This rant may come off a bit ableist but I want to preface that this argument is for those that are able-bodied enough to avoid these behaviors.

The holidays are upon us already! Back-to-school shopping started in July. Retail companies are already putting out Christmas decorations. If you’ve never worked retail or any job with the public, I’m here to make you feel guilty and maybe reflect on your past behavior. If we’re both lucky maybe you’ll grow a little bit before the end of the blog and be more receptive to your bad behavior in retail stores. I’ve worked for nearly twenty years with the public in one way or another including in various forms of retail. I will be talking about general retail here. Big box style stores and home decor stores. I guess I can touch a little on grocery stores too but my personal retail experience was more in a big box type retail.

10: Shelves are not your garbage receptacle.

This is so disrespectful. To those around you, the employees, and to yourself. I imagine that those that leave trash on shelves in retail establishments also have a very disgusting house. You are trashy. Literally. Filled with trash. Mounds of trash fill your home and your BFF is a roach named Bob. Only leave trash on shelves if you want everyone to know that you’re a disgusting human. Do you not remember Every Bit of Litter Hurts from Sesame Street??? The song never once says to put your trash on a shelf in a store you’re in.

9: Leave your dog at home.

This one probably makes you mad, I do not apologize. Unless your dog is a REAL service dog that is trained for public spaces to help you during a crisis… No employee wants to clean up your dogs shit and pee. For some reason, people make it a routine thing to bring their dogs into hardware stores every single weekend. The hardware store is not a dog park. It’s where you buy screws and shit. I’ve seen two dogs draw blood on each other between outdoor grills and lightbulbs while I worked at a major hardware store. THEN those pet owners wanted to speak to a manager about THE STORE covering a vet bill?! NO! I guess pet stores are the exception to this rule, though.

8: Watch your children. Always.

I am pro-children in nearly all public spaces. I have two young kids that I bring with me when I have shopping that needs to get done. I trust next to no one to watch them. I get it. Bring your kids! I am for people bringing their kids with them inside (for the love of all that is golden, do NOT leave your children in the car!) while you shop. Do keep an eye on them. The retail staff is not your babysitters. If your kids are running full throttle through the store and hurt themselves there will be cameras that prove that you weren’t watching them. The store will not pay you a dime. I watched one kid get his tooth knocked out because he was using a table and chairs as a jungle gym while his mother ignored him. (A manager even warned her to tell him to stop because what he was doing is dangerous) When the lady came back to file a claim with the company she was told that our cameras showed her willfully ignoring him so her neglect wasn’t the company’s problem. There are terrible things that can happen to your kid in public spaces, don’t contribute to those bad possibilities. Equip your kids with an iPad and put them in the cart (That’s what we do. Most places have free wifi these days HELL YEAH!) or bribe your way through your trip to keep them in line but DO NOT let your kid run wild. If you have had enough you can go home with them or find a sitter. I’ve left stores because my kids refused to behave more than once. That’s my responsibility as a consumer and as a parent.

7: Put it back where you found it OR give it to an employee at the register/returns area.

Reshop (items found in random places of the store or discarded at the returns area) can be overwhelming after a busy weekend. Reshop during the holidays can be absolutely fucking ridiculous. A lot of employees don’t like putting items back after they’ve been discarded. A lot of toxic managers lose their minds when an area is infiltrated with items that don’t belong. One night after closing in November, I had a manager go through my section and throw items that didn’t belong on the floor in between aisles barking at all of us employees to find where they belong in the rest of the store. We had been rezoning the section for nearly two hours at that point and it was past midnight. A lot of us had to work doubles the next day. The items filled an entire cart! Customers had shoved merchandise behind tissues boxes and toilet paper. I’m assuming someone thought they could come back later to purchase them. For the record, my coworkers didn’t blame me for the hidden merchandise in my section. A lot of it was so strategically placed that while I was straightening items they were unable to be seen. Also, it was after midnight! While my coworkers found things they kept them hidden. It was too much to deal with so late at night on top of the regular reshop we had all worked together to put back on the shelves.

6: The customer is NOT always right.

No, you cannot return merchandise outside of the margins of the store’s policy. You have to wear shoes, a shirt and in some cases a mask to shop if the sign on the door requires it. If an employee tells you that you can’t do something because of store policy it is you that must oblige or get out. When I worked in a gym we had a list of rules that were standard. If you didn’t want to live by those rules you couldn’t work out at our gym. That’s it. Employees enforce the rules and policies of that business. Employees are not your personal servants, they are regular people showing up for a paycheck and not much else.

5: Don’t unfold a shirt if you aren’t going to fold it before putting it back.

As a woman I understand. You have to hold up 4 different L sizes to see if they’re really a L size or some brand’s version of L. Don’t contribute to a messy shirt table. Find a shirt that is already unfolded to hold up or simply fold the shirt you have in your hands before leaving the table. Do you think it makes a business look bad to have messy shirt tables? You have no idea how frustrating it is for the employee that has folded and tidied up that SAME table over and over again twice an hour for the last six hours. Be better as a consumer. This goes for towels and any other fabric folded on a table too.

