If you’ve ever worked in retail, then chances are you’ve lost all faith in humanity. Just kidding. Mostly. When I was working towards my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, I worked several jobs, including in retail.
The experience was definitely not the highlight of my working life to date. However, I work in corporate now and I can’t say that everyone is all that much better behaved. I will share some corporate world observations in another post though.
16 Observations From My Time Working in Retail
Customers get angry when you attempt to prevent fraudulent credit card activity. This observation will date me, but I had so many customers who got so angry when I had to verify their signatures (it needs to look the same as it does on the back of your card, people!) or if I called them out on trying to use their spouse’s card. Nowadays, customers rarely relinquish control over their cards, so perhaps the cashiers of today have an easier time (at least in this respect!).
The customer is rarely, if ever, right. You can tell me that you found an expensive item on the sale or clearance shelf, but that doesn’t mean that the item is, in fact, on sale or on clearance. You see, customers make a mess of the store and put stuff back wherever they want. You can also tell me that a policy is stupid and that I need to change it, but let’s keep it real: I’m 18, I don’t really care about this job, and anyone who makes policy at the company doesn’t even know who I am.
People do absolutely disgusting and vile things. I am not talking about people making a mess of the products, although that is incredibly annoying too. I am talking about bodily fluids somehow ending up on products and in the store. My manager once asked me to clean one of these disgusting messes up and I told him that I’d rather be fired. Unfortunately, he didn’t take me up on it.
Customers have many strange requests. “Can you take $10 off this gift card, let me count out another $10 in change (that I will not pass to you but proceed to throw all over the counter for you to pick up), and then divide the balance equally onto my various credit cards? And don’t take long to do it either, because this is clearly a standard request people ask for all the time.” Um, sure. I guess that I can do that.
People will never purchase the product in the box that they opened. Even if an item is on display, people don’t trust that the same item is actually contained inside the box that the product is sold in, so they feel the need to open a new box. However, after said “new” box has been opened, they won’t take that one either because they want another new box that they can open at home. My question for folks who do this is: how do you know the same product is within the box that you didn’t open since you didn’t check? Mind. Blown.
Christmas starts in July. Family and friends often complain about Christmas displays being put up in the summer, but I get it. Christmas is the biggest season is retail and stores need to start capitalizing on it as soon as possible. I feel bad for the associates who I see decorating Christmas trees in July while fielding customer questions of, “already?”
People use their phones throughout entire transactions and get angry when you interrupt them to, you know, pay. I recently suggested that people should take some time off their electronic devices and a good time to start would be when you’re in line to pay for a product. It wouldn’t hurt to say hello to the cashier and actually pay attention too.
Customers are often rude to those who work in retail just because they can be. Sure, you can yell at the cashier making minimum wage and even make them cry (I’ve seen it). It doesn’t make you a very nice person, but you can do it.
Couples fight over paying when really, no one wants to pay. That’s the least fun part about shopping. I don’t want to listen to you argue with your “snookie wookie” about who is going to pay this time. Sort that sh*t out before you get in line. No one finds it cute or charming. Really.
People feel the need to fake familiarity because cashiers are forced into wearing name tags. If you don’t actually know me, why are you using my name as though we are old school chums? Awkward. I actually “forgot” my name tag at home many times to avoid these dreaded encounters.
People who tell you to “smile” should have bodily harm inflicted on them. I don’t walk around smiling at nothing. In fact, I think that I would look rather insane if I did. When someone catches you walking down an aisle or in the middle of cleaning something up and they helpfully chirp, “smile!” I believe that they should have something thrown at them. Now that would make me smile.
Customers ask the most questions and move the slowest when it’s time to close (despite the lights being out, the music being turned off, and the annoyed look on every remaining associate’s face). I didn’t get paid overtime for staying late, but I also couldn’t leave until the customers decided to. So, let’s get with the program and shop during the hours that the store is actually open, mmmk?
Parents think the toy department (or kitchen appliances section) is a great substitute baby-sitter. Parents, I understand that it’s annoying to shop with your children, but it’s also annoying for associates to do their jobs with your children running around screaming like banshees. You had them, so you need to watch them or hire someone else to. My manager once asked me, “can you do something about that?” while pointing over at some screaming children knocking everything off the shelves in the toy department. Yeah, sure. I will offer free parental coaching! Oh. You meant clean it all up. Again. Sigh.
Customers who call the store feel that whoever answers the phone is their personal shopper. Calling to check stock is one thing. Asking me to walk around the store gathering items for you is quite another. I hated having to ignore customers in the store for mythical customers on the phone who usually never showed up anyway.
Customers will insist they have lots of money even when all of their cards are declined multiple times. Yeah, it must be a problem at the bank…all of them. Gotcha.