What retail workers really mean when they’re talking to you

Illustration by Twylamae

Words by Carlos Mangubat

A translation.

Fourteen years ago, I sold part of my soul to retail. I have since worked for at least five different retailers, from Target to Diesel and everywhere in between.

Over time, those who work in retail develop a new persona. It’s a small extension of your actual personality – one that is more positive, energetic and chirpy than you actually are. A personality that can put aside personal opinions and emotions and cater to others. A personality that is attentive and always interested.

The job itself is easy, but portraying this persona all the time isn’t. Those who work in retail know what I’m talking about.

For those who don’t, I thought I would shed light on the underlying internal monologue of sale assistants when we’re interacting with you.

Here’s what we really mean when we say what we say.

Retail Assistant: How are you?
Translation: I don’t care, but I know you don’t care how I am either

Retail Assistant: Can I help you?
Translation: I’m only asking because my area manager is right standing behind me

Retail Assistant: What are you up to today?
Translation: Please entertain me because you’re the first customer I’ve spoken to in two hours and I’m bored

Retail Assistant: You’re shopping early today
Translation: I haven’t been home yet from going out last night/I’m hung over / Please don’t look directly at me

Retail Assistant: We’ve got a mid-season sale on today
Translation: We’re struggling with sales so please buy something

Retail Assistant: What size are you?
Translation: I know what size you are, but I’m being polite

Retail Assistant: Try it on and you’ll find out if it’s right for you
Translation: Australian sizing is whack and I have no what’s going on

Retail Assistant: My boyfriend’s got one
Translation: I don’t have a boyfriend, but if he did, he would have one

Retail Assistant: I’ve got one in navy
Translation: I don’t even shop here, because I can’t afford to

Retail Assistant: That looks really good on you
Translation: You look better in it than I do

Retail Assistant: That looks really really good on you
Translation: I’m single, are you?

Retail Assistant: I like the colour navy
Translation: The colour was the only positive comment I could give you and I know you like it so I had to agree with you in some way

Retail Assistant: That item is really popular
Translation: I think its mediocre but people seem to buy it

Retail Assistant: I like your top
Translation: Not really, but kinda

Retail Assistant: It’s the last one
Translation: I can’t be bothered going out the back to get another one

Retail Assistant: We offer layby
Translation: I know you’re on a budget

Retail Assistant: Would you like anything else today?
Translation: I need to up my units per transaction

Retail Assistant: Would you like to join the mailing list?
Translation: I think you’re cute and want to stalk you on Facebook

Retail Assistant: Have a good weekend
Translation: I’m jealous that you’re shopping and I have to work

Retail Assistant: Just to let you know, we’re closing in 10 minutes
Translation: Get out of the store, I have dinner plans

Retail Assistant: *Turning off the lights*
Translation: We’re closed, so get out of the store

Illustration by Twylamae.

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