Unfortunately, freelance blogging is not my full-time gig: retail is my day job.
Like most students, I need to work part-time to support myself during my studies, and when I’m doing unpaid internships. Now, this is something I both fully anticipated and reluctantly accept, but one thing I do resent about my retail job is when my perfectly folded, tagged, and size-stickered piles on the t-shirt table I have made my own is destroyed by the behemoths that are retail customers. The worst part, the smile I have to give them as they brashly forage through the piles with disarray *screams internally. *
Now, if you’re about to say, “if you hate retail so much, why don’t you just quit your job?” then GTFO. This is a safe space, and I will not have you sitting there telling me everything I already know.
Because if I quit, I’d just have to search for another job, which would inevitably end up being more retail work because that’s the only experience I have. Ahh, the crippling cycle of ‘you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience’. 🙃
Saying, “I work in retail”, basically translates to, “I deal with a lot of terrible human beings.” Here’s 5 different types of customer you’ll recognise if you’ve ever worked in retail.
1. The ‘I want to speak to your manager’ type.
Would this be a confessions-of-a-retail-worker article if it didn’t feature the infamous ‘I want to speak to the manager’ type?
Whilst ubiquitous, and almost always female, this type of customer takes on very specific, different forms depending on where you are working. Everyone is familiar with the American version of the ‘I want to speak to the manager type’ – they all have the same haircut: an early noughties-Sharon-Osborne-esque cropped, off-centre parted, asymmetric ‘do. This hairstyle is so synonymous with the ‘I want to speak with the manager type’ that it is exclusively known as the Can I Speak To The Manager Haircut. Her other traits include, a people carrier car, 2 bickering children, and denim capri pants.
However, I live in Belfast, and from my experience, the ‘I want to speak to your manager type’ is somewhat different to the American counterpart. Here, according to the local lingo, she is known as the ‘BT9 mum’, alluding to a postcode that, in her opinion, makes her entitled to talk to retail workers like shit.
2. The weird creeper type.
Now, I don’t know if this type is one exclusive to the shop I work in, but this sort of customer is so uncomfortably distinctive it deserves a category of its own. This customer is almost exclusively male, he is middle-aged, gaunt and doesn’t have any idea of personal space – or worse, he does and just invades yours anyway for his own, depraved gratification.
He will come into store, at the most inconvenient times, just to speak to the retail workers who, by the expectations of the job description, will be obligated to beguile him in profoundly excruciating chit-chat. Sometimes, the prospect that he must have very little going on in his life for it to be worth his while to come into store on a recurrent basis for the sole purpose of chatting to the retail workers under false pretences of ‘browsing’. In fact, you might go as far to feel sorry for him – until he makes a misogynistic and/or sexual comment. Groan.
3. The serial returner type.
With the rise of internet shopping, any retail worker will be familiar with the ‘order online, collect in store’ aspect of their job. Whilst online shopping in the comfort of your home poses plentiful advantages to the customer, it represents yet another source of woe for the retail worker.
When it comes to the serial returner type, most retail workers will know this one by their face alone, if not by their name and address. They’re in store almost weekly, collecting yet another seven parcels that will definitely be returned to the store all at once, just a day or two shy of the 28-day returns policy.
They will dump a dozen or so torn parcels in the arms of whichever retail worker didn’t react quick enough to flee before they reached the till with their returns, and the poor sod will have to endure the serial returner’s impatient sighs when they’re somehow surprised their mammoth pile of returns weren’t completed in less than 3 seconds.
4. The strained mother type.
The contempt the retail worker feels towards this type of customer is generally auxiliary; the main source of annoyance coming from the baby and wailing toddler she never seems to come shopping without. The stained mother type is so over burdened by the strain of motherhood that – luckily for her – she has become numb to her child’s incessant screaming. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the retail worker.
After helping her up and down the stairs with her massive, fuck-off sized pram, watching her frustrated toddler walk around making a wreck of the store, all the while she does nothing but stroke the fabrics, you can’t help but resent her for bringing her children shopping and inflicting them upon the retail workers.
Honestly, I’m never having children.
5. The entitled, last-minute shopper type.
To save the best (or worst?) until last, we have the type of customer that idles into store five minutes before close, long after the music has been turned off, and proceeds to walk around, collecting item after item before heading to the fitting rooms insisting they “won’t be five minutes” as they know the retail workers will be “ready to get home.”
But, of course, that’s never the case. They’ll leave 40 or so minutes after the retail workers shift was supposed to finish, only after they’ve ravaged through the displays that had been carefully prepared for the following day, left a pile of discarded clothes across the fitting room, and asked the retail workers to check the stockroom for different sizes in a minimum of 3 items. If you’re lucky, they’ll buy one item. If you’re not, they’ll leave empty handed, with a flippant “hopefully I’ll have better luck next time!”