Customericide Is Not An Option

by admin on November 4, 2010

I adore your website, I’ve also learned quite a lot from it, and now i have my own story to share.

I work for a large clothing store chain as a customer service associate. My job includes cashier, cleaning, sizing, unloading trucks and placing merchandise on the sales floor.  Every evening, the associate who closes in each department is required to size, and straighten every rack in their area.

Now, I have put up with my share of  etiquette breaches on this job, putting up with everything from having clothes on hangers ripped out of my hands so that the hangers break and cut me, to being whistled at like a dog when I don’t reach the counter fast enough to help a customer.

The worst thing happened a few nights ago.  I was the only employee in my department, which encompasses half the store. It has 7 “sub sections” so its quite a job. It was nearing closing and I was in the process of sizing and cleaning my racks, when a female customer tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but since you look like you don’t have anything to do, I mean, you’re just standing here fiddling with this rack, I took the liberty of seeing to it you’re kept busy for a while. I took the clothes off the hangers.”

When I looked behind me, to my horror I saw that she was not kidding, she really had gone through my once near spotless department and pulled most of the clothes off the hangers.

I don’t understand what possessed her to do that.  I’ve noticed that people seem to think that retail workers are less than human, and treat us with a certain amount of disdain. I make an effort to treat employees at businesses as politely as I can. I just wish more people would do the same. 1102-10

One of my daughters worked for several years in clothing retail and ooh, the tales she brought home of devious, ugly customers.  It’s times such as this I wish I were a manager because my response would be, “Ma’am, please turn around, exit the store and do not grace our premises with your presence in the future. Have a nice evening,” said very calmly yet purposely.   The customer created a safety hazard for staff and other customers and there is no requirement that she be welcome to shop further in the store.

{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

boxy November 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Okay, after I picked my jaw off the ground I found agreement with the ones who questioned how long it took for this horrible woman to do such a thing. This does NOT excuse what she did!

Seriously? What kind of management gives a worker 7 sections, i.e., half the store, to watch? I hope the store isn’t in a high crime area. Could you imagine being the only staff member on the floor and being held up? How could the employee call for help? Shame on the management! I say make them come pick things up. If nothing else they should at least help the OP or find her help. Unbelievable.

I worked retail for a number of years at a very small mom-and-pop store. The worst thing that ever happened was when someone opened their door in the parking lot and dumped out a huge amount of cigarette butts all over the pavement. The “Pop” in this case calmly grabbed a broom and pan and handed it to the customer. Incredibly the customer swept up the mess and apologized.

Reply

MetalRose November 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

YIKES! I’ve worked in retail and most of the time if I find something with out a tag, I’ll bring along another one with the price on it. And I generally put things back where they belong…. But I tell you, there is no retail hell like working a Toy Store at Christmas with Free Gift Wrapping. You have no idea the more something is free, the more demands you get on it. I was once accused of throwing (and breaking ) $.10 paper airplanes while I was bagging them after I wrapped them, individually, all 100 of them. *sigh*

Reply

Xtina November 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I also wonder how come someone would DO something like this–it is completely and utterly pointless and the woman must be mentally off or drunk or something. What a completely evil thing to do. But as others have said–although this certainly does not, under any circumstances, excuse such behavior as this customer pulled–had the customer been waiting and not been seen by the OP? Was she “retaliating” to not being waited on (but if that was the case, why didn’t she speak up or ask the OP to help her instead of just standing there silently stewing?)?

Either way, management and/or security needs to be called. No matter how “lowly” a customer may think a sales floor associate is, this is absolutely inexcusable for any reason. A chat needs to be had to figure out why someone would do that–preferably the ending should be that the crazy customer would be told never to return to the store.

Reply

ann November 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Blame the OP? Read her story again–her department covered half the store, seven sub-stations. Who hasn’t been to an understaffed department store with cash registers throughout, but only about one employee per ten areas? Nearly impossible to find help . . .

Reply

D November 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm

That’s horrible!

