Seven Lessons Learned from Working Retail

I took a part time holiday job in the evenings at a local retail store - I'm hoping to earn extra money to pay down some medical debt, and honestly, I just wanted something extra to DO in the evenings. Something that didn't involve running out and spending money on drinks and dinner, or lounging around my house watching movies in my underwear. So I was happy to land an evening and weekend job stocking shelves and helping with additional customer service at a Seattle shopping center.

This is my first retail job. I've worked in food service before, but never retail, so it was kind of exciting for me.

Retail workers are not stupid.

Duh. I mean, we all know this, deep down, but it's easy to forget when we are in a rush to purchase something and the idiot girl behind the counter can't seem to make the correct change or work the register. I've now experienced what it is like to be the impatient shopper, as well as the idiot girl who can't seem to count pennies. I know that I'm not stupid, but I probably spend a better part of my time looking like a total moron in front of customers. If it's not the computer acting up, it's a customer who is using six different methods to pay her total, or a coworker who is yammering into the walkie talkie in my ear as I attempt to write down a customer's address. Multitasking is hard, but multitasking when you have two different people speaking to you simultaneously is a nightmare.

Frequently, I find myself cornered by a customer who wants something very specific that I can't help them with. I sense their frustration, but as a holiday employee, I'm not trained in the finer nuances of our products. I know what our store carries, and what we don't, but I can't offer much in the way of advice for the woman who wants a plumping lip gloss or a special highlighting shampoo. I'm sure I look like a dear in the headlights as these questions are lobbed at me, and I desperately search for someone who actually CAN help a customer. I'm not stupid, I'm just clueless. I'm sure that this fact makes little difference to the customer, but it makes a big difference to me.

There's a commonly held belief that most people who work in retail work there because they can't get a "real" job - programming software or selling bonds, stuff like that. And I'm not going to lie and say that every single person who works in retail is a genius who simply REALLY wants to sell stuff. But I haven't come across anyone at my store who couldn't work anywhere else (two of the women who work stocking and cleaning at night with me both have master's degrees - one in education, and the other in accounting). My coworkers fall into four categories: people from other industries who can't find work in their field at the moment; people who really love working retail and can't imagine being anywhere else; people who already have another job and are looking to make some extra money (like me); and students.

People are filthy, dishonest thieves.

I cannot believe how many instances of shoplifting I have witnessed in the few hundred hours that I have worked in retail. You can't always spot thieves, and people are incredibly tricky. I knew that stealing was an everyday occurrence at any retail location, but I didn't realize the extent of it until witnessing so many people take so much stuff. And those are just the ones that you notice! We're not talking about life's necessities being stolen, either. There are hundreds of laws that detail how we are allowed to detain shoplifters, too, which means that I can't physically tackle the woman who just walked out of the store with $300 of merchandise in her hands.

Then there are the people who take stuff from the shelves and pretend that they are returning it ("But I lost the receipt!"). There's only so much that we can do to stop these people, because of a liberal returns policy, especially if they stole the goods earlier in the day, or from another store, and we don't have proof on camera. Customers are also fond of switching price tags and then shrieking about false advertising when the item rings up with the correct price.

Stores get dirty real quickly.

I'm not really a neatnik, but I do take pride in a clean work environment, and I was shocked on my first day of work to see a fine layer of dust over our Christmas displays. Harrumphing around the store, I Swiffered each and every shelf and case top, muttering about how lucky they were to have me on hand, since clearly NOBODY ELSE was going to clean up around here.

When I showed up for my shift the next night, I was distressed to see that another fine layer of dust had settled over the entire store. Of course my coworkers had been dusting - every day, probably twice a day, before I even arrived. It's just that with people coming and going, the store gets dusty. And messy. Customers throw used tissues in places that you wouldn't believe! We do our best to keep up with it, stocking and restocking and wiping up spilled messes and throwing away people's cups of coffee that were helpfully wedged behind the cash register. But give it another hour, and the store is a mess again.

Yeah, we really are in a recession.

We have days where the store is hopping - just full of people, shopping and laughing and browsing. These are the days when we only fall short of our sales goals by about $1,500. The quiet days are even worse. This is a good store in a nice shopping area in a wealthy city - people just aren't spending what they used to.

Physical work is good for the soul.

I always figured I'd be lousy at working a job that requires lots of movement, because I am insanely lazy. It turns out that being forced to move around gives me more energy than I ever would have expected. I may get done at work at 1AM and find that I have enough energy to do a couple loads of laundry and cook some stew for the next day. Contrast that with sitting in front of a computer all day, which is the easiest way to sap your energy reserves. There's no way I could stay up until 3AM working on my computer, but stick me in a stock room with a bunch of boxes of gloves, and I won't even notice the time flying by.

