You’re in a bright room that’s smells simultaneously of sweat and firsthand fabric. People are either aggressively pushing past you or practically begging for your attention. As you make your rounds, struggling to get to everyone, you feel a sense of urgency to run to the backroom to catch your breath. But when your hand is finally on the doorknob, and you know for sure you’ve tended to everyone, a hand grasps your shoulder—it’s a customer who wants another colour in the same size. And no, she doesn’t want your co-worker’s help; she wants you.
You’re not famous or the president of some renowned company. Sadly, the attention you’re getting is based solely on the fact that you’re a retail worker on a Saturday afternoon dealing with an understaffed store.
When you’re talking to hundreds of people per shift, you’re bound to run into a ton of unique characters. There are the people you love—because clearly they themselves have worked retail and know how frustrating it is. Then there are the people who can’t understand why you can’t do 15 different things at once. And then there are people in between who are deserving of their very own category.
Here are 12 people I’ve come in contact with through my retail working ventures. (And if you work retail or plan on it in the future, so will you.)
1. The regular customer
They’re in your store almost every time you work. They make you feel like you do your job well because they keep coming back for more. The bonus is they tend to make your sales go up.
2. The customer who ignores you when you greet them
This person will straight up ignore you when you say “hi.” Even if you say it again a little louder, he/she walks right past you and pretends you don’t exist. You start wondering what the issue is and if you’re doing something wrong.
3. The happy and kind customer
These customers are a pleasure to be around. It doesn’t matter if you forget to un-tag their items or you tell them that what they wanted is out of stock. This person is polite all the way through and always says “please” and “thank you”—it’s honestly rarer than you’d think.
4. The customer who doesn’t get that there’s a line
These people come right up to your register to make a purchase, budding a huge line of other customers. When you tell them they have to join the line, they appear sort of dazed and confused. Then they walk away slowly.
5. The customer who thinks he/she deserves special treatment
These customers usually ask you for the promotion price. When you tell them what that is, they say, “Give me a good price,” even though you explain a bunch of times that it’s not possible to reduce the price further.
6. The angry customer
They’ll be rude if you ask them if they need help. They’ll yell at you for something you have no control over. Then they’ll proceed to chuck a pair of jeans or a shirt or the card machine (true story) at you because it didn’t work the way they wanted it to. IT’S NOT MY FAULT.
7. The customer who’s scared of you
You leave them alone for a bit when they first enter because they look a little timid. Then your manager nudges you to go over, so you approach slowly to ask them if they need help. When they see you coming, they turn around and swiftly escape the store. I wasn’t going to hurt you…
8. The customer who comes in 30 seconds before you close
Not only do they come in just as you’re about to lock the door, but they spend 40 minutes browsing and ask you to get a bunch of items from the back. Then they try on all of the items slowly.
9. The customer who doesn’t want you to go on break
They get attached—which is actually kind of sweet. They’ll exclusively ask you for help and ask you to come to the fitting rooms with them so they can do a little fashion show. When you say you have to go on break, they ask if you can go in 10 minutes.
10. The customer who doesn’t need help but then proceeds to mess up the store
You spend four hours of your shift perfecting the graphic-tee table. Then they approach and you panic. They start digging through a pile, so you offer your assistance to help find a size. They refuse and you’re left with a nightmare you don’t deserve.
11. The customer who doesn’t think you’re a real person
This customer won’t say please or thank you and will demand service. Some will even snap their fingers to get you to help them and ignore you when you speak.
12. The co-workers
The people you meet at your job. However bad it may get, these people make everything kind of OK at the end of your shift.