I’m with some of the above posters; SO many people would benefit from being forced to work retail/food service/hospitality. I’ve worked as a cashier in high school and am currently working in customer service while in college, and while I’ve been treated pretty badly at times, I still think I’ve gotten off lucky so far. (It especially annoys me when I see friends who HAVE worked in retail act rudely towards those serving them. Whenever I call them on it they always say something to the effect of “well, I had to deal with it.”)

Reply

Tribaldancer November 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I have a question for the people who criticized the OP because they feel the customer might have made the mess because she felt the OP was not doing to do her job by not coming over to help her. The customer felt comfortable coming over to the OP and tapping her on the shoulder in order to bring her attention to the mess she had made. Could she not have come over to the OP to tap on her shoulder and ask for help as well? I myself am resigned to the fact that the room doesn’t suddenly brighten when I enter and angels do not sing to announce my presence to all therein so I don’t assume that store clerks automatically notice that a) I am there and b) I need help. I realize that I am not the center of the universe and, while serving customers is a very important part of the store clerk’s job, it is not her only responsibility.

Reply

Rebecca November 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm

@ “Just a small Question”: Thinking about the way my sister’s store is set up, a customer like this could wreck probably a third of the shop in about 30 seconds. In one grab you can take almost 20 shirts off of their hangers, one sweep of your arm, take out a whole table of stacked clothes.

I am thankful I never got anyone that bad in my retail work, but I am not surprised this happened!

Reply

Patty November 4, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Customers Suck is a great site. NO, it isn’t suprising sadly. I think it is unfortunate that some would blame the OP for not thinking to repeatedly check or hearing clothes rustling behind her at the end of her shift. Don’t most stores play music over the sound system. I do agree that the woman sounds deranged, all the more reason to charge her with vandalism so she gets in the system and some help.

Reply

Amanda November 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

On one hand, those of you who mentioned about the woman probably having been working at her destruction for quite a while are probably right, and there is a possibility that the OP could have kept a closer eye on things. On the other hand, however, the OP also mentioned that there were 7 sub-sections to her department, making up nearly half the store, and she was the only employee in that department. I’m thinking about the clothing sections in most big box stores (i.e., Walmart and Target), or even department stores, and it would be next to impossible to keep an eye on everything, even if it’s happening right behind you. We also don’t know if it’s happening RIGHT behind her, or just a little ways behind her – that could make a difference as well.

Reply

Amy November 4, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I am so glad I no longer work in retail! I was hanging Christmas bears on chains from the ceiling while the store was doing a soft opening (open but not advertised). I was up on a very tall ladder with a coworker tossing the bears up to me while I was up there. A customer came round the corner, looked at what we were doing and shook the ladder, laughing. Let’s just say we didn’t wait for a manager. Between the two of us we shared in no uncertain terms that he could have seriously injured me and he might want to leave the store for good. He kept saying it was a joke, to lighten up, etc. All I could think about was if I had fallen from the top of that ladder would he have thought it so funny in court?

Reply

The Cat Whisperer November 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Speechless.

What a horrible, horrible, horrible customer! The only mitigating thing I can think of in her behalf is she must be mentally ill or emotionally disturbed. What she did was not only nasty in a way that is so mean-spirited it defies rationality, it makes no sense at all.

FWIW, I have to agree with the responders who mention that the op and her co-workers in the same position might be in danger by being left so alone in the store. While there are probably security cameras, that isn’t protection. Security cameras are great for catching people after they’ve done something harmful. They aren’t any good at protecting someone when the danger is imminent.

34 years ago, when I was furnishing my first apartment, I went into a Woolworth’s store that had a literal “bargain basement.” It was about twenty minutes before the store was supposed to close, about 7:00 PM on a week-night.

My future husband and I walked down the stairs into the basement. I wanted to buy some cheap curtains for my apartment. As we came down the stairs, I saw that there was one saleswoman visible in the whole basement area, and there was a man who I presumed to be a customer who was kind of hovering near her.

My future husband and I headed for the saleswoman so I could ask her about curtains. We were talking to each other, and the moment the guy who was near the saleswoman heard our voices, he looked our way and immediately took off up the stairs on the other side of the basement.

