CASHIER PROBLEMS Archives - I Hate Working In Retail


The True Confessions of a Former Retail Slave

If you were to Google the phrase “working in retail”, the first five websites that come up are these:  Seven Lessons Learned from Retail, 12 Tips for Working in Retail Without Killing Everyone Around You, Is Working in Retail Close to Slavery?, Retail-Sucks, and Why Working in Retail Sucks.

This is not news to me.  I spent five years of my life working in that business as an assistant manager of a mid-level women’s apparel company.  Let’s call this company J. Taylor Creek.  Their main demographic is career women in their 30s and 40s, though over the past couple of years they seemed to have tried to lower that age and target the career-minded college student.  But what college student do you know can afford $140 pants?  Especially when they’ll probably end up working at Starbucks after graduation?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Or maybe they’ll have to settle for a part-time job making $8 an hour at J. Taylor Creek.

After spending three years working in the mortgage business as a loan processor (which I actually enjoyed), I got out just before the housing bubble burst.  We were moving, I knew the company at which I worked was going to close down (it was only a matter of time), and my sister informed me of a new outdoor “Lifestyle Center” that was opening in the new city where we were moving.  They were having a job fair in search of qualified people to work at all the fun stores that were going to open.

Now, working retail was not necessarily new to me.  I was a part-time manager at Claire’s for one year during college.  However I highly DO NOT recommend working at Claire’s.  Oh yeah, they have cute accessories – jewelry, bags, hats, etc – but if you work there, you have to pierce people’s ears.


I could go into all the stories of ear-piercing I have locked away in my brain, but that would make this post extremely long.  Let me just say this: never pierce a screaming baby’s ears no matter what the mother says, and never take a job where smelling salts are involved.

That being said, I figured I had enough retail experience to go into the job fair and come out with a well-paying, full-time management position.  And I did!  I interviewed with many companies that day, but the one who snagged me – and also the one I loved the most – was J. Taylor Creek.  After talking to the woman who was going to be the new store manager, I felt like I belonged at this company.  I liked what they stood for, and best of all, I liked their clothes.

I started out as an MIT, which stood for Manager-In-Training.  It’s basically the lowest level of a full-time manager at J. Taylor Creek, and that was fine with me.  I wanted responsibility and authority, but not too much, if you know what I mean.

Since the new store wasn’t due to open for another two months, I had to train at other J. Taylor Creek stores.  This was all fine and dandy, though I quickly learned one thing about myself.   I hate picking out clothes for people who don’t know what they want.  I told myself that I would eventually get used to it, that I would learn to feel comfortable selling clothes to people, but it ended up haunting me for as long as I worked in retail.

Trust me, this will look horrible on you.

Once my home store opened, things got a little better.  I loved the girls I worked with, and they were the ones who got me through the long 8-hour shifts.  In fact, it would be my co-workers who got me through the FIVE YEARS of retail in which I worked.  But more about that later.

Being an MIT had its perks, but it definitely had its downfall, that downfall being acting as “the middle man” most of the time.  The assistant manager and senior assistant manager (managers #3 and #2) did not get along.  They bickered like children, and would come to me complaining about the other one because apparently someone lower than them is easier to complain to than the store manager above them.  I sat and listened like I always do, never really agreeing with them, just nodding and saying things like, “Wow, really?”

Luckily after about six months at this location, my district manager at the time told me about an opening for an assistant manager at another location a little bit further away.  This would mean higher status and higher pay, and even though I was hesitant (my current store was literally five minutes from my apartment), I agreed to meet with the store manager.

We clicked right away, and I knew after about 15 minutes that I wanted to transfer.  The store was in a better lifestyle center, too – there was nowhere to eat at my current mall, and this one had tons of restaurants and tons of stores and a Borders and a candy store…

So I was transferred, and I had to quickly get accustomed to a higher volume store.  My old store was pretty quiet, not too many visits, even on the weekends.  But this new place was a madhouse.  Constantly running around, not even having time to pee or think about anything but “Does she have a room?” “Do you have any clients right now?”  “Have you taken your break?”  blah blah blah.

The good thing was that my days FLEW by.  Well, most days.  Even busy days have their crappy “oh my God, it’s only 2:00?” moments.

And here’s another crappy thing I started to really hate about retail.  The hours.  When I first thought about working in retail, I thought a change of hours and schedule would be interesting.  I was bored with the whole 9-5 thing.  My husband was a chef, which meant that his hours were all over the place, too, so it wasn’t like I exactly needed those weekends off.

But working nights and weekends and getting random Tuesdays and Thursdays off and working until 11:00 at night quickly lost its flair.  Having to work on days like Black Friday and the day after Christmas and every other holiday that everyone else gets off was depressing.  It didn’t take long for The Chip began to form on my shoulder.

I started dreading going to work, especially on days when I would close.  I wouldn’t go into work until 2:00 in the afternoon (if it was a weekend), and I couldn’t enjoy the first half of my day knowing that I still had to go into work for nine hours.  I couldn’t even enjoy my days off because I usually only got one day off (two days in a row is a rarity in the retail world), and I would spend most of that day dreading the next day.

And then I got pregnant.

Having to work at any job is probably difficult when you’re pregnant, what with all the morning sickness and moodiness and the getting fat business.  But working retail is extra hard when you’re pregnant.  First of all, you’re on your feet for eight hours and only get to sit down during your lunch break.  Second of all, you have to deal with customers.

And customers suck.

This is probably the main reason why I started to hate retail so much.  As I mentioned before, I quickly realized that I hated helping people find clothes to wear.  I know that sounds ridiculous, since that’s all that retail is, basically, but I figured that since I was management, I knew that my job was to make sure my associates were helping customers, not me.

And that was slightly true.  But that didn’t mean I was totally off the hook.  And it seemed that the more pregnant I got, the worse the customers became (the whole economy going to shiz may have had something to do with it as well, but whatever).  Constantly arguing about a return, the price of something, a coupon they couldn’t combine with a promo…you name it.

Courtesy of Customers Suck

And you’d be surprised at how many awful, evil people there are in this world (or at least in California).  I’ve had women call me a bitch, I’ve had women throw clothes at me, I’ve had women threaten me…all because I was trying to do my freaking job.

And the crappy part?  I couldn’t do a thing about it.  I couldn’t yell back, I couldn’t throw clothes at them, and I certainly couldn’t call them a bitch or else I would get written up or fired.  That’s one of the rules of retail.

You just have to stand there and take it.

There was one time I got a little “testy” with a client.  I was eight months pregnant, it was 11:15 on a Friday night – we had been closed for 15 minutes – and there was a woman arguing with me about wanting to return an item that wasn’t even from our store.  At J. Taylor Creek there are different divisions of stores, kind of like how Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy are all run by the same company, but they’re totally different stores.  This woman was basically trying to return an item from Banana Republic to Gap.  Which you can’t do.

She didn’t understand this, and no matter how much I tried to explain it, she refused.  I was getting PISSED.  And when she said, “Well, they let me do this at Macy’s”, I responded with, “Well, this isn’t Macy’s.”

That shut her up, but she filed a complaint against me and I got a written warning.

You’d be surprised at the stuff customers will do while in your store, stuff that should be on an episode of Dirty Jobs.  Makeup smeared on blouses?  Happens all the time.  Blood in the crotch of white pants?  I’ve seen it.  Clothes stuffed in the tank of a toilet?  Yep.  Sex in the fitting rooms?  Thankfully not at my store, but at another one in the district.

Good times.

I went on maternity leave a whole month before my due date simply because I could not handle working in retail anymore without totally going postal on someone.  And about halfway into my leave after my daughter was born, I realized that I wasn’t going to go back to retail.  My daughter was way too important, and I didn’t want her to suffer the effects of a mom who hated her job.

That lasted for a year.

We moved back to the previous city we lived in to be close to in-laws, and since we were paying more for our apartment, I decided I would get a part-time job.  And since I knew that I could easily get a job at J. Taylor Creek, I went to the Lifestyle Center in our area, talked to the manager, and the next day was the new part-time sales lead.

I was at a different division as my previous store – now I was high-end.  But it was basically the same stuff I did before, just a slightly different client, and since I was now only working 4-hour shifts instead of 8-hour shifts, I thought it was going to be great.

How quickly and easily one forgets.

A lot had changed over a year, however, with the economy and with the company as well.  They were suddenly more, how should I put this, anal about things.  Business at the entire company wasn’t very great, and when that happens people begin to panic.  People at the top lose jobs.  Management changes, turnover happens, and it starts to snowball into a big ol’ mess.

But it turns out that one year off does not change the suckiness of customers.  I thought that since I was now working in a very affluent part of Los Angeles, the women wouldn’t be so concerned about price and deals and discounts.  But you know what?

They’re even worse.

I guess that’s why they’re so rich…they’re super tight with their money and want to pay the least they possibly can for a top that’s on final clearance for $9.88.  And when they can’t get their way, they get MAD.

I think the customers at this particular location and particular point in time were worse than before.  I had at least one woman a day argue with me – mostly dealing with our return policy, which is 60 days WITH THE RECEIPT – and since J. Taylor Creek was so obsessed with not losing clients in this already sucky retail economy, we had to let them win.  You want to return that without a receipt?  You want to return that even though you bought it over a year ago?  Well, since I’ll get written up if I get a complaint against me, I’ll let you return it.  No problem.  *fake smile*

Retail is all about fake smiles.  I had a fake smile plastered on my face for five years.  And you know what?  It got really tiring.  It got tiring pretending that I cared about the business when in reality all I cared about was when my next day off was.  I know that sounds horrible – I was promoted to assistant manager at this J. Taylor Creek, and my job was to inspire my team to achieve our goals, and while I get that, it was really hard to be inspirational when Corporate is only focusing on the negative.  You didn’t make this goal, you didn’t open this credit card (holy eff, do NOT get me started on trying to force people to open the J. Taylor Creek credit card), your folds are messy, you didn’t wear something current…

You begin to only focus on the negative as well, and that causes stress and disgruntled employees.  J. Taylor Creek tried to be all about “engaged associates” and “empowered women”, but at the end of the day all they care about is money.  And they will be the first to tell you that.

Retail is difficult enough without having to deal with crap from Corporate.  In addition to making sure our associates are “doing their job”, we’re also sending hourly “reads” – how much money the store currently has in – to our district manager, doing “store set” at least twice a month (basically changing the entire store around), setting up window displays, changing the clothes on mannequins, ordering supplies, completing store operational audits, changing interior signage for promos that change every couple of days, cleaning out fitting rooms (which means picking up all the clothes bunched up into the corner and turning them right side out and putting them back where they belong), making sure our folds are military-grade acceptable, sweep the floors, clean the windows, take out the trash, receive new product twice a week and make sure it’s all steamed and put out within 24 hours, take never-ending conference calls, send out “action plan” emails when we’re unable to make our goal, make sure that we’re not over or under in hours, which means usually cutting or calling people in at the last minute, planning store events that no one ever turns up for anyway, soliciting clients on the phone…

…and all this must be done while we’re supposed to be 100% focused on the client walking through the door.

I was at this J. Taylor Creek location for about 2 ½ years.  As before, I loved my co-workers.  I had a great boss and still consider her and the other women to be great friends that I’ll always keep in contact with (thank you, Facebook).  But I knew my time in retail had to come to an end.  My daughter was getting older, and I knew she needed a mom who had a fixed work schedule.  And a mom who didn’t come home stressed out and pissed off every day.

When we moved back to Minnesota I was all set to transfer to a J. Taylor Creek store at the Mall of America.  There were no full-time positions available, so I was starting back at part-time sales lead.  I wasn’t excited for this job, and felt myself dreading it before I even started it.

I was there for a week.

It was one of those “right place at the right time” moments where there was an opening at the company where my dad worked, and because it was Monday-Friday in an office at a desk where there weren’t any clothes or customers around, it took me about ½ second to agree to interview.

I got the job on the spot and started the following week, and since then I’m amazed at how happy I am at work.  My job isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but when I think of all that blood, sweat and tears (oh yes, there were tears) I put into retail, I am so thankful.  I love going into work at 7:00 am and going home at 3:30 pm.  I love going home on a Friday afternoon knowing that I have the whole weekend off.  TWO DAYS IN A ROW!  I actually have an active social life now that I have the same days off as the rest of the world!

However, I don’t regret the five years I put into retail.  I learned a lot about people and being a manager and how the corporate world works.  I learned a lot about myself, and I’ve learned to accept the fact that there are some things I just wasn’t meant to do.  Going to work every day made me feel guilty because I knew I didn’t like it and I knew I wasn’t “putting my best self forward” (another J. Taylor Creek mantra).  I didn’t want to live my life like that, doing something half-assed that made me miserable.  I didn’t want my daughter to grow up knowing that because I don’t want her to do the same thing.

I’m not here to tell you that retail is a crappy industry.  It’s challenging, but if you’re good at it – and I know a lot of people who are really good at it and passionate about it, and that’s awesome – then it can be a truly rewarding career.  Just make sure you’re true to yourself and that’s what you really want to do, because if it’s not, you’re not the only one who suffers.


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The Hazards of Being a Cashier

There’s a post over at xoJane by a woman who used to be a cashier for Whole Foods and she’s telling her “tales from the trenches.”

In that article, she recounts some of the (terribly rude) ways that customers have mistreated her, and then she says this:

And I’m comfortable saying generally that Whole Foods customers are THE WORST.
Maybe the pervasive sense of entitlement is a product of their own economic insecurity. Maybe the pronounced class distinctions between the customers and employees make it easier to dehumanize the workers. Maybe shopping at Whole Foods makes customers feel so good about themselves that they forget it takes more than reusable bags to not be a terrible person.

I’m not here to dispute her experiences or get into some sort of contest over who has had the worse customer service experiences, but I am here to say that I don’t think it’s just pronounced class distinctions that give customers the false entitlement to treat store employees like the underclass.

I have this theory.

People are just so damn inconvenienced by having to be marginally polite to other human beings. It’s truly a burden to have to spend their day interacting with people in a way that’s considered socially acceptable, but there is one place where those rules can be broken down, and that place is the beautiful world of retail.

Thriftway Interior Upgrade | Interior Market Decor Design | Grocery Check Stand Markers | Thriftway Checkout Area | Admiral Thriftway
Finally, an end to the madness.
I am sure that this is true of all retail. Waiters and waitresses are notoriously mistreated, but they also have the retaliation tool of doing something disgusting to your food. People who work in malls and clothing stores also take a lot of abuse, but people don’t usually have to go to those places and some people thoroughly enjoy the time they spend shopping for these luxury items. But grocery shopping is a necessity that happens often, and people hate it. I mean, truth be told, I hate it, too. It’s not fun. It’s crowded. The lights are too bright. It costs too much. You have to put all that food up when you get home. If you don’t have a plan, you’re scrambling around lost. If you do have a plan, then you had to spend time making a plan. Grocery shopping kind of sucks.So here, in the midst of this miserable experience, people feel the power to release their barely-adhered-to social norms and treat another human being like filth.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not every customer. In fact, it’s not even most customers. Most people are normal and fine and just want to pay their money and go away. Some people are not normal, but they’re chatty and happy and trying to make friends in the grocery line. That can be weird, but it’s not mean.

And I also understand that cashiers can be mean, too.

But I worked as a cashier/service desk associate/customer service manager for two and a half years during my undergraduate days. The interactions I had with people during that time were insane. They were crazier than the interactions I had with basically any other job I had before or since. (Those jobs include serving beer at a golf course, working with behaviorally-challenged kids, and serving fast food). Here is a small sampling:

  • “You sure are chipper, ain’t ya?” That’s what a man said to me, glaring cruelly, as I bagged up his groceries, smiled, and told him to “Have a nice day.” It was not a compliment. He practically spit it at me, as if my refusal to be miserable was a personal affront to his shopping experience.
  • The Fish Pick-Up: Ladies, let me tell you the secret to “hooking” a man. See, I was an incredibly friendly (some would say “chipper”) cashier. This is because being mean to people drags me down, and working an eight-hour shift as a cashier is enough of a drag already, so I had to balance it out. I was working the late-night shift when a man and woman came through with a bag of fish. The man is the one who sat the fish on the belt, so I guess he was sort of the one I was giving my “Did you find everything all right?” spiel to, but really it was mindless chatter they could both enjoy. As I handed him his fish, I told him that there was a 72-hour guarantee and if they died they could bring them back with a receipt. Then I told them to have a nice night. His wife leaned over the register at me, gave me her best “bitch, I’m gonna kill you” look and snarled “He’s married, so you know!” Apparently “Hey, if your fish die, keep the receipt” is the hot new pick up line. I was seriously worried that she was going to be waiting for me in the parking lot. And I’m not trying to be judgmental, but this was definitely not a man I was going to be trying to snag, married or otherwise.
Goldfish #115
  • I’m Going to Arkansas! As I was working the service desk one day, a man came up with a bag of raw chicken pieces. He slapped it down on the counter and said, “Give me my money. I’m filling up the gas tank and going to Arkansas.” I asked for a receipt and he said, “Just put it on one of ‘em little cards. It’s going straight in the gas tank anyway.” I calmly explained that without a receipt he could only exchange it for food (because of EBT rules). He started to argue with me, but then he gave up and wandered off toward the grocery section, leaving me with an increasingly-mushy bag of chicken. I felt like something was off and thought about calling a supervisor, but I figured he’d just go grab some food and life would go on. A few minutes later he appears doing what can only be described as a swagger carrying a case of beer. I sigh. “Sir, beer’s not food. You can only exchange food without a receipt for other food products.” The man–I kid you not–hoists himself up on the service desk counter with one arm and swings at me with the other. Another (male) cashier was behind the counter picking up returns and got in between us, telling the man he needed to calm down. I grabbed the phone to call a manager, and the guy saw me, grabbed his chicken, and ran off. I hope he made it to Arkansas.
  • Then what are you doing here? A guy came through my line and I gave him the usual “How are you today?” Instead of the expected but oh-too-rare “fine,” I got a (no exaggeration) three minute list of maladies ranging from a torn ligament in his knee to a cataract to work stress. He ended his monologue with a smug “but you didn’t hear a word of that because you didn’t really care how I was when you asked.” I was feeling snarky, so I repeated his entire list of complaints back to him, in order, and his jaw literally dropped. Puzzled by this turn of events, he took his receipt and said, “If you’re that smart, you shouldn’t be working here” and walked off. Creep.
These are truly just a sample. The stories go on and on and on and on. On a daily basis, people took the “How are you doing today?” question as an excuse to unload about everything from their deadbeat husbands to their dead-end jobs. During the holidays especially, people would complain about how they were buying things for ungrateful family members who didn’t deserve it. On more than one occasion, people got mad at me when their total was more than they expected and once someone even asked me to cover the difference. A man trying to buy a full sheet cake with a EBT card in a woman’s name with no ID tried to get me fired when I wouldn’t make the sale. A man cussed me out because I told him a copy of his driver’s license taped to the back of a Movietime card did not count as a valid ID. Three frat boys made me cry when they bought plastic cups, a bottle of vodka, and a bag of live goldfish and made me ring them up.
Again, this was not every customer. Many customers were wonderful people, but this was enough customers that it was not an exception to the rule; it was the rule. There is substantial subset of the population that uses retail workers as their own personal emotional release. All the meanness they can’t use throughout the day for fear of the consequences gets saved up for someone who has very little recourse. Every time a cashier is rude to me (and it happens), I remember all those days and cut him/her some slack. It’s tough to be on the receiving end of that kind of vitriol, and I don’t think it’s limited to upscale chains full of snobs.
Have you worked retail? Did it bring the reign of humanity’s worst behavior?
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16 infuriating things about working in retail

WORKING IN RETAIL can be really tough.  Yes, there are days when your co-workers are sound and your customers are lovely, but all too often that is not the case.

Sometimes people are jerks, sometimes your boss needs to get stuffed and sometimes the job is a pain.

Here are 16 infuriating things about working in retail.

People trying things on just for a laugh


Oh yeah.  Go ahead, have your gas craic trying on loads of stuff.

It doesn’t matter that I’ll have to tidy it all up, put it on hangers and put it out on the floor again.  As long as you have your fun!

People carelessly pulling apart your carefully folded piles of clothing





No matter what shop you work in, no matter what kind of security you have, you will know the shoplifters, and they will be a pain in the ass.

Customers shouting at you over things that have nothing to do with you


I’m sorry that the article of clothing you purchased in an entirely different shop didn’t work out for you, but kindly stop spitting in my face!

Power hungry managers


They should never have been allowed to be in charge of anything, let alone you.

Being forced to do pointless things by your boss


Purely so they can wield the aforementioned power.

People trying to return things that had clearly been worn


It’s covered in makeup and it stinks of cigarettes.  Do they think you’re stupid or something?



Every day, you are forced to spend ages arranging clothing in order of size, only for it to be immediately messed up when customers got involved.



Not only do you have to work, but you have to work the busiest, most panicked, hectic days of the year.

Customers who ignore the fact that it’s past closing time


They don’t care that the shop just closed, they want to try on 17 items.

Staff meetings



Not being allowed to use certain lifts/escalators/entrances



God forbid that a customer should see you using the same doors as them.  They might forget for a moment that they’re better than you.

People leaving their rubbish in the changing rooms


People are gross.

Having to watch people buy lovely things while you scramble together pennies to buy a sandwich


It’s tough.  It just is.

Pointless tasks foisted on you simply because you’re not allowed to stand still


People who shout at you about consumer law when they clearly haven’t a notion


Do you work in retail?  Do you need to vent?  Tell us about your pain in the comments.


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