Mind you, I'm sure I'd feel differently if I had to spend, say, 16 hours every day, rather than 6, lifting boxes and squatting and bending. I'm grateful that my time in the stock room is limited.

Rewards cards can be worth it.

My store offers a rewards card to frequent shoppers, and there are quite a few people who refuse to sign up for it - I can understand why they wouldn't want to have another shopping card on hand, but trust me, if you regularly spend a hundred dollars in a particular store, you deserve some kind of reward. You might even be surprised how much money you actually spend at a particular store - I'm regularly handing out free rewards to shoppers who look shocked that they qualify for them ("Really? I've spent $300 here since May?"). When looking at frequent shopper cards, ask: Is it free? Do you get discounts for signing up? If you earn points for shopping, do they ever expire? The answers should be yes, yes, and no.

Retail displays some of the worst excesses of our society.

On my first night working in the stock room, I was given a pile of some 30 boxes to unload - either onto the shelves or into the back stockroom. Each box is roughly 16 inches x 16 inches x 24 inches. Approximately 10 of these boxes were packed to the brim with stuff - the other 20 or so contained exactly one item, along with a bunch of plastic wrap and paper packing. And when I say "one item", I mean "one tube of lipstick." My jaw was on the floor pretty much the entire night. We recycle all the boxes and plastic, but still, how much good does it do to recycle something that was used to ship an item no bigger than my hand several hundred miles?

A few other small lessons that I have taken away from this job? People respond well to sincerity. Smiling really can help calm an angry customer down. Toddlers will eat anything - please do not hand your two year-old a tube of lipstick, as I am tired of calling Poison Control. Teenagers can actually be some of the most enjoyable customers. Never get involved with politics at work, especially if you want a reference later. Bringing in food to share is a really nice gesture, especially during the holidays when students are completing finals and work is hectic. Nothing is better than a footrub after a long day.

Feel free to share your retail work advice and wisdom below.

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Guest's picture

Can I just add that if the lines are long and there isn't enough help, it's not my fault? I'm doing the best I can, but the corporate office just told us to cut 20 hours a day from payroll. If we want to keep the business going during a recession, the lines are going to get longer. It's not my fault. And yes, I can hear you muttering under your breath about how incompetent we are and how you deserve better service. I really do like to help people and I feel just as frustrated as you.

Guest's picture

Now people think they have a reason to treat all the retailers like more crap than usual.

Guest's picture

I worked retail in high school and through part of college and can definitely attest to the fact that customers often assume retail workers are stupid or that they can't get a "real job".

I can't even begin to count how many times I had customers talk down to me and give me attitude just because I was a cashier... little did they know I was just working there during a break from college and that I was planning on continuing on for a master's degree. People can be selfish and inconsiderate--you definitely need to have a thick skin to work in retail.

Guest's picture

Excellent article. I had worked super small scale retail years ago, and just got back into it for extra money for the house savings fund. Working big-box is not easy. people can be either; a. the coolest most grateful people on earth just because you listen to them, b. nice, but in a hurry, or c. condescending assholes who think I am an idiot. Guess what, I'm not! I find most of the nice people are teenagers (probably helps that I am just as much a wise ass as them), moms with little kids, and rich guys with time to kill. Rude people I have found, single well to do women, white trash/ghetto types, and I am sorry to say, old people. They are the ones who think all the problems in the store are my fault. oh well. I can't please everyone.

Guest's picture

When I worked retail I used to bring a second pair of shoes to change into mid-shift. It made a huge difference both in how my feet felt and my energy level at the end of the day.

Guest's picture

I really think that everyone should have a forced stint in retail- it would go a long way to improving how most people treat retail workers I think.
When I worked retail I think that the shop-lifting was the most shocking thing to me- "why yes I do see that 160 piece cutlery set that you are clutching under your jacket"

Guest's picture

I've worked food service and retail both, and I believe everyone should have to experience life as an employee of those operations. Neither one was all that bad, and they gave me money quickly, but what I learned was that I didn't want to spend my life doing either one. Working those jobs convinced me to go to college, so I guess they were some of the most valuable experiences I ever had. And one of the most pleasant memories in my life was a night during the Christmas holidays when a man left a very generous tip unexpectedly and I NEEDED it so much. I hadn't even done anything special for him; he just gave it to me, and I'll always be grateful. Now I have a Master's degree and a much higher paying job, but I've never felt as good about a raise as I did about that tip.

Guest's picture

I feel your pain. I worked for Best Buy and Target. We were once holding 10 playstations for a guy to buy for a charity, and a guy threatened to sue if we didn't sell him one of the 10.

We also showed favoritism to local celebrities, including giving them products not yet released to the public (XBox 360 comes to mind).