The saleswoman greeted us as if we were the people in the world she most wanted to see. “Oh, I’m so glad somebody came, I was afraid nobody would come!” she said. And she told us that this man had been hanging around in the basement for about half an hour apparently waiting for other customers and staff to leave. This saleswoman was the only person left, and she had to stay down there to close out the registers. She said that as soon as he was sure she was alone, the man had come toward her and had been maneuvering her back towards the employees only stock area in the back when we came in. She was sure that if we hadn’t come, she would have been robbed or raped or beaten up or all three.

I stayed with her while my husband went upstairs to find the manager, who called the police. I don’t know what happened after that, we left the store. But I do know that if someone had attacked that saleswoman, there wasn’t a soul within sight or hearing who could have helped her.

OP needs to speak to the manager about having people who close out the store stay together as a “buddy system” or something. OP is lucky that this woman she encountered was merely mean and rude. There are people out there who are genuinely evil and not afraid of doing harm.

Reply

The Cat Whisperer November 4, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I have to add: I agree with the people who have never worked in retail sales or food service, or as a cashier in a large store, you do not know what you are missing.

When I was in grad school in Texas, I worked as a cashier in the local Skaggs-Albertsons grocery/variety store. I worked there for two years, and the things I saw and experienced were just really sad.

People who would come in with coupons, not buy the item the coupon was for, and would become enraged and abusive when they didn’t get their discount.

People who would come in for limited-item sales (e.g., customer could only buy a specified number of the item at the sale price, usually two to six of the item), demand that you sell them as many as they wanted to buy, and become abusive when you told them no.

At the express check-out, people who would come in with more than the number of items specified, and get angry when you politely told them that they weren’t being fair to the customers behind them.

We had “blue laws” in force at that time, which kept us from selling certain items on Sunday. Some of the items we couldn’t sell were incomprehensible: why do the religious people object to selling toys on Sunday? Christmas eve fell on a Sunday while I was working there, and even though we roped the toy aisle off and posted signs explaining that we couldn’t sell toys, people brought them to the cash register and tried to buy them. And got enraged and abusive when we told them we were very sorry, but we couldn’t sell the items.

And carding people for alcohol sales: people who considered it a personal insult to be carded for liquor purchases.

And the people who came to the register without ID and expected us to take a check from them: “Everybody knows me.” Nope. I don’t know you.

I could go on and on and on and on. There are some people who I swear go looking for people in service jobs, who can’t retaliate and aren’t allowed to be rude back, so they can do mean things and go on little power trips.

BTW, that’s one way you can judge a person’s character: watch the way they treat people they encounter who cannot respond to rudeness or thoughtlessness. If you find someone who treats these people badly, you should never advance them beyond “acquaintance” status, because they cannot be trusted to treat people with courtesy.

Reply

Alice November 4, 2010 at 5:07 pm

This isn’t even remotely surprising to me, and I agree with those commenters who believe everyone should have to work six months in retail or some type of service job. I could not BELIEVE the things that happened in the store where I worked.

I wish people would realize what little power those working retail actually have. I mean, it’s next to zero. Almost everything that irritates you about a shopping trip has nothing to do with anything the worker can help. (That being said, people who ARE clearly lazing about, not making eye contact, and are rude and/or unhelpful drive me up a WALL, but that’s a separate entry.) For instance, my mom can’t STAND greeters in stores. She just wants to shop in peace without someone in her face the second she walks in the door. Guess what I had to do when I worked retail? Yep, greeting. It’s awful, seriously. “Hello, have you heard about our new -” “No, I’m not interested.” I’ve set her straight to a point about it, because trust me, these people know that nobody wants to hear them, haha! But that’s the thing about the zero power: If you DONT’ do it, you’re in trouble with your manager. “I haven’t heard you telling them about the newest discount!” Some of these talking points were a page long, and they want you to tell it to someone walking past you in five seconds! No wonder customers are irritated, but again, the sales person can’t help it.

