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 }

Shayna November 4, 2010 at 9:30 am

?!?!

I just…there’s no…I can’t…gah! I don’t even know what to say to this!

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Rosie November 4, 2010 at 9:31 am

OMG! are you serious. And how old did this person appear to be? did she appear to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs? That is the only explanation I can think for a person to do something so rude and heartless to a human being.

OP, what was your response?

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Amber November 4, 2010 at 9:35 am

Shock. Absolute shock. Rude to the employee who has to clean up the mess, rude to any customers who come in and would NOT want to sift through clothes on the floor…why? What would POSSESS…I can’t wrap my head around this.

Sometimes on this site I just can’t understand the way people think. This is one of those times.

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etimodnar November 4, 2010 at 9:36 am

Having worked in both retail and hospitality, I really REALLY wish it were compulsory for everyone to do at least 6 months in each.

I cannot comprehend what possessed her to do that!! The kind of behaviour that woman pulled fills me with a kind of rage that is NOT appropriate to express. Ever. So I’ll just seethe and sympathise with you!

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EMily November 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

yikes, that sounds like it borders on vandalism, I’d have asked her politely to wait just a second and phoned the manager so that they could tell her she’s no longer welcome and if she ever purposely destroys the store again the police will be called.

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Ruth November 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

That’s horrifying. Even if she didn’t have anything to do, one could admire her for having gotten her department into good shape instead of wrecking it.

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SHOEGAL November 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

OMG!!! There are no words for this behavior – I truly don’t know what I would have said at that moment but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been very polite.

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Abby November 4, 2010 at 9:39 am

That is really awful. Wonder if that woman was like, mentally unstable? It is really unfortunate there really is no way to punish her or retaliate. What an awful person.

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Pam November 4, 2010 at 9:43 am

I wish there would have been a enforcible way to make her hang up and brush off all the clothing she vandalized….

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TychaBrahe November 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

I would be so tempted to call security or the police and have her arrested for vandalism. I cannot believe that someone could be so thoroughly MEAN.

If she were a normal human being, I think an appropriate response would be to sit down and cry. Maybe she would feel guilty. Or hold her and scream for a manager, who might force her to help clean up the mess she had made. I just can’t imagine being forced to clean up that awful mess.

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Allie November 4, 2010 at 9:53 am

Sometimes I think instead of etiquette hell these people belong in a mental institution where they can get the help they need while incarcerated for the protection of themselves and others.

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Sorry, just a small question... November 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

While I’m not excusing the unkind customer’s behavior and sympathize with OP, something troubles me. It must have taken the “customer” a few minutes to unhang all of those clothes, right? Did OP look in that direction in the most recent few minutes? Had the customer been hoping to be served, then get so passive aggressive when the OP didn’t notice her? Granted, the customer should have directly asked for service, but was she feeling ignored and then got aggressive? I’m not excusing her behaviour in the slightest – it’s just that I’m shocked at it and am trying to figure out how the situation may have come about.

Please soldier on, OP. There are many more kind people in the world than meanies like that “customer”.

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AS November 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

Unbelievable!
I have never worked in retail, but usually try to finish my shopping faster if I know the shop is closing pretty soon so that I don’t overwork the staff after their day’s work (most staff are nice enough and willing to stay untill the last of customers finish anyways). My mother would have given me an earful had I behaved like this woman, even when I was 5 years old! You don’t need to be in a profession to understand basic human compassion. Donno what some people think.
That said, I often get the feeling that people don’t understand that every profession has its own demands. I am a Ph.D. student, and I have a few (non-grad student) friends comment that not everyone is lucky enough to be a student for so long. Once a friend of mine asked me for a favor, and he said he chose me because his other friend was in a “real job” and “has to work untill 6:00PM!” (I hardly get out before 8 or 9PM, and hence I declined doing the favor)).

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Gemma November 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

I’d say something, but I can’t speak with my jaw on the floor!

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BB-VA November 4, 2010 at 10:01 am

This is one situation where I believe in the draft.

Not into the armed services, but into food service/retail. I think the world would be a much nicer place if everyone had to go through at least six months of facing the public in all its unreasonable glory.

