12 Tips For Working In Retail Without Killing Everyone Around You

1. Don’t Follow People Around the Store

For customers, this is annoying and overbearing. Depending on who you do it to, it could unintentionally come across as racist, ageist, or something equally politically incorrect. Instead, try and guess where the customer is headed, and attempt to remain one step ahead of them at all times. Try looking repeatedly over your shoulder with a very judgmental stare, and, if they wind up in the same spot as you, say something like, “Fancy meeting you here…” in a really rude tone of voice. Serves them right — what, they think they’re too good to be followed?

2. Don’t Let Your Friends Come Into the Store to Visit You

Doing this while you’re on the clock is inexcusable: you should be leaving the store to visit them.

3. Whenever a Customer Asks You Something, Consult the Back Room

As a retail worker, you should always maintain an air of professionalism and a courteous, inviting smile; this ensures that customers will feel comfortable asking you for assistance. Of course, helping customers is probably just about the last thing you want to do, especially since the majority of them have never become acquainted with phrases like, “please” or “thank you,” and have certainly never taken the time to consider the fact that they may actually be a total assclown.

However, a customer’s question provides you with the valuable opportunity to drop whatever you are doing and answer, “Hmm… let me check the back room” or “Let me ask my manager.” Seriously, would you rather be stocking American Idol refrigerator magnets or aimlessly wandering around your store’s customer-free back room? And it doesn’t matter if the customer asks you something you already know the answer to, like “Where’s the bathroom?” or “What time is it?” Regardless of whatever their half-way intelligible question is, it provides you with an opportunity for sweet, sweet momentary escape.

4. Don’t Work in a Store that Plays a Limited Music Playlist

This is more of a warning than a tip: If you work in a store that uses a playlist of fewer than 100 songs for in-store music, you will probably show up for work one day wearing a trench coat and wielding an axe while screaming the lyrics to a Michelle Branch or Maroon 5 song.

5. Make Up Your Own Holidays

Unfortunately, working in retail often means working on holidays. Missing out on these traditions can cause anxiety, depression, and a ton of guilt from your family. What I recommend to remedy this is inventing your own holidays to make up for the ones you’re stuck working on. While you won’t get the sense of unity and familiarity that traditional holidays bring, you get the added bonus of celebrating things you actually care about on your own schedule. For instance, while your friends are stuck working on September 18th, you can be chillaxin’ at home, celebrating the anniversary of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline’s tragically brief marriage!

Some other holidays I’ve invented include the upcoming power duo of Arbor Day Eve (April 26th) and Hitler’s Death Day (April 30th), as well as The WNBA All-Star Game, Cockblock a Stranger Day, and National Weird Al Appreciation Day. You will definitely be able to take these days off because you’ll be the only one asking for them. Well, also because no one will want to celebrate them with you.

6. Take Advantage of Time Away From Your Manager

Hopefully you’ll have the privilege of working for a trusting manager who allows you to handle duties like opening and closing the store when he’s not around, or working on his usual days off or vacation days. Working without a manager around to meddle in your affairs is the prime benefit of being in the retail field. Just think, you’re your own boss — you run the store… except you could care less whether anything gets sold or not. You need to take advantage of this time to do whatever the hell you want, from blasting Slayer over the loudspeakers to scare away customers to ripping bong hits in the back room. After all, this is your time to shine.

7. Learn Where Everything in Your Store is

This will provide you with grim satisfaction when you have dialogues like the following:

Customer: Yeah, where’s your selection of domestic beers?
You: This is a pet store, you incomparable moron.
Customer (staring at you blankly): …
You: Let me check the back room.

8. Encourage Shoplifting

In fact, you should remove the anti-theft tags from as many items as possible and leave them lying around the exits of your store. Just think: every time someone shoplifts, it’s like they’re punching your boss directly in the balls (and/or ovaries).

9. Lie Blatantly About Your Products

Customers love to ask esoteric questions about your store’s products, like “Are these Cheerios organic?” or “What country were these shoelaces manufactured in?” If you work for a store that takes pride in the knowledge of its staff, that’s great. But most consumers are under the mistaken assumption that places like T.J. Maxx, Walmart, and Discount Bob’s 98¢ Store provide extensive product information training. They might be surprised to discover that the training usually consists of, “There’s the bathroom. Do you know how to use a punch clock?”

Use these opportunities to feed the creative impulses that so often go unused in the retail field. Compensate for the fact that you have literally the exact same level of knowledge regarding your products as a random person off the street by inventing impressive facts and thrilling back-stories.

“Well sir, these jean shorts are actually made entirely from high-quality denim cultivated from the renowned Jort Farms of the Pacific Islands.”

“Yes, ma’am I do recommend those Q-tips — they’re made from real ostrich bones.”

10. The Customer is Always Right

Just kidding, I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.

11. ABC – Always Be Closing

I’m not sure what this means, but Alec Baldwin says it like thirty times in Glengarry Glen Ross, which is a movie about salesmen and salesmanship. I usually just repeat it incessantly to customers with a quizzical look on my face. “Always be closing? Always… be… closing?” Sometimes I even drool. Eventually, they take the hint and leave me alone.

12. Whenever Possible, Wear a Name Tag With Someone Else’s Name On It

Well, duh. TC mark

image – Hryck.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Michaelwg

    ” Don’t Work in a Store that Plays a Limited Music Playlist”
    It was a restaurant for me, but basically if I hear anything by Frank Sinatra then Pavlov’s Law kicks in and I start re-filling people’s water as my eyes glaze over…

    • Anonymous

      Working at a restaurant called Life’s a Beach ensured I’d never enjoy the Beach Boys again.

