Pet Peeves of Working in Retail

A photo taken by an employee of the shoe department in a Target in Nashville, Tennessee.

Service with a Smile

Not too long ago, I was recently employed at one of the biggest department stores in the US. It started out as a temporary job while I was still in college, just to make money for summer and school breaks, like those jobs usually are. Even if you’ve never worked in retail, you’ve seen the stores that have unfolded clothes on the floor, piles of clothes in the fitting rooms, and lines at customer service longer than the aisles.

Guess who has to deal with all that? We do. And we’re getting paid very little to do so.

So, since I can’t get fired from a job I don’t have anymore, here are all the annoyances and frustrations that built up over my two and a half years of working in retail, for all the times I wanted to punch a customer. Based on how my friends felt about working there with me, these are universal grievances.

1. We are not here to babysit your kids.

When you walk into the store, realize that your kids, no matter how rowdy they are, are still your priority. If they’re wandering through the racks and aisles while you’re looking at a pair of pants and they knock something over, they’re your responsibility, not ours.

2. It’s not our personal fault if the item you’re looking for is out of stock.

Had you wanted it that badly, you should’ve called ahead to put it on hold for yourself. I did that for many customers and it worked out perfectly. I had nothing to do with the amount of merchandise purchased or put out for the day, so don’t get mad at me when the shirt you wanted isn’t there anymore.

3. If you want something off the mannequin, let one of us know. Don’t take it off yourself.

The mannequins at the store I used to work at where around a thousand dollars each. Not to mention, the clothes are usually stretched, pinned, and altered so that they fit perfectly on the mannequin. They’re also tricky to put back together because the arms and torso lock together strangely. Definitely don’t try to put it back on yourself, because if you do and one of our managers sees a dismembered mannequin in our department, we’re the ones who get in trouble.

4. The more vague you are when you ask for help, the less I can actually help you.

“I’m looking for a green shirt.” Really, that’s all you’re going to tell me? Do you know how many green shirts we have? And then, on top of that, don’t complain when I bring you everything green that I can find and you tell me you don’t like a specific material or style. That would’ve been nice before I got these for you. You’re only going to get frustrated if you aren’t clear about what you want.

5. Technical difficulties happen. Again, not my personal fault.

If my cash register stops working, I’m really sorry that that happens to you, but don’t get mad about me for it happening. Are you under the impression that I intentionally sabotaged my cash register so that you and I have to spend more time together? Trust me, when our computers go down, we’re no happier about it than you are.

6. Yes, we have to ask you if you want a store credit card.

I know you’re tired of hearing it. I know you don’t want me to ask you. But we have to, it’s mandatory. My manager used to stand next to the registers to make sure people said the entire rehearsed greeting. Your attitude won’t deter me from asking.

7. Clothes limits for dressing rooms are there for a reason.

On average, we associates can probably hold about 10 pieces of hanging clothes at a time, and that armful takes around a half hour to put away, accounting for interruptions. Every time one person brings in that many clothes and dump them on the return rack or leave them in your room, that sets us back about a half hour. So while you brought in every color of a shirt that didn’t end up fitting anyway, it takes us around a hour to put your pile back. Imagine if everyone did that, because that’s exactly what happens on our busiest days. The longer we take, the more upset customers are that the fitting rooms aren’t open for them. And guess who has to deal with that after you leave when you’re done shopping?

8. When you take up more than 15 minutes of my time, at least buy something.

I’m running back and forth from our stock in the back to find you the perfect shirt in the right size and color, and you end up not buying it? What the hell did I waste 20 minutes for? I personally didn’t work on commission, thank god, but for those who do, that’s completely inconsiderate.

9. The price signs usually aren’t wrong. You are.

“But the sign said it was on sale for $10.” I really doubt it, considering it’s a top name brand and it was just put on the sales floor this week. Clothes, in general, are marked with the prices right on the tags, or are marked so that you know they’re clearance. I can’t control people picking something up and putting it back wherever they’re standing when they realize they don’t want it anymore. There are price checkers all throughout the store for a reason. Not to mention, the sales associates can tell you how much something is too.

10. Expired means expired.

That coupon is from three months ago? Then no, I can’t take it. Especially since the dates are always printed on the coupon somewhere, regardless of how small it is.

11. There’s a special place in hell for people who ruin something I just folded.

After I’ve folded an entire table of jeans or display of t-shirts, the worst possible thing is for someone to come along and insist on picking up every article they want to see, and then throw it back wherever they want. Did you not see that everything was neatly and purposefully folded, or me standing there physically folding them? Who do you think did it, the store’s clothes fairies?

12. Sales associates are trained in their departments, not the whole store.

If you couldn’t already tell, I was in the clothing department of my store. If you see me walking past blenders or vacuums, it’s a fluke. I don’t work that part. I don’t know the difference between this type of luggage and that one. Don’t get mad at me because I’m not familiar with the other half of the store, or when I tell you I’ll find you someone who can help you.

Respect Goes Both Ways

Retail workers are people too. We aren’t your servants, your maids, or your babysitters. We are here working because we need the money, that’s it. If you treat us kindly and respectfully, you will get the same from us in return. Consider our time and the fact that we hate being here, so don’t make that feeling worse.

So next time you go into a store and unfold a shirt to look at it, be conscious of how and where you put it back – if you don’t do it, someone else will have to.

For anyone in a servile and menial position, this hub is for you. You’re not the only one suffering, believe me.

Bottom line to customers: stop getting mad at us and blaming us for everything. Honestly, we care less than you can imagine.


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