Guest's picture

I worked retail many moons ago. The level of theft really is shocking. I worked at one of those combination veterinary clinic & pet stores. We had a women come dashing into the store urgently asking to use the bathroom. Assuming she had a medical issue we quickly showed her the way. A few seconds after she locked herself in the bathroom the loss prevention crew from the department store across the street came running in looking for her. The manager unlocked the bathroom door to find her stuffing handfuls of womens underwear that she had stolen down the toilet. This also broke the one bathroom in the entire store until we could get a plumber to come unclog it.

We had someone steal a pot bellied pig out of a corral on the floor in the middle of pre-christmas shopping. He grabbed the pig, did a football run through the crowd and dove into a car waiting at the curb. It was totally surreal.

Then we had someone pick up a patio insert pet door off the floor and try to return it. The manager knew right away because we only kept one in stock and had not sold one since the store opened.

Oh and yes, everyone should be required to do a stint in retail so they understand the other side.

Guest's picture

I worked wrapping gifts (a free service during the holidays) at a mall for a couple of years while I was in college. That was an experience. People who didn't understand that it would take a couple of hours to get their gifts wrapped, wanted the good paper (we worked in the back of a Hallmark store and only offered certain paper. It was nice, but not the huge selection Hallmark has.) and, my favorite, wanted two identical, intimate items from Victoria's Secret in two seperate sizes wrapped separately. Maybe some people buy sexy underware for their mothers and daughters as well as their wives, but I'm guessing not as many as we wrapped.

Guest's picture

I will never forget the lady (and I'm using that term loosely here) who was incensed that the afternoon before Christmas we did not have a gift box for $10 ornament. She was an absolute pill about it. It was with great satisfaction that I pointed to the CVS store across the hall and told her that they might still have boxes "this late in the game" and that perhaps next year "shopping earlier might be a better plan".

Guest's picture

After high school many moons ago, I had opportunity to work at a higher end retail store. Most striking were the different kinds of customers. A woman whose family suffered a fire and needed replacement clothes for her kids was a gem. (She even helped me bag). A woman from out of the country, came 15 minutes before closing, got a ton of stuff, took until after closing, AND wanted to pay by check (large checks had to be signed off by two managers, a fun thing to try to do after hours), was not. It made me much more aware of cashiers, (they were sort of invisible before), and taught me to place cash into their hand,(not just dump it on the counter), and try to lighten their day with a little freiendly chatter, eye contact and a smile. Good life lessons.

Guest's picture

This is a great article! I just borrowed the book Waiter Rant from the library and I think it will be an entertaining read and have similar types of revelations for food service people. I've worked in food services and retail at an amusement park in high school. The food services stint was good to have, because I learned that it's better to prepare your own food rather than eating out. You really can't trust what happened to your food in a restaurant. I did not notice all the stealing and false returns for the retail job, and generally people were pretty nice. I guess I was lucky that I didn't have any bad confrontations. How bad the retail experience is may depend on which stores too. I've noticed that workers at REI and Trader Joe's usually seem quite content. After finding out all the perks for REI employees, I was even thinking about getting a part-time job there.

Guest's picture

I worked at Godiva at Westlake Center in Seattle a few years ago. I honestly can't remember a single decent customer. I am cynical tho and not made for retail. I do remember my swishy manager was a nazi about me tying the bows on the chocolate boxes "just right". I had nightmares about tying bows on boxes, not cool. I don't know that I have any wisdom or advice to give. However, my feet would get crazy swollen from standing all day so someone told me that I need to lie on my bed and prop my legs/feet against a wall so that I form an "L" shape. It does help.

Andrea Karim's picture

What's funny to me about retail and food service is that people feel so snobby about them - the idea that they aren't real jobs. I know that lots of people work in retail or food service in order to earn extra money, but some people actually do work in retail as a career. And these people aren't dumb - they are smart, sassy, have great people skills, and generally are great at multitasking. I have none of these skills, and would be a wreck at dealing with thieves, irate customers, and irresponsible underlings.

To be fair, I understand that impatient customers are generally not trying to be complete assholes. Some are inherently nasty people, sure, but others are just normal people having a really bad day. So whenever someone is impatient or nasty to me, I try to remember that a bad day at work, a lousy relationship, or a family illness can turn normally kind people into raging maniacs.

Guest's picture

Retail workers should be replaced by machines; but people are happy to work for change. This leads to inefficiency caused by workers' inherent stupidity and their resentment of their dehumanizing work. I hated working retail, and I hate dealing with retail workers even more. I am ashamed at this disparity, since it indicates I took some pleasure in occasionally almost living up to the machine-ideal.

Guest's picture
Logan Snider

No, then the machines would rebel faster than we had originally planned....

Also, on a serious note, I've worked in retail for 10 years and I have to say that people... humanity... has failed to impress.

Guest's picture

the year I spent working at Pottery Barn? The customer is not always right.

