7 Things I Learnt Working in Retail

22 January 2015

I've now worked in retail or just general customer service style jobs for about 4 years.  That's long enough to have definitely seen my fair share and variety of customers. Contrary to everything that I'm going to say here, there are 10 nice customers to every nasty one. And that's what makes it worth it in the end. All the nice folks who just want to chat, and purchase their product, whether it's an ice cream, a tour, a shirt, or a plant.

Here are __ things I have learnt over time working and serving customers. The good, bad and the ugly.

You are a soulless entity, that is either standing in the way of what they want, or helping them get it. They will insult you, and try to make it personal. They don't care if you've had a bad day, or you're tired or sick. And in a way, why should they? It's your job after all. They will insult you and make it personal, especially in situations that are not your fault. I have been yelled at and abused because of things like "No sorry the fireworks aren't on every night, only on Christmas Eve & New Years Eve."
How dare I? And they drove all that way? My manager has been spat on because we closed an outdoor night time tour because of an electrical storm. Not only was it not our call, but it was for your own safety! Obviously.

No but I used the google and on your website it said this. Hmm no it didn't. The website said you closed at 7pm but that announcement said you close at 6pm! I personally am terribly sorry and I will see about getting that website fixed for you. I know you have it in stock it was on your website, no that means nothing! The internet is only sort of magic, not that kind of magic. They will swear on their grave that they are right, even if halfway through they realise they are wrong, they will not give up. I promise you. 

So you bought this shirt the other day and wow it looks like you've worn it for 3 months straight without washing it! Oh so you bought it like that? Well that is just terrible, But I really don't think that we would have sold a shirt in this condition. No no I'm not calling you a liar, do you have a receipt? Oh you never got one, well I am just so sorry about that let me just see what I can do.

That situation above is exactly what happens, and all too often. They're so clearly lying, I have even had someone change their story multiple times throughout the explanation on why this brand new item has an enormous hole in it. It always ends the same way, you give them what they want. You want a refund for this item you bought 1 year ago, even though our refund policy is 2 weeks? Here's the scoop, even if I say no, and I ask my manager and she says no and she asks her regional manager and they also say no. If the customer rings up the head office and freaks out, guess what they're going to get that refund.

Have you ever went to buy something you swear was $5 and it scanned in as $10. Wait a minute I don't think that's right, you say something to the shop person, they check for you, and it is indeed $10, you were wrong. You apologise and it was your mistake after all. You buy it (or not) and go on your merry way. Ehh if you are a nice and reasonable person. If you're a jerk you freak out, you raise your voice, call me out on trying to rip you off. It's preposterous! You shout, you flail, you have a public meltdown. And I change the price for you. You absolute monster. Some people then calm down a little and thank the shop person, others stay agitated and self entitled with a "Yeah that's right you better change that price!" kind of attitude. We hate you.

You bet they do. The first time I caught a shoplifter I lifted the beanies out of their bag which is a big no no, but I panicked. When doing a bag check you can't touch anything, not the bag, not anything inside it. You can only ask them to show you, and to move their items around to attempt to show the more of the bag. In my clothing store job most of our regular shoplifters are 15 year old brats who flog sunglasses and hats and socks. Shoving them into their backpacks. The adults that steal things, now they're the tough cookies. They will scream and carry on, how dare you accuse them. When I call security, there's literally nothing I can do to stop the person running away.  A coworker of mine spotted a kid just holding a pair of stolen pants in the food court, and she asked him to hand them over and he said nope, what are you gonna do about it.

Lovely old couples, people that just want a chat, people that roll their eyes and sympathise with you about that mean customer that just left. These few good souls restore your faith in humanity. Not everyone is crap. Elderly men who hobble out of the store and say "Hoo Roo" (old people talk for cya) People that compliment you, the regulars, your few favourites that always have a good chat. I've even said hello to people outside of work that I've served quite a few times. Even after a long day, with mean people and crowds, fighting each other over that last size shoe in their size. The nice people still make it worth it.


  1. I really feel for retail workers! I've only banquet waitressed, which is pretty close to retail, only parties are scheduled to leave at a certain time and walk ins aren't a thing. People can be the absolute *worst* though! My mom worked in retail for a long time while gathering funds for college, and she's taught me and my siblings that we are to be extremely nice to the people working in stores (well, people everywhere, but emphasis on stores!). /: It would be so much nicer if people were kind!

  2. Totally agree on the "soulless entity" hehe.

  3. Arghh I worked in retail for about 6 years. I just don't think I could do it again!

    Lucy x

  4. Wow. I have a different view on retail workers now. I'm not the kind of person who would get mad or start a scene or anything, but I don't really treat the retail workers as people either. I never realised how hard it was, and how often people get what they want even when it's against the law. How can shoplifters just do that!? Maybe I should be nicer to retail workers from now on...

    The Life of Little Me

    1. Most people are nice, and then there's the people who just love to complain. haha x

  5. I worked in retail too, and I was often greeted with some unpleasant customers who called me rude & unhelpful when I said I couldn't refund a particular item ( It was definitely worn ) !!! Silliness. Point number 6. OMG That is terrible :O I can't believe the girl refused to hand the clothes back, how reckless ?!!!

    Serene xoxo


  6. I worked in retail for........ one week.
    It was the pits. I can't believe how many jerks there are out there.
    Good on ya for dealing with all of the crazies.

  7. Ouch! I don't work in retail, but I do work as a barista and a (sometimes) cashier at a restaurant and I can relate to some of these. We're supposed to repeat what the customers want to confirm their order, and sometimes they come back and say "oh hey, we didn't order this" after they've eaten HALF THEIR MEAL. Sometimes people ask if we can make their drink with less sugar after they've almost finished the entire thing too - we understand if they take a sip and think it's too sweet, but you know... not after they're almost done the entire thing. The absolute worst is when people start flooding in 5 minutes before closing....

    But I do agree that it's the friendly people and regulars that make customer service jobs worth it! I love it when customers chat with me, it makes the job a lot more fun and a lot less stressful :) Though it's a little weird to me to see customers outside of work haha, sometimes I feel like they're the ones that are the soulless entities having a life :P

    becky ♡ star violet

    1. Hahaha people are worse with food than clothes, and customers rocking up right on close is the worst! xx

  8. This is a great post, I feel for all of this. Those customers who attempt to take advantage of young staff really annoy me - majority of us can see what you're doing! haha

    Adrie | http://adrie182.blogspot.com/

  9. Oh my goodness, I've never worked in retail but I can only imagine how frustrating this must be!! I'm the type of person who can never complain about anything (I get too scared!), so whenever I see this sort of thing happening in a shop, I feel so bad for the assistant having to deal with it. I just couldn't deal with trying to serve customers like that everyday!
    Sian xx Rebel Angel

  10. I've never worked in retail but I commend you, I can't begin to imagine the frustrations at times. I do think that it's universal, no matter the job, that the nice people will always make it worth it.

  11. These points are 100% spot on! It's hard work but some make it worth while x

    Hannah x | hannatalks

  12. This is so true, these points actually made me laugh out loud! x


  13. I worked in retail for a while too and it's true that some of the customers' behavior used to make my head spin. Between people who looked for the tiniest flaw to get a discount, to people who left the clothes all over the floor in the changing rooms or yelled at me because we didn't have their size in... it really made for some depressing days. But then again, like you said, they were awesome customers who made it all worth it too. :) Also, those retails days taught me to be super nice with retail people and to always say thank you' with a smile.

  14. Nicely said. You have an awesome blog!

    ~Racic || Washed by the Water

  15. Wow, I couldn't agree more. When I worked in retail I could have awful customers all day long, but as soon as a super nice customer came in, it was as if the rest of the day didn't even happen :) I love this list that you created, really hit the nail on the head!

    ElizaDeath Taylor | Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

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  17. I have experienced every single one of these when I worked in House of Fraser for 2 years. The most annoying thing is when you have all good intentions to help them but they just keep shouting at you, so I decide not to help them in the end haha xx


  18. Ah yeah reminds me a bit of when I worked in a cafe - they don't see you as a person, just someone there to serve you! The lovely people did make the days worth it though, along with some good food and some nice coworkers. Really enjoyed reading this! x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

  19. Ha, this was fun to read and I definitely agree on most! I once had a customer coming back with a shirt she'd purchased trying to get a discount on it because one of the seams weren't straight. I swear we were three people standing there measuring it and coming to the conclusion it was perfectly straight...

  20. OMG.. years of working in retail when I was younger just came flooding back to me. People can be downright hideous sometimes. Jx

  21. This post really does sum up the life of a person involved in the humungous world of retail. You're exactly right in saying the kind customers make the early wakeup calls for work worth it! :)



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