‘’Why would I fear hell – I’ve worked in retail!’’ A small selection of horrors every worker faces!

Having worked in retail since the tender age of 16, and this having been the first New Year where I haven’t, it seems only right to see off my past career with this post.  So here it goes – a small selection of realisations, types of customers, redundant questions and general horrors that I am sure every retail worker will have encountered, whatever it is you sell.

  1. The realisation that the customer is NOT always right.

In fact, they rarely are. If ever.

You can argue with me all you want. You still won’t be right, and the more you argue with me, the less inclined I will be to fix your problem.



  1. The ‘’If I am rude and cause a scene I will get served faster’’ type of customer

‘’Oh you’re never coming back because of me? You can get this cheaper next door? EXCELLENT, PLEASE GO AND DON’T COME BACK.



  1. The ‘I’m going to try and be funny’ customer

‘’Oh it won’t scan? It must be free then!’’

Please. Just stop. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it and it won’t be the first time you’ve said it either. And no. It is still not free.

  1. The customer that insists on continuing their phone chat when they reach the counter

Not only is this just plain rude – the infuriation comes when they ask if you’d mind repeating what you said because they weren’t listening. So much pent up rage.

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  1. The ‘Oh you’re about to close’ customer?

‘’ You don’t mind if I just pop in do you?’’ no that’s fine, but we do close in 5 minutes, you say innocently. Yet all you want to do is scream ‘’YOU’VE HAD ALL DAY’’. Do these people not realise we can’t shut till they do?!

Almost as bad as the dreaded late comer is…

  1. The ‘’Early bird’’

They arrive at 8:50, frantically banging on the door, screaming hello louder than Adele and insist on watching you as you go about your pre morning opening routine. GO HOME.


  1. The worst person in the history of the world: The ”mystery shopper’’

We’ve all experienced it – the anticipation when you know this rare species is expected, followed by  the irrational amount of fear that fills you when someone perhaps is taking too long to peruse, or is asking too many questions. Are you undercover?! Are you trying to catch me out? Having been caught out by a mystery shopper, I will forever be suspicious of anyone and everyone. This is the worst kind of customer, where their one task is to expose all your inadequacies.


  1. The dreaded feeling of having to promote the ‘’self-service machine’’

The one machine invented to make the life’s of all retail workers easier. Yet in some sick twist of fate, has ended up being one of the most hated machines in the whole store.

Obviously, they often don’t work properly, meaning you then have to get up and try in some vain attempt to ‘’remove the unexpected item in the bagging area’’ or to pull out the lodged and now half ripped bank note stuck inside. But the worst thing is that people will refuse to use them, often completely innocently thinking that if they do, they will put you out a job. DON’T YOU SEE?! MY JOB IS TO MAKE YOU USE THEM! Suddenly, they don’t seem like a good idea at all!

  1. Do you work here?

No. I just like walking aimlessly up and down aisles in this uniform for fun.

  1. Can I pay for this in change?

Then realising they don’t have enough to make it and pulling out a freshly printed £10 note. No, no worries at all, you’ve only wasted ten minutes of my life counting it all.


That’s swiftly followed by the…

  1. ‘’if I give you this, will it make it any easier change wise?’’

You slowly start to say, no please don’t worry. But it’s too late. Bag goes on the counter, frantic rummaging through various pockets for that vital 10p. The queue is extending throughout the shop, but then it gets worse. They pass it over and actually, you have no clue what the new change should be or how it made it any easier because the till has already told you what change to give.

But even worse than those customers who try and be helpful are the ones who are just intent on making you hate the whole human race…

  1. The customer who gives you crumpled money, or worse plops all the change on to the counter as opposed to your outstretched hand.

No worries. I don’t mind having to pick up change PIECE BY PIECE, or having to unroll your crumpled £10 note. No worries at all.

  1. Having to say ‘’I’m sorry – Your card seems to have been declined’’

Depending on what sort of customer this happens too, it can be a moment of sheer dread, as you have to point it out – or sheer joy, as you gleefully tell them.