In addition, the economy is so bad right now that stores are DESPERATE for customers. I would not be surprised in the least if, even if the OP did tell her manager, nothing would happen. And as for saying it herself, NO WAY. It would not be okay. I could witness someone putting a $200 blouse in her bag and stealing it, and it didn’t matter. Corporate rules were that a manager had to witness it in order to actually do anything about it, that’s how little they trusted their employees to have good judgment as to whether someone is stealing or just, “Oh, slipping into my bag for a minute.” Whether it was a rude customer, a shoplifter (sometimes taking $400 worth of clothes in one trip), someone tearing up the dressing rooms, or one woman who actually changed into a pair of pants ON THE SALES FLOOR (ewww!), I was repeatedly told, “Well, it probably won’t happen again.” They don’t dare risk making a potential spender angry. Even when coupons were expired (as in, ‘A Date is Printed Blatantly On This Paper and You Are Angry That You Didn’t Read It’), if the customer was pushy enough they’d give in to anything. ANYTHING. It was actually embarrassing, and makes you feel totally worthless.

I feel really sorry for the OP, but I hope that, even though I’m cynical and doubt it would help, s/he DID tell a manager and s/he was receptive and sympathetic, so that hopefully it will not happen again.

Reply

Rebecca November 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm

As frustrating as it is to wander around a huge store and not be able to find an employee, I wish these customers would actually think about this for a second: the employee does NOT get to decide how many staff work that day. If it’s a large chain, often the managers don’t get to decide either. Where I worked, the store managers who did the scheduling were limited by a payroll budget decreed by corporate head office (ie people who didn’t actually work in the stores). Taking out your frustration on an overworked employee just isn’t fair. That employee also wishes he/she had a little more help, trust me.

As for the appearance of “doing nothing” this story reminds me of a rude woman who came into the store where I once worked. The magazine order had come in and it was my job that day to go through the order, make sure everything on the invoice had actually been received, sort them, and put them on the shelves. I was busy going through the invoice, using one of the closed cash desks to do this, and also chatting briefly with a friend who had been shopping in the store (I did not stop my work to chat; I was still checking magazines off the invoice while I chatted). This woman comes over with her toddler, plonks her purchases right next to my “please use next cashier” sign, and says to her toddler, “I see this young lady has nothing to do. We’ll pay for our purchases here.”

I explained to her that this cash register was closed and that the next one over was open, but she didn’t want to wait in line (which consisted of about 2 people). Well I couldn’t have rung her purchase up anyway, because there was no float in that drawer. “Well I’m paying by credit card anyway.” Sorry, no, but it doesn’t work that way. The only time we used that cash desk was at Christmas when it was really busy, so we weren’t about to ring in one purchase and create a bookkeeping headache just for her. She stormed off in a huff. At least she didn’t destroy anything though. But how rude for her to tell me I wasn’t doing anything, when I was doing the magazines.

Reply

Cooler Becky November 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm

OP: Based on your feedback, my advice is to seek out a different place of employment. If your store manager cuts corners and is a spineless wimp, then it’s not worth working for him. Any store manager that can’t stand up for his/her own employees doesn’t deserve to have any.

Reply

Me November 4, 2010 at 6:04 pm

The OP said that she asked the lady if she would like help and the lady said no. This is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations in retail – if you leave the customer alone, you’re accused of providing bad service, but if you hover, you annoy the customer.

The OP also mentions that this was near closing time, which in most stores means cleaning and getting the store ready for the next day. If the OP had greeted her then gone back to what she was doing, well I don’t see a problem with that at all. The customer has seen the sales assistant and knows who to go to if she needs help.

Good on the OP for keeping their cool – I don’t think I would have been able to!

Reply

Kelly November 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Back when I worked in retail, it was customers like this one (although I never did have one quite this extreme!) who kept me muttering to myself the following words from a Monty Python sketch: “Never kill a customer.”

Reply

Age November 4, 2010 at 7:34 pm

My favorite bad working memory was when I was crushing boxes to put in the dumpster while my co-worker and I waited a out lull in customers. Then the store owner’s son came to the window and started chatting with my co-worker while she wiped off the counters. I talked with him as well, but I continued my work. It was raining cats and dogs outside, there was no way anyone was going to come to our window and buy ice cream.
Right after he left, his father called up. He said he’d been watching us on the cameras (they have them hooked to the internet) and that we were bad employees and that he would take it from our paychecks.
Actually the truth was that he and his son weren’t getting along and his son had quit his parent’s business without their permission (actually he had asked to quit forever and they wouldn’t let him, although he was a senior and wanted to play football his senior year. Finally he just stopped working or didn’t show up- and they fired him. I guess they felt better firing him then allowing him to quit!)
So the real truth was that he was angry at his son so he took it out on us. By that time, my coworker had had just about enough of our managers creepily watching us at random moments… we heard about how they used to bring up the camera on the internet while friends and family were over and watch us to make sure we were working… so my co-worker quit, and I couldn’t blame her!