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many bells down November 4, 2010 at 10:07 am

I’ve never worked in retail, and that made me want to vomit.

I refold shirts I look at (although I grant my folding skills are not as good), and I return things to racks if I don’t want them. Why make an employee take a trip to put it back when I’m going back out into the store anyway?

It’s probably a good thing I don’t work in retail, because I’m sure my response would have been a less-than-polite “WTF is wrong with you?! I just picked all that up!”

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Just Laura November 4, 2010 at 10:08 am

The sad part is the in retail (or in fast food) a lowly employee can’t ask the customer to leave, as it hurts the bottom line. When I was 16, I worked as a grocery cashier. People would break things on the counter, toss food on the counter, and yell at us when their credit card was denied (as if I would want that to happen). One elderly man would come in and demand to hug all the young lady cashiers. His hugs lasted a little too long, and all of us were uncomfortable. When we would ask him to stop, our boss would get angry and say, “he’s a judge in this town, and a good customer. Just put up with it.” (Several years later the man was accused of molesting one of his granddaughters.)
The minimum wage worker has little in the way of rights, unless s/he is unconcerned about losing her/his job.

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Liz DiNatale November 4, 2010 at 10:12 am

Why…who…who would raise such an inconsiderate, heinous, wretch of a person?

etimodnar, I agree with you. Although I’d add food service. I think that should be a prerequisite to adult life.

OP, I hope your banished her or at least gave her a good whoopin, sounds like she needs it.

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Lorie November 4, 2010 at 10:23 am

I worked 10 years in retail and sadly this story doesn’t surprise me. When I worked at a electronics retailer, people would come in and either wipe clean computer hard drives, pull knobs off radios, pull carded pards off hooks and leave them on the base deck, etc. I am grateful I work in an office now!

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FlyingBaconMouse November 4, 2010 at 10:24 am

I’d hate to see the house or office of someone who thinks organizing and cleaning your area equal “having nothing to do.” Good grief!

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Catherine November 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

Ugh, I feel for you. I’ve worked as a cashier/stocker/shelf organizer in a party store and a big box home improvement store. People do some crazy things.

A word to customers who have never been a cashier: most of what you are convinced is the cashier’s fault, really isn’t. It is usually yours. If your credit card is declined, I certainly wasn’t the one who exceeded your balance. If you picked the one item on the shelf without a bar code sticker, no I can’t just leave my register and my line full of people to go get another one for you, I’ll have to call someone and then everyone has to wait. If you have a cart full to the brim with very small items that are all different, yes they all need to be rung up individually, maybe you should have thought of that before you decided to come into the store when you were in a rush. If I don’t have enough change in my register because the store just opened and you are my first customer of the day and you just paid for a $2 item with a $100 bill and then you have to wait for my manager to bring me change, I assure you I did not wake up this morning and consciously decide to have this happen, just to annoy you. If your carpeting order was messed up, guess what, I don’t work in the flooring department, why don’t you go yell at the people who actually messed up your order, instead of at me, who didn’t even work here when the order was placed? And for the love of all things holy, I already know I’m bad at math — math does not become easier when I’m rushing to deal with a hundred things at once — and it is downright cruel of you to hand me additional coins, intentionally AFTER I’ve already hit the buttons on the register, just so you can watch me struggle to make up the difference in my head while you make snide comments about how kids today are stupid.

@etimodnar, I agree that everyone should have to work retail/hospitality (though I have no experience in the latter, I’m sure it can be brutal) for a bit. Once you’ve been on the other side of the counter, it makes you think twice before you dare to get impatient or snippy with a cashier.

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NotCinderell November 4, 2010 at 10:46 am

I agree with those who say call security and have her thrown out. What she did was a bald-faced act of vandalism. I’m not exaggerating.

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Louise November 4, 2010 at 10:49 am

That woman is weird and awful. I also wonder if she had been standing around waiting for the OP to notice her then got fed up and decided to punish the OP (because if you’re not helping this woman when she needs it, you’re clearly not doing anything worthwhile).

