This is a lively role-play in which one student is a customer returning goods to a shop and the other student is a shop assistant. Each student has a role card with the information they need to give or find out from their partner, and the answers that they will give their partner. There are two versions of the customer role card so that the role-play can be repeated using different information.
The customer has two items to return (one broken and the other the wrong size or colour). The receipt on their role card provides the information they will need to give to the shop assistant. The customer wants his or her money back . . . but the shop assistant knows their manager doesn't like returning money! The students need to resolve the situation.
- Set the context for the role-play. You can do this in many ways; for example, by describing the situation, by telling an anecdote, by showing a picture or by posing some discussion questions.
- Once you have established the context, you could ask your students to talk about the times they have taken things back to a shop, the reasons why they did and what happened.
In small groups or as a whole class, I ask the students to brainstorm the language that we would use in these situations, for example:
- "Can I help you?"
- "I would like to return this . . ."
- "There is a problem with this . . ."
- "It is a very nice shirt/T-shirt but the colour/size is not quite right."
- "I'm very sorry but . . ."
- "I'm afraid that . . ."
Don't forget to get your students thinking about 'register' - the degree of politeness they use in the role-play; for example, which of the following do you think would get a better response?
- "This shirt is the wrong colour. Give me my money back."
- "I would like to return this shirt because . . . "
I extend this section by getting students to work on pronunciation, focusing on sentence stress and intonation.
- Put the students in pairs. Explain the role cards. Do a quick demonstration with one or two stronger students. Give out the cards.
- Set a time limit. As the students do the role-play, walk around and listen. If I want to do some specific language work, I note down some of the problems they have with language and use these for a correction slot afterwards.
- When most of the students have finished end the activity. Give the customers a copy of the 'Customer Satisfaction Survey' and ask them to complete it individually. When they have finished, they can work in small groups to compare their experiences. Ask the 'shop assistants' to get into small groups to discuss a good policy for returned goods. One person in each group can complete the policy form.
- If there is time, ask your students to swap roles (and partners, for more variety). The 'shop assistant' role card from the first role-play can be used again. Give the new customers the 'customer role card, version 2'. When the role-play is finished, group the students as you did after the first role-play. To finish, you could ask each group of shop assistants to describe their returned goods policy to the whole class. Invite the other students, as customers, to comment.
- Role-play cards:
- Shop assistant
- Customer, version 1 and 2
- Customer satisfaction survey
- Returned goods policy form (optional - the shop assistants could use their own paper)