Reply

Sarah Jane November 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I agree with those who suggest that she is either emotionally disturbed or on the bottle.

Reply

Toni November 4, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Here’s the reality of retail: Stores are given a bare minimum of payroll each week. When you can’t find anyone to help you, it isn’t because they are off hiding somewhere–there really is no one there. Sales floors left without adequate coverage, only one cashier available, and along with offering customer service, we also have task work we are responsible for. Even though there are a lot of registers, only a few are actually open–there aren’t enough cashiers to man them anyway. Oh, and here’s news for you: we don’t have janitorial staffs. We have to clean up the disgusting mess (and believe me, you have NO IDEA!) left by pigs in the restrooms. Then, we go out and ring up your purchase. When you yell at the cashier because she has a line and no one is coming to help, or you are nasty to the greeter, or you get annoyed when we cross sell at the register (It’s REQUIRED, and they measure our numbers every day), or you’re shocked–just SHOCKED about the state of the rest room, you are picking on people who are helpless to do anything about it. Call the Corporate office and complain. They set the numbers and agendas. Complaining to the store manager is stupid, too, because they can’t do anything about it either. And all for a crummy $8 an hour.

Reply

Princesssimmi November 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I hate people like that. That sounds like something my brother would do.

Just a thought- please also treat your fast food and delivery people kindly. I delivered a pizza last night at 12.30am (I was supposed to finish at midnight) in pouring rain, completely soaked, cold, tired and cranky, to three extremely drunk males (I’m a young white female in an area predominantly of Indians and Asians) who refused to let me in until I talked like Yoda. And then refused to tip me because I didn’t do it well enough. I finally went home at 1.30am.

Reply

Jelaza November 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm

The OP said: “also, I did notice the customer, and had asked her several times if there was anything i could do to assist her. she insisted that she was fine.”

Having worked retail myself, I wonder if that may be the problem (not anymore, thankfully). I’ve encountered customers who, for some reason, get angry or offended when asked if they needed assistance. I can honestly imagine one of these deciding “Well, if she’s offered to assist me when I obviously don’t need help, that means she doesn’t have any REAL work to do, so I’ll give her some.” So, it’s your fault for not using your Psychic Retail Worker Powers to know that already.

Reply

Amy November 5, 2010 at 3:06 am

I really don’t see what kind of pleasure this extremely rude customer got out of this stupid stunt…there has to be screw loose somewhere. To all who do work retail out there, thanks for all you do…..anywhere from putting up with others people’s kids, to people talking on their cell (while shopping), to having debit cards declined (embarrasssing for botht the consumer and the cashier), to returns with no tags or receipts. I KNOW I couldn’t do it……I don’t have the patience it takes or the ability not to put my awfully large foot into my even larger mouth. Thanks.

Reply

jenna November 5, 2010 at 5:08 am

This makes me sick and sad. That woman is clearly disturbed…that’s worse than just being a nasty or rude customer, that’s practically a personality disorder.

I used to waitress in an airport branch of a well-known American restaurant chain (it doesn’t even matter which one; they all look and taste the same. International House of BJ McRuby Crackerbee Bennifriday’s). Oh, the stories I could tell. None quite as bad as this one.

I like to think people, on the whole, are more good than evil. But really. Makes ya wonder.

Reply

Chocobo November 5, 2010 at 9:17 am

This lady has taken the express train to Crazytown!

Reply

Bint November 5, 2010 at 9:26 am

Try working in the dole office (people on benefits in the UK). I did a student placement there once and think someone threatened to kick my head in every single day. Every day there was screaming, threatening, abuse – and always from people demanding extra things they weren’t entitled to. People carried on screaming abuse at you when you went for lunch in the street.

