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7 Things Retail Workers Need You to Know


Jul. 16 2018, Published 8:22 p.m. ET

I got my first-ever retail job two years ago, and it changed my actions as a consumer completely. I was never a stranger to respecting service workers because I worked several jobs in food service since the age of 14, before being hired to work in a clothing store. However, the world of retail is a completely different place, and the level of disrespect my coworkers and I deal with on a shift-to-shift basis is outrageous. So here’s a list of things, as a retail worker, that I want consumers to know.

1. I have no control over the product we have/do not have in store.

I know you really, really wanted that top you saw in a Pinterest post six months ago, but we probably don’t have it. We don’t have a ginormous inventory of every piece of clothing we’ve carried over the years. So please, do not take out your emotions on employees. Nothing is more discouraging than being yelled at to retrieve a manager over something the entire staff has no control over! Call headquarters if you’re that upset.

2. Newsflash: I don’t set the prices.

This one should be pretty obvious, but still tends to slip the minds of customers every time I’m working. I have zero control over pricing. I am a part-time employee on a minimum-wage salary. I did not personally price that $68 band T-shirt. So, again, please do not take this out on employees. It’s not our fault, I promise!

3. No, that shirt is probably not on sale.

Here’s a tip for shopping: If something isn’t marked on sale, then assume it’s full price. If there is a sale on something, you bet your Amex the company will clearly mark it as so and even advertise it heavily. So no, that brand new shirt that is on display in the front of the store is not on sale. Please don’t ask me to price check it for the fifth time.


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Never throw out your receipt until you actually wear that piece of clothing. I can’t even count the amount of times customers come in to return an item without a receipt. At my store, specifically (and most stores), we are instructed to not accept any return or exchange without a proof of purchase. So, when you make a fuss because you didn’t bring your receipt, I then have to search the company index just so you can return that $20 bralette you probably wore. To make things quicker and easier, please be responsible and hold onto your receipts.

5. Please don’t litter in stores.

I know that empty Auntie Anne’s bag was really weighing you down, but please make the conscious effort to throw it out in the many trashcans the mall has to offer. Overall, I just need you to understand that your trash doesn’t magically disappear in the wind when placed next to shoes on a shelf. Someone somewhere is going to have to throw it out. Either toss it in a trash, or if it’s too painstaking, just ask an employee if they can toss it in the trash for you.

6. If the store is closing in two minutes, don’t act like it just opened.

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I know we’re open until 9:30 p.m., but please don’t stroll in at 9:28 and do a full shop. It’s understandable if you have a return you have to get done that day. However, coming in, perusing, and trying on 1,000 different things is just completely inconsiderate. Just understand that retail workers do have lives outside of work. And you coming in before closing and staying a half-hour keeps us there so much longer than we’re scheduled. Just be conscious of closing times, it’s as easy as Googling store hours and planning your day accordingly.

7. Retail workers have lives outside of serving you.

Piggybacking on my last point, we have lives outside of our part-time job. I know it may be a wild concept to grasp, but the people who work in stores do other things than eat, sleep, and breathe retail. Personally, I’m a full-time and fully-involved college student and a part-time intern. The amount of times I’ve been stuck at work in the late hours of the night because people don’t know the concept of closing times is unnecessary. Most of the time, I have a paper to write or a test the next day to study for. So please keep this in mind.

I know we get paid to “do our jobs,” and I totally agree. However, being a respectful, understanding consumer can not only make an employee’s day go by with ease, but it also is rewarding to treat your fellow humans with the respect and compassion they deserve.

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