Tuesday, 14 June 2016


My share of retail roles are now over and I can confidently say I shan't be heading back in that direction any time soon, if at all in my life. It does have it's good points: you get to meet lots of nice people, be sociable and you learn a lot but it is tiring, poorly paid and draining as hell. I would like to stress that I have met some amazing and wonderful people from these jobs, including some life-long friends, both customers, and colleagues alike. There were some funny sides of retail I observed though and I thought I would compile a funny little list of all the silly things you see and hear people say and do on almost on a daily basis when you work in retail. This post is designed to make myself and others giggle at my time spent in these roles, nothing more and nothing less. There is no anguish here, it is simply just a post to encourage a few laughs and a little bit of mindfulness when engaging in retail therapy! 

1. 'How much is this?'...Do I look like a computer? How on the face of this earth do you expect me to know the exact price of every item in this store when there are thousands of products and the deals on these products change on a weekly basis? Customers sometimes proceed to act as though you're incompetent or appear to be taken aback when you admit you don't know. I am not a computer. Go and ask at the till, please. 

2. '...but I saw it on your website. So, why isn't it here?' Well, you wanna-be smart Aleck, the internet has an abundance of space, never ending in fact; you could put millions of photos on your facebook if you wanted to, right? So why aren't they all in your photo albums and on your walls at home? No space? Well, there you go. Have a look here next time you do an internet search instead. 

3. Customers will come to the till as happy as larry, with a lovely big smile on their face and kind greeting. Then they ask 'is this in the deal?'. Your answer will then determine whether the next few minutes will be happy ones or unnecessarily awkward ones that feel like hours. Respond to this question with a yes and they keep presenting themselves in this manner and you'll be besties. You give them the unfortunate news it is not in a deal and their composure switches in an instant. I saw fully grown adults throw strops on a daily basis. They would be blunt, refuse to make eye contact and talk to you like a piece of poo. Come on now, grow up. It's a flipping deal on a material possession and that shop assistant you're directing your negative energy at has nothing to do with the prices or promotions in place in the store.

4. When a staff member is in their coat, with their bag on, exiting the store and going back to their lovely life, or even leaving to go and get some lunch and space, leave them be. Do you really think they want your questions? I know customers seem to think they are Kings/Queens in a retail branch but let me tell you something sister/brother: you are of no authority to me, the Postman or old Ned down the road so stop fooling yourself into thinking you are. Please just wait for someone who is being paid at that precise moment to help you. Patience is a virtue and virtue is grace after all.

5. Speaking of patience, due to the fact retail isn't the most appealing of jobs, sometimes shops are understaffed and sometimes we have to work alone. Customers would cause full blown Eastenders scenes if they weren't served in an instant at the till. I'm sorry but this old lady just so happened to ask for my advice before you arrived King Barry. Wait your turn and, if you're one of those customers that throw your item down and storm out, you're only embarrassing yourself and you'll be back later for it anyway. So, as I wrote earlier, patience is a virtue and virtue is grace.

6. Those customers that want you to make a decision for them are a bit like contact dermatitis...irritating. You have seriously indecisive issues if you need a girl in a shop to do a sales pitch on some vitamin C. Seriously, I used to think 'I'm not paid enough to put this much effort into whether or not you buy this £2.00 lip salve' and people would genuinely say 'Come on, sell it to me, convince me.' How about you take some self-responsibility, look up products or services and decide for yourself whether you want/need this in your life. Energy theft is palpable and if you have to do it to a poor unsuspecting member of the public, who works in a shop, via the 'interrogation control drama' (read the celestine prophecy) then you're probably a very sad git. In fact, you'll come to realise if you work in retail that people don't want to do anything for themselves! Ha! 

7. Don't be one of those customers who want to argue about something before you even have your facts straight. Customers always used to go on and on about how something was definitely in a deal and they had read the label wrong so we had to walk there together and I'd have to prove them wrong to their face. Customers would constantly tell me the till had worked something out wrong, only then to do the math and realise it was right all along. Make sure you're right before you mug yourself off in front of a long queue of people, please. 

8. If you're a bit of a quirky and outlandish character, who goes into a store often, rest assured that the staff adore you. At first, they may well be a bit intimidated by you and probably try their best to avoid interactions, which is probably a dumb thing retail staff do in hindsight. However, once it is obvious that you're harmless, full of character and that this is far, far better than 'the norm' you'll start to add a bit of light to their otherwise dull artificially-lit day and make them smile. You're awesome and the world should be made of yous!

9. 'If someone is nice to you and rude to the waiter, they are not a nice person'. The same goes for retail staff. If you're rude to someone who works in a shop it raises the question: how are you treating people you know well? Consider this, your world is a mirror and If you live in a hostile world, you're probably a hostile person and if you live in a loving world, you're probably a lovely person. People will respond like with like; you create your own reality and everything is internal to you. 

10. Don't ask a staff member 'what they're doing working here?' I know you're just being kind and I mind it less now that I know it is right, but there is more that meets the eye with life and you don't need to point out the obvious to someone who may already have a complex about what they're doing. When I would get chatting to customers they'd realise how knowledgeable I actually was and it would almost surprise them. Not everyone is living for the ego, money or social acceptance. I was learning things I needed to learn about myself and things that interested me. I don't think I am, nor ever was, better than these jobs either - my focus is just different now. Other stories are different but, in short, I guess I'm just saying we shouldn't judge a book by its cover nor presume, or assume, anything we simply have no evidence to back up.

11. There's always those customers who just point blank ignore you as if staying quiet and ignoring you will make you disappear. 'Have you got a loyalty card?'...SILENCE. 'Do you need any help there?'...SILENCE. The jokes on you though because, when you needed to be served at the till, I just couldn't hear you through all of that solid SILENCE.

12. 'Can I speak to your manager then?' You are wrong, accept it, and stop trying to bully your way into a cheap sale. Not all retail staff are vindictive violators of bargain-doom who want to hinder the general public from getting a deal!

13. When someone stares at you like you're an alien for making small talk. They look at you like they're shocked you wandered off your shop robot script. Sorry Janet, I actually have a personality underneath this uniform, that is designed to make me look like a fat slob with no figure, and I thought I'd let it out of its retail ridden cage for a few seconds. 

14. People who try and tell you how to use the till you use every day are just funny. I like to think of them as the true comedians of consumerism. 

15. People that think they're about to get a thousand pound refund on a pound item and hold up a queue for as little as 7p. One lady stormed back in the shop and shouted at the top of her voice that I had overcharged her. Of course, the price labels were old, so they were out by a few pence, and the till had the new prices installed. A staff member is never going to cheat you. It is always a fault with the till or price tag. Nevertheless, I put it through and gave her the refund she wanted - all the while she was complaining that she was in a hurry and that it was my fault. There was a queue piling up behind her looking at me as though I was incapable, due to her behaviour towards me, until I said 'So, that is 7p to go back on your card then'. She shrivelled up inside her shell and miraculously turned into a pleasant person instantaneously. Needless to say, she hurried out of the shop and forgot to make eye contact with the crowd of people behind her after that. 

16. It always baffled me when customers would come to the till with two items that were in a 3 for 2 deal and I would say 'oh, you can pick up a free item!' To which they would reply 'no'. Customers main excuses here being they didn't need it or they couldn't be bothered. Let's step back and STOP being such self-absorbed, self-centered individuals for just one second here. WHY would you not take a FREE item from a huge corporation that definitely doesn't need it and hand it to a stranger as a gift? Perhaps give it to your sister, who might find it useful, or give it to the homeless person outside who'll appreciate it? Could you possibly just think about someone other than yourself for one second and treat other people to what you're ungrateful for. 

17. There are always those customers who pretend to understand you or that they have heard you. I know some people get awkward with speaking for whatever reason, but it is only going to get worse if you nod or say yes without having heard someone properly. As someone who is bilingual, I have been learning languages since I was nine years old and I've never had a complex about saying I don't understand or making mistakes - after all, this is how you learn. If you don't understand or didn't hear, I truly do not mind, just tell me or ask to repeat myself. 

18. People that are bitchy about the customer before them. I've seen this work well ONCE, and loved it, but I've made people cringe a few times because they have made fun of people with disabilities. Next time you complain about how loud someone is; consider the possibility that they may have a hearing impairment. The next time someone forgets their pin numerous times at the till and is being a little slower than your average co-shopper, you could consider the fact they may have dementia or memory problems. I guess the moral of the story is so: don't be an asshole. 

19. Customers who just expect you to be a mind reader. I had a customer come in once and say 'I need something to help me lose some weight and I want the same thing I had before'. So we went to the weight loss section together and she said 'No it's not that. No, not that. No. No. No.' So I said 'OK, can you tell me the brand name or active ingredient?' She shrugged her shoulders like a petulant child and said no and told me that she couldn't see the one she had bought in Romania. HOW ON EARTH am I meant to guess what you're on about? If you don't know what you want, how could I possibly know? Ha-ha! 

20. If you're in a shop, and there isn't someone at the till to serve you, just find someone and say 'excuse me, is there any chance you could serve me please?' Instead I would have customers stare intently at the back of my head for ages, until I looked around, only to then give me a face of judgement as I walked over to serve them. This was despite the fact I had no idea they were there. There were also those customers who would tap their feet, slam down products on the counter, hum, cough, click pens, or drum their nails on inanimate objects for attention. Seriously, just politely ask to be served - it's as easy as that.

I think customers should try to have some more compassion for shop staff, to be honest. I think the public forget that employees have to put up with an industry that tries to squeeze out as much labour from as little wage as possible. I used to constantly have to ask when my lunch break was and stand around all day on my feet with a rumbling tummy. I always wanted to leave on the dot when my shift ended, but it rarely happened in retail. It used to baffle and frustrate me deeply. It was a joke how many times I would miss trains and be late to my beautiful life events. I would have to go home and study for hours and sometimes travel up to two hours to get to and from the job. On top of that, I was only getting paid minimum wage to do so. So my point is so: be kind to shop staff - it's probably a pretty miserable place to work at times and you're there for two minutes while they're there all day contending with other annoying aspects of the job. Please just be nice. Thank you & Have a nice day! :-)

Peace out Potatoes xo

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