They then, (especially if British) frantically make excuses. ‘’Oh god. I swear there’s money in there – here let me blow on the chip’’.

  1. Customers not believing you when say something is not in stock – are you sure? Could you check again? Can you check ‘’the back’’?

The back doesn’t exist.  In fact it is often as small as the shop floor. I can assure you. We do not have it. But never fear, I will nonetheless offer to check, hide around the corner and use my phone. Thanks!

  1. Children – or worse – adult customers that make a mess

Of course you want the item at the bottom of the pile that I just cleaned ten minutes ago. And of course you will attempt to get it yourself instead of just asking me.


  1. Being expected to take on a fleeing and extremely stealthy thief

No that’s fine – of course I can keep the customers happy, and serve them, and keep the shop tidy and run 5 miles down the street after someone who has taken £10 worth of stock and tackle them to the ground. But when you did catch the elusive thief, you made sure no one ever forgot your feat.

But despite, all of the above, some of my happiest memories come from working in retail –  you can make some of the best friends in the world, bonded by your horrific experiences of stock rooms, customers and general despair. While a lot of customers are…well arseholes, there are the occasional ones that make it worth going in to work for.

But let’s be honest…absolutely nothing beats that feeling when you’ve finally finished that 8 hour shift. Thank god! WE DID IT!



42 thoughts on “‘’Why would I fear hell – I’ve worked in retail!’’ A small selection of horrors every worker faces!

  1. I can relate the post,.having worked retail for eleven years. English by birth, I’ve now lived and worked In Canada longer than I lived there. I go back quite frequently for family reasons. I’m always glad to get back here to the west coast. Although many of the things I escaped from are following on here now. … sigh!

    Luckily, for me. in retail I seldom worked cash. Although I was trained for it. I had all the problems with customers you outlined and then some. Still, I loved the post and will post to FB, for some friends still work for the big box store.

    Yeah, uh huh, the intended blackmail of “I’ll go somewhere else”? … Okay! Maybe you’ll have better luck there? Always got a wry backward glance. “Do you work here”. My response looking at the name badge. Was, “well yes I did, but maybe you know something I don’t”? “The can you find it at another branch”, question. Used to floor me. Hahaha … maybe? It depends? Yet I would never say that. I would yell the customer to check back to see if they had sent it. Invariably … “Nope”.

    What was the point of telling them, “we don’t get the sale they do and we have to pay for shipping”? Obviously we both have many similar stories? Underpaid and overworked. Still it was a job.

    Nice post … good luck with the new career! Cheers Jamie Holding the Ball https://hirundinedotnet2.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing! it is really appreciated! I am off to check out your blog shortly!

      There was so many I wanted to mention but I just ran out of space!! Similarly, used to hate the other branch question!! we had the same problem, and half the time it’s easier to just say no then try and explain!!!

      Where about in the UK were you from? I imagine Canada being much nicer!! I am dying to go out and visit!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi,sophiegdonnelly,
        Thanks for nice reply to my comment on your post. When kids we lived in Hendon. Close by the old part. My sister and mother, now live in Finchley. Where I stay when visiting. While I’ve visited other parts of Canada. I’ve always lived in it’s most westernmost Provine. That being British Columbia. After 35 years in the interior. I now live on Vancouver Island, near Victoria.

        I linked your post to FB. Hope to read more in the future. Good luck with your Career. My nephew’s wife is a solicitor in family law practice. Cheers, J. BTW. Needle at Sea Bottom is my old blog now hosted on WordPress.org. The current one is Holding the Ball and the link for it was at the end of my first comment. ….J

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh no way! My nan is buried in Hendon, originally from Cricklewood. Small world!!

        Sounds lovely. Well if I ever do get the pelasure of visiting I will be sure to pop by! I actually did a law degree so you never know, may encounter her!!

        Excellent – I will make sure I look at the new one as oppose to the old one!!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Sophiegdonnelly,
        Maybe in Hendon cemetery? That’s where my family is.

