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The worst customers you’ll meet working in retail

Words by Fashion Journal

Illustration by Twylamae

No, you can’t speak to the manager.

If you think the phrase “the customer is always right” is true, you’ve likely never worked in retail or hospitality. Because 99.95 per cent of the time, the customer is wrong. At least if you are a retail worker, you get the joy of complaining about all the annoying customers you encounter.

And can take comfort in the fact it’s not hospo.

Here are six of the worst people you’re guaranteed to meet working in retail.

The Helpless One

Okay, so this customer isn’t the worst of the worst. