I truly believe that everyone should have to work retail at some point in their lives. It baffles me how retail workers can simultaneously be considered miracle workers and terrible people all at once. Make up your mind, either I'm "too dumb" to get a "real" job, or I'm a miracle worker who can produce exactly what you're looking for at a moment's notice.
It's not both.
Even if we all work at different retail establishments, there are some things that transcend throughout every store, and will give anyone who's ever worked retail flashbacks to memories they thought they'd suppressed deep enough.
1. "Do you work here?"
I'm wearing a name tag, I'm in a dress with it's below freezing outside, I'm cleaning up boxes, and I'm speaking with another customer. This is when those deduction skills you've developed come in handy.
My mom says that sometimes people do this as a way of starting a conversation, which I guess I can understand. But I can only hear the question "do you work here" so many times before I start to question if whether or not I do, in fact, work here.
2. Letting your kids run wild
Just because they're your precious bundles of joy does not mean they are everyone else's. Kids are destructive, loud, and mischievous, none of which are ideal in a public environment.
Because we all know if something happens, it will immediately become the store's fault. "Yes, ma'am, you're right. Our shelves should have been strong enough for your 12 year old to climb. That's our mistake."
This is a true story: I once had a kid lick all the mirrors in our store and then had the mom get mad at me because the mirrors weren't clean. I didn't even know how to answer her. I'm sorry that I don't disinfect the mirrors after each child licks them. And I'm also sorry that you haven't taught your child how to act politely.
3. "No price tag? Must be free!"
HAHAHAHAHAHhahahahhHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahHAHAHAHAHA. THAT'S THE FIRST TIME I'VE EVER HEARD THAT!!!!
Be honest, has that ever worked for you? If you ever say that to a retail worker, you're about to hear their "work laugh" which is the cross between a crazy person and a hyena. "That's SO funny and original and I DEFINITELY haven't heard that 15 times today!" If you really thought it was free, you would have left the store already with the product in your bag.
One time I told a customer that everything was 50% off and he asked me which half he had to pay for. Sometimes it's better to play dead in these situations.
4. Complaining about prices
Story time again: the other day I had a man walk up to me with a woman's sandal. He told me there must be some kind of mistake because the price on the sandal was too much. I assured him it was right, but that there were other discounts applied on top. He laughed, told me he would never pay more than $10 for that shoe, and walked away.
Okay??? Sorry this ladies size 5 sandal is not priced to your liking???
Employees have zero control over prices. Let me say that again in case you missed it.
EMPLOYEES HAVE ZERO CONTROL OVER PRICES.
These phrases will not help you at all:
- I'd buy it if it was another 15% off (it's not)
- Can you just give me your employee discount? (not only can I not, I also don't want to)
- I won't tell anyone if you cut the price in half (yes you will)
- I can get the same thing online for cheaper (okay, go ahead)
5. Showing up before close
I work at a shoe store, and I had a lady show up ONE MINUTE before we closed. She told me she was "going to be quick" and "just needed shoes for her wedding." She looked around for 15 minutes, bought nothing, and left.
First off, if you're wedding shopping, then maybe 8:59 on a Wednesday night in December is not your best choice. Second, if it's really an emergency, then you would have bought the first thing that fit your foot.
You're not special. Closing times apply to absolutely everybody. Retail workers want to go home. Also, just because you acknowledge that you're in the store late doesn't make it any better. If you know we're closed, why are you still here?
6. No, I'm not flirting with you
Part of working retail, especially a commission job, is being nice and friendly. I'm not asking you questions about your life because I necessarily care, although sometimes I do. I'm asking because I'm trying to figure out what you want to by and make conversation while you awkwardly lean over and try to squeeze your foot into a shoe that is way too small for you.
Another story! A guy came in and asked me for a pair of size 10 boots, and I brought back a 9.5, explaining that we didn't have a 10 but he could try these instead. His response? "I don't think I need to tell you what a difference half an inch makes" AND THEN HE WINKED AT ME. Gross.
I also worked in the mattress department of a popular furniture store around back-to-school time, and too many dads would ask me to lay down in the bed next to their son to "make sure it was big enough for two people, if you know what I mean." I do, and I won't.
7. "Can you go check the back?"
Can I? Yes. Will it make a difference? No. Am I going to go back there anyway so I can check my phone, eat a couple snacks, and complain about you to my co-workers? Absolutely.
I don't think customers realize that
- The backroom is smaller than the store and almost always filled with useless stuff
- It does me no good to lie about whether or not we have it
- I'm here all the friggin' time. I know what's back there.
I get it, okay? You just want the reassurance that what you're looking for really isn't available. But "checking the back" isn't going to change whether or not that shirt is in stock.
8. Loyalty Programs
Man, I should write a book with all the stories I have. Our store has a points program that works solely off your phone number. So I asked this one lady for her phone number to see if she was collecting rewards with us, and she went OFF on me. Apparently, I was trying to steal her identity and sell it to medical companies (????) and that she refused to hand over her information to me. Not a problem. Halfway through the transaction, she remembered that she actually was a member of our points program, and proceeded to ask if she had any coupons available.
