Home > Customer Service, Retail > The Customers You Don’t Want to Be

The Customers You Don’t Want to Be

Having worked in retail management for three years I found myself complaining, frequently, about how stupid people are.  Usually I wasn’t complaining about the guy who came in and called me an assburgler for forty minutes.  No, I was complaining about the subtle annoyances that build up on a day-to-day basis in retail.

Those people, the ones who make scenes, become the butt of jokes between employees within hours of the incident.  The people on this list, however, only foster a seething rage inside every employee, one that doesn’t go away.

The following list of customers are people that you do not want to be.  If you think you are one of these people, I suggest finding religion and changing your ways because you’re probably a bad person anyway.  I have compiled this list from three years of management and a combined five years of other experience in the retail and food service industries.  If you challenge my assertions here, you probably haven’t worked retail.

The Counter Changer

Anybody who knows retail will know this one right away: it’s the man or woman who refuses to put the cash and change directly into your hand.  Seriously.  It’s as though doing so would be considerate of you as a human being when the other option is to callously place the change on the counter and make you pick it up again.  Plus, most disgusting of all, the customer would risk accidental skin-to-skin contact with a retail employee.  We all know that they all have contagious diseases, after all.

For anybody trying to excuse this behavior let me explain it to you in excruciating detail. The customer will take out his stack of bills and change count it out and set it on the counter, ignoring your outstretched hand.  When he is done, he will look up from the pile of money on the counter and make eye contact as if to say: my money is touching a surface, you better pick it up right away.  Scum.

When you are shopping there is one universal symbol for “give me money and put said money here” and that is the outstretched hand of either the cashier or the customer.

The universal sign for "Put that fucking money right here."

That the Counter Changer cannot even bother to put it in your hand is the ultimate sign of disrespect.  The real slap in the face here is that if you, the cashier, were to place the change he/she received on the counter with the same expectation, you’d be on the nasty end of a verbal tirade about being an inconsiderate asshole.

After all, when you give a customer his change back, he holds an outstretched, cupped hand as though to say “please deposit my change into this ersatz money receptacle I have created with my hands.  To do otherwise would be rude.”

Related species:  The Change Counter.  The Change Counter is the person who insists that he has the right change.  Total is 17.83?  Oh shit, he totally has 83 cents in his pocket.  You just have to sit there for a good two minutes while he digs through every pocket to find it.  Best of all, half the time the Change Counters don’t even have the right change and have, in the end, just wasted your time.

The worst is when you have a Change Counting Counter Changer:  it’s the unicorn of retail, if every time you saw a unicorn you wanted to disembowel it

The Receipt Checker

The receipt checker is probably one of most disheartening things you can see in retail.  You’re cashiering and at the end of the transaction hand the customer her receipt and change.  She moves a couple feet out of the way to let you continue your transactions with the next customer, but still lingers, looking over the receipt.

If you’ve worked retail you know exactly the type, and every time you see it I bet your heart sinks.  The customer stands there, reading the receipt line-by-line as if to say “I’m going to find your mistake, even if there isn’t one. Because fuck you. That’s why.”

The worst thing you'll see all day.

I'm going to find your mistake, you little fucker.

And believe me, usually there isn’t any mistake to find.  This won’t stop the receipt checker, though.  Once the receipt checker is satisfied that he’s found your egregious error, he will approach you in the middle of your current transaction, jam the receipt into your face and accuse you of wrongdoing.  To hell with the concept of “waiting in line”, this guy totally thinks he got shortchanged thirty cents.

The worst part of every Receipt Checker is that when they are right, the cashier usually can’t help him.  Whether it’s because the cashier is now in the middle of another transaction, or the cashier doesn’t have the power to issue said refund, all you can do is tell the Receipt Checker to go to the customer service desk.  This is never the right answer, because how else will the Receipt Checker show you the error of your ways if somebody else fixes it?

As I said, though, most of the time there is no mistake.  Despite that most retail establishments try to make receipts clear, sometimes they aren’t.  Sometimes things are muddled and the receipt checker is misunderstanding some line.  Rest assured that he will not be dismissed so easily, and you will have to spend ten minutes going over every single line, calculator in hand, to show him that his total was correct.

Related species:  The Backseat Cashier.  This person will stare at the screen displaying the prices of items for every item you scan, ensuring that what she thought it should cost was correct.  God forbid something not look right, at which point the transaction comes to a screeching halt so that the Backseat Cashier can point out how wrong you are about that price.

Don’t get me wrong here: I am not against the Backseat Cashier or the Receipt Checker being conscientious about not getting shortchanged.  If something is a different price than you thought, you should definitely address that.

The issue here is the attitude, assuming that every error that should happen to arise is not a reflection on a computer system that might have made a mistake, but that you, the cashier, are intent upon short-changing the customer because you are evil.

