“Would you like your receipt in the bag?”
The phrase is almost as monotonous and repetitive as the one threatened by elementary school teachers to under performing students: “Would you like fries with that?” Why, then is a job in retail considered superior to one in fast food services—a position I myself have never dared to apply for, thinking it’s “beneath me”. Forgive my ego.
This summer, I’ve been working three part-time retail jobs at once (I tend to get bored easily). Let me tell you that they are all basically the same, and every one shares common experiences – boredom during slow times, the intense stupidity of customers during the remainder.
When the boredom becomes extremely severe, I tend to go on massive cleaning sprees. Unfortunately, the apparent non-verbal communicative significance of a mop causes people to walk on the freshly cleaned and still wet floor. This then prompts them to complain about the slipperiness of said floor, rolling their eyes in disgust over the dirt trail behind them, as if it were left by someone other than themselves!
If the cleaning gets to be too much, I play out make-believe scenarios in my mind to keep me occupied. When you’ve worked in the same store for a long time, it begins to feel like your second home, and you’d rather not have customers invading your space if they have no intention of purchasing anything.
An old lady walks in and starts handling an ugly multicoloured object my co-workers and I nicknamed “The Siesta Nightmare”, and I think:
“INVADAGE!! You have touched…the forbidden treasure!! Now you will never again see the light… of… DAY!!”
In my make-believe remake of a Disney “classic”, the lights begin to flicker, and the products slowly commit suicide as they jump off of their shelves to the wet and dirty floor below. The side walls open revealing the gate within, which swiftly slides shut, locking in the offending woman just as she reaches the perimeter of the store.
I laugh to myself out loud, which elicits a stern glare of “you’re crazy” from the impertinent, trespassing old woman. Yet I don’t care, and she leaves, so I can lose myself in my boredom once more. That’s what happens when you’re secluded in a loser store in a loser shopping mall with no customers, no other employees, and yellow lighting that makes your eyes go fuzzy.
Then there are the classic stunts that many customers pull. There is the “greet and run” whereby a customer will hightail it out of the store as quickly as possible when you say hello. Better yet are the ones who run as soon as they see you take one step in their direction. There are the standard complaints: “This and this are the same colour, why is one on sale, and the other isn’t?”or “The sign says 30% off.” “It says ‘up to’ 30% off.” “But that’s misleading!”—no, it’s not, you just can’t read.
A friend of mine who used to work at a well-known toy store, among other retail establishments, has stories that aptly describe nearly every single “dumb customer” one could encounter. For example: “I’m looking for a toy for a little boy…it’s a man that dresses like a bat…and he has a car and he wears a cape.” “Batman?” “No…it’s a man who dresses like a bat.” “Like Batman.” “No, that’s not it.”—then the customer leaves…and comes back later to buy Batman.
I used to think that people would just say stupid things as an excuse to get mad at store employees, but I think that line of thought is just my excuse for not wanting to believe that people really are that slow. They have kids, too, it’s scary—the passing of “dumb” genes could be the end of life as we know it…
Needless to say, I’m sure all retail workers have enough stories to write multiple volumes of their experiences. Can I just tell you how much I love the announcement: “Attention shoppers. The stores here are coming to the close of another shopping day.”