The Do’s and Don’t’s of Interacting With The Poor Saps in Retail

Like many of my peers in their 20’s I work a crappy retail job to make rent and keep myself in cheap liquor. It’s not glamourous, but hey it’s a job and right now you gotta take what you can get. The liquor will help you forget about the crappy job later.

I’ve worked at a seasonal store, a department store selling electronics, a cell phone kiosk, and now I work at a drug store. At every job I have encountered the same kind of horse shit on a daily basis. It’s exhausting dealing with people. If I hated people before entering the workforce I’m now a full blown misanthropist. Working in retail is a miserable position.

If you’re lucky enough to not have to work one of these shitty jobs than I ask that you take pity on those of us that do and try to make your interaction with them as painless as possible. It’s not a life and death situation here people. You’re just buying shoes/groceries/novelty gifts and that person working in that store is still a person.

A person who drinks a lot to deal with your bullshit.
A person who drinks to put up with your shit.

In hopes of bettering the world for my fellow minimum wage making Average Joes’ I’m gonna give you a list of do’s and don’t’s for addressing customer service representatives that all of my co-workers would agree with.

DO be polite and courteous. 

Just like your mama told you (and me last night in bed), “please” and “thank you” can get you a lot further with people than acting like an entitled little bitch. The nicer you are to the customer service representative the better service you’ll receive. If you’re a decent, friendly person I’m willing to go above and beyond to help you stay happy. If right from the get go you’re talking down to me I really don’t give a shit how bad you need those laxatives to dislodge whatever crawled up your asshole.

For example: I’ve had some perfectly lovely people respectfully ask me to help them track down very specific items. For these people I’ve searched through far corners of back rooms and called other stores to track down things.

I’ve also had uppity pricks demand I provide them with things I’m pretty sure I don’t have. For them I say I’ll check the back room but I really just stand behind the door for four minutes before emerging and telling them they’ll have to go elsewhere. It’s honey and piss vinegar folks.

DO have your cards/cash and items ready.

If the store isn’t busy you can take your time, within reason of course, but if there’s a line take advantage of your wait and get your shit ready so that no one has to wait for half an hour.

If you’ve spent the last 10 minutes watching some old lady rummage through her three bags for her wallet, and then her wallet for her loyalty card and then her pockets for exact change, and then her three bags again for her reusable bags; don’t get to the register and do the exact same thing. And yes, it’s always an old lady holding up the line.

You take pennies right?
You still take pennies right?

While the poor cashier is trying to bag the old bag’s 34 items after completing the purchase despite offering to do so at the beginning of the transaction use this as an opportunity to have your things ready to go.

DON’T be afraid to ask questions. 

If you need help don’t be afraid to ask. I would say you aren’t bothering me but that isn’t always true. As long as you’ve tried on your own and honestly need help I won’t be upset with you. Unless it’s to ask the price of a clearly marked item. However, if you just stand there waiting for me to notice you need help, especially when I’m no where in sight, you could be there all night. I’s not like I have a function in my brain that enables me to sense when a customer is in need of service.

Like a spidey sense only less cool.
Not to be confused with Spider-Sense which I do have. Only instead of danger I can sense when the 60’s cartoon is playing on Teletoon Retro.

I have a list of other shit to do so a lot of the time I figure if anyone really needs my help they’ll come and ask for it. It’s kind of my job to assist you and as long as you’re polite about it I’m totally cool doing that job.

DO understand that, “debit or credit?” is a question not a statement.

If I asked it’s because it matters which button I press on the register. In no context is “yes” a proper answer for this question. It’s either debit or credit.

There can be only one!
There can be only one.

DO acknowledge our existence.

No one likes being ignored especially when they’re trying to do their job. Some customers will go the entire interaction without so much as looking at the person assisting them or speaking directly to them. It’s a shitty disrespectful way to treat a person. Making a purchase is a back and forth between two people in which you are a participant. If you’re too good to deal with me than remind me again: why did you approach me?

DO hang up your fucking phone.

Unless this is a really important conversation on which the fate of national security is hanging, take a minute to put down your phone. If you don’t understand why this is frustrating please revisit the previous DO.

