Working in Retail
A rant drafted during my years as a retail slave. This information no longer describes my job, but its points are still all too true . . . and the experience of working retail has contributed to the person I am today. So listen up.
Rude people. Every day.
I worked in retail (in a chain bookstore) for six years, so it's to be expected that I had my share of brushes with rude people. And really, most of the people I rang up, helped out, and generally encountered were nice enough. But there was always that one person a day, sometimes more, who did everything possible to piss me off. So I'm just going to vent here and list their transgressions, where you can laugh at them and think, Gawd, I'm sure glad I don't have her job!
This list is divided into three groups: People and situations that REALLY piss me off; people and situations that just annoy me slightly; and people and situations that are so irritating that I laugh at them. Have fun exploring my angst and annoyance. I must thank my old co-workers for helping me add to this list when I brought its various drafts in for their amusement: Thanks to Chris S., Diana, Lara, Angie M., Melissa, Mike S., Adam, Ariel, and Cliff.
People and situations that REALLY piss me off:
- People who want a book but don't know the title or author and try to make you find it by what's on the cover . . . AND get pissed that you can't find it.
- People who watch the register display like a hawk and jump down your throat if something doesn't ring up with its discount . . . "HEY that's supposed to be fifty percent off!"
- People who misread or misunderstand signs and then accuse me of false advertising.
- When people throw books back on the shelf where they don't go or just on the floor because "they have people to clean it up."
- When people expect me to be able to recommend the perfect gift, yet they can't even answer the question "What are their interests?"
- People who say a bunch of stuff and clearly want an answer but haven't actually asked a question.
- People who get their panties in a bundle if someone isn't immediately at Customer Service to help them. (MOST times the customer service person isn't there, because of having been given another task or being away helping another customer. Sometimes C/S people need to be alerted that someone needs help.)
- When people get REALLY PISSED at me for not knowing off the top of my head everything they want to know about their book or author, or release dates.
- People who want me to wrap their presents and then criticize me that I'm doing it wrong.
- When something really horrible happens in the bathroom, like a toilet overflows or someone takes a crap in the sink.
- When people expect me to be a near-expert on *their* interests and get mad when I haven't ever heard of what they want. This is especially annoying if it is someone who wants something Biblical and they get self-righteous and bitchy when I have no idea where to point them. "Well, it is in the Gospels!" Oh yes, of course, everyone is Christian and if they're not they should be, and should feel ashamed for not knowing everything about YOUR religion of choice . . . *ahem*
- When a sign issued from our company has a really huge obvious embarrassing TYPO on it!
- People who get pissed at us for not knowing offhand what books are on their particular school reading list right now, or for not having said books in stock even though no teacher has bothered to call us with tips or order lists.
- Certain teachers or parents who expect us to do lots of research to FIND OUT what is on the school reading lists; some people refuse to understand that unless a teacher makes it available to us, we have no idea what they're doing, and it's too much work for us to try to keep up with what EVERY teacher is doing in the whole school district!
- When we run out of toilet paper, discount cards, bags, and tape.
- When people inform me that they "know" our store has a book just because they want it and think everyone should carry it because of that.
- When people can't accept that the online site of our company does not show what is in stock in the store. "Well your website said you had it in stock!" Dude, the website's whole INVENTORY is a warehouse, of course THEY have it . . . we're just a retail store! How would a website know what store you are going to shop at?
- When people come up to me at Customer Service and say "Excuse me, I'm looking for a book," and continue to talk when they can clearly see that I am ON THE PHONE and TALKING TO SOMEONE.
- People who want me to magically make a hardback book come out in paperback for them even though it's not due out for another six months.
- People who expect me to accept returns that they did not buy at our store (sometimes they even have another store's sticker still on them!).
- People who don't want to get a discount card even though they're saving more than the damn thing would cost.
- People who don't want to hear my explanation for why we can't do whatever they want us to do and keep interrupting me with suggestions as to how we *could* do what they want. (Example: Me trying to explain that their only options are to either let me call our other store to see if they have the book or to order it, but all they want to say is "Well could you check in the back???")
- People who can't find the book on the shelf and wander up to me asking me to check for the book in the magical "back room."
- Kids at special events who try to cheat the tournament runner or other kids. (It's REALLY important that they come out on top, ya know.)
- Kids at special events who tear open the wrapped gaming or trading magazines to get the pack of free promo cards inside.
- Kids at special events who take trading card notebook holders off the shelf and just put them in their notebooks without paying for them.
- Kids at special events who get whiny when we don't have the collectible cards they want for sale, or try to bargain with me to sell them cards at a cheaper price, or try to "return" the OPEN PACKS of cards they bought and don't like.
- Kids at special events in general.