I would have lost my temper and yelled at her. I bet that’s not sanctioned by etiquette, but I doubt this woman would have understood anything less. And I wouldn’t be able to help it. Then I would have called security and said someone is vandalizing the store. Hopefully I wouldn’t lose my job because I have a lame manager who really does believe the customer is always right and that it’s OK to treat the staff like dirt.

To deliberately give someone hours of busy work is malicious. Even if the customer thought the OP was just pottering about, has she never worked a job that’s included slow periods and down time?

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Mother of a Bride November 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

O M G!!!! I have never worked in retail, but one of my daughters did and the other one is in customer service. Both have told me the most shocking things about customers watching their little angel child clear an entire shelf onto the floor, or run loose in the business unattended, etc. I have heard the story of a woman who wanted a set of drinking glasses removed from the box, wrapped individually, then stuffed back in the box–impossible, because the added wrapping makes the glasses too fat for the box that was designed to hold them safely in the first place. When she was told it wasn’t possible she slid the entire box to the floor and kicked it away from the register. Both cashiers were so stunned all they could do was call the manager to the register….while this woman verbally abused them. The manager told the woman to get out of her store or she’d call the police. So when I read this story, while I am shocked, I am not surprised. I don’t know if it’s “Elite Customeritis” or some other thing that causes certain people to treat the employees of a company so horribly or what.

I do know that when I shop, I refold clothing I have looked at. I always rehang clothing I have tried on, and make sure I either hang it back on the correct rack or place it on the rack they have in the dressing room. If I dig through a shelf of items and move any boxes around, I always return then to their original place. If something falls on the floor while I am looking, I bend over and pick it up. My children learned this behavior by watching me and one of the funniest things my son ever did was at age 2, he was walking like a big boy in the grocery store next to the cart….he was fiddling around with some canned goods and when I watched him, I realized he was “fronting” the shelves! He pulled each row of cans to the front, straightened them out, turned the labels forward, etc. The store manager came by, saw what he was doing and said “He’s hired!”

It doesn’t take that long to leave the store the way it looked when you arrived.

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L. November 4, 2010 at 10:58 am

To “Sorry, just a small question”: Wow, you work really hard at keeping to the Just World Fallacy.

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Susan November 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

Are you sure customercide is never an option? I really think you should make an exception for this one!

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BusyBee November 4, 2010 at 11:03 am

OMG! Who on earth would do such a thing? That’s just completely crazy. I worked in retail for a while (in a children’s clothing store, no less), so I had plenty of stories to tell, but none like this one!

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Tracy November 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

I work in retail and I can’t even imagine. OP what did you say to her? That’s just….wow. People can be horrible.

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Margaret November 4, 2010 at 11:12 am

This is one where I would have called security and management. She DID vandalize the merchandise — how dirty was it when it was picked up? How much of it was no longer in saleable condition? That said, the vandalism was so shocking that I don’t think I would regained the power of speech fast enough to stop her before she got out of the store.

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kingshearte November 4, 2010 at 11:13 am

I read Customers Suck, so I’ve heard many tales of outrageous behaviour, so if she’d thrown everything in a fit of rage or something, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash reading it, at this point. But if this happened precisely as reported, with the woman just calmly informing the OP that she had done this, with no other intent but than to give the OP something to do, then I can’t help but think that something must be not quite right with this woman. It doesn’t even sound like she did it to be mean, so yeah. I think she has to have been a little off.

That said, I kind of agree a bit with someone earlier who pointed out that this woman would have presumably been at this for a while, and perhaps much of it could have been forestalled if the OP had been keeping a slightly closer eye (or even ear – shouldn’t you be able to hear the rustling hangers behind you?) on the department, especially as it sounds like this was happening basically right behind the OP. I currently work as a tasker, and therefore am allowed to more or less keep my head down and get stuff done, but when I was also supposed to be doing customer service, my managers would have been pretty peeved with me if I’d been so focused on the tasking that something like this could occur without my even noticing.