One woman chained herself to a radiator screaming abuse because she wanted an extra payment she wasn’t entitled to, but that’s topped off by the woman who slammed a dirty nappy onto the counter glass when she wasn’t happy.

I was so glad we worked behind locked doors and safety glass.

I don’t care if they’re frustrated or whatever, frankly: acting like that – or like that customer did in the story – is the sign of trash.

Reply

Michelle P November 5, 2010 at 10:17 am

Been there, done that. I’ve worked customer service for years, starting in fast food. I’m now a bank teller, and even though it’s a higher job it doesn’t get much better. “No, you can’t cash your mother’s social security check!”

When I was 18 and working the drive through at McDonald’s, a guy pulled up. We talked face to face, didn’t have an intercom. He was so upset he couldn’t see the menu while he decided what he wanted. He kept saying, well s**t, well s**t. I ignored it, just kept my face on the register and waited for him to order. (Later I would have simply closed the window, but I was young then). I finally said, calmly and politely, “Sir, would you please not talk that way?”

He SPIT IN MY FACE and drove off. Luckily it landed on my arm. SPIT on me and took off. By the time I realized what had happened he was gone. Side note-my boss thought it was funny.

Reply

A November 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

Clearly this was less of a breach of etiquette and more of a cry for help.

Reply

Sara C. November 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Ohh that is brutal! Reminds me of my days in retail – I approached a woman in the clothing store I worked in, as she looked quite perplexed. She said she was shopping for her daughter who lives in another province and was unsure of what size to get. Keep in mind I was about 19 years old at the time and roughly a size 6-8 at the most (not that it makes it any less horrible of her). I said “Well, compared to me is she smaller, larger?” She looked me up and down, sneered and said “Well she’s not as FAT as you!” All I could muster was “Ok then” and turned and walked away. She then had the audacity to complain I was being rude by walking away. My manager, thankfully, had witnessed it and told her “I would have done the same thing. That was very unnecessary and hurtful!”

Reply

Lee November 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

They say that one of the best judges of a person’s character is how they treat retail employees and waiters. That woman clearly must have had some serious issues if the only way she could think to lift herself up was to do something cruel to someone who couldn’t retaliate.

Reply

LMVattimo November 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm

OP: Oh, the whistling thing makes me SO angry. I had an ASSOCIATE, not a customer whistle for me once. I couldn’t believe it. Fortunately after I asked him what the heck he thought he was doing he realized that he was being an idiot and never did it again.

Sadly, I totally believe what this woman did. It is not the OP’s fault. There is NOTHING that she did to warrant the customer’s behavior. Said customer needs to be escorted out of the store and never allowed back. It’s bad enough when people inadvertently waste an employee’s (and thus the store’s) time, but to do it intentionally is beyond wrong. She seems to suffer from the common misconception that unless an employee is running around the store they aren’t working. In these instances I always want to ask the customer where they work, so I can go to their place of employment and royally screw things up. If the tables were turned I doubt she would be as polite as we are required to be.

Reply

Miss Raven, infuriated November 6, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I don’t know how many have already come out in favor of mandatory customer service, but I’m for it 100%. It’s more important than mandatory military service, IMHO. I’ve been working customer service now for almost 8 years in various places and my heart goes out to you, OP. Big time.

In response to the other comments, my copious experience makes me believe the following:
1. This happened exactly the way the OP said it did
2. This woman is not disturbed, deranged, or making a cry for help, she’s just cruel and misguided
3. Nothing about this whatsoever was the OP’s fault.

There is a contingent of people on the other side of the counter who are horrible to deal with. Although they have never worked customer service themselves, they believe that unless they can immediately identify what it is you’re doing and how it is relatable to what they assume to be your job, that you’re slacking off. They also believe that for some reason it is their business to make sure that you are doing, at every second, what they believe to be your job. Whether it directly affects them or not.

These are people who won’t stop for a second to contemplate the fact that in every business, there are practices and activities that go on “behind the scenes” that keep the business running. And if you tell them, they won’t believe it, because it’s more fun or satisfying for them to believe that the ignoramuses with the nametags are having a little holiday on the clock.

