I spent many years working in hell, otherwise known as retail. Which would be an okay job if it wasn’t for the customers. And the pay. And the hours. And the—okay, nothing about retail is good. There’s not one redeeming quality. That’s the truth.
I mean, I always knew there were a lot of idiots in the world. Before I worked in retail, I used to think the population was 50 or 60 percent idiot. I now realize it’s actually about 80 percent moron.
I could give you a million examples, but here are some that stick out. Keep in mind, these people were the rule, not the exception.
- Once I had a customer bring a package of bankers’ boxes to the register. She pointed at the label. “It says 6-pack. Does that mean there’s more than one in here?”
I really wanted to point out that she had enough fingers to do that one herself, but my pathetic need to keep collecting $10/hr stopped me.
- I had another customer who wanted to return a task chair she’d purchased four years earlier—because it had just broken and she still had the receipt. Now, I’ll give her major props for that—when I buy stuff, I’m lucky if I can lay hands on the receipt four weeks later, let alone four years. But our return policy was thirty days. Now, our store manager was pretty relaxed about that—if it was, say, two or three months, and the customer just wanted an even exchange for the same item, and we still carried it, we’d bend the rules. But this was four years later. Basically, she bought a forty-dollar chair, used it for four years, and wanted a refund when it finally broke.
Now, if I paid forty bucks for a chair and got four years of use out of it, I’d figure I got my money’s worth and buy a new one. But this lady demanded we either give her a refund or a new chair (we didn’t even carry that one any more, four years later and all). My manager calmly explained that unfortunately our return policy was thirty days, and the manufacturer’s warranty was only three years, and after that point it was customary to just buy a new chair. The customer got even angrier.
“But I live an hour away,” she wailed. “It’s going to cost me $80 in gas round trip.”
That’s right, even assuming we could have replaced her forty-dollar, four-year-old chair, she would have been forty bucks in the hole….
- We had a lot of people take stuff off the shelves, then try to return it for a cash refund, or at least a store credit. I could always tell because when people are trying to get away with shit their body language gets weird. I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but I can see it out of the corner of my eye and I just know they’re trying to pull something.
So this one teenage couple brings this ink cartridge up, and I can tell there’s something going on, so I ask for ID since they “lost” their receipt. (We required ID on non-receipt returns.) Then I checked our inventory, which said we had three on hand. I mumbled something about going to get the manager and went into the office with the ID and ink. Then I radioed a coworker and had him count how many were on the shelf.
My manager went out and gave them some story about being unable to accept the return without a receipt. They got mad and yelled they weren’t going to shop in our store anymore. (I think they meant shoplift?) Then they stormed out, leaving “their” ink behind—and also the girl’s ID.
- The story about the dumbest guy I waited on isn’t funny. He would buy canned air sometimes three or four times a day, always one can at a time. Claimed it was for his “car detailing business.” Which it could have been, except no one fucking runs a business that way, leaving to buy supplies three times a day instead of buying in bulk at a discount store. That’d be like if you dropped everything, drove to the store, and purchased a single Post-It each time you needed to write something down. Nobody does that!
Add to that the fact that his nose was constantly red and his hands shook so much I had to run the credit card through the pin pad for him, and it was obvious he was snorting the canned air. (A coworker once told me I shouldn’t be so judgmental, he could have a medical condition that caused him to shake. Yes, of course he could, but that wouldn’t explain his bizarre purchasing pattern of one can of air at a time three or four times a day.)
I still have no idea what gives someone the bright idea to start snorting canned air, but the whole thing made me uncomfortable. I started avoiding the register when I saw him walk in. I just had this horrible feeling that one day I was going to turn on the news and see that he’d been found dead with the can still in his hands, and wonder if I was the person who sold it to him.
W. T. Fallon is the author of Fail to the Chief, a political satire in which the presidential election is carried out via reality show, which is almost as bizarre and far-fetched as our current reality.