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Elizabeth November 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

Just Laura is right, you are rarely allowed to stand up for yourself in retail. Even if you are being respectful about it. The only times I have been allowed to to correct a customer is if it is in defense of another employee or customer. You’d be surprised at how many of the rude customers treat other customers just as bad as they do retail employees. And it is worse during the holidays.

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Renee November 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

I have to agree with the post-er who wondered if this customer had not acted out her resentment at being (what she considered) ignored? I do understand you were supervising half the store at that point, but did the customer? She is still WRONG WRONG WRONG, to do what she did! No matter her supposed provocation, her behavior was uncalled for, and I agree with those who suggest security could have been called. I am simply trying to find some sort of explanation, other than insanity, for her incredible behavior. Did she offer any other explanation? I would love to know what ensued.

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The OP November 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

to those who were asking my response to the customer, i had none. My store’s manager tends toward the idea that the “customer can never do wrong” to the point of breaking store policies to keep people happy. 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. I’m used to customers rifling through racks, so the sound of hangers is normal to me. the department as i said before has 7 sub sections, so figure in a row, 15 racks of suits, 10 racks of clearance, 8 racks of dresses, 15 racks of coats, 30 racks of juniors clothing, etc etc, i’m sure you get the idea. according to policy, our store is supposed to have a minimum of two people in that dept at all times, but lately the manager has chosen to keep it at one. (makes for a lower payroll.)

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Pam November 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

I am familiar with retail and have never heard of such behavior and am completely shocked. My mom owned a woman’s store for years, I worked at her store and others in HS, and my sister has 20 years in large retail store management. I called her after reading this and asked what would have happened in her store. She said security and police would have been called and a complaint of vandalism filed. She also said the woman would have been banned from the store and all other of the store retail chains. The woman’s name and credit card would have been flagged in their system had she tried to make any futue purchases.

She had a woman caught allowing a child to deficate in a dressing room and they did all of the above. The vandalism complaint was eventually dropped, but it did create some grief for her actions.

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Chelsey November 4, 2010 at 11:47 am

@Sorry, just a small question…. and kingshearte:

I see the point you’re trying to make. But having worked in retail, I likely wouldn’t have looked up if I heard someone rustling through hangers or taking things off. When you’ve been working in retail for so long, it’s a sound you get used to. It signals that someone is looking through clothes to try and find something to buy or try on and some people are quite loud about it sometimes. Also, sometimes when you’re doing something as tedious and repetitive as hanging and straightening clothes, you do other things to occupy your time like sing a little song in your head or think about the errands you need to run before work in the morning. If the OP is anything like me, once I get lost in my thoughts, I don’t really hear anything around me. She may have just been straightening her rack and keeping an eye on the register. She’s not the customer’s babysitter, after all. No need to keep both eyes on her (and most customers hate being watched by salespeople anyway, so some actively try not to).

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Justine November 4, 2010 at 11:56 am

Why would some busybody think that it is their duty to keep a store employee busy? Maybe karma will come back to bite her in a big way.

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Wink-n-Smile November 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I hope you took her picture, so you could display it on a “Persona Non Grata”poster.

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Liz November 4, 2010 at 12:15 pm

To those wondering how/why the OP didn’t hear/notice the vandalism in progress: did you miss the part where she said that she was handling half the entire store by herself? I don’t know about you, but most of the stores I’ve been to have aisles and walls and other obstructions.

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Just Laura November 4, 2010 at 12:18 pm

To L.:
That was a bit snippy toward “Just a Small Question,” who said multiple times that s/he was not blaming the victim (which for those who don’t know, is the major problem with the Just World Phenomenon). “Small Question” was merely putting forth a plausible alternative, and even admitted that such an alternative would still be a demonstration of rudeness on the part of the person scattering clothes all about.

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Zeppelin November 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Not sure what’s worse, the customer’s actions, or the fact that there are actually people here defending the customer’s actions.

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Kimbubbley November 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

In the OP’s letter, she mentions that her department was pretty much half of the store, broken up into sub-sections. In light of that, to those who wonder how this could have happened without her noticing, I think it’s entirely possible that if she were working on the other side of a mannequin display or in another section, the vandal could have easily done what she did without too much noise or fuss until she was ready to reveal herself.