- People who say "So do you have it?" after we've been standing in a large and disorganized section for a minute or so looking for the book. Yes, ma'am, see I see it on the shelf, but I was waiting for you to find it, and couldn't be bothered to take my thumb out of my ass long enough to point it out. I think these people think I can tell by looking at my computer whether we "have" it. I can't.
- When managers give preferential treatment to employees they like better.
- When managers cut your hours more than everyone else's because being the most senior person there makes you the most expensive.
- When managers pick and choose which rules they want to obey; it's set in stone "because it's in the manual" if it's something they don't want you to do, but if they want to have every weekend off, it's suddenly "not important" to follow the manager rotation schedule dictated in the manual.
- Being camped! I hate being camped. That refers to being followed (usually fairly closely) by a customer, usually when I'm with another customer. They think that following us around and standing close to me will ensure that I know they're next, and seem to think that if they don't practically get in my path, I will do everything in my power to avoid helping them.
- When our upper management is evil. (Read: Always.)
- The fact that we're open EVERY DAY except Christmas and there is no special holiday pay, though occasionally they buy us lunch on special days.
- People who don't understand the concept of tax making their purchases more expensive than the cumulative total of all their purchases' price tags, and act like they've been cheated.
- People who whistle or snap their fingers or say "hey you!" to get my attention instead of saying "excuse me" or something civil.
- People who think the Harry Potter books (or any other books beyond Satanist literature) are Satanic, and either give you a lecture or assume that every thinking person shares that opinion as they talk about it loudly and expect your ass-kissing and enthusiastic agreement.
- People who are unable to understand that the lack of people at Customer Service might have something to do with the fact that they might be helping another customer at that very moment. (Many people are convinced that if there's not someone at the desk the second they arrive, it means all the employees are irresponsible jackasses who spend the day standing around with our thumbs up our asses.)
- People who insist on continuing to dig for their discount cards after we've offered to look their information up in the computer. "Yes I got it here, but hang on, I know it's here someplace. . . ." Just save yourself--and me, and the people in line behind you--a giant headache and let me look your information up.
- People who think they're entitled to things because they have made a mistake. Like when they misread (or don't pay attention to) the date on a coupon, and have come all the way here expecting a discount, so when they get to the store they still think they're "owed" something for their disappointment.
- Delivery drivers who come to our receiving area and ring the doorbell, and when no one comes (sometimes the manager is gone with our only key, so no one can open the door), they just continue to ring the bell, holding it down longer and longer each time, until they are sitting there pressing the bell for a full minute, annoying everyone in the store, because they haven't thought "Gee, maybe I should go IN the store and ask someone why no one's opening the receiving door?"
- When customers come to a clearly blocked register and rearrange the counter so they can put their purchases down, then stare at the cashier at the open register as if the employee is supposed to come over there.
- People who get angry when they bring an unmarked item to the register and the cashier can't tell them the price off the top of their head. Sorry, man, if there's no barcode to scan, we don't know any better than you do, and we're not going to sit around trying to memorize the price of everything whose price tag might fall off or get ripped off by your putrid children. We will get a manager to price it for you, so don't you dare roll your eyes like I'm incompetent.
- People who think we're just not doing a good job if there's not someone in the store who is an expert on one of the sections they like. We are not incompetent just because we didn't make sure to hire someone who has specific knowledge about Antarctica.
- People who open a wrapped magazine, read it, mess it up, and then buy a wrapped one of the same.
- When people open packages and damage the packaging, not realizing that they're essentially stealing once they make the product unsellable.
- When people get irate over being unable to return a book because they have damaged it in the time they've had it.
- When customers think they know more about my job than I do, or could do it better.
- People who act appalled that the store isn't arranged the way they want. Example: The Kids' section is arranged by age group, then alpha by author within the sections. People will get mad that all the fairy tale books or storybooks involving dancing or horses are not together, when in fact it is just easier to find things by author.
- People who expect me to automatically have the same opinion as they do on something, as if it's obvious that any thinking person would, such as their stance on an author's writing style or the viewpoints of Dr. Laura.
- People who can't figure out how a section is organized even if it IS in order the way it's supposed to be.
- People who feel compelled to wish me a happy or merry whatever holiday I don't celebrate; even if it is well-intentioned, I wouldn't go wishing everyone a happy Beltane whether I want them to have a good day or not.
- People who ask about whether a children's book would be appropriate for someone who's a certain age or in a certain grade, without realizing that children are so personally diverse at any age and grade and may or may not be encouraged to read above or below their level anyway depending on interests.
- Those idiots who rip the covers off of porn magazines, hide them in the bathrooms, and steal the rest! (They think that we have theft detector thingies attached to the covers or something.)
- People who study in the café as if it is the library and get pissed if the environment doesn't suit them (e.g., when other customers are too loud, or when the noise from the café blender annoys them, or if it is too cold or hot in the bookstore).
