Retail Drones: Why Do You Hate Us?

Of course, we kid. ‘Drone’ implies that you serve as the mindless agent of any intelligence.

Of course, we kid again, because we want something from you. Having spent our tour of duty in retail operations, we know that not every customer is a gem. We’d like to hear your best stories about the endless waves of consumer fodder that has fallen before your infrared barcode guns, and all the stupid things they’ve said or done before you went on your fifth smoke break of your four-hour shift.

What are the dumbest things customers have ever said to you, retail workers of the world? We’d like to know, via email or comment.


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  1. Papercutninja says:

    I was a Retail Serf for 5 years for the luxury division of a major retailer. I personally was never rude to most customers. I’ve even helped customers while i was on my break, or at the very least delayed my break to finish up with a customer.

    The only ones i was rude to were the ones that wanted to bargain, claim i was wrong, or tried some sort of scam. I’ll never forget the year that during holiday season, a woman from the former-USSR(yes, I’m in NYC), threw a shirt at me and said (without looking at me) “Give to me extra-large”. I went in the back and chatted with my coworkers for five minutes and came back out and stated that there were no more, full well knowing that there was a HUGE pile of them on the stock shelves.

    Also, the ones that asked “Do you have a fitting room?” annoyed me because we had them, obviously. Don’t ask dumb questions like that. Their question should be “Where is your fitting room?”.

    Often times when we seem like we hate you, it isn’t true. We have to follow policy unless dictated by a manager, otherwise we get fired. BUT, if you ask quietly and nicely, people like me will cut you a deal. Sometimes we’ll “forget” to charge you tax, or give you a senior citizens discount, even though you’re a hot 17 year old girl. Just be nice to them and they may be able to help you out.

  2. mfarris70 says:

    The stupidest thing I hear every day is “What floor is this?” from customers on the elevator. I guess that the red LED numbers on either side of the door and the big brass letters on the outside just aren’t obvious enough. The second stupidest would be customers asking “Is this going up?” when the red arrow pointing down is right above the door. Too mentally challenging.

  3. The Unicorn says:

    It’s funny, because I have SO many stories from my cashier days — but yet, once I type them up, the exposition (elaborate descriptions of sales, the wording on signage, and store procedures) coupled with the inevitable payoff (customer is unaccountably dispicable) makes for pretty lackluster reading. I think retail stories are best told that night, as you’re rubbing your feet and trying to forget how little you made that day.

    However, on the “do you have fitting rooms” tip, my favorite routine moronic question came from when I worked at Borders. Our store was the typical city kind, where the music & DVDs are on a different level — in our case, the second story, which was accessible by an enormous staircase that was literally in the center of the main floor.

    EVERY DAY, at least one person would ask, “How do you get to the second floor?” Which meant that a) they’d managed to overlook the single most salient feature of the main floor’s geography, b) had missed the large sign saying ELEVATOR on the back wall, & c) felt so disoriented by the prospect of going upstairs that they completely lost sight of how that might normally be accomplished.

    I always swore that “the next time” someone asked me that, I was going to say, “We have no idea — but you’re welcome to knot together some of these totebags & make a rope ladder.” But of course, the wit of retail drones is usually an interior monologue, & so I never did. I’m such a pussy.

  4. non-meat-stick says:

    I used to be a repair technician for a rural cellular carrier in the upper midwest. We had a customer who owned a used car dealership in town, a little lot next to the train tracks that you would have to intentionally be looking for to find. This guy used to come in and grab the sign that said “no customers beyond this point” and carry it around with him. Everything he wanted he got. He had some in with the store manager because 5 years ago or so he sold the company a surburban for use as a company vehicle. He would come in with a Liquid Damaged phone and leave with a new one plus whatever accessories he desired.

    The thing that always pissed me off was my manager would undermine my authority right in front of me. I would say, “This thing is damaged, you’ll have to buy a new one”. He’d insist on speaking to the manager. Manager would come over with a new phone, hand it to him right in front of me, ask me to activate/program it for him, and then have the nerve to walk away. Leaving me with a customer who just got what he wanted. A tip for managers, if you are going to do this to your employees realize that you will be dealing with this customer everytime they come in from now on and if you are going to do this, don’t do it in front of the employee, you have a freakin’ office for a reason! Man I could write a book about this fucking guy. I can still remeber his name.

    How about Kinko’s? I worked with some real gems there, most of them regulars. You could be as mean as you wated with some, and they would just keep coming back. I don’t even know where to start, I’m getting all ansy thinking about it. Thanks god for cubicals (did I just say that!?!)

  5. OkiMike says:

    Short and sweet. I used to work at an on-campus coffee house for a private university in Southern Cal (ahem). On one particularly cold day (by socal standards), I made a hot mocha for a customer only to have him slam it back down on the counter and exclaim so all could hear, “Look! I pay the taxes that pay your salary! Can’t you make a goddamn decent cup of mocha!”

    It was silent in the coffee shop for about a second before laughter broke out from all over. It took him a second before he realized what he’d said and he left, red-faced without his mocha.

  6. Der Bingle says:

    I used to work at a record store in an upscale part of town. There was
    a litany of inanity pretty much constantly (what is this – Gilbert &
    Sullivan?). One of the best moments, though, was when:

    Middle-Aged Yuppie Lady: This CD doesn’t work.

    Yours Truly: Well, ma’am that’s a DVD, it will only play in a DVD player.

    Lady: Well, why the hell are you selling them, then? How can I tell
    the difference?

    Yours: It’s music-related and it’s in the DVD section (points towards
    large neon sign above door to DVD room). Also, there’s that whole
    “Buena Vista Social Club Movie” bit on the cover.

    Lady: That’s just bait-and-switch, let me talk to the manager.

    Yours: I am the manager.

    I got that “bait-and-switch” line every few months, typically after a
    John Stossel “report.”

  7. mrscolex says:

    My favorite story to tell was about how I used to work for a grocery store. I was working in the express line one day on a busy day and a deaf/mute person comes into the line with a handful of groceries (didn’t even buy a basket).

    Well he puts them all down, which is an assortment of odds and ends, lightbulbs, bread, milk, wine, etc… and I ring them all up and the total comes up to 18 dollars.

    So he pulls out 12 dollars and hands it to me.

    How do you argue with a disabled person?

    At first I tried telling him, just in case he could read lips, I said, “I’m sorry sir, but thats not enough money”

    and he gives me a quizzical look.

    So I point at the LED display where it clearly points out that he doesn’t have enough money. He just grunts and gives me his twelve dollars.

    So I counted out the money he gave me, very slowly, and pointed out that it doesn’t equal the amount owed. Complete with hand signals for each number.

    So he starts signing at me. I don’t understand. After I shrug at him for not understanding, and starting to feel a bit of stress from the audience I’m getting, I start getting ready to void the order– but just as I’m doing it he starts pointing at one of his pieces of merchandise and grunting frantically.

    So I grabbed it and made a motion like I wanted to scan it on the scanner and void the order and he nodded his head– so I voided the wine.

    This makes him VERY UPSET and he reaches across the register and punches me in the arm. I suppose it turns out he wanted everything else voided EXCEPT the wine. How was I supposed to know?

  8. Noel Tribune says:

    Once I was working at a video store. Like all video stores, we required customers to fill out a form with their name and address and credit info to get a membership before we’d rent to them.

    Me: Can I see your card please?
    Them: Oh, we don’t have one of those.
    Me: Would you like to open a membership?
    Them: No.
    Me: Uh…well, we can’t rent to you without a membership.
    Them: We just want to rent this movie.
    Me: Yeah. Uh. You need a membership to do that. It’s pretty simple, just fill out this form and I’ll make you a card.
    Them: No. Look. We just want to rent this movie and go.
    Me: We don’t just hand out movies to everyone that wants one. We need some sort of information about you so we know what to do if our movie doesn’t come back.
    Them: I can’t believe this! I’m not filling out this form! The video stores we go to would never do that! Can’t we just rent this movie?
    Me: I’m sorry, but I can’t rent without a membership.
    Me: Indeed.

  9. RetailDrone says:

    Before I got into working in the retail field, I didn’t realize how stingy people are when it comes to what their transaction totals out to. This story took place around Halloween this year, and to this day baffles me. This woman, who must have been about 55 years old comes up to me in the front of my line, and I ask her if she is ready to check out. She says “yeah”, with a half head nod, and I could tell she was not going to be pleasant (anyone who works in retail knows what I’m talking about). She puts about 5 plastic pumpkin bowls down on the counter, and I proceeded to ring them up. It was November 1st, so they were on sale for about 80% off. The total of the transaction came up to about 1.07. She hands me her money (I forget how much it was at the time), and I type it in. The register tells me that I owe her 74 cents. Good good. The drawer opens and I count out 74 cents and hand it to her. She counts it and looks at me saying “You owe me 75 cents. You gave me 74”. In my mind I was thinking “you’ve got to be kidding me”. The second thought that went through my mind is the ancient, crappy point of sale systems we use, since I work at a Sears, which used to be a K-Mart. So I recounted what she gave me, and then figured out the change in my head. “74 cents is right”, I said. She argued with me for 10 MINUTES over a penny. I wasn’t getting written up for undercharging someone. I finally said “screw it” in my mind, pulled a penny out of my pocket and handed it to her. She walked out of the store in disgust. I hope she felt stupid after making a huge scene in front of everyone.