DON’T get mad at the cashier because you have crappy time management. 

You’re running late and that sucks ass I know. Maybe you slept in or got caught in traffic. Or maybe you were waiting for your bus and decided that the 10min before it’s supposed to arrive is a good time to load up on cosmetics and cold medication. It’s not the cashier’s fault you’re late and I guarantee you at any given time one other person in line with you is late too. Don’t have time to wait in line? Then why don’t you ask the people ahead of you if you can jump ahead because I don’t need to have them mad at me for letting you budge or better yet don’t stop to shop if you don’t have time.

Can't possibly make this worse. Challenge accepted.
Two minutes to catch my bus and ruin the cashier’s afternoon? Challenge accepted.

DON’T get mad at the associate because you had a shitty day.

I personally have experienced many shitty days over the years but never have I ever taken it out on a complete stranger. Have I taken it out on various objects and appliances? Sure. Have I taken it out on my friends? Sometimes. Have I taken it out on my family? Of course I have! But never on someone I’ve never met before who’s just trying to get through their work day. If you’re having a crappy day just go home, call it quits, and leave the general population out of it.

Or do what I do. Log some hours working on your death ray.
Or do what I do. Log some hours working on your death ray.

DON’T get mad at the associate because you can’t read.

You didn’t know that you couldn’t return that breast pump after the seal was broken? That’s funny because it says so right on the box. It also says so right on the seal. You know, the seal you had to break in order to open it henceforth rendering it un-returnable.

You didn’t know you you couldn’t return your defective printer two months after purchase? That’s funny because it clearly says 30 days for returns on both your receipt and the various policy signs posted around any store you’ve ever entered.

You bought the wrong aspirin and didn’t realized until after you opened it? That’s funny because it’s plainly labelled on the box exactly what the fuck kind of aspirin it is. Fuck you.

DO speak up.

Literally. Project people! No one likes having to repeat themselves and believe me I don’t like asking you to. Stop whispering to yourself and speak the fuck up. Do you need any help? What was that? You need a what? Are you ok? 

I’m sorry, you’re going to have to say that eight more times because I CAN’T FUCKING HEAR YOU.

DO speak english.

Or whatever language the country you’re in prominently speaks. The associate who you are seeking assistance from probably can’t speak five different languages. If they could they wouldn’t be working in retail. You don’t have to speak perfect english but at least enough words to get the point across. This is the smart phone generation google translate that shit. Don’t just keep saying that one word over and over.

DON’T hit on the associates like a dirty old man and DO take a hint.

This goes for dirty old women too I guess. As a general rule if you are, lets say, over the age of 35 and the worker you are interacting with appears to be in their early to mid twenties, like many are, you probably shouldn’t try to flirt with them especially if this includes innuendo. It makes everyone in a 5 meter radius uncomfortable.

She wont be able to masturbate for a week after that conversation.

If however you are of an appropriate age to flirt with a young associate please know when to quit. She/he’s at work so they can’t tell you off, but their insistence of getting back to work or threatening to call their manager should let you know they’re not interested. Just because you aren’t old doesn’t mean your leering isn’t creepy.

DO put things back where you found them.

Dumping shit where you will is not cool bro. Someone has to clean up after you. Hiding it behind things just makes it worse, and is it really so hard to put that picture frame up one more shelf? You were so fucking close!

Some men just want to
Some men just want to watch the world be re-faced.

DON’T hide your garbage around the store.

The fact that you tried to hide it screams guilt. If you can’t see a trash can ask someone that works there I guarantee there’s one somewhere in the place. Leaving your Starbucks cup tucked away on shelves like a petri dish to breed bacteria is fucking gross man. I don’t leave mildew on your office desk.

DON’T buy more items than you’re capable of transporting.

If you’re only one person you may want to limit the amount of shit you’re buying to one to four bags. If you’re feeble and unable to lift heavy objects maybe don’t buy heavy objects. Helping you load your car isn’t in my job description and more importantly I have no idea if you bought all that shit as a ploy to get me out to your car so you can, kidnap, rape, and murder me.