You don't like loyalty programs, I don't like loyalty programs, but I have to ask for your info.
Acceptable answers to the question "can I just grab your phone number" are:
- Your phone number
- "What is this for?"
- "No thank you, I'd rather not give it out."
Unacceptable answers, all of which I've personally received, are:
- "You'll have to buy me dinner first."
- "My wife is right here."
- "Why? Are you going to call me once your shift is done?"
- "I don't want you calling my house and spamming my answering machine." (LOL!)
- "Sure, it's 1-877-SPANK ME"
- "I don't have a phone number," said to me while she was on the phone.
9. "But I really want it."
CONGRATULATIONS! You said the magic words! Now the exact pair of shoes in your size that you really want has appeared out of thin air on the shelf! You did it!
You really wanting something is fair, but what's not fair is assuming that'll change the circumstances. It's not like we hide certain products away and only sell them to people who prove they want it.
As strange as it may sound, employees don't design and print the signs themselves. I also hate that the "up to" next to the "75% off" is microscopic. But I didn't choose it, so getting mad at me is only going to make you look like a jerk, and make me go home and tell all my friends about the lunatic I dealt with at work today.
You may not like the signs, but complaining about them doesn't change what they say.
One time I had a customer come up to me and ask why the shoes he wanted weren't 70% off. I pointed out on the sign that it says "up to 70% off" and he did not appreciate it. He looked at the sign, TOOK HIS GLASSES OFF, turned to me, and said "well now I can't see that." Maybe...put your glasses back on? Just a suggestion.
11. "Can I speak to your manager?"
You're more than welcome to do so. But for the record, she's probably going to tell you the same thing I did. Mainly because your request to return this item that you purchased two years ago and have clearly worn through is absolutely ridiculous. But sure, I'll go drag my manager out from the back room. And when she asks why I didn't tell you "no" in the first place, I'll let her know it's because your logic isn't working today.
A customer once asked for an extra discount on a purse (because she didn't like the tassels on it) and I told her I'm not allowed to authorize discounts, and that only the manager can do that. When the customer asked to speak to her, I said she wasn't on shift today but that her answer would probably be no, seeing as there's nothing actually wrong with the bag.
This is the conversation that ensued:
HER: "Well can you call her?"
ME: "She's at her daughter's fourth birthday party."
HER: "So that means you can't call her?"
ME: "I think if I call her at her daughter's birthday party to ask if you can have an extra discount on a bag because you don't like it, I might get fired."
HER: "Well then you can just give me the discount then."
You're not fooling anyone. When you show up to return shoes with worn out soles, you cannot lie to me and say you haven't taken them out of the box. I know for a fact I did not sell those to you like that.
Stores have return policies, and associates are required to follow them. If we don't, we get in trouble. Just like any other workplace. If the return period is 14 days, and you show up on day 25, I cannot help you. And I'm not even sorry about it.
I had a customer come and try to return a pair of shoes her husband had bought for her daughter, but she didn't bring back the credit card he paid with. I told her that unfortunately I couldn't refund the purchase because the cards don't match, and that's our store policy.
This is the conversation that happened:
HER: "But it's the same account!"
ME: "I understand the frustration, but I have no way of proving that."
HER: "So what am I supposed to do?"
ME: "You have a two month return window, so you can come back with the proper card. I just can't do the return because it looks bad on me and the store if we break policy."
HER: "Well the company is going to look stupid when I write to them and tell them how awful the policy is."
Are you sure it's the company that's going to look bad and not you?
13. Damaged Discounts
For the record, damaged discounts are for products that we CANNOT sell without adding an extra discount because it's so damaged. For example, if it's missing a buckle, it has a rip, or it is severely discolored.
Things don't apply for a damaged discount:
- It's the last pair
- It's not the color you want
- It doesn't really fit properly
- There's a scuff on the inside
I once had a customer ask for a damaged discount even though it wasn't damaged. I told her it was only applicable to products with tears, holes, or marks on them. She then RIPPED THE SEAM OF THE BOOT RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. You'd rather save 10% by ripping the boots you want than spending the extra money? Yikes. Priorities.
14. "When will you get a real job?"
This has to be the most aggravating question I've ever been asked. After graduating university, I worked two retail jobs to pay off my student loans. I worked 60 hours a week, made good money, and set myself up financially.
But I'd hear the same question over and over and over and over and...well you get it. "When are you going to move on from retail?" And there's a few things wrong with that:
- Some people really do want to work in retail, so constantly asking when they're going to "move on" is not fair to their dreams.
- Retail IS a real job??? I get paid real money, that I can buy real things with. Just because it isn't your ideal line of work doesn't make it any less of a profession.
- "Real jobs" don't just grow on trees. I didn't spend $50,000 in tuition to stand here while you decide between two almost-identical pairs of shoes, and if I could find something in my field, I'd be there.