Guest's picture
Ms. Pants

The closer to Christmas, the more demanding and douchier the customer. I still remember the guy who was livid that my store (Nature Company, RIP) wasn't open passed 11pm on xmas eve and how dare we not have everything he wanted. My reply was: "Well, we also have families that we'd like to see once in a while during the season." When he asked for my manager, I pointed to her as she was standing next to me. She told him where the door was and to kindly walk through it.

Your coworkers will save your sanity time and time again. Be it with a surprise Happy Meal, an impromptu hug, or a funny story about a crop-duster that just buzzed the store, your coworkers will save you when you really want to go postal.

Christmas music makes me stabby. This might be a personal one for just me, but having worked several retail xmas seasons where it was xmas music only from October on, I now abhore christmas music with every single atom of my make up.

I also have a personal policy since working retail: I will not set foot in a mall between Thanksgiving and February 1. I hate the mobs, but moreover, I refuse to be another asshole customer that retail workers have to deal with. I will shop online but ideally, I'm finished by Thanksgiving every year.

I think every human should be forced to work a retail christmas season and at least 6 months waiting tables. It might cut down significantly on assholery.

Guest's picture

The best line to get when you're working in retail on a holiday. "It's too bad you guys have to work on *insert holiday here*" You just want to look at them and tell them that you wouldn't have to be working on (oh, say Thanksgiving) if they didn't insist on wandering out to buy a puzzle book, candy bar, and a bottle of pop.

The next best line is when it's mid-August in Iowa and the air conditioners are on the fritz. So it's probably 85 plus degrees and you are stuck wearing black pants and a tshirt and people come in wearing shorts, tank tops, and sandals and say that it's just so hot in here.

Retail is definitely a field you have to be "born" to do. I worked just over four years in retail. Two different companies and three different stores. I'm lucky I made it out alive and stayed out of jail. Although with some of those people.... I swear not a jury in the world would have tried to convict me... ;)

Guest's picture

I worked retail off and on throughout my student years, and this post brought back a lot of memories. It was honest work, and I wasn't ashamed of it. I learned that commission-based sales is bad for customer service.

Guest's picture

Yes, I was one of those people in retail-20 years to be exact. I have seen it all and nothing surprises me. But as for someone working in retail being stupid here's my story.

Started as a cashier, worked my way up to a part time night manager and then continued working my way up to become a store manager. Oh, and after becoming a manager, I became a district manager where I oversaw 10 stores that grossed a million plus each along with 200-300 employees depending upon the season. And, I did this by the time I was 32. No cashier is stupid.

Guest's picture

Yes, I have also said that, to make the world a better place, I believe everyone should work behind a counter for a period of time.

I used to expect sales people to know EVERYTHING, to give me answers, to work fast and efficiently. And if they don't, they're incompetent.

Then I took a job behind a counter and cash machine on the weekends. I had a full-time executive job during the weekdays, but I needed extra money and took a weekend job.

People in retail are not stupid. I loved them and had more fun than my office job. And I realize that there are legitimate reasons why sales people do not know everything. Maybe they don't work there full time. Maybe they weren't given adequate training. Maybe company policy. Maybe just a bad boss. There are things we cannot control. I also realize there are people who do love retail and are made for it and do their job well.

Before you complain again, go work behind a counter. Go do customer service.

Guest's picture

Biggest pet peeve from working retail? People who insist on licking their fingers before counting out their bills. Praise God for Purell!

I also love those people who slap their money on the counter while you stand there, holding your hand out for it (especially change, I was a nail-biter at the time - those evil people must have done it for the sheer entertainment value of watching me struggle).

Funny, I'm very particular about treating service personnel well now.

Guest's picture

YES!!! I hate that! It's so disgusting!

A pet peeve of mine is when someone hands me a large bill, but their total is small... I don't always have that much money in my draw... First I'll ask if they have something smaller, but if they don't I have to wait for a manager to open up the cash draw and break the money... this made me more aware of when I buy something at a store...I was never far off when paying someone, but now I'll be exact to near exact, or I'll just use my bank card.

Guest's picture

I worked in retail 1993-1995 at a software boutique store, and I was happy to get out of it. Why? Like she said, people shamelessly steal stuff, and then you feel bad because you didn't catch them. (Then you think, OMG, what would I do if I had witnessed the theft?!?!) Then, there's the irate holiday shopper looking for a very particular item that has to be special-ordered and will definitely NOT arrive in time for the holiday. Also fun was the 1 hr commute ONE-WAY once I got a promotion to assistant store manager. That one was especially fun in inclement (snowy) weather.

But, it did have its moments. I still have the Beavis and Butt-Head keychains that a couple of teenagers gave me - apparently they thought I was cool when I imitated Beavis for them.