  • amanda

    i used to say a lot of things like, “these jeans that have the holes, rips and stains on them- they are aged 25 years and took a really long time to get this look. thats why they are $298. its actually a really good deal.” also you have to pretend that you love and wear EVERYTHING in the store. “omg, i LIVE in these $155 james perse button downs and hanky pankies. i never wear anything else”.

  • Dorow86

    I’ll either take a long time to check the backroom for merchandise we don’t carry, or I’ll excuse myself to the bathroom, hang out for a while, and just stare into the mirror.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charity.edgar Charity Edgar

    #3 was the story of my life the summer after freshman year in college when I picked up a second job at the Gap. I really should have just stuck with food service. I could never find anything in the store. Just when I’d figure out where everything was placed/stored, they’d have us redo the layout.

    Customer: Excuse me, do you have these jeans in a 4?
    Me: Let me check in the backroom.
    *head to backroom and drink a soda and check my phone; return to sales floor*
    Me: Sorry about that. You’re either going to have to lose or gain weight – we have 2s and 6s. haha just kidding……kind of. So, do you want to open a Gap credit card?
    *cue Peter Bjorn & John’s Young Folks* (#4 is also a reality for anyone who’s worked at the Gap)

    • Katie

      I worked at the Gap for 2 years. They loved Peter Bjorn and John so much. Also they switched the denim and active sections all the time and it was the WORST since I was in the fitting room and constantly had to relearn where I needed to run stuff. And Gap cards… they will haunt me forever.

      • http://www.facebook.com/charity.edgar Charity Edgar

        No joke, my store based our hours on how many Gap cards we opened (or at least they said they did). You’d see these people with credit cards spilling out of the bags/wallets signing up for yet another card to save that, what? 30% on the first purcahse….in my mind I’m screaming “DON’T DO IT!!!!!!” but in reality I’m just regretfully smiling because I knew I was one Gapcard closer to extra shifts on the next schedule.

    • Anonymous

      AH! I love this.  I could have written the exact same comment regarding my experience with Gap, save replacing Peter Bjorn & John with the exponentially worse Matt & Kim.  I looked my LOD square in the face one day and said, “If I have to listen to Block After Block one more time, I WILL use denim to sweep the floor.” She thought I was being funny.  The back room was my mecca. 

      I quit before they made me do additional Gap Card training because I will not promote 25% interest! 

  • Owy

    Sometimes, I hear my workplace in-store music even when I’m someplace else…
    It blows my mind.

  • Anna B

    Oh my god. Number 3 is the only reason I could survive a summer working at Victoria’s Secret – you need a 30F? Sure, let me just go check….

  • guest

    I am a cashier at World Market, I never get to go to the back. I have to stay up front. Which means I stand up there and think and listen to the same 10 songs over and over. It’s awful. I need to find a different part time gig. 

    • Ted Pillow

      Yeah, you should get a job stocking or something. It still sucks, but it’s like a sustained orgasm compared to being a cashier.

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    13. If you have to work on Black Friday, procure Xanax by whatever means necessary.

    • Marleigh

      If you have to work Black Friday and you’re pregnant, pretend you’re dead. Seriously, one year I was working at Target and the six month pregnant manager got hit in the stomach with a shopping cart. She ended up being fine, but not after a terrifying hospital trip…

      • Ted Pillow

        Good God.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, the customer is NEVER right.  It’s actually funny how stupid people are.  I used to work in Customer Service for a sports camp company.  One day, this woman called in to sign up her daughter for a RUNNING camp.  At the end of the call, I said, “I hope your daughter enjoys her running camp.”  She then responds, “Oh, actually I don’t know.  She has bad foot arches and probably shouldn’t go to a running camp.”  It took every ounce of me to not say, “Are you fucking serious right now?”

    Part of me is glad things like that happened so I can share these stories.

  • LP

    I work at a bookstore and you’d be surprised at the amount of idiots.

    “I’m looking for this book can you help me find it? I don’t know the title or the author but the cover is blue and it was on the table for “books of the week” five months ago!”FACEPALM

  • cc

    It’s when the Christmas Album comes in and you’re stuck listening to “I wish it could be Christmas everdaaay”.  It’s a whole new kind of Hell.

  • Molly

    I work at Gymboree. We moved to a new store in the mall two months ago and that store has music, but before that we didn’t have music. We had GymTV. Only thing worse than repetitive music is repetitive clips of CHILDREN’S SHOWS. Yo Gabba Gabba, Wow Wow Wubzy, etc…. I could feel my soul slowly draining away.

  • Clara Jumper

    I worked at Kohls for 6 years while going to college and the last year I had no choice but to continue working there because I could not find a job with the bad economy. It sucked so much and the other workers were so low-class I was almost depressed. I was lucky enough marry well and quit my job to move to Hawaii and be a housewife. Since the managers were not very kind to me, abused me while I worked there, and gave a promotion away to a woman who spoke was less educated and skilled but spoke Spanish, and I was leaving anyways, all my customers who were kind to me all got 30% or more off their purchases. If you had good manners and didn’t act superior to me because I was your cashier, you got between 30-50% just because I wanted to give it to you. We have this special button on the registers called “Yes We Can” and you can use this for any discount, any time when you need to help out a disgruntled guest. I used it very liberally my last few weeks of working. What were they going to do, fire me? People hated me because I was educated and paid it all from working that crappy job and not spending money frivolously. So when I got married and moved by the beach, I bragged and bragged about it to everyone and made sure they knew that I was not going to be stuck there like they were.

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