't have to call every single night to figure out when we're open 'til. It's 10. It's always 10. Unless it's Sunday, then its 8.


I'd say let it ring. And a good comeback for that guy could of been "I'm glad you feel that why. I'll let my manager know so he can remove this desk, since this is obviously not where people get their product."

Seriously, unless you're a telemarketer, your money doesn't come through the phone.

Bored at the Bookstore

I've done a multitude of jobs since I started working *mumblemumble* years ago... and phones _always_ get answered - even if it's a simple "Umpty-Ump Company, can you hold, please?" and hitting the hold button as you say "please". If there's a person at the desk, you say, "I'm so sorry, let me just make this stop ringing," with a rueful smile. Then, as soon as you're finished with that person, take the call. Then the next person in line. it's called multi-tasking, and it's an art form.

Your boss(es) might consider hiring someone - high schooler, recent grad, retiree - for minimum wage, tasked ONLY to answer the phones and take messages, thus giving you a chance to catch up on returning calls, etc. Or, as someone has already suggested, an answering machine could be hooked up. The last one I bought at Costco cost about $20. Maybe even take up a collection in the office to split the cost of one.

'Cause, speaking here as a prospective patient, if I need to make an appointment and can't get anyone to answer the blinkin' phone, I'm going to call someplace else. I am NOT going to haul myself to the office for something that could be done on the phone. And if i can't cat through to cancel an appointment and you charge me for it anyway, there's going to be a BIG argument. And, given the difficulty of reaching the office, eventually, you won't be so busy; there will be others who feel the same way.

From the woman who learned how to wait on customers, answer the phone, send a fax, find books, and fill helium balloons - all at the same time. After spending a first life in offices juggling phones, dictation, typing, filing, stroking egos, running errands, making and delivering coffee, and all the other so-called secretarial jobs for three bosses at once. And a second ten-year career as a professional temp, learning new jobs
every week - before taking the leap into owning my own bookstore.... Where, yes, money comes through the phone.

Bored at the Bookstore

Whoops. "if I can't "get" through".... Darn iPad.


We have a couple of fantastic receptionists at my dentist, I'm not sure if they have a really good computer system for multiple customers, but they seem to do a bit of both!

It does take a little bit longer, but given the environment, I think it's acceptable. It will take a lot of juggling/practise, but once you master it the stress will subside significantly!

Personally, I work at a supermarket where there are at least 5 different locations with people ABLE to pick up the phone & hold it for the correct person, but avoid it ...half the time callers seem to get stuck on hold while the person paged to take said call ignores it.


I'm with others on hiring someone specifically to answer the ones. Only because even if you do pick up to put the caller on hold(which may be awhile)or to make an in person customer wait; sooner rather than later, one or the other is going to turn into Godzilla over being made to wait for someone else.

We've all been there, it can be the apocalypse and there will always one crusty who does not care and expects that they are the center of their universe, so god forbid you take 3 seconds to answer a phone long enough to put someone on hold.


In store always comes first. At every job I have ever had

Slave of Arch

We have the same policy...if there's a manager in the office while the rest of us are dealing with a busy rush, they'll answer the phone if it rings.
If it rings and there isn't a manager in the office, someone will answer it on the floor -- as long as we aren't really really busy.
If we are super super busy, we'll regrettably let it ring. We have to get rid of the customers in the lobby/ least most of them.


Depends on the type of location. At the deli we always ignore the phone if everyone is with a customer. Makes sense since we would have to remove gloves etc and it gets bounced to customer service where it will be answered after four rings. At the gym I'll answer the phone first because it's usually asking when we close (we don't) and I can usually juggle tasks at the desk.


The problem with picking up the phone and putting them on hold is, if you can't get back to the phone, say, due to spending the next 10-15 minutes serving the customer you were already with, you have exactly the same problem - except it's the customer on the phone who's kept waiting, instead of the customer in store. Hiring someone specifically to answer the phones is a good idea, but the drawback of it is that it is possible that the store manager has to work to an employment budget, which means this phone answerer would be paid for by shaving off hours from other employees shifts. The way most places I've worked has done it is that answering the phone is the responsibility of the folk who generally don't serve customers on the shop floor, such as the stockroom staff or the managers.


The optometrist you answer the phone or have some sort of voicemail system at the bare minimum.

I have to pay my optometrist hundreds of dollars (my country has no lens crafter so it needs to be sent overseas) to see and if my glasses ever break then I can't function. I'm not talking about not being able to drive I'm talking not being safe walking down the street or crossing the road.