As to the actual content of the letter, ITA with whomever asked “are we sure that customericide isn’t an option?” Oi vey!

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Chicalola November 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm

UGH!!!!! After working as a lowly associate, and then a retail manager…..I sympathize with the OP. There are some very rude people out there…..and some very stupid people. I’m over the top nice to people in retail….it can be a hard and very trying job!

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Calliope November 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm

When I was in college, I worked in a shop in a mall. It was not uncommon for teenage girls to come into the shop two minutes before closing and mess up the racks on purpose. And I don’t mean they were just messy shoppers; they weren’t shopping at all. They’d come in giggling, unfold everything they could get their hands on, pull hangers off racks, and run out. It happened frequently enough, in my shop and in other mall shops where my friends worked, that I think it might have been something the kids dared each other to do, or some kind of Who Can Cause the Most Destruction challenge. Of course, anyone caught intentionally messing up the shop would be kicked out, but you’d be surprised how quickly a group of teenage girls can turn a shop into a pigsty. It’s sort of like how people say that by the time you see a mountain lion stalking you, you’re already dead. By the time you notice that the customers are messing up the store, the damage has been done.
I feel for you, OP.

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LovleAnjel November 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I’m sure people with small children can testify that it doesn’t take very long to empty out a clothing rack or bookshelf and toss everything on the ground. If I was in a mood for it, I could probably take down the women’s department in less than five minutes. (But I would never. Because I am not a jerk.)

I can see end of the day straightening up and getting lost in one’s thoughts for a bit. The customer came up and got the person’s attention quite readily by tapping her on the shoulder and saying “excuse me”. If she had wanted help, she would have done that right away.

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Sharon November 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I am not surprised any more by the mean and ignorant thngs that customers to to service personnel. It makes me as angry as can be, but it doesn’t surprise me.

I would dare to say that customer probably thinks she is a reasonable, sane person. She is what I call a joy killer. Some one is happy at their job, getting things accomplished???? WOAH! What an opportunity to kill their joy! It is as bad as if she had literally spat in your face.
Aren’t you glad that you do not have to interact with her every day? Just think what it must be like for her family and co-workers!! Brrr-r-r-r-r-rrrr! It makes me shiver to even contemplate working with her.
She is gonna pull that “stuff” with the wrong person someday and WHAM. It is a testimony to OP’s self control that the customer did not leave in an ambulance.

I send all of you who work in customer service a big ol’ Nana HUG!

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Ali November 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I worked in retail through college, and you’d be surprised the number of people who think they are better than you (like you are not smart/harworking), because for that second you are a cashier. I can tell you that my jobs in food service and retail were a lot harder than any of my post-college jobs.

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bookworm November 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

That is not a customer. That is a nuisance, and she ought to have been 86’d from the store for trashing it like that. I am so sorry you had to deal with the aftermath of her “thoughtfulness”.

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LeeLee88 November 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Unfortunately, I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep myself from yelling at that customer. The sheer shock alone and the anger that would have quickly followed would’ve definitely run rough-shod over my good manners. That being said, I applaud you, OP for not yelling at her. Either that took a ton of restraint, or you were just too shocked to even make a sound, but man… I’m getting some really bad retail flashbacks here.

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Jennifer Boozer November 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I am soooo sorry about that. She must have been possessed!

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Giles November 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I’ve never worked in retail, but I have been a medical intern, which is sort of like paying thousands of dollars and giving up eight years of your life so people can treat you like a dog with a prescription pad. When I was a fresh-faced intern and doing my ER time, I’d just finished dealing with the aftermath of a car crash and was sitting at the nurse’s station doing up charts. A woman got up from the emerg. waiting area dragging her three kids with her and put one (about three years old) on the counter in front of me, nearly spilling my coffee all over me. She then said “You don’t look like you’re doing anything, so while my son’s getting x-rays could you give my other three a check-up?”

I wished I’d known “I won’t be able to accommodate that request” back then. I just answered with a bemused “Uh, no” and then the head nurse chased them off.

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