Returns and rotas : are you ready?

Clothes hanging up in shop

As we approach Christmas, the signs are that the High Streets are beginning to turn back to pre-COVID levels. As people try and get back to normal there is an increase in footfall and possibly even purchases to try and treat themselves after such a horrid time.

I wonder how many retailers are ready and have organised themselves appropriately? It will be just as busy after Christmas with returns, too. If you are a retailer are you prepared for returns?

A couple of years ago I took some unwanted gifts back to Marks and Spencer soon after Christmas in Taunton.

Clearly it’s a busy time anyway, but at 1.30pm it’s likely to be the busiest time of the day, for obvious reasons. I had the gift receipt but the assistant needed a manager to approve the refund. She tried to phone through and took at least five minutes in doing so. She came back and said that all the managers were at lunch!


She had managed to find someone (I assume who was still in the building) to deal with it. Meanwhile, of course, the queue just grew longer. Given the time of year and the fact that they had closed what used to be a dedicated “Returns Desk” for all returns to be dealt with at the tills, this was going to happen again!

But this issue isn’t just affecting high street giants such as Marks and Spencer. It can easily be a problem for smaller outlets too.

How should stores prepare?

It seems so obvious doesn’t it?

You need to take on extra staff ready for the busy period and ensure that they are trained appropriately and are empowered as much as possible.

Make sure you have people on site who can do any job that needs to be done for a customer throughout the day. Plan your rotas well and have a back-up plan too to cope with illness or unexpected absence! I feel daft even writing it but someone, somewhere in Marks and Spencer either thought it was okay to have no manager able to process returns or simply didn’t plan properly.

Additionally, if you run a big store and people are trained to do one thing, it does make sense to separate skills and processes such as putting in place designated returns desks.

In short, a little forethought and good planning will ensure that your store is well staffed and ready for the coming busy season.


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How To Be Beaten By Power Rangers

Blimey. I was on the telly! I got a ‘phone call on the morning of the 16th November. By that evening I was in a Holiday Inn in MediaCity Salford.

BBC Breakfast television contacted me. I’m on the BBC database from appearing on radio 5. Hope it wasn’t the BBC Crimewatch database! Maybe they saw this post! Apparently some survey was out saying that when people receive poor service they walk out. I hope public money didn’t pay for that survey! BBC sent a cab to get me to Euston. I have no sense of direction but even I knew he was going round a car park at one point! 4 u turns and a car park later I got to Euston, picked up the ticket, ran to the train, train chappie let me get on shut the door behind me and the train moved. That was lucky! Train was full of drunks, the rugby had been on or something. The cab driver wasn’t there to pick me up at Manchester and I had to telephone the BBC. Incidentally, it was very cold you know.

I woz
I woz ‘ere MediaCity

Going back was nearly as bad. Tell me, if you stayed at a Holiday Inn and there were taxis coming and going outside you would think your taxi would come to the doors too wouldn’t you? Apparently not, after 15 minutes of waiting I telephoned the BBC and said my cab had not arrived. Apparently the cab firm had ‘phoned me twice (they hadn’t). But get this, the cabs wait two minutes round the corner behind the building not even next to it! Give the cabbie his due, he put his foot down and I ran for the train, and again, just got it.

Now, think I should be letting the BBC know that Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 they are not getting services of a reasonable standard and should get some money back? Well it’s ours after all!

snap 4
Hair and make up by BBC. Result!

So after not sleeping at all, not being able to open the fridge (was very technical!) and not bringing shampoo, (fool) I was in the BBC make up room. Fabulous darling. Then chatted to Phil Barton the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign CEO. Interesting experiment  – “Which Side of the Fence nationwide social experiments” not cleaning one side of the street for 24 hours. Quite disgusting have a look at the Facebook page. Glad I had someone to talk to inbetween slots who was interesting!  Maconalds and other burger chains, clean up your act!

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow BBC Breakfast TV Discusses How We Complain in the UK


So after telling the lovely make up lady that she had performed miracles in such a short time I was on with Tim Muffett and Naga Munchetty. Nice good looking couple. He told me he loved the title of my blog so we really like him don’t we?!

It was all over in a few minutes. Then out of the studio for a cuppa (clearly not awake had to get up 3 times to look for the milk which was right in front of me!) and more chatting with Phil. Then Professor of Strategy  at the Manchester Business School Manchester University, Gary Davies joined us. What a lovely man he is. Coincidentally he went to the same school as the other half! Small world. Agreed on everything customer service wise and then we were on.

The prof and me.

The prof and me.

This begs a caption around “It was this big”. However, what the Prof. was talking about was the Americans shouting and being in your face too much.  “I know Helen’s quite keen on the way things are done in America” he said. Hmmm, need to find where I’ve said that and delete it! I think expectations are higher and they complain more/better but I am agreeing with the Prof. here about when he was in a deserted store in America when a sales assistant shouted “How are we today”. Go away I’m British.


Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow & Professor Gary Davies BBC Breakfast TV Discuss Complaining

Well we were smiley! And no, I don’t know why these two videos are different sizes. They were cut from the same piece of film and I have tried different ratio thingies and gave up, so deal with it.
Now, personally I thought it was an enjoyable experience, the best part being hair and make up frankly. So many people who know me and those who don’t told me they

were surprised by how articulate I was and how well I presented! I’ve presented many many times (albeit not on telly!) been a key note speaker at conferences etc., So I don’t whether to take these comments as compliments or not! 🙂 Compliments about how I looked and how some people didn’t recognise me were certainly understandable! Mind you, a friend said “Nice make-up, hair and clothes!” The clothes were all mine! All mine I tell you!

However, the best comments came from a friend’s 4 year old. “How did Helen get in our telly?” and my 5 year old “Mummy was the best thing on television” Me “Even better than Power Rangers?” “No”.

So there you have it. One of the worst programmes on TV is better than me. I thank you and good night!

Credit BBC Breakfast TV for Pics and films.