It's not about whether your money comes through the phone or not. It's about meeting the needs of patients and if my optometrist can't see me/book me in within a few hours of having an emergency I find one who can. I do go back to them for the routine because they've got my eye history and are some of the best friendliest thorough optometrists I've ever had but if I ever felt like I couldn't get the attention I need I'd move on in a heartbeat.

Crazy Cashier

i agree about at the very least an answering machine for your phone.
Considering what it is , I'd imagine you'd have a lot of customers, that need those glasses and such to drive, so it's not maybe as easy or safe for them to just come to the store.

Someone to answer the phone would probably be better though.


Too bad the phone didn't ring while he was talking to could have answered it while he was in the middle of a sentence and then when when he got pissed for you answering the phone while he was talking to you, you could say "see, that's why we couldn't answer the phone."
And yes, a voicemail system would be very helpful for you.


At the gas station, we ignore the phone during rushes. Most people are pretty understanding and will call back later.

Sadie The Cleaning Lady

Could you possibly hire some "on call" staff so that on the days where you are rushed off your feet you have someone to call to come in? I say that because it may not be worth hiring a full/part-time employee is you're not that busy all the time.
Failing that, I'm with everyone else saying you either need an answering machine or a voicemail system. Given that you work for an optometrist rather than, say, a supermarket or other such store, it is fair enough for a customer to expect to be able to reach you by phone.


I agree that someone should be hired to handle the phone calls, however, I don't think you're doing anything wrong by focusing on the customers in store. It's not your fault that you're understaffed. In my deli, when only two of us are on and we've got a solid line, we often don't get a chance to answer the phone. We wouldn't stop serving a customer who might take 30 seconds longer to answer a phone call that could take 10 minutes, probably just to hear us go through our list of platters. (Yes, they ask for everything to be repeated. The platter info is available online, anyway.) If someone is between customers when the phone rings, they'll answer it.

I know it's not quite the same since someone from another department can take the call and the most we could be losing is a possible hot dog or platter order (OH MY GOD THE YOUNG SHITS NEED TO BE TRAINED TO ASK CUSTOMERS TO SPECIFY WHICH OF THE 11 TYPES OF PRAWNS), but anyway, I agree that your in store customers are your priority. If I was a customer that couldn't get through, I'd call again later. Then again, I stick with the one dentist, so I'm not going to call another dentist anyway.


While the crusty was way over the line, and clearly deranged, I do think an answering machine or receptionist is a better idea than not answering the phone.


Unplug the phone, fuck 'em.


that guy just wanted to come in and complain about something.

yes, it sucks when you call somewhere (doctor's office, optometrist, dentist, grocery store, etc) and no one answers. However, the people who are able to bounce in during their lunch hour or 'just for a moment' between their drive home and picking up their kid(s) should get the first shake.

that guy must have had an appointment there before, and he could have VERY well called before he "had to" stop in.

And if your office doesn't have any cancellation policies and/or fees, then it doesn't really matter. You miss your appointment, you miss your appointment. Worst case, someone might have called him later that evening when he didn't show to just let him know.

The Kid

Sounds like you just need more staff around (which isn't your fault).
In my opinion...if someone is calling, they can try calling again in a bit if they can't get through. I typically wait about half an hour to an hour to see if I can get through.
If a person is in the store, it's harder to deal with keeping them waiting. They get grumpy and usually turn into crusties quicker.
So keep the phone ringing. See if you get an answering machine. Depending on your situation, talk to your employers about getting more staff.


My experience has been that the customer in front of you is the priority.

Larry Berry

The customers in front of you are always the priority. As mentioned, even if you pick up the phone to say "please hold" then you could be dealing with the person in front of you for a long time, and then leaving that person on hold, so it's no better than them not getting a pick up anyway. Then if you finish with that customer in front of you and go back to the phone before handling the next customer in front of you, then you could be on the phone for 10 minutes still, and are again ignoring the customer in front of you.

I say an answering machine is the best option. Whenever I've called the doctor and not had anyone answer, I always reach a machine and that is fine with me. I leave a message and get a call back. Hiring someone to answer the phone gives me a few problems. One, if you can pay someone to answer the phone, then you could pay someone to help with the rush of customers instead. If there aren't any phone calls, do they just stand around and do nothing in between calls? If they do help with in front of you people when there aren't phone calls, if the phone does ring do they drop the in front of you people to deal with the phone? In which case you are back to the original issue. So I say answering machine is the answer.

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