My room

My room
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Virginia Woolf

Monday, May 24, 2010

Confessions of a Salesgirl

Have you ever wondered what kind of things happen inside of your average store? We’ve all heard the saying, “the customer is always right”, but what about the person behind the register? 

Paying my way through college, I’ve worked at some of the most well known stores at your average mall, and some of the things I’ve seen and heard will downright shock you. Every person inside a mall has a story to tell, and well, I’m here to tell you some of mine. They include the rude, the mean, and the disgusting. Read on, you might just recognize someone you know (never you, of course).


Many of my coworkers have included college students, teachers, and underwriters; people who have full time jobs but still work with us for the extra cash or because they know employees get the best discounts. Although you always have your bad seeds, sales people generally don’t like to antagonize customers, if for no other reason than to keep their jobs for another day. This is why a lot of retail workers hate the nature of the job: you have quotas to fill, managers to keep happy, and a store to keep clean. And on some days, there are people who make that nearly impossible. It’s even worse when you have a customer who’s having a bad day and would love any excuse to dump on you. One complaint is enough for a manager to report you, demote you, or simply cut your hours to the point that you are forced to quit. And many customers know this.

Again, there’s always the bad employees. I once walked into the backroom to find a manager giving the delivery guy a blowjob. At my very first retail job a coworker of mine was fired and sent to jail. He worked at the sports department, and what he would do was to sell these high priced treadmills and exercise machines only to void the sales later on, and keep the cash to himself.

At another department of the same store, an employee got into the habit of putting her old shoes in boxes and walking out with new pairs. Another store manager I knew didn’t last very long on the job. She called out three times a week on average. While she worked there, her grandmother died three times. And when she did bother to show up for work, she used any excuse to hide in the back. She never lasted more than five minutes on the sales floor. Instead, she would be locked in her office doing who knows what. Finally, after she dropped a very large prescription bottle of very strong painkillers in front of the district manager, she was let go.

And don’t get me started on coupons. People can get very annoying when they want an extra 15% off. What some people may not know is that people get fired for giving out too many discounts, and although at times we can make judgment calls,

sometimes the person behind the register has to choose between giving someone an extra discount or risking their job. And no one wants to be fired over a coupon.

Very recently, I had to tell a customer that her credit card had been declined. She was applying makeup, and looked at me for the first time and said that she had just paid her bill at another store and told me to, “simply override it”. When I told her there was no way I could, she asked, “Isn’t that your job? Are you new?” And asked with such venom that I’m surprised the skin didn’t melt off my face. Red faced and humiliated, I tried to calmly explain to her that although I understood she had just made a payment, payments usually take two or three days to clear, and there was no way I could override a declined transaction. What I REALLY wanted to tell her was where she could shove that little makeup compact of hers, but I used all the energy I could to hold my tongue. She then mumbled a stream of profanities, snatched her credit card out of my hand and walked away. Exactly an hour later, my manager called me over to talk about a customer who had called to complain about “my incompetence”.

Sometimes customers don’t know when to drop the issue. For example, some stores have systems that can look your receipt up by simply using your name or credit card, while others don’t. Other stores give refunds as long as you have your receipt, others have specific timeframes, and others simply don’t give refunds at all. Most smart shoppers are very good at paying attention to this, but others don’t. For example, one store I worked at marked certain items at “Final Sale” after it reached a certain price. The items would then be marked with a red FINAL SALE tag, and it would also be noted on the receipt. However, once a week without fail, we had at least one customer who insisted on returning the offending item, saying they were not made aware that the sale was final. I referred these customers to my manager.

One time, a manager of mine had an altercation with a customer who bought a pair of dress pants, and two years later, the hem fell off one of the legs. The customer came in, pants in one hand and receipt in the other, and demanded a refund. The manager tried to explain that while she understood her frustration, she could not refund the $129 the pants originally cost, but because the customer refused to budge, she offered to pay to have the pants hemmed. The lady would hear none of it and insisted she was due a refund, and after some arguing back and forth, the manager asked to see the pants. The customer then said, “You want to F&%$ing see it? Here!” and threw the pants across the register. This knocked over one of our fixtures, and it split the manager’s lip open. That customer was asked to leave immediately.

People do crazy things in dressing rooms, too. Catching people having sex or stealing is pretty much commonplace these days. One very common thing customers do is to grab as many clothes as they can and wear them out of the store. Once we caught a lady who was stealing by stuffing clothes under her baby’s carriage. But that’s not the worst of it. Once, a co-worker of mine walked into a dressing room and stepped on a dirty tampon. Another found a very dirty, and very open diaper. But this one takes the cake: One co-worker was cleaning out the dressing rooms when she found a small shopping bag, the type made small enough to fit makeup. She grabbed it not thinking twice about it, only to find out too late that a customer used the bag to urinate. It spilled all over her arm.

The best I can do is offer some advice: Don’t take your shoes off inside the dressing room, hang up your clothes after you try them on, and smile at the person behind the register, even if they’re being less than nice. At best, you don’t know what kind of day they’ve been having, and at worst, just remember, you only have to deal with them for 20 minutes at most. They probably have to be there a lot longer.