13 Things No One Understands About Working In Retail

1. Being rude to me won’t get you anywhere

I understand it’s frustrating when I can’t give you the discount you want or when we don’t have something in stock. But guess what? I make an hourly wage, I don’t make the decisions you’re upset about, I just have to enforce them with a smile on my face. It might feel good to release your frustration and be rude to me, but it’s not going to change anything, it’s just going to make you that guy.

2. The customer is NOT always right

I love customer service, I really do or I would not have lasted this long in retail. However there is a line between giving good customer service and letting someone get away with anything just because they are a (potential) customer. In my experience the people who say “the customer is always right” are cheap assholes who aren’t worth the turnover of letting them abuse the staff. Being a “customer” doesn’t supercede the golden rule. Would you speak to your younger brother or sister this way? If not, you have some soul-searching to do.

3. Working a retail job when all your friends work 9-5 is literally The Worst

No, sorry I can’t come over and watch TV on a week night, that’s when I work because everyone wants to run their errands when they are done with their 9-5 job so that’s when I get scheduled. This is even more true around any holiday when most people have extra time off and I have extra time on. I’m not being anti-social or trying to be difficult with making plans because it’s super fun, I have a work schedule just like you do and I’m probably not any more in control of it than you are.

4. Most of us don’t hate our jobs

Sometimes people make a face when I tell them what I am doing for work, as if they think its something I should be embarrassed about. No, it’s not my dream job or even really in the field I want to be in but in this economy not everyone is so lucky as to even be able to “pay their dues” in the right industry as soon as they start working. I have nothing to be embarrassed about, I’m employed, I can pay my bills, everything else is a luxury that I hope to get to in time.

5. Don’t ever try to rat us out to a coworker, we probably like each other more than we like you

Occasionally customers will try to game the system by complaining to me about one of my coworkers. I will appear to be on their side, of course, but it doesn’t change anything — either I can do what they want or I can’t. In either case, I’m smirking to myself because I’ve likely already been filled in on this particular customer (we gossip when it’s slow). I don’t understand why people always think I’m going to be eager to throw my friends under the bus for a stranger. You’re not winning points with me, that’s not how this works.

6. I’m not flirting with you

It’s really hard to be nice and smiley and helpful with men who come in alone and also try to convey, “I am doing my job well” and not “I am flirting with you.” It especially sucks when you work at a small store like I do and the same guys will come in over and over because they think they have something going on with me or one of my coworkers. I wish there were a better way to say “I’m just being nice” without hurting someone’s feelings and risking bad customer feedback.

7. I don’t set the prices

I don’t understand what customers hope to accomplish by complaining about the price to me. I don’t set them and I can’t change them, that much seems obvious (unless maybe, you were in a mom & pop store or a flea market or something). The only thing complaining about the prices is going to do is make your check-out experience awkward.


Clopening is the dreaded close-open shift, meaning you close the store down one day and come in to open it the next. This sucks during the regular season but during the holidays this can mean only getting a few hours of sleep before you’re expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed all day long, again. If you ever hear one of your friends talk about how they have clopening shifts, buy them a beer, please.

9. We don’t hate people

People who work in retail love to complain about customers because SOME customers are just really, really awful people. But we know from firsthand experience that this is a small (but very loud, very annoying) minority. Most people are happy to get good customer service, find what they are looking for, and be on their way. But for the bad customers, we also know that who you are in a store is who you are in life. If you are rude to salespeople, you are a bad person. Period.

10. “In back” is not a real place

I work at a skincare store and customers must think we have a magical meadow in our teeny tiny backroom where we grow new products for them because they are always assuming we have what they need “in back.” Let me tell you the truth: our backroom is about half as big as a (small) studio apartment. It has a bathroom for staff members, a computer to send our numbers in to corporate, and enough storage for about 3 boxes worth of supplies. We keep everything out on the floor.

11. Nothing makes me angrier than an unsupervised child

I love kids, I really do, but almost every single day there’s an accident with an unsupervised child wandering around the mall. Their parent is a step or two ahead of them playing on their phone or looking around at the stores and the kid is just walking on its own, head staring at the ceiling. Then, someone comes up behind them and doesn’t see the kid (because of how small they are) and plows it down. Kids are not good at walking in busy areas. If you are walking with a kid in a busy area PLEASE for the love of god, hold their hand or something. I’ve honestly just started calling mall security and reporting them as lost kids when the parents are too distracted to notice their kid is about to get smashed.

12. You really do pick up good skills in retail

I’m naturally on the shy side, but after a year of talking to strangers all day, every day I feel like I could make good conversation with a park bench. I’m much more confident now, if only because of how well-practiced I am.

13. There are perks to “underemployment”

Unlike all my friends who are 9-5ing, I haven’t gained weight since I left school. I’m on my feet all day, not sitting at a desk. My skin also looks amazing, thanks to my employee discount. And as annoying as it is to work evenings and weekends, doing my errands during the day is super relaxing because the grocery store, the post office, the gym — everywhere I go is almost empty. Plus, it helps that the less than stellar aspects of retail are what bonds my coworkers and I all together. There’s not an office job in the world that lets people drink and be real with each other the way we get to be when we’re all together. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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