Working in a clothing store may mean putting up with a lot of abuse.
“Oftentimes, customers don’t much think of you as a person, so much as they see you as a faceless helper,” said Mike Saad, who worked in a clothing store for eight years.
It can be difficult for retail workers to keep their composure when customers are rude and inconsiderate. Nevertheless, Saad told HuffPost he took “a lot of pride in his job” and learned a lot about human nature from the experience.
“A lot of times customers would get visibly offended when they would try on something that didn’t look great and we’d be honest with them. It’s as though they wanted to be lied to,” he said. Another common issue Saad faced was that customers wanted to “talk to the manager all the time,” he said. Some threatened to call the store’s corporate office for things that he couldn’t control, such as playing “inappropriate” music that the corporate office selected and required the store to play.
Garrett Bemiller, who worked at Hollister Co. for four years, said customers shoplifting and wanting to fight managers is “pretty standard,” but far from the worst behavior clothing store employees have to deal with.
“A lot of customers forget that behind the name tag and headset, there’s a human being with feelings,” Saad said. “We’ve had customers make a lot of new employees cry over simple mistakes that are not a big deal.”
Here are some of the rudest things clothing store customers say and do.
They Insult Employees’ Bodies
Barbara Stern worked at a high-end boutique for three years before launching a career in textiles. A customer she was helping once turned to her and said, “You probably don’t wear any of these clothes, do you? They’re not really for your type.”
Stern took that comment as a “direct jab at my personal style and physique,” and said that it “stung.” Even though Stern was insulted, she still did her job and made sure the customer was happy. “It was challenging to smile and remain professional, but I did,” she said.
They Put Down Employees For Making Minimum Wage
Saad once helped a customer “demanding to try on almost every style and wash of jeans.” This meant Saad had to locate about 15 different pairs of pants in the customer’s size. Saad was “running back and forth from the stock room to try and locate sizes and calling other stores to check inventory” to try to make the customer happy. When Saad wasn’t able to locate every style of jeans the store carried in the customer’s size, the customer told him that his “inability to locate a simple pair of jeans” was the reason he only made minimum wage, he said. The customer “then told me to try harder,” Saad added.
They Accuse Employees Of Hiding Merchandise
Eloisa Hife worked at the clothing store Superdry for two years. She took her job seriously and did her best to help customers find the items they were looking for. However, she said that one customer “became irate because a particular leather jacket he wanted was out of stock in his size. ... He angrily demanded that I do something about it and accused me of deliberately hiding his size.”
Hife tried to remain calm as she explained that her store was out of stock, but that she could try to help him find the jacket at another store. Hife said she maintained her composure and professionalism, “apologizing for the inconvenience and suggesting alternative styles,” but the customer just became more upset. “In the end, he left the store without purchasing anything, but not before leaving a string of unpleasant remarks,” she said.
They Make A Mess In The Dressing Room
“Another rude behavior which is pretty commonplace is customers who
try on a substantial number of clothing pieces, sometimes 20 or more,” and then leave a “huge mess in the fitting room,” Hife said. She elaborated that some of these customers “only purchase one or two items or even none at all.”
They often left the unwanted items in a pile in the dressing room, not bothering to hang them up or fold them. “They did this without any apology, expression of gratitude, or apparent awareness of the inconvenience they caused,” Hife added.
They Damage Clothing To Get A Discount On It
Bemiller once approached a mother and daughter admiring a beaded tank top. The mother told him that they liked the top, but thought it was too expensive.
“About five minutes later, they came up to me with the same tank top and showed me that it was ripped. They asked if they could get a discount since it’s damaged,” he said.
Bemiller clarified that he didn’t see anyone damage the shirt intentionally. However, he observed that “it wasn’t ripped five minutes ago when they said it was too expensive, but now they want it and they would like a discount. ... You can connect the dots.”
They Have A Fit When They Can’t Get A Discount
Many shoppers look for deals, but some get irate when they can’t get a new pair of pants at a discount.
“I once witnessed a customer lunge across the cash register to take a swing at an employee because her discount coupon had expired and we couldn’t accept it. As a witness, I had to fill out a police report,” Saad said, adding that the customer was charged with a crime as a result of the incident.
Bemiller once witnessed a similar incident in his store. A customer was upset about the price of an item and picked up the sign displaying the price and threw it at the store manager. “It’s important to note that the [sign] was on heavy metal clipboards,” he recalled. The metal clipboard hit the manager, but luckily “she wasn’t hurt in any real way,” Bemiller said.
They Treat The Fitting Rooms Like Toilets
Although most clothing stores have bathrooms, Bemiller said “there was more than one occasion where someone urinated in the fitting room. ... This happens way more often than it should.” He added that this didn’t only happen at his store. “From talking to other ex-retail employees, it’s an incredibly disgusting epidemic.”
There is an uptick in issues with bodily fluids in the summer, Bemiller said. During swimsuit season, “some of our female shoppers would try on swimsuits during their period” without proper protection, he said, adding, “This happened way more than it should every spring and summer.”
They Make Shopping Miserable For Other Customers
It’s not uncommon to bring along a shopping companion, but sometimes you are better off shopping alone. When one couple walked into Saad’s store, he noticed right away that “the woman was very excited to be looking at the new merchandise,” but that “her boyfriend couldn’t stop saying how it was a waste of money, our store was ridiculous and she could shop at better places.”
Saad said the woman’s boyfriend “was clearly ruining the experience for her.” Finally, another employee “straight up asked the man to leave,” Saad said. The other employee told the woman’s boyfriend “to come back when she’s done because she wanted to shop and we take pride in our store.” The man looked shocked, but he left, Saad said.