4: Things that aren’t included in the term “customer service”

  • Being polite to you while you’re spitting angry in their face.
  • Answering 5000000 questions about a department they aren’t familiar with.
  • Smiling. Employees don’t have to grin ear-to-ear to appear welcoming.
  • Allowing you to say sexual comments about their body.
  • Giving you the bulk of their shift for you tell an idle story about why you chose to paint your kitchen [insert random color]
  • Retail employees are not free therapists. Please refrain from squatting out an emotional dump at their feet, thanks.
  • Aren’t required to bend over backward and do backflips for you, for anything.
  • Being on the phone with you for an hour.
  • Remembering (or even knowing/having access to) your passwords to any of your accounts related to the company.
  • Answering personal questions about themselves or about their regular work hours.
  • Answering personal questions or regular work hours about a co-worker.
  • Being your personal assistant or personal shopper.

3: Don’t call the store.

Ask yourself: what time of day is it? Is the store busy? You can check google for how busy the store is during certain hours. Are you calling during a peak busy time? Have you called more than once this week? More than once today? Put the phone down. Check the website instead. Still not getting the answers you need? Physically go to the store. Rent an uber, phone a friend to drive you… something. But stop calling! Especially as the holiday season kicks up. No one has time to go on a treasure hunt for you. The customers in the store are needy and require our attention first. If you’re really this passionate to call every forty-five minutes for an update on an item you can take the time to pop in the store once or twice a day to check the merchandise for yourself. Calling to see if the store is open during special circumstances or for ambiguous information is different. “Do you have artificial Trees out yet?” is a lot different than asking for a specific item. “Are you open although it’s snowing?” is reasonable because areas that don’t get snow very often, or an unexpected snow storm, may actually not be opening for the public and the numerous ways you look it up on the internet may not be accurate. Do not attempt to shop for items via the phone, you will always get the wrong information and it is very common for the employee to lie just to get off the phone with you. Shopping over the phone is an unrealistic expectation that needs to be frowned upon. There are so many other ways to shop these days. Online, apps, face-timing a friend who’s physically there… SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS to shop remotely that do not include a phone and an overworked employee.

2: Don’t yell at an employee or threaten them for ANY reason.

Depending on the store’s demographic the employee knows the type of customer that will most likely yell at them as an employee. Employees and managers all know these certain types of people. The employee recognizes these types instantly as this customer pushes open the door a certain way with a twisted expression. The employee is already repeating some type of mantra to keep their shit together so they won’t lose their job over the customer’s toddler tantrum. The angry customer screams, “I know the owner!” and demands the employee to start doing backflips to make them feel less angry. A lot of times, the customer is angry at store policy that is above the employee’s pay grade or mad about something that happened when the employee being yelled at wasn’t even there. When I stopped working retail it was such a relief to finally stop apologizing for things out of my control. You can be angry about a situation that upsets you without being hostile to the employees.

1: Be kind.

Working retail sucks. Dealing with toxic bosses and coworkers sucks. Swallowing your inner struggles to appear happy takes a lot of effort. There have been times in my life that I ate the condiment packets left in the break room of these retail establishments because I couldn’t afford to pay my bills and eat too. So while I’m starving, juggling multiple jobs, some customer has the audacity to storm in angry at me or call five times in one day over a piece of merchandise I could never afford?! Hell nah. Especially since the store they wanted me to put in all this extra effort for didn’t give a shit about my health and well-being. I’ve had problems resolved in stores without being angry at employees and being patient with the staff. I’ve worked in management and been a peon in multiple different types of retail establishments and generally speaking, customers may be the worst but bosses and owners can set the standard of toxicity in the building. When it’s coming at both sides it’s a wonder how there are any pleasant retail employees willing to help anyone as it is. Especially if you are requesting something from an employee, choose kindness first. Be polite and willing to wait. Harassment can be in the form of consistent calls every day, bullying an employee to “look in the back” for something, hovering at the customer service desk when you’ve been asked to leave, not accepting the employee’s words as truth, or being rude to the manager for just enforcing store policy.

I’m in a few groups that a geared towards capitalism (because that’s the only way to collect items for my favorite holiday, okay!) and I’ve seen multiple toxic instances being normalized by the group. That’s not the only group I’ve seen these things being normalized, though. I don’t think enough people have worked in a retail situation or lack the empathy to realize that treating people a certain way is wrong. Either way, I’m here to upset your apple cart.

I’m not mad that you drove over an hour to a store that you’ve been harassing non-stop and the employee pulled the wrong item from the shelves. When I worked at a big box retail store I had a manager tell me to just “make something up and make it believable because we really want them in the store shopping anyway. If you get them here, they’ll either find what they need or see we don’t have it for themselves” and I continued that practice for many years through my various retail jobs. This was before apps, online ordering, and delivery services. Times are different now and you can exhaust all other resources before bullying an employee. If these other routes are too complicated for you… well, your life is pretty hard then, I guess.

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