- Customers who don't speak English and get angry when you cannot compensate for their lack of knowledge. (Yeah, I get the idea when you say "Discount card . . . make it . . . how to?" but I'm not quite sure what aspect you want me to explain, so don't you roll your eyes at me, buddy.)
- People who try to scare me into serving them better by threatening to go to our competition and looking at me pointedly.
- People who sigh disgustedly or make rude comments if I can't lead them directly to what they want. (This is especially annoying with magazines, as we carry THOUSANDS and they get impatient if I haven't memorized the exact location of each.)
- Children who complain that the television set isn't working right or doesn't get channels they want to see. (It plays movies and that's IT; you cannot watch Scooby Doo on there just because it is three-thirty.) You didn't come to a bookstore to watch TV, pinhead.
- People who are absolutely, one-hundred percent sure that they know the title or author and end up being completely wrong (e.g., after they have repeatedly spelled the author's last name for me and it turns out to be wrong, and that's why it took so long to locate the book, but of course it's still my fault).
- The weird men who come in and say cutesy things to me because they think I'm pretty.
- Customers who ask what they think is an obscure question, then don't believe you when you know the answer off the top of your head. Usually when this happens and the answer is "no we don't have that," they assume that we are just too lazy to look it up and end up asking another employee. It isn't possible, of course, that the other thirty-two kids in your child's class have been looking for this book for the last week and we might have heard that question before.
- When other employees, especially managers, make decisions about the department heads' sections and then execute the decisions without consulting us or even leaving a note telling us what is going on.
- When the trash in the back room is piled so high we can't open the receiving door.
- When people act like they've caught our company in a lie or "figured us out" when they inform me that our website (or even Amazon.com) has their book for several dollars cheaper. I don't know why the concept of retail prices being higher has not settled into the mind of society yet.
- People talking on their cell phones while I'm ringing them up, like I'm some kind of machine.
- People who don't listen to what I'm saying and reply to "Good morning!" with "fine thanks" or something.
- Café customers who think the answer to "Good morning!" is "Vanilla Latte."
- When people just walk up and ask me a question when I'm in the store but not on the clock and not wearing an apron.
- People who inform me that another bookstore "said we had it." Unless they called us and we reserved one for you, sir, there is no guarantee of us having anything at all. This is especially annoying when it seems that the customer thinks dropping this statement will reveal that he has the inside bookstore retailer scoop and therefore we can now bring it out of wherever we were hiding it.
- When people get mad that I can't answer the question "Well where could I get one?" when they are asking for some bizarre item that we don't carry.
- People who ask to use our free phone and then use it to call people and talk about unimportant things.
- When people try to just throw money at anyone in the store and walk out with a newspaper, when we are supposed to ring up the paper at the register like anything else. This usually occurs with old men and often is accompanied by some sort of whistle as they throw the money on any counter.
- When co-workers are nice to your face, then talk about you or paint a bad picture of you to higher management behind your back. This is especially bad if what they are saying is distorted or completely untrue, or based on a misunderstanding that they have not attempted to sort out.
- When customers take things off of unattended carts or open the boxes we're trying to unpack, which has the potential to mess up inventory.
- People who insist that there's no one in the whole store to help them, when they just haven't gone to the right place.
- People who make unreasonable demands, like for you to give them a list of all 140 books that an author has written, and then sigh and tap their foot when it takes a long time.
- People who insist that their card has not expired when I'm standing there looking at the expiration date.
- People who take stickers off of books that say 20% off and try to put them on other books, like we won't notice.
- When kids take toys out of their boxes and throw them, destroy the boxes, or consume parts of them.
- When people just don't understand that we don't have perpetual inventory. (Even if we did, you know books would be out of their places and still tough to find, or stolen or something.)
- The fact that our sale books are not in the inventory of the computer.
- When people get peeved over being unable to find a sale book that was "just here yesterday." Hey, put it on hold or buy it, or you have no business bitching.
- When people feel compelled to spell everything they say. Some people might need that but I'm a goddamn editor. I can spell "font."
- When people assume you can spell very weird things that they say very fast, like "Chez Matisse," but then spell the author's easy name slow and carefully.
- When people act confused, annoyed, or appalled over our very small inventory of toys, DVDs, videotapes, or music. We do not specialize in these things, yet we should have that hard-to-find videotape of the documentary about the Amish. (That is a real example. Yeah.)
- When people prompt me to do things I was already in the process of doing or was about to do anyway. This happens most often when I'm explaining to someone on the phone that the computer says we carry the book, and they interrupt me to ask me to go look for it and hold it for them. I have no guarantee that the book is there just because the computer says it is, so of COURSE I'm going to check the shelf before I say "yeah, it's here."
- When there is lots of recovery to do that was left from the night shift before, or when day shift doesn't do their part to clean up also.
- When people ask "Is this the only place it could be?" Well, in addition to being in the self help section, we also placed it on the "books written by a woman" table, and the "books lots of people ask for" table, oh and since it has a blue cover we shelved it on the blue shelf. Also, it smells kind of funny and is by a publisher from overseas, so it's on those two specialty shelves as well. Jeez. Unless it is a bestseller or happens to be a bookseller's pick, or is brand new, the answer to that question is NO. (And if it falls under any of those categories, we will generally check the applicable sections before it gets to the point where you have to ask that question.)
- When people get the blank "deer in the headlights" look when I point where they need to go to find books on whatever subject.
- THE HORRIBLE ANNOYING RETAIL STORE MUSIC. Enough said.
- When people can't be bothered to read the sticker or sign, but just see the giant percentage off display and assume it applies to anything and has no other conditions.
- Teachers who expect more special treatment than we're allowed to give them. Just because you chase brats all day does not mean you're entitled to being a brat every moment outside the classroom.
- When certain very in-demand or in-short-supply Hallmark ornaments or other specialty items are gone and we cannot get more.
- When we can't find a box for whatever they want.
- When employees who are unfamiliar with the specialty sections of Hallmark, Kids', Magazines, Salebooks and Key 6 (junk) just throw any and all of these items on shelves where they look like they go.
- When the management decides to stick the department heads of said departments on the register or at Customer Service when alternates are available. This is especially annoying if the department heads are later harassed or otherwise bitched out because their work is not done.
- When someone puts something back in the wrong place when the right place is right next to it. This is especially insulting and annoying when it involves Hallmark cards.
- People who take their coffee cups or whatever from the café . . . or really, any trash at all . . . and wedge it between books, on shelves, in hard-to-find places so that the drink begins to grow mold before we find it.
- People who speak very slowly and carefully when saying a book's title or author, as if we're too stupid to understand them if they speak normally. You can just say you want The Stand by Stephen King, I will understand you; you don't have to say "Thuh . . . STAN . . . Duh." I've been talking for many years now and special enunciation is not needed for my bookstore-working ass to find what you want.
- When I get called to Customer Service and the person who was waiting for my services sees me coming and SPRINTS to intercept me before I can get to the desk, as if I'm trying to get away. They don't seem to understand that I was called specifically to help them and that the meeting place was the customer service desk, and that I have to go there ANYWAY in most cases to look up their books. It is really insulting to be practically jumped by a semi-frantic customer who thinks I will do everything I can to get away from them. They have even done things like physically blocking my path to the desk because they think I will walk away and not help them, or maybe help someone else before them (oh, horrors!).
- People who pay at the register and then, after all is said and done, ask "Oh, did you do this yet?" and show the discount card. What the hell? Of course I did the discount card before I took your money. It's not like you pay and then I give you change back for what you saved. Jeez.
- When we are out of some specialty item that comes with the purchase of some other crap, and customers make a big shit that we are out and that it "isn't fair" even though the sign clearly says "while supplies last."
- When people think that our lack of a certain product indicates some political agenda. (I was actually informed by a conservative Republican that our store is liberally biased, because, well, we were out of whatever book Rush was hawking on the radio that morning. It is of course not possible that other Rush cronies came in and got what we had before his lazy ass got there.)
- People who get mad that the discount card doesn't discount purchase of gift certificates. (That's because they're just like cash, and they won't TAX either! But try telling that to some people!)
- Parents of school-age children who don't understand why a book is not available in paperback. See, some book companies release paperback versions ONLY through school organizations or catalogs, and those paperbacks aren't available for bookstores to order or sell. But, of course, some people just think we're hiding the paperbacks or lying to them to make them buy the hardbacks. Those people should die.
- Customers in the café who act impatient when it's not their turn yet, but still take a while to pick what they want, as if it has to physically be their turn to order before they can consider their options.
- People who open wrapped or boxed books to look inside, without asking. (Especially when they dispose of the wrapper in an inconvenient place, or damage the product while doing so.)
- People who exaggerate the time they've had to wait (e.g., at Customer Service for assistance, or on the phone on hold). This is especially annoying when I'm told a book was ordered three weeks ago and we should have it, when the computer shows us clearly that the book wasn't even ordered a week ago.
- People who come to our store when they meant to go to the other one (or even one of our competitors), and get bitchy when we have no idea what they're saying (e.g., they ask the other store to hold a book for them, then come to our store and act irate that we have no record or memory of said event). Sometimes they act like it's our fault for somehow being unclear about not being each other. It's never their fault.
- People who unwrap the pornos and cram the wrappers in the computer section or whatever, or people who put said porn magazines (or books!) somewhere else so they don't have to embarrass themselves by going to the sex section again. (It is amazing how many people will pretend they're looking at Crafts and Hobbies books because it's right across from the Sexuality section and they don't want people walking by to think they're a perv.)