The Custom Bagger

Look, cashiering isn’t a hard thing to do.  I’ll get that out in the open.  You scan items, say totals and make change.  One of the harder parts is bagging the items, and even that isn’t hard.  Most stores have a proper bagging procedure that is equal parts food safety and common sense.  These rules exist and are how the cashier is supposed to bag food.

For example, most stores will suggest that you not put chemicals with food.  Period.  Should it leak, the food is tainted.  Most stores that sell meat will have rules based upon the cooking temperature and type of meat, such that you minimize food safety concerns.  The list goes on, but there is a way to bag items.  Sometimes this means getting a few more bags than you might want, but it’s a small price to pay so that you don’t end up eating bleach-flavored ground beef.

Bagging items is hard.

So...so I'm NOT supposed to crack the eggs and put the vegetables inside the carton?

So when you have a small order, it’s not uncommon for the cashier to ask questions like “do you mind if I put this mouthwash with your meat” so as to minimize how many bags you carry.  It’s part courteous, part trying to save extra work.  In what is a somewhat surprising and positive fact, most people are flexible with some of these rules if it means saving bags.  Why carry four bags for four items?

Then you get the Custom Bagger.  This customer just cannot accept the following two points as fact: first, that the cashier is not a complete and utter moron; second, that the company has spent more money than you make in a year (yes, even you Mr. Doctor) figuring out the best way to bag items.

The Custom Bagger has directions for everything.  These directions range from the obvious (“Don’t put my bleach next to my salad!”) to the downright odd (“can you double-bag those paper plates and I’d really like that dishwasher detergent wrapped in that shirt and placed inside of that garbage can”).  Don’t get me wrong, customer service is important and it’s not so absurd that you request some special bagging procedures.

But when you are telling the cashier how he is doing everything wrong, but don’t provide your specific direction of how you want it bagged, you’re just an idiot.  There, I said it.  The Backseat Bagger is the same as the Backseat Driver: he will tell you everything you’re doing wrong, but not provide you with specific commentary on how to do it right.  Everyone knows not to put raw beef on top of clothing, but the Custom Bagger thinks that fact has escaped you.  Because, you know, you work in retail.

Related species: The Know-It-All.  This customer lurks around the store, waiting for its unsuspecting prey (the employee) to wander into its web of horrors.  This particularly insidious customer comes in many forms, but in all of them he is ready to tell you exactly why you’re wrong or how to do your job better.

The Know-It-All may ask a question about a product that he already knows, only to correct you on the fine details (or edify you, should you dare say “I’m not sure”); or he may lurk around, waiting to provide you with astute insight into how the store could better merchandise its product—ignoring the fact that a team of people are paid to figure out exactly that same information.

Customer lurking.

I have some ideas on how you can sell more bras! Listen to meeeeeeee!

This customer will latch onto you and lecture you for what seems like hours before letting you loose from his grasp.  It is a nightmarish experience.

The Retail Worker

People working in retail can tell you that the only thing you hear more often than “I spend TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS a week in this store” is “I worked in retail.”  What the Retail Worker fails to tell you is that she worked in retail for a few months in college, during that turbulent period where her alcohol costs were higher than her income.  The Retail Worker is the person who throws out all the wrong terms and acts like she knows what she’s talking about at all times.

The Retail Worker is perhaps the only person on this list that I can say for sure has good intentions.  In my years of field work with these creatures, I found that the Retail Worker is trying—out of some misguided sensibility—to relate to you on a level.  The Retail Worker thinks she’s making your life easier by using all the right terms.

Best intentions aside, the Retail Worker can be one of the most infuriating people to deal with.  When she hears an answer she doesn’t like (“We’re out of stock on that particular item, I’m sorry”) she starts tossing out retail-related terms.  Near as I can tell, she thinks that by being an “insider” she’ll get access to that secret stockroom that nobody tells you about, the one that actually hides all the items the store is currently out of stock on, but only opens up for people who work in retail.

Retail Worker

Do you have any of this MERCHANDISE in the BACKROOM. See...I'm one of you.

But beyond all of this, there is always a tone of condescension to the Retail Worker’s words.  She tries to relate to you on your level.  Perhaps that is the key word there, really.  For those who don’t see anything wrong with that: she is treating you like “store employee” is a bigger part of your identity than “person” and chooses that, of all things, to latch onto as the means by which she will relate to you.

Related species:  The Doctor.  The Doctor is that guy who cannot let go of some title that, he feels, means he gets special treatment.  Where the Retail Worker at least attempts to relate to you, The Doctor specializes in using the phrase “do you know who I am?” and trying to make you feel like shit.

Doctor Fool

Why bother?

By being as condescending as possible he, apparently, believes that he is going to get you to use some magical perks. Perhaps in the hospital being a doctor gets you some special treatment.  However, in the store it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, lawyer or God, you get treated the same way. Instead, you’re just ensuring that anybody you talk to is going to go into the employee-only area and call you a douchebag until his tongue hurts.


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