Guest's picture

Patience and pity were the greatest lessons I learned. My favorite trick for making it through stressful days at work? Realize that there's something wrong with the person who's freaking out and/or being mean to you. Maybe they recently received bad news about something, maybe they're about to be in trouble for some mistake they made, maybe they're in pain, maybe they have a legitimate mental problem, maybe they were just treated rudely by someone else, and maybe they got in line before realizing that they really have to pee.

Phobias are also common in grocery stores. I've met customers who were made nervous by florescent lighting, customers who would freak out if they had to try sliding their card more than once (you're trying to charge me twice!), and customers who would almost hyperventilate if an item didn't ring up correctly (saying, "ma'am, it's ok, I'll go check the price of it and be right back, ok?" never seemed to help those people with an actual fear of being overcharged).

People are strange creatures, and it all comes out at the grocery store. How can this help you in every day life? Realize that those thoughts work just the same way for retail and food workers as they do for customers. Yelling at someone who's making your day harder isn't really going to make you feel better, nor will it make them treat you better. Just remember: everyone's got issues.

Guest's picture
poor boomer

Re: Physical work is good for the soul.

Doing it for minimum wage gets old fast and becomes bad for the soul.

Guest's picture

poor boomer

Re: Physical work is good for the soul.

Doing it for minimum wage gets old fast and becomes bad for the soul.

I wholeheartedly agree, as do my 4 herniated discs and lack of medical insurance.

Guest's picture
poor boomer

Molly said:

"I've worked food service and retail both, and I believe everyone should have to experience life as an employee of those operations. Neither one was all that bad, and they gave me money quickly, but what I learned was that I didn't want to spend my life doing either one. Working those jobs convinced me to go to college, so I guess they were some of the most valuable experiences I ever had. And one of the most pleasant memories in my life was a night during the Christmas holidays when a man left a very generous tip unexpectedly and I NEEDED it so much. I hadn't even done anything special for him; he just gave it to me, and I'll always be grateful. Now I have a Master's degree and a much higher paying job, but I've never felt as good about a raise as I did about that tip."

I went to college first, THEN I worked in retail (for minimum wage no less). Because I did those two things in the "wrong" order, working retail was for me a profoundly depressing experience.

Guest's picture


Guest's picture

The biggest-and saddest-thing I have noticed is that there are so many lonely people. They have no one to talk to but strangers and they tell you their life stories. I try to listen and sympathize, but when I have several customers standing around waiting to pay, I try to move them along gently. We, too, may be in that situation some time.

Guest's picture
Pierre Lourens

I am currently a technician at a retail pharmacy in North Carolina. I always tried to treat people nicely before, but after being treated so poorly by grumpy customers, I will NEVER be rude to customer service again. It amazes me how many times I have been yelled at because someone's insurance refused to cover a medication or his/her doctor has refused to fax in a new prescription.

And what is up with people expecting a refill within 10 minutes when their bottle clearly says, (in highlighted text) NO REFILLS REMAINING? One customer hit the glass window where they can see my counting. I followed him to the register and he said, "What the **** is taking so long? Can I just come back there and count it for you, you dum*ass?"

Every now and then, a grateful customer bakes us cookies. So that calms me.

Guest's picture

I currently work at a video game store. I'm really just killing time while I go through college since this is an easy job, but the customers are absolutely unbelievable sometimes. We have our extremely polite and nice regulars, which really help with stress, but we have some people that just need to...well, be hit with something heavy and hard.

Moms have blamed ME for their crying children, old people constantly talk down to me and I actually had an old guy yell in my face for no reason. Rednecks and other trash are always annoying and I've actually had a guy run out of the store (holding his kid) right after the kid pooped his pants on our new rug. (He got in his car and sped off before we could get out there.)

I actually banned a guy from the store and threatened to call the cops today since he forced his way BEHIND our counter and into our employee restroom after I, along with other co-workers, clearly said, "No. We cannot let you use our restroom as the back room it is in has our safe and other documents."

This is just a small dose of what I've dealt with after working two years in a small, local video game store. People are great, right?

Guest's picture

As a retail Mgr of 8 yrs, I've been asked numerous times as to why I have chosen a career which has such erratic hours, constant stress, demanding customers, and a salary that is marginal at best. The way I see it is: I did not choose retail, retail chose me. And while I don't love my job every day, the gratification that I get from running a successful store is something you don't get from a 9 to 5 cubicle job.To those considering a career in retail,you should ask yourself whether they meet the following qualities/character traits which every potential mgt candidate must posess:

1.You should be someone who enjoys keeping busy
2.You should enjoy helping people
3.You need to be thick-skinned
4."Type A" personalities usually make better managers
5.You should be willing to commit to be available upon request
6.You should agree to travel if necessary.
7.You should possess strong organization skills
8.You should be a good judge of character
9.You should be comfortable handling money
10.You should command,not demand,respect.

Anyone can be a good manager, Great managers lead.

Guest's picture

Finance Trail working retail can be a cut throat business much respect!

Guest's picture
Stephanie Lynn

I have to say my only gripe with working retail is customers who will treat you like you aren't a human being. I work in a bookstore and we close late and I can't stand it when people insist on staying until we close with a huge stack of books that we will have to put away once they leave. Taking two or three books off the shelves and not returning them is one thing, but we are not robots, many of us have other committments, family, second jobs or classes in the morning, and when the store closes we want to get out of there. Leaving a mess at closing time is the rudest thing you can do in my opinion and it shows an utter lack of respect for those who have to clean up after you.

Guest's picture

I have been working in retail for a couple of years. It is my first job in the US. I absolutely hate it. I did not know what I was getting into. A retail job is very hard job, physically and emotionally, they expect so much from you in return for those coins they are paying. When I see my paycheck, I want to laugh. If I were single, I would not be able to survive with what they are paying me. I work at the discount store, our sales are up (last year was the best year in the history of our company), consumer's traffic increased, but our hours are down, they schedule as few employees as they can. There are never enough cashiers, the store is always mess, there is never enough people to recover it properly. They do not care about working condition. I agree it is a minimum wage slavery, you work hard for nothing. It is a dead end job!

Guest's picture

Sounds like my store! The worst part is that it's a new store and HUGE! We get nothing done when we close at 9:30 and have to leave by 10.

Guest's picture

I can relate to the comment made, about not being smart working in retail and looking stupid in front of the customer. Well, today I worked in retail like I do every Saturday. This is my second job. I work in education and work all week in an elementary school. (Most people think this is my only job); and most customers look for me during the week. I don't make enough money and attending college part-time trying to better myself. I felt bad because one woman must have already been having a bad day; "today I had a woman tell me; to get a different job, because she responded rudely after I asked her for her phone number because our store is changing their rewards and discount card to another one. She asked rudely herself, "why are you asking me for my phone number"? I told her that the store needs her number to get additional points for future purchases. I must have had a bad tone in my voice by the end of the day; because after I apologized a couple of times. She said, "yeh, right". It helped, when two people in line said, " she was terrible to me and I wasn't being rude.

So be careful the customer is always right, no matter what.

Guest's picture

I agree in full with what's being said here. These days, the average customer just keeps getting smaller, meaner, and more and more selfish...and despite the fact that such behaviors are inherently upsetting to the worker, do managers side with their employees when they try to stand up for themselves? No. Instead, they mark such incidents as "being unfriendly," letting them build up until they can get away with firing said employee. Never mind that said employee might be a hard worker, one who treats most of the customers in the store fairly. Never mind that said employee might have been a faithful worker for up to 4 years. No, they'll just throw you to the wolves, because apparently, selfish, lazy customers are more important. Because they pay MONEY.

I don't know about you, but I call that outright BRIBERY.

Here's just a sample of what I've seen customers getting away with:

-Leaving trash in shopping carts, ranging from rotten food to...well, I won't go into detail. But seriously...carts are NOT trash cans on wheels. Why aren't these people being told to throw out their OWN garbage?

-Taking carts from a store and leaving them in ANOTHER store's parking lot. Never mind that it just means more stress on the cart attendants, who are often juggling other tasks as well.

-Being favored by managers whenever they complain about employees...never mind whatever THEY did to upset the employee in the first place. That's never even considered.

-Flagging down random employees when they're right in the middle of a strenuous task, without even bothering to say: "I'm sorry to bother you, sir/ma'am."

-Displaying poor hygiene in public restrooms.

-Taking merchandise from some aisle and leaving it in a completely un-related section.

-Assuming that because an employee wears a uniform, they're supposed to know every single thing about the whole store, including any deals and sales that might've been made by the corporation.

-Blowing simple little goofs--like a cart-pusher accidentally nudging against THEIR cart--WAY out of proportion.

I know all of these incidents, because I suffered them. They turned my job into a nightmare. And, eventually, the unfair customer favoritism by my managers ended up in me losing my job, after four faithful years of service. How is that justice?

Something has to be done. Someone's got to stand up and say, "enough." Because this is nothing more than the 21st-century form of bigotry...the general public assumes that we retail workers are nothing but mindless drones, meant to smile and do every little thing we want. And that's got to change.

Guest's picture

Ezra, I agree with you! I was joking with a customer about the copy of "50 Shades of Grey" she was buying and after she left, the boss told me not to joke that way. I didn't say anything too risqué and I thought the woman knew about the book's reputation! I swear, one of these people is going to misunderstand something I say and get me in trouble! Everyday I go into work feeling that way!