- People who take up a lot of any associate's time to hand-pick lots of books, then leave them in a stack somewhere or shoved where they don't belong.
- People who try to "return" books they just got off the shelf and lie about them being a gift!
- When people are signing their credit card slips and then hold the slip, and the pen, out to me until I take it. Just leave it on the counter, I'll take it when I can. (It's just frustrating when I'm trying to bag something for them, or reaching to get something, and they *move with me* trying to physically push the slip and the pen into my hand or something. Put it the hell down and leave me alone!)
- Parents who let their children make a huge mess in the Kids' section and then don't even try to clean it up or apologize.
- People who read newspapers in the café, mess them up or spill coffee on them, and don't pay for them.
- Those people who get pissed at me for asking for ID when they write a check! (I even had one guy say "What is this? THAT'S something new!" when to my knowledge you generally need to show ID when you write a check everywhere!)
- When people come up to the out door and wait for someone to let them in because there's no handle. (Hello!!!)
- When there are books on the shelves that we aren't supposed to carry.
- When you find a book in the store that is so unbelievably bad that you can't believe it was written, let alone published.
- People who bark "There's nobody over there!" with a smirky face when I try to send them to Customer Service for assistance, before I have a chance to explain to them that I will call them and make sure someone meets them there. . . .
- Freaks who try to witness to me in the checkout line! (Maybe they see my pentacle earring and think it means "invite me to your church, please.")
People and situations that just annoy me slightly:
- People who want a book but don't know the title or author.
- People who think I am a solicitor and act suspicious when I call them to tell them the book they ordered has come in.
- People who think that just because a regular-priced book was put down on a sale table by a customer, it means I should discount it for them, even though all sale books are identified with stickers.
- People who wave their discount card at me while I'm ringing up their stuff, as if I have missed it or am trying to rip them off.
- When people look at their receipt after they've paid, realize a book was "too expensive," and ask me to "take it off."
- People who need a book RIGHT THIS MINUTE for a gift or other obligation and are blaming me for not having the book in the store, as if there's something I can do about it.
- People who don't understand that my computer is slow, and think that my lack of immediate response indicates that we don't have the book. All I have to do is sigh or make the wrong face, and they think the computer has showed me, in less than a second, that we don't have their book, and they say "Oh, so you don't have it?" before I've even managed to answer their question. Hello, patience. . . .
- People who are incredibly unhelpful at the register because they have put all their Hallmark cards in their envelopes already, not understanding that the bar code is on the card.
- People who try to hand you their purchases at the register instead of just putting them down. I don't want to hold all your books while I try to ring them up; that is what the counter is for. You don't do that at a grocery store do you??
- Local authors who are self-published or only have their books available through print-on-demand, and don't understand why we don't automatically carry their books or can't order them.
- People who get indignant that our company hasn't done something for them that they expect . . . when it's something that we NEVER do. (Example: Someone who hasn't renewed their discount card because we never sent them anything in the mail saying that they needed to.)
- People who obsessively ask about the discounts on the merchandise as I am ringing it, ask me once or twice if I used their discount card, and stand there studying their receipt to see where they can find where I ripped them off while people are waiting behind them.
- When people come up to the register after waiting in a line and then just want to ask me where to find a book (I only have a cash machine, not a computer that looks things up).
- When an entourage of various upper management people comes through the store and interferes with employees' customer service by getting in the way or snagging their attention; in other words, bigwigs who screw up your job while they're trying to tell you how to do your job.
- Discount cards with no expiration dates on them.
- When people take forever to count out the full fourteen dollars' worth of change they need for their purchase.
- Those bizarre women who begin their word exchange with you by saying "I'm looking for . . . " with some kind of really strange *squeak* on the word "I'm." Why is "I'm" about three octaves higher than the rest of the sentence? They also seem to do it on the word "you" in the sentence "Could *you* tell me if you have . . . ?" Strangely this phenomenon seems really widespread.
- People who do returns and think they have to sign the return form three times. (It has a space labeled "customer signature," a space labeled "cashier's signature," and a space labeled "manager's signature." I don't know why some people, when not instructed what to do, just sign all three, one right after the other, as if signing their name three times is the only way to make it official or something! READ, PEOPLE!)
- People who try to prompt me by informing me (usually snottishly) what the price of something is when I can see it as well as they can. Usually they do this on newspapers or other items that have prices on them but have barcodes that don't register correctly on the machine, so we have to type in the name of the item and find it in order to avoid doing this no-no thing called a "miscellaneous scan." It annoys me when I scan a newspaper and in the middle of typing in "New York Times Sunday" the customer butts in, "RIGHT THERE, it SAYS it's five dollars!"