        Cricklewood is changed a lot. As too, all of that pert of London. I imagine Exeter has seen it’s change also? When my family would go on holiday, to the West Country. We always got snarled up there until they put the by-pass in. A pity really cause the old part was so quaint then. J.


      4. It’s either there or Golders Green crematorium! Yeah Cricklewood has changed a significant amount!

        Exeter has changed a bit, but still so beautiful and quaint – If I could live there I would in a heartbeat but it’s a bit far away from everything!! Still a very friendly welcoming place though!

        Yes, now the M5 stops at Exeter and it’s all A roads to the rest of the west country, so it still gets excessively busy!!

        Sophie 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Nope. Free food and drink were strictly prohibited but we got free tickets and always saw the big blockbusters the night before release. It was pretty cool 🙂


  2. Oh, you mean customers are just as stupid/rude/obnoxious/insane in England as in the U.S.?
    The “early bird” was the one that got on my nerves. Especially when there’d be a group of them, staring at me and frequently checking their watches. Geez people – get a life!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh yes. Though I’d be willing to bet that it’s probably worse in the US!

      Yes! We had a customer like that as well, every day without fail outside before we opened. Why?! I’m not sure which annoys me more, the early bird or the latecomer, Atleast the early bird doesn’t hold you up!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True, although at least the latecomer was usually apologetic. Usually, not always!
        Not that long ago I read that retail is the most common job. If that’s the case, and most people at sometime in their lives worked retail, then why aren’t customers getting nicer? There should be a “Oh, I’ve been there,” mentality happening.
        Maybe we just lack self-awareness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. See I was thinking that too – there’s not many people I know that haven’t worked in it so it is surprising that people arnt more considerate. Maybe it’s just some sort of human right of passage to suffer in retail!!


  3. I can relate to this as a couple of my kids worked in retail. One had a cup of cola thrown over him in a fast food outlet because someone’s burger was ‘taking too long’, had money literally thrown at his face and was threatened with violence because a drunk guy wanted something that was no longer on offer.
    Lots of stories of customers choosing a load of clothes & then just dropping them on the floor and walking away. However, the friendships and laughs they had compensated for most of this (it was certainly not the wages or staff discounts!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is wrong with people!! My first retail job was a toy shop, which even so, managed to attract some of the rudest customers I’ve ever encountered – especially on Christmas Eve!!

      But yes – the friends make up for it, and that’s defo one perk of working in retail!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I worked in retail before (gulp) cellphones. So, I never had to deal with that one. It would drive me nuts, though. Sadly, people have asked me if I work at places I was only shopping at (mental note to upgrade my wardrobe). There’s also the flirty shopper.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve never worked in retail, but I wish I did because it’s like a rite of passage and probably helps people build patience and make them more thick skinned in the work force. From a customer point of view, I do still relate to a lot of things in this post (as a witness, not a perpetrator!).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha…brings back memories. “There’s no price tag. Does it mean it’s free?” I guess people who use those sort of lines think they are being original. As much as I relate to the frustration of the “do you work here” question, I’ve found that people sometimes ask me if I work there when I don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s been a wee while since I was in retail, but this definitely resurfaced a few memories. Another personal favourite – when a customer misunderstands a sale and picks something up at full price, then even after you’ve explained their mistake still expects you to give them a discount. Nope…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your intro was just awesome. I found out your blog on the community pool of the dailypost. The reason of interest was that you are a very talented writer and a versatile blogger as well. Overall, your layout of the blog is such that it becomes very easy to access it (And yes, to be honest, the gifs make your pages slow). Also, your content choice is attractive.
    As a fellow new blogger from a far away country, I want to give you an opportunity to connect with the world on my blog. It helps you as well as me. We grow together as a community.
    You can read my post “a new friend” or you can read my comment on the community pool for further information.
    Thank you and keep up the good work, All the best for publishing
    Happy blogging. And wishing you are great future ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Totally true, I relate to all of it. One more experience I’ve had is the customer who returns an obviously worn piece of clothing, with body odor still clinging to it. Uggghh…

    Liked by 1 person

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