In the bottom-feeder stores like Walmart and K-Mart, you pretty much go in with low expectations. If you can find someone (in itself a challenge) you are pretty happy if they are walking on two legs and not soiling themselves.
Their responses to your question will be one of the following:
1) Let me ask the manager.
(Don't get hopeful; the "associate" is 15 years old and the manager is 16.)
2) Sorry, I just started today.
(At Walmart they give out gold watches to employees with six months service.)
With the economy in the toilet, these stores are expected to do well as people look for value over quality in an effort to stay on budget. You'll pay less without a doubt, but all they sell is crap. I guess some of the stuff is passable like the drug items and maybe some housewares, but clothes, toys, tools, hardware.....pretty much anything else, crap. I was in K-Mart the other day (guilty) and I saw a woman's terrycloth bathrobe in a camouflage pattern. I can hear the ad for this nifty fashion item: "You'll be the envy of the trailer park as you steal the neighbor's newspaper in your camouflage bathrobe." I guess if you're looking to sneak up and annihilate Bambi without getting out of your PJs, this will be under your artificial blue aluminum tree this year.
Then there are the medium-quality retailers like Macy's, Kohl's, and Target. They sell some decent stuff, but merchandise quality and the caliber of store personnel varies a lot from store to store. To their credit, they do try harder. Sometimes I get into the store just as they open. (How ironic that when you're young and can sleep till noon, you can't, but when you're retired and can stay in bed all day, your eyes fly open at six and off you go.) Anyhow, early in the morning the stores usually assemble all the associates for the daily "team meeting." The manager, someone with pierced eyebrows or a tattoo acquired while on LSD, has just returned from one of those one-day motivational training time wasters that employers are so fond of. He or she is saying (with absolutely no conviction) things like: "There is no 'I' in TEAM." Meanwhile, the team is dozing off, texting or just playing grab ass while Johnny Peptalk drones on.
The mid-quality stores try to train their associates to treat customers politely, no matter how hard that may be given some of the mouth-breathing cretins who shop there. The associates learn certain "customer-speak" phrases that they recite like trained parrots. The phrases sound polite, but have a secret meaning known only to the associates themselves. Lucky for you I made friends with one of them when I removed a thorn from his paw, and he spilled:
What they say: "May I help you?"
What they mean: "Get out old man, it's close to break time."
What they say: "Come back soon."
What they mean: "If you don't stop staring at my boobs I'm calling security."
What they say: "That's your prerogative, sir."
What they mean: "I hope you have a heart attack and die."
The phone interaction is even less promising. The person at the other end probably doesn't even work for the store. They're sitting in a call center in Rangoon somewhere eating their McCurry, and you are just another intrusion into their personal phone call time. Without the threat of you popping them one for a smart answer, they feel free to abuse you at will. In a language that bears no resemblance to English, they say things like: "Eet ees not awailable in stock, can we sheep it to you?" Note: DO NOT ask them to repeat themselves, they get all offended and bring out the: "You have no right to talk to me that way, do you think you're better than me" speech. Right about now you're fantasizing that you're doing to them what Sonny Corleone did to his brother-in-law Carlo when Carlo beat Sonny's sister Connie in "The Godfather."
Here's the code phrases they use on the telephone:
What they say: "Your call is important to us."
What they mean: "Honestly, for all we care, you could sit on hold until Joan Rivers' face moves."
What they say: "Your call will be answered in the order it was received."
What they mean: "When I get finished abusing this a-hole, I'll be ready to abuse YOU."
Here's a tip - shop online. All you have to lose is your identity.