- People who see their total and look shocked, then ask me what everything cost and study the receipt when it comes out. This is especially annoying if they decide something was just too expensive and want me to "take it off," which involves re-doing the whole sale because their cheapness didn't override their disinterest in doing the math.
- "I decided I didn't want this" at the register.
- People who say "arthur" instead of "author."
- People who mispronounce the name of the book or author they want, such as "Stephen Hawkins" or "From Dawn to Duh-KAY-dence." It's "Hawking" and "DEK-uh-dence," asswipe.
- When I say "We'd have to order it," and their response is, "Oh, you don't have it?" Yeah, we normally say we have to order something when we already have some.
- People who come up with a title like "Time for Bed" or "Love" and are inordinately surprised when there's more than one book called that. (Of course, they never have the author, though often enough they do know what COLOR it is.)
- People who prompt you with information you are capable of collecting yourself, like when you flip an old driver's license over to find the expiration date and they tell you the same thing you're reading.
- People who supply you with information they THINK you need when you don't need any such thing. I don't know how many times I've asked someone if they're writing a check and they say, "It's number 2017." I don't need the check number. I asked you a question.
- People who get frazzled when they see a book on one visit and then come back two weeks later to get it and find it's no longer displayed where we had it. These people think that bestseller lists have the same books on them perpetually and that we never change what's on our displays. It's especially annoying when they say "It was just on bestsellers two weeks ago! Where'd it go?" Where do you THINK it went? It fell off bestsellers! That usually happens when other books start selling better! That's the freakin' POINT!
- When people are irate over our inability to carry out-of-state newspapers other than the New York Times.
- When café closers don't close properly and leave more work for the morning person.
- When the newspapers are not out on the shelves yet (due to late opening or the trash being piled too high to open the door), and customers are being cranky about waiting.
- People who ask a yes/no question that they think they already know the answer to, and then respond with a blank stare when they get the other answer. (Example: "Do you have any music CDs?" "No." [Blank stare that amounts to "WHAT????"] Usually this is followed by a repeat of the question, "You don't have ANY? You don't sell music?" GAWD.)
- When we sell out of a newspaper and people "just can't believe" we're out. Hello, if you want it, someone else might want it too, and maybe they got their ass out of bed before you. Get a subscription if it's so damn vital!
- People who request that you look for certain state series quarters in your register, or when they take a long time examining their money to make sure they're not giving you a quarter that needs to be part of their collection. If you are collecting it, don't put it in your pocket with your spending money.
- When people are mad that we don't have a newspaper from the day before or a few days ago . . . as if we save those things and let them sit around on the off chance that someone might want one! It ain't news anymore buddy!
- People who come to Customer Service wanting the book they ordered and feel compelled to describe the book and tell you what it's about instead of giving pertinent information like, say, their NAME. "Yes, I ordered a book. [pause] Um, it's about this big . . . it's a little prayer book . . . I think it's white . . . um, I'm sorry, I've forgotten what its name is. . . . " Okay, let me just look through every book to see if I can find one that looks like that. No, wait . . . how about instead, you give me your freakin' NAME?
- When people hand me the discount card very strangely, like holding its face firmly out like it is police ID and I only have to see the front or something, or when they hold it in some way that I just can't get it under the scanner. Surprisingly people do this a LOT, in a way that tells me they think they're helping.
- When people seem to think things that are not our fault are, such as when someone orders a subscription to a magazine and never receives it, then comes and asks us what we can do to make the magazine people send them their magazine.
- When people try to follow me from Customer Service and get in my way. (I have to come around the counter before I can come out, so they follow me along the counter and then look shocked when I have to go the direction they've just come from. This is especially annoying when I have pointed first in the direction I am planning to go.)
- When our special Gold Discount Cards keep ringing up as expired even though they're supposed to be good forever.
- People who act annoyed when we go through the proper steps of accepting a return, acting like it's their right to get money back rather than a privilege we afford them.
- When people reply "that's all right" to yes/no questions. I explain a discount card policy to someone and ask if they're interested, and I get "that's all right." That could mean yes, go ahead, it's okay, or no, don't worry about it. When I ask them to clarify I usually get a strange look, but about half the time they meant yes and the other half they meant no!
- When people park in the fire lane. Especially when they don't answer our pages asking them to move their car.
- People who insist on grabbing lots of magazines and leaving them around the store in inconvenient places after reading them, without ever paying for one. The people who do this every week are especially annoying.
- When kids push the "channel up" button the TV over a hundred times (requiring me to push it BACK down over a hundred times to get it back to channel 4) trying to make it come on.
- People who come to our store to study and then are loud.
- People who come to our store to SLEEP.
- People who expect us to carry their textbooks even though we are not affiliated with the University.