This woman derived some satisfaction from “righting” what she believed to be some injustice against the company. I’ve run into it before and it’s absolutely horrible. I’ve had snotty busybodies “tell on me” to my manager for everything from talking on my cell phone TO MY MANAGER to answering a question from a newer employee to not adhering to a dress code that didn’t exist. I’ve also been chewed out by customers for “leaving my post” (to restock my station, one of my duties and it doesn’t restock itself) even though there was no customer present requiring help.

Nothing as awful as this story has happened yet, but I’ve run into this woman before in all her incarnations. Too bad her parents didn’t make her get a minimum wage job in high school. Bah.

Reply

Maryann November 7, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I suspect the woman is mentally ill. She seems to have been using the OP as an outlet for her sadistic impulses.

Reply

kingshearte November 8, 2010 at 11:16 am

The OP having now clarified that she had in fact acknowledged this woman before the wreckage, I pretty much take back any blame I might have been inclined to lay in that direction.

It does depend, too, on the priorities of one’s management. Mine are all about the customer service, and would prefer that the merch fixing be abandoned any time there were customers in the vicinity. Hell, with only one person in such a large area, they’d probably insist on no touching of the merchandise at all unless it was to put it in a customer’s hand (which, by the way, is a policy that drives me crazy, but that’s another issue), regardless of the mess that might leave the store in at the end of the night, so that may have coloured my reaction as well.

Nonetheless, if I wasn’t clear at the time, I certainly did not intend to imply that any extenuating circumstances of that sort at all excused the customer’s behaviour.

Reply

Ellamay November 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I came across this story today as I visited Etiquette Hell following a bad retail incident I witnessed today.

I was in a designer purse outlet store browsing – they were having a nice sale and items that were normally $500+ were now marked down to under $200 each, so the store was fairly busy. A young lady came over and offered me her assistance, we chatted about a couple of items and she helped me price them with the applicable discounts. As we were talking, a well-dressed woman on a cell phone started yelling “EXCUSE ME, PLEASE” and SNAPPING HER FINGERS at this sales associate, to get her to come over. I looked at the woman (who I will call Cell Phone) and said “She’ll be with you in a minute, I have a question for her.” At which the woman on the cell phone huffed and turned around. The sales associate finally walked over to Cell Phone and was greeted immediately with huffy questions barked at her in a presumptuous tone of voice. The kicker was that Cell Phone wouldn’t even wait for the poor girl to respond – she would start talking on her cell phone again before the girl could even get the words of her answer out of her mouth! I watched this unfold for several minutes while Cell Phone dickered back and forth with whoever she was talking to, finally picked out a bag and took it to the cash register. The funniest part? Cell Phone and I ended up at the register counter at the same time and the manager smiled politely at Cell Phone and said “I hope you’re happy with your purchase, ma’am – and if you’re not, maybe next time you come in you would be kind enough to hang up your call while you’re shopping so our sales staff can assist you.” At which I chimed in, “Yes, especially since the sales staff is right here and can actually SEE the merchandise!” Cell Phone shot us both dirty looks, paid for her bag, and flounced out.

You really can’t explain people to me. At all.

Reply

UK Helen November 9, 2010 at 6:54 am

It is weird, the way some people see you when you work in retail. I once worked in a florist’s shop where I had to deal with displays on the street, while wearing the shop uniform. If I stop on that area of the street as a member of the public today, people walk around me; but when I was wearing my uniform and busy, people walked into me, time after time! It was as if they couldn’t see me.

A customer once came into the florist’s while I had my back to her and was busy with a display, so I didn’t know she was there. She must’ve seen my long hair and assumed I was a young girl, because she said with sarcasm, “ARE you available to serve me?”. When I turned round, smiled and said, “Certainly, what would you like?”, horror passed over her face as she realised we were the same age. To her credit, she was terribly embarrassed – but why did she think it was OK to address a younger woman that way?

WRT whistling at staff: there’s a story about a man in my family who ran a decorating business. He and his men were working on a big hotel, when one of the managers whistled to attract his attention. He called his men and walked off the job, saying, “I am not a dog, sir, that you should whistle at me!”.

