Open Letter To Shoppers From A Retail Employee

This is a repost from last year. But it's become my own holiday tradition.

I am a low-level retail employee.

I am paid somewhere between $7.00 - $9.00 per hour to offer helpful customer service.

I am paid to be knowledgeable regarding our store's products. If I do not have the answer to your particular question or problem with a product, it is my job to find another employee who can answer your question, or to research your question myself and get back to you in a timely manner.

I am paid to be friendly, courteous, efficient, and nonjudgmental in my service to you.

I am paid to help keep the store neat and organized so that you have an enjoyable shopping experience.

Sometimes, I may engage in brief, cordial conversations of a personal nature as initiated by you, the customer. Retail employees are generally “people persons,” and my manager does encourage some on-the-clock, non-business conversations so that employees can build good relationships with customers and offer better personalized service.

If I fail in any of these duties, you have every right to speak to my manager about my poor job performance.

I should shape up.

However, please remember there are many services that are not part of my job description.

At one time or another, I have been asked to do all of the following:

- watch your child while you shop

- hold your child while you shop

- solve problems with products you bought from other vendors who subsequently offered poor or no customer service 

- solve consumer problems that result from your own procrastination and poor organization. I can try to help with your Hail Mary shopping. But if you don’t have the book by tomorrow of the gift for tonight and this is the first I’ve heard about it, you can start the litany of blame by addressing the person in the mirror.

- act as a substitute punching bag for your overall frustrations with your boss/spouse/kids/in-laws

- act as a substitute punching bag for your overall frustration with the corporate decisions of our company which you personally disagree with. I am willing to sympathetically listen to your agitation over a specific product or even regarding the Overall Way We Do Business. I will try to offer a satisfactory fix and hopefully some catharsis for your currently unpleasant state of mind. However, if you begin frothing, yelling, or jabbing a finger at me, please understand that at this point I’m going to my Happy Place and thinking about chocolate fudge sundaes and winning the lottery. You’d be better off venting at someone higher up the pay scale. Like a manager. Or majority stockholder.

- engage in argumentative conversations about anything, but especially religion, politics, and sex

- listen to sales pitches for your philosophy of life, the universe, or anything contained within

- confirm rumors and conspiracy theories about our company, store, or products

- allow you to follow me around for the afternoon while I work because you’re lonely.

- be your therapist

- be your confessor

- be your girlfriend

- be your mom

- be your captive audience for some new jokes you’re working on

- offer medical advice regarding your condition

- listen to opinions which are hateful or offensive according to a reasonable standard. If in the course of our customer-employee interaction, you say something like, “Presbyterians are all a bunch of jerk-off, low-lifes and should all go to hell” our interaction is over. The cue that you’ve crossed a line is my vanishing 
smile and me abruptly saying, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Please do not assume that this is how I would react when off the clock.

- listen to insults and profound creepiness, whether intentional or un-intentional. Ex: “Hi, Sweetie. Listen, Hon, can I get porn on this eReader thing? I mean, the good stuff, Darling. For free. Maybe with animals?” The cue that you’ve crossed the line is me abruptly saying, “This conversation is making me uncomfortable. I’ll contact my manager and you can continue your shopping experience with him.”

- clean your wound

- flush the toilet for you and clean up your bodily fluids/solids (I may have to do this. But do not be surprised if an old Lithuanian curse descends upon you in the following week.)

- offer delivery service in my spare time

- do something illegal, Ex: “Could you photocopy a chapter of this book for me? I don’t need the whole book.”

- allow you or your children to act in unsafe way in our store, no matter how skilled you/they are at rock climbing/bungee jumping/gymnastics/parkour/juggling/roller blading/fire breathing

- turn a blind eye when you bug other customers beyond a reasonable standard of behavior expected in public places

- allow you to wander around drunk.

I am a low-level, store-floor retail employee.

I am paid somewhere between $7.00 - $9.00 per hour to offer helpful customer service.

When the store closes, I go home from my (probably) part-time job, the job I work to make ends meet. I do laundry and take care of little kids. Or I study for upcoming college and high school exams. Or I watch a little television and then go to sleep so I can get up in time for the full-time job I work during the day.

I love working here as much as I need to work here.

I should do my job well. And you should demand that I do my job well.

But just be clear on what my job is. And is not.

And during the big consumer holidays, let’s agree to go easy on each other.

I’m willing to go above and beyond in offering some services not included on my official retail resume, as long as customers refrain from getting miffed when I don’t. Or can’t.

I like going above and beyond.

I enjoy surprising customers with random acts of retail - and even personal - kindness. It makes me feel good to do so.

Except for flushing your toilet.

That’s nasty.


Jennifer Denise Ouellette said...

Retail is rough. Everyone should do it for a few months and there would be no awful customers.

MommyTime said...

Retail is like waitressing--thankless when the customer's experience is good, and the dumping-ground when the experience is bad. And the bad is 99% of the time not the fault of the waitress/retail employee.

I can't believe you don't have one MEELION comments of support on this post yet. But I'm sending my xoxoxo to you for fortitude today. said...

Aw, thanks!

To be fair, this is a repost and did get comments before.

I sincerely love my job and even the few tough customers are barely a blip on my radar. I have mad ninja skills. :-) But, it is a tough time of year for a lot of workers. Sure, many choose to work retail for the fun and flexibility
the job offers. On the other hand, even a loved job can be made miserable.

And believe me...we have nothing but understanding for people who really would rather not be out shopping, but take part in family/friend gift-giving traditions.

Still, a smile on the face, and the feeling will usually follow. :-)

Alexandra said...

This can be chapter 1,124 in why I no longer work retail.

Unknown said...

A WARNING has been posted on glass doors at entrances to Dundalk Village Shopping Center apartment areas. It is printed on paper that has an official Baltimore County Police letterhead. The writing on it is facing inside - towards exiting pedestrians. That message reads: " WARNING Due to the recent activity of narcotics in the area The local Authorities will be monitoring these buildings and the surrounding area thanks, for your cooperation." To get more info please visit

Meg McCormick said...

Been there... I hear ya!

Rainbow Motel said...

My middle son works for Target Corporation, albeit as a manager. I am no longer shocked at the stupidity of others and since we no longer hold anyone accountable for their actions or words, I can only assume it will continue. That said, I can't believe there would be justification for any company to insist that it flush a toilet for a customer, unless that unfortunate person is the one paid to clean the restrooms. Gah!

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