- People who think that they'll get a better price on textbooks if they get them at the retail bookstore rather than the college bookstore. They have this irrational belief that the University bookstores mark the prices way up so that they will have to pay more. But THESE smart cookies don't fall for THAT, noooo!
- When people want a certain biography but they don't know who it's about and it's not in the computer; that makes it difficult, because the biographies are organized by who they're about, not who they're by.
- When books are mislabled, such as a book about menopause that was labeled by our company to be shelved in the teen section. I know your marketing dudes don't know much about women's bodies, but every book about periods isn't for teenagers. Just not right.
- Crumpled up money at the cash register.
- People who get put on hold on the phone while you look for their book, then hang up before you can get back.
- People who insist that it's a disgrace that they can't find this book ANYWHERE when it is either a very old out of print book, a very technical textbook that would only be sold in specialty shops, or a book that hasn't even been released yet.
- People who get their panties in a bundle when they've been to a bunch of stores looking for a very popular and in-short-supply book and think tearing into the customer service person will make it magically appear.
- People who think that the fact that we don't carry their book indicates some prejudice against whatever subject it is on, such as those who think we cater to liberals because we are out of certain books on conservative politics that they heard about on the Rush Limbaugh show.
- People who think they can MAKE us start carrying a book or author by bitching about it, when the store's stock is not determined at store or even district level.
- The same type of people who say we should "order some" of some book they think would be a good seller (because, you know, if they have the interest, then everyone else does too). They don't seem to get that we can't order books unless they are for a certain person, because we have no guarantee that they're going to get bought. We're only allowed to have in stock what the company deems we should carry.
- When I'm waiting on someone at the register, having asked for some sort of response from them, and they either ignored me or haven't heard me, and try to prompt me to ring up their stuff by patting the pile of purchases or sliding it toward me as if I don't see it or don't understand that they're ready. If they'd just come up to the desk ready to interact with another human being, this b.s. would be eliminated.
- When I prompt people for their address and they stop talking after giving the street address, as if they don't understand that there is more after that. This even happens when they don't live in the same town (though it shouldn't matter, we need the zip code anyway). This happens fully FIFTY PERCENT OF THE TIME.
- People who use the store's wheelchair but don't need to.
- People who say "Do you work here?" when I'm standing there wearing an apron that says the store's name on it. ("No, actually I wear this for fun . . . fashion statement, eh?")
- People who ask me what store they called on the phone right after I finished saying the name of the store in my opening spiel.
- People who say the same thing over and over again to try to help me (such as the author's name, with spelling, or the fact that it was just mentioned in the Gainesville Sun two weeks ago).
- People who expect us to have a giant section on whatever their interest is and become appalled when the only books that exist on the subject would have to be ordered.
- People who get in my way while trying to "help" me ring up their stuff or put it in a bag.
- People who put their babies' nasty asses on the counter at checkout, like everyone should have to smell their babies' unchanged butts just because they do.
- Wet rings left on the counter (or on books!) by customers' drinks.
- When people leave a shopping cart right in the way of the register because they can't be bothered to wheel it back where it goes on their way out.
- People who get annoyed that we don't have a copy machine. I don't mind them asking, but when they get pissed at us, as if we are expected to have one like a library, I get annoyed. The "I know you have one" line is not unheard of, nor is it unheard of for a customer to insist that we must have one we use for ourselves in the back room, which we don't unless you count the fax machine, which can only make copies of single pieces of paper, not the stuff bitchy customers want to photocopy out of books they'd otherwise have to buy.
- When someone has done something disgusting in the bathroom, like taken a crap in the sink, and a customer complains to me about it like I am the one who did it.
- When people say "yes" to things that are not yes/no questions. (Like "would you like me to put the receipt in your bag, or do you want to take it now?" "Yes please.")
- People who wait outside early in the morning to get into the bookstore and feel compelled to periodically tug on the locked door, as if it will magically open when 9:00 hits.
- People who hand me their credit card when I ask them for their discount card, and think it's the same thing.
- People who try to refuse to give necessary information because they insist we should "have it in the computer." (It's just a register, man.)
- Parents who hit the roof when some pervert has taken down a porn magazine and put it where their children can reach it.
- People who freak out over the Sunday paper prices and insist they shouldn't be that expensive.
- People who look at me disapprovingly if I've never heard of their book.
- People who look at me disapprovingly for any reason.
- People who ask for a certain book, make me go through no small amount of effort to find it, and then change their minds about whether they want it.
- People who say "Not necessarily" when they mean "not necessary," when I'm asking them if they want a bag.
- People who want "that new cookbook that just came out," ignoring of course that lots of cookbooks have come out recently and that I have no idea if "just came out" means last week or last year. . . .
- People who expect me to have scads of a book because it was in the newspaper, on the radio, or featured on Oprah (but was not part of her book club).