I find it odd and unpleasant that the woman in the story not only vandalized the display, but went over and drew the assistant’s attention to it. How bizarre is that? But then I’ve come across men who’ve done that kind of boasting to me:
(a) in a car park when I couldn’t find the right change for the machine, a man behind me rattled a tin of change and announced that HE had lots of change. Note: he wasn’t offering to help me out, which is what I would’ve done if the roles were reversed. He was just gloating.
(b) on an orienteering run, when a friend and I were novices and couldn’t find something, a man watched us for a bit and then announced, “I know where it is,” and left – ???!!
Is there a technical term for this behaviour? (Apart from the obvious, unprintable ones?) To etiquette hell with the lot of them!

Reply

M. November 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Good Lord, now I truly have heard it all.

Reply

--Lia November 9, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I realize it’s too late for this situation, but I beg everyone who works in retail to ask on the first day of the job what the procedure is for getting help when you notice someone stealing or vandalizing the store. What if it weren’t hanging clothes back up on hangers? What if it were taking out spray paint and ruining a wall or breaking store fixtures or peeing on the floor or ripping up clothes? Whatever the proper procedure is in those situations is the proper procedure in this one. Get the security guard or call the police. Creating that much extra work for the employees is stealing money every bit as much as breaking windows is.

Reply

Hellbound Alleee November 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm

And, sadly, as the last commenter said, “peeing on the floor” (and worse), is a common occurrence.

Reply

Alex November 13, 2010 at 11:53 pm

oh my goodness!! What on earth would possess someone to do that?!?! That is seriously unbelievable! I am still in shock!! I mean, why did she decide to be the “police” and decide you had nothing to do?? I don’t work retail and I certainly know that clothes don’t just end up in the right sizes on the rack. unbelievable!

Reply

LadySnowblood November 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm

As I thought about what to type in response to OP and others’ stories from hell, I realized how jaded I might sound to some.

The OP’s story doesn’t surprise me in the least bit. It’s pretty sad the way some people act in public and treat other people. And no, no drugs, alcohol, or mental defects are not needed to display this behavior (I’m sure they’re involved in some cases, but like I said, not necessary). If you think only a mentally deranged psychopath could do something like that, you should work a retail job.

Customers intentionally wreaking havoc and destrucution because they believe they are doing you a favor by keeping you employed, or because they think they’re just being funny or cute?
Check.

Peeing on the floor (ok, in the bathroom that’s more understandable, still disgusting. But smack dab in the middle of a store? Come on)
Check.

Yelling, screaming, cussing, threatening, throwing things and stomping their feet because they aren’t getting their way?
Check.

Oh hell, what’s the point. You could write volumes of encyclopedias containing nothing but this kind of behavior. Having previously worked in customer service for several years (a few years at a large retail clothing store and almost 5 years as a call center customer service rep for a health insurance company), people never ceased to amaze me. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, someone else will take the cake.

Although I would like to add that most people ARE actually resonable, polite, decent human beings, but there are more than enough bad apples out there to create nightmares like these for the brave people who have to deal with the general public for a living (isn’t there a phrase about 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the people. that’s what it’s like, IMO.) Like another poster said before, the way someone treats other people speaks volume of their character.

As a closing note, I would just like to say that in a lot of difficult cases, the customer has a valid reason to be upset (speaking in my experience). I understand everyone loses their cool some times or needs to vent sometimes. Just keep this in mind though. Being abrasive and difficult to deal with does not help you one bit. Sales associates, customer service reps, and the like are not subhuman creatures there to serve your every whim and desire. They are human being just like you and me. The harder you are to deal with, the less time people are going to want to spend interacting with you. Translation, you will probably bare minimum help and nothing more. The nicer you are, the more likely you are to receive more assistance or that extra mile because the person helping you isn’t concerned with trying to get rid of you as quickly as possible. Even when they can’t outright retaliate or defend themselves, you will still reap what you sow in some form or fashion, it may not be obvious but usually it’s there. You know the saying, you catch more flies with honey…
Just sayin

Reply

Jamie January 1, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I once had a customer tell me it was her job to create a mess and my job to clean up after her.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: