16 Observations From My Time Working in Retail

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.

escalator-283448_640 (2)Have you ever worked in retail? What was your experience like?

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.

boy-666803_640 (2)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.

angry-man-274175_640 (2)You are forced to listen to the same awful jokes day in and day out and act like you’ve never heard them before. Yes, it must be free because it didn’t scan. Very clever.

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.

skull-570975_640 (2)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.

lisbon-1143729_640 (2)


72 thoughts on “16 Observations From My Time Working in Retail

  1. The memories this broughr back! I spent the better part of 20 years in retail management and I can say you are soooo right. I decided it was time to get out of retail when I was standing on the sales floor during Thanksgiving and all I wanted to do was shout “What are all of you doing here? It’s Thanksgiving, go home and be with your family!”
    Even after all this time I do not like holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it does. The last minute shoppers were the worst. There were times I would have loved to tell them they had 364 days to shop for the Birthday, Anniversay, Valentines Day, Christmas etc don’t take the fact that you waited out on me!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL exactly. I think that was the root of most problems – the poor associate is the closest person to blame and sometimes customers forget that associates are also people and you shouldn’t speak to them like they are garbage!


  2. Yes! Oh my GAWD! Probably the hardest job that I ever had! I worked in a small town Kohl’s- small town = small store. Man! People would get soooo mad when we did not stock every item in the sales ad. Small store people! We couldn’t possibly stock everything that customers wanted and I would try to explain (nicely) that it wasn’t even our call. We unloaded trucks that were packed by some huge warehouse. What we got, we got. so grrrrr…..That was eight years ago and only for a couple of months and I’m STILL pissed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL! I am still pissed about how I was treated at the big department store I worked at too. I hated when the flyer came out because inevitably there would be something in it that the distribution centre didn’t send us and I knew that would mean I’d get screamed at all day…because that will make the item magically appear, right?

      You’d think people would be better behaved in small towns because word will get around that you’re a JERK, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “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.”

    THIS!!! Same applies at restaurants as well!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, in Canada they do make minimum wage (which is quite a leap up from when I worked for it!) or a dollar or two less. I know in the US that servers get paid very poorly though.


  4. I love this post. You had me cracking up. I felt the exact same way when I worked in retail. I used to love when they would ask where something was and expect you go bring them there, get it for them and then proceed to bring it up to the counter for them. Lovely people. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! People expected me to serve them to a ridiculous degree but then wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. Someone isn’t defined by their job and just because you have a “better” job doesn’t make you a better person…clearly!

      Plus, everyone is so concerned about tipping servers…where were all my tips?! I understand in the US that servers don’t make a living wage, but they do in Ontario. Retail folks work just as hard (I’ve done both jobs) and often take even more crap.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I worked in a University bookstore/gift/office supply store for 5 years. Many of these are very true. I think the most is the people who come in last minute with many questions, the phone calls from people who expect you to be their personal shopper, definitely a fight over paying, and trying to spread pAying out over several methods. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is hilarious and yet so sad… I know all of these all too well. I work for a popular and well-known jewellery brand now and the thing that gets me every time (and beilieve me, it happens more often than it should!) is when customers actually think they can swap the old, dirty charms from their bracelet into new, prettier and shiny charms… Come on, people.
    Also, a “great” one is when people won’t believe you when you say you’re out of stock on something – as if you don’t want to sell it to them. What is my job exactly? Selling things? Yes, that is correct 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I forgot about that one! Yes, I have a secret stash of hidden products that I simply don’t want to sell. I remember when people would insist, “well, shouldn’t you go check?” Um, I did. You’re not the first person to ask for the sale item on the front page of the flyer. But thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my god. Just the title of this article made me smile. I can relate to what you are saying because I work in a groceries store as a cashier and supervisor for 6 years now and all those things you have observed are so true. And actually, there’s more that could be observed about this. I really enjoyed reading your article and seeing that I’m not the only one who has noticed those things. When it comes to hearing the same jokes all the time, there’s not just the fre item that doesn’t scan, but there’s also when you ask them if they have anything under their cart and they answer you a clever : “Yes, the floor.” I’ve learned over the years to answer this with a smile : “Oh, well it’s your lucky day, we’re not charging those today.” 🙂 And yes, I really do say that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “People who tell you to “smile” should have bodily harm inflicted on them” is my favorite of these. I only worked retail for like a month, and hated it. But this quote in general is so true, no matter where you are!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I worked the tuxedo business for 7 years. High stress, high anxiety and loved every minute. Watching all these wedding parties come in nervous and leave excited and ready for the wedding was pretty exciting. Lot’s of nervous moments, but always managed to get the complete tux fitted and worked out for the affair. It was great experience for real life.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ugh, this reminded me of the time that I spent working at Wal-mart, the butthole of retail. I was a teenager just trying to make a little money to save up for school so I grabbed any job I could get. I have enough crazy stories from just 9 months of working there that I could tell a new story every day for 6 months and never tell the same story twice.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Girl….I too have horror stories of working retail in undergrad and after undergrad while job searching. The worst would be when I was in my junior year working at a clothing store and a man came in and started picking out a bunch of girls clothes. My manager was in back and I was alone on the floor. He then came up and asked for a dressing room. I let him in a room and really at this point, I thought he was a shoplifter. That was until he opened the door and came out in a bikini and was asking my opinion if I thought the top was too big. I, as politely as I could, told him it was meant to hold women’s breasts so yeah, it was a little loose…Those were the days 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL I don’t even know what I would do in that situation. Awkward! But at least he wasn’t rude. I had one man tell me that he didn’t want to deal with me because I was a woman and were there any men available in the department? I wanted to kick him!


  12. Oh my gosh. I literally posted today about the same thing today smile its not that bad. Like what idiot is constantly smiling😒 but I can relate to the customer service idiots as well. what about the rude asses who, once they get what they want decide to say “how you doing” at the last minute. I want to say, like I want to smack the crap out of you that’s how! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL that’s so true. Their tone completely changes after you bend over backwards to meet their crazy. How about an apology?! That never happens.

      The smiling comment is SO ANNOYING in any context. I am a happy, friendly, and kind person but that does not mean that I have to walk around grinning like a fool at nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Very amusing! I have not worked in retail but was a waiter and bartender for years and much of this is familiar. I agree with what appears to be the general consensus here that people telling me to smile should be promptly punched in the face!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I own a foodbar- my staff get a lot of similar shit all the time so I encourage them to have fun with it. For example if someone says “hey! Where’s the toilet?” You will notice- no excuse me or sorry to bother you- I suggest they ask in return ” is it a No 1 or 2 – kills us all every time with laughter. Great post by the way 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is so true. One thing I’ve come to hate about working in retail is people asking me if I work at my store. Nope I’m just pushing a really heavy cart and restocking just because I feel like it. Oh and I wear a name tag because I forget my name sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I spent two years in retail, from 2012-2014, and all of these still ring absolutely true!! One of my biggest pet peeves was when the customer would get mad at me for an item that was no longer in production as if I had a choice whether or not the manufacturer continued to make a product! I commend those who pave a career in Retail!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some people do have the temperament and personality to work in retail for longer than a temporary posting, but I was not one of them! Corporate has its own set of drawbacks, but nothing compares to my time in retail.


      1. I totally understand! I definitely wasn’t one of them either. It was hard leaving the flexibility of retail primarily because I realized very early on I’m not the 9-5 type either. I love creating my own hours, and having a flex schedule (that is primarily influenced by my own time!) One day soon we’ll both be in the job world that fits us best! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I have to ask, did you manage to build a worthwhile career after qualifying? I am currently in the dilemma where I thought I wanted to become a teacher and was going to do a post-graduate in it, but after two separate instances of horrendous workplace bullying. I decided against it. I am now applying for low-paid work and expect to be starting in a dry-cleaners very soon. It’s the inspiration behind my ‘When life gets in the way of exercise’ blog post.

    So what happened after graduation?


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