Wanting me to get into your car DOES sound an awful lot like what Ted Bundy would want.
You know who else used to ask women to help load things into his car?

If you’re walking and buying to much shit don’t just expect the cashier to look after your crap and wait for your husband to come pick it up in four hours. I can’t hang around and watch your shit all day. If it goes missing it’s not my problem.

And finally DO take the time to thank the associate. 

It may not seem like a hard job and on paper it’s not but all the jerk offs and snooty, middle-aged women who don’t follow any of the above guidelines make it a hard mother-fucking job. A “thank you” is enough show of appreciation to make the worker who assisted you feel like maybe there is some hope for the human race and maybe that “thank you” is enough to delay them drinking themselves into oblivion when they get home. At least for a couple hours.

34 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’t’s of Interacting With The Poor Saps in Retail

  1. Goob January 16, 2014 / 9:12 pm

    Beautiful! Just… so much truth.


  2. Sophisticating the Rudimentary January 17, 2014 / 1:42 am

    You nailed this. As a former retailer peon turned waiter, this provides a spot-on commentary on the tribulations of dealing with those strangers upon which our incomes depend. Brilliant.


    • ellemorrigan January 17, 2014 / 2:18 pm

      I completely forgot to include that “It didn’t scan right? It must be free!” joke. I can’t even smile in response anymore.


  3. Michelle at The Green Study January 17, 2014 / 6:27 am

    I’ve worked every crappy retail job ever and agree with all your points – very funny piece (love the Bundy reference). As an old broad now, though, I would very much like corporations to stop having their associates shriek “Welcome to Walgreens!!!!” from wherever they are in the store. Shut up already. I’m an introverted, ninja shopper. Please DON’T notice me, unless I’m shoplifting, thank you.


  4. themathmaster January 17, 2014 / 6:29 am

    I laughed and cried while reading this because it is soooooooo true. I worked way too many hours in the retail/restaurant world before I landed my current gig. I never forget how it felt to be on the other side of the counter and I try to treat them accordingly now.


  5. vampireplacebo January 17, 2014 / 8:59 am

    Before I got sick, all I did was work in retail (of sorts). I spent a good ten years working in clubs, then a few years as a cashier in a grocery store. And, besides the horrifying pay-drop, man did I miss the customers in the bars. I’d rather deal with drunk people than deal with customers of a grocery store. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep working in (good) clubs and make (good) money when you hit 30, so I didn’t wait for that depressing moment, I took myself out of the game while I was still hot (:-p ). Now I don’t have to deal with anyone, not that this situation is any better… Ok, I’m done ranting, sorry 😀


  6. bensbitterblog January 17, 2014 / 11:56 am

    Dealing with people’s crap is so draining, since I do it all day too. I try my best to treat them right too, because I know how hard it is.


    • ellemorrigan January 17, 2014 / 2:16 pm

      I don’t even like asking servers to tweak items on their menu for me. I don’t like being a bother to anyone I just want to get in and get out and be perfectly forgettable.


  7. arickell January 18, 2014 / 2:52 am

    Here here! Good to hear the same problems exist all around the world! Great post, lot’s of fight behind it haha.


  8. donnamay504 January 19, 2014 / 2:28 pm

    Found your blog by happy accident. My daughter worked retail from the bottom to a management position and every word of your blog is true, oh so true. Great that you can write it down and make it funny cause I know it isn’t really. One thing you didn’t mention was the champion coupon clippers, she had 3…the purchases were so large (in size) the clippers had to make appointments to check out! Thanks again!


    • ellemorrigan January 20, 2014 / 10:16 am

      No problem. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Coupons suck balls but most stores in Canada have coupon restrictions so it’s never by the dozens.


  9. the preschool mentor January 20, 2014 / 6:49 pm

    I came across your blog today and it made me laugh. Trust me, being a preschool teacher has many of the same elements as what you described except that the customers are 5 years old.


    • ellemorrigan January 21, 2014 / 1:34 pm

      A preschool teacher? I’d imagine you’d practically have to be Gandhi in order to pull of that job.


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