- People who stand in the checkout line trying to continue to talk to me after their purchase is complete IF there is a line behind them (I don't mind otherwise, or if they step to the side and wait).
- People who ordered a book a couple of days ago and stop in or call repeatedly to see if it's there yet (hey now, we SAID seven to ten days, asshole!).
People and situations that are so irritating that I laugh at them:
- People who think they can pay for things at Customer Service.
- When people walk into the back room thinking it is the bathroom.
- When people give me their Blockbuster card or other discount club card and think it's ours.
- Parents who come in to buy a Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! booster pack for their children, but get a blank look on their faces when I ask them which kind.
- Not that it's their fault, but when people manage to snag me to help them just as I am on my way to the back room for my break. . . .
- When people walk over the spots on our floor that are laid badly, hear the loud crack, and jump or look behind them and try to figure out what happened.
- When people reading me an ISBN over the phone do so very slowly (as if they think I have to chisel it in stone or something), or when they read me the dashes.
- When people misread the price stickers that say "1 of 2" on them and think that this book is part 1 of a two-book set, when in fact the sticker just tells US how many of the book they sent us so we can make sure they're all in the shipment.
- When people inform me that they can't find anything because we rearranged everything recently. They explain to me that this section "used to be in the front" or something, when it never has been. I find this funny because they are probably thinking of a completely different bookstore, and forget that I WORK there and would have NOTICED if we'd rearranged.
- When people think our theft detection program is a lot more advanced than it is, and remind me to "deactivate the tag" when it's a paper sticker.
- When people ask if their discount card will work on certain purchases, and are inordinately delighted when I explain that it works on friggin' everything except gift certificates.
- People who don't understand that the EXIT door is an exit, and ask incredulously if they can go out that way.
- People who ask me what the price is on something that has a BIG FAT PRICE STICKER right on it, and claim there is no price.
- When people give me their discount card to discount their purchase, then get mixed up and think they've already given me their credit card, so they're sitting there waiting for me to do something and I'm sitting here repeating their total and wondering why they're just standing there. . . . Usually when they realize what's going on they say "Oh, yes, you want money, don't you?"
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Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.
Comments from others:
Alison: I think the creepiest thing that has happened to me during work was that some guy asked me where the restrooms were. I showed him,then went back to what I had been doing. A little while later he came back and said, very, very seriously, "God bless you." It just creeped me out >_>:
Mikey: Well I got a real kick out of reading this, and I can comment that sometimes it really sucks that stupidity doesn't hurt, I have made the comment many a times to various co-workers about the same type of mentality of where I work.
Kim: I worked in bookstores (both independent and chain) for six years, and have experienced nearly everything you mentioned. Another one that always got me was when someone wanted me to suggest a book for a twelve year old boy and then, after I made three or four suggestions, said "Would a boy like these, or are they only for girls?" If they had no faith in my suggestions, why not ask someone who had once been a twelve year old boy? Anyway, very funny.
Somnite: Hahaha. I pity you. I worked in a library for 4 years and thankfully only had to deal with about half that stuff.
My favorite occurred recently when a guy dropped off a large storage tote of "donation" books and then called back 3 weeks later to say that he had put one of the in their by mistake. By then all the books were either added to our collection, sold in our books sale, or trashed.
Evigool: Hm...after reading this piece I wonder if working in a bookstore would be a good idea. Lord knows how I despise grocery stores.
Jarrod: 'When people say "yes" to things that are not yes/no questions. (Like "would you
like me to put the receipt in your bag, or do you want to take it now?" "Yes
I don't work in retail, but that annoys the hell out of me too.
Edel: English is my mother's second language so she has difficulty understanding people
and thus responds incorrectly or often asks people to repeat what they've said. It's
embarrassing but she can't help it. I've always been pleasantly surprised by people
who can keep a seemingly genuine smile on their face when they encounter my mother
at a store. I don't understand how they can do it because even my frustration shows
on my face whenever she does those things!
I do some of the things you've mentioned here. I promise to do better! I've always
had a weird phobia of talking to people who work at stores, so that doesn't help me,
haha. I have to build up my courage and repeat what I want to say in my head. That
usually doesn't help at all because I usually stutter and end up saying that doesn't
make sense and then I spend the rest of the day mulling over how stupid I sound.
Matt: OMG one of the best list I have read in a long time. Did someone really
take a crap in the sink when the toilets were not working?
You have to check out iwishispitinyourfood.com its got some amazing retail horror
Sandy: Hi, I just wanted to ask how you usually deal with office
politics/bitchery. I'm asking because just like you I'm quite a 'unique' person to
and I have trouble dealing with this puzzling behavior of 'ordinary' people. So how
do you not let it get to you and how do you manage to maintain your cheery attitude
(and happiness in general) while at work?