Guest's picture

I use to be a shopaholic. I have found the cure for the addiction- WORK RETAIL, you'll never shop again!!! I was a store manager for 4 years at a maternity store. The keep cost down by paying little wages and making employees work alone for long periods of time. At the same time the give you a sales goal for every client. Throw everything at the client fill the fitting rooms to capacity and at the same time do shipment, eat at the cash counter and get on that 3pm conference call with your $tore numbers!

I HATE RETAIL, THE CLIENT, & UPPER MANAGEMENT whom view us as we are only good as the $ales volume we bring. Nevermind perks for the clients, how about some incentive for the employees? You know, little things like concern for our morale and/or making sure we do not have employee burn out!!!

Guest's picture

Forgot to add that I worked at Linens N Things (out of business).Our shoplifting policy was simple; we let people steal what they wanted.The store's position was that it cost more in legal fees from lawsuits than the cost of the stolen merchandise was worth.It used to drive me NUTS to see people walking out with stuff I knew they had stolen.Probably one of the reasons Linens in out of business.

Guest's picture

I work in retail full time in the UK, and I hate it! My boss is an idiot who is arrogant and thinks every one but HIM is the problem when he is. The Assistant Manager is too paranoid that everyone is talking about him (when we are) but he snaps over the stupidest comments or things. We get no praise for hard work, I come home feeling so exhausted that my social life is dead, I don't have one anymore. My dream job is out of reach as Retail is beneath better employers when they read it on a CV. My holiday ends soon and I'm dreading going back to work, actually dreading it! My advice, avoid retail!

Guest's picture

I find that, when it comes to customers, the nicest most polite age group is teens and young people, whereas the nasty ones are very often old. The typical horrible customer would have to be a middle-aged woman, perhaps middle to upper class, shortish hair. They think they are unique, with their rude comments, facial expressions and actions, but really, they are all the same.

Guest's picture

I have worked in a retail store for about 2 1/2 years now and have had three previous jobs in resturants before hand. And I agree that *EVERYONE* should have to spent at least a month working in a retail enviorment. It is absoutely ridiculous what I have to put up with on a daily basis.

* Every single day I have to hear people's sob stories about how they forgot their coupons. Mind you 95% of the time the coupon is $3.50 off a purchase of $10 or more and excludes anything worth buying in the store. Yet countless customers have thrown total fits about not being able to use a coupon they didn't bring. I figure if taking $3.50 off your purchase is going to make or break your budget then you shouldn't be buying it in the first place.

* I have daily/weekly loyalty card sign ups that I have to met yet you would be surprised how many people turn down a 100% free card that sends them coupons and earns them discount. I just want to ask "seriously, you don't want to save money??"

* It is not personally my fault if we don't have a product in stock. It's not like *I* bought them all. If we are out of something then we are out of something. What do you expect me to do?

*Christmas time is the worst! I swear the most evil peole come out from late october to december 24th ten minutes before the store closes. I've had just about everything throw in my face during this time. Ranging from coupons to products to poor customer service. I try my absoutle hardest to not take crazy customers personally but seeing as christmas is my favorite time of year its very difficult during this time to not want to strange that crazy person at the end of the day.

* All the customers that complain about the line at the register. Regardless of what store you go to you are going to have to wait in line to pay for the products that you want. And mind you I didn't tell everyone in the store to get in line at the same time. And if there is only one person ringing then there is only one person available to ring. Get over it! If you are in such a hurry then you shouldn't have come into the store.

*To all the theives out there that steal, I see you! Legally I cannot do much unless it is caught on camera and even then my options are limited (plus I defintely wouldn't put my life on the line for my job). I think it is disgusting that you earn your income by coming into the store stacking up fragrence gift sets and running out the front door. And I really dislike that your stealing means that I have to sit in a boring two hour meeting about how if us employees don't get shrink (theft) under control we can all be fired. [Thanks "big boss" I can feel the love you are giving us for all the hard work we do in your stores. I don't see you there at night making sure all the bottles face the same way or mopping the bathroom floor.]

Working retail takes gut and honestly unless you are just a really peppy outgoing person a retail job is never permenant. Kudos to my fellow retail collueges! Hang in there everyone!

Guest's picture

I work for a big box retailer, and since they moved me to a certain department, I've been hit by customers TWICE. The first time it was three weeks in my new department. The next time was about six months after that.

I hate retail, but it was this or nothing. I'm looking to get out when I can find a job with set hours. I hate not getting breaks (because I'm the only one in the department and there's no one else to cover me)and even when there are people to cover, I swear they get upset when I say I'm going to take a break.

Praying for the day I can leave and not have to be on my feet all day, and letting customers treat me like s---.

Guest's picture

I was hit by a customer once, my boss saw it and he turned away, broke my knuckles an his face, cops came and said he fell while trying to run. if anything retail can be funny. my boss telles me "treat them like they treat you" if you're nice im nice if you're the other 99% of people im mean.
i hate retail but my boss knows it sucks so he pays us very good and if we need time off he bends over backwards to make sure you are off.
mind you i work in a mall that has the worst rep in this city give you a hint ROSS PARK MALL pittsburgh pa

Guest's picture

I've worked in the meat department of a major retailer now for four years while putting myself through community college. I also worked this line of work in high school as well. It's sad many, many consumers feel the need to be absolutely rude and obnoxious over simple items as a cut of meat, box of cereal, can of soda, etc. I had one gentleman who, as I was waiting on him to make a selection from our meat service counter, commented, "I expect better cuts of meat, you understand me?" Another time a lady was wanting a piece of chicken from our meat service case and at one moment I was sort of spaced out and her reply was, "Pay Attention!" very sharply and extremely rude.

Folks have compassion on your fellow human is that too much to ask? Get off the cell
phone when waiting in line at the cash register; SLOW DOWN..YOU'RE NOT IN THAT
BIG OF A HURRY!!!! Yes well ALL have bad days but don't take out your frustrations at
the person doing their job.

Guest's picture

I have a Masters degree and for about a month or so, I've been at a retail job (while I actively search for another "real" job). I HATE IT! I want to quit so bad, but can't - yet. People (aka customers) can be rude, condescending, sanctimonious, conniving, and just plain nasty. So I endure. Gut it out, so to speak. I do so with a smile on my face, while crying on the inside. I tell myself "hey, it's only temporary", which keeps my sanity and dignity intact. I suffer in silence, but not alone.

Guest's picture

I've worked in retail for 3 years now while studying at university. I think the plus side for me is the hours and flexibility. I usually get between 20-30hours a week which is hard to find these days in retail, so I'm definitely grateful for that. And getting time off work is easy at the company I work for. I think that working in retail is what you make it. If you come to work with a positive attitude each day, you'll have a much happier working experience. And I agree that some customers are such horrible human beings, there has not been one day in retail where I have not encountered a rude customer. My favourite are the ones who click there fingers at you to grab your attention or scream out 'hey you' from across the other side of the store. Or the people who yell at you for something that has to do with a problem they have with the store, and bit you personally, but just like to take it out on you anyway. One thing retail with give you is a thick skin, you learn to just ignore the rudeness. I think the most important thing are the people you work with. I'm so grateful to have great co workers and supportive managers, they really are the thing that get me through everyday and make it enjoyable and fun. I think that it's alk about your working environment. If you are working in a place with positive, friendly people it makes a great difference. Customers suck any place you work in retail, but if you have great co workers it makes a whole lot of a difference. Just remember that no matter what kind of a job you have you should feel proud. Because a job that pays money is a job and as long as your doing your job to the best of your ability you should be respected by the rest of society... To bad most people dont share this opinion

Guest's picture

I myself work in retail. I am a cashier and for the most part enjoy the job and my customers. My customers range from farmers, construction workers, and airport security. I learned a lot in the process of working at two different stores in 5 years, and my performance reviews were excellent.

I am looking for another job, not because of the customers or management. The company does health risk assesments each year, and you have to go through venipuncture. To make a long story short, I had to go in today for it, and I nearly passed out. They said my face and lips turned a shade of chalk white, and my body uncontrollably shook. It took two painful trys to collect a blood sample.

I hope this is not something that is becoming a trend, because I have a severe needle phobia.



Guest's picture

Can I take this moment as an employee who manages the fitting room to speak about how absolutely disgusting it is when people
1. Return clothes inside out - you didn't get it off the rack this way, why do you think its ok to return it that way? So yes im going have a small attitude when u return 5 shirts and 2 jeans inside out and look at me like, "what's your problem?"
2. Return heaps of clothing in wad, or even worse, leave it in a fitting room for me to find later - when an employee kindly asks you return whatever you don't want its not because we're lazy or we automatically assume youre a theif but because it makes the whole process of returning thngs to the floor a lot faster and easier. Leaving them in there is simply rude.
3. Trying on underwear - its unsanitary. When the FR attendant says no, theres a reason. When you try them on and return them, they go in the trash. There is no excuse for you to try it on in first place, as a grown woman/man, you should know your size by now.
Call it a rant or whatever but these small things are what makes working in retail so unbearable. Rude customers who believe themselves above workers because their job isn't "Real"

Guest's picture

I hate customers who have all these price matches and coupons because it seems to take forever to do all that and the system calls the CSM over to help. The customers behind them are inconvenienced and they probably want to kill the coupon/price match king and queen! One customer famous for these price matches and coupons has made me late to punch out and go on breaks. I pray to God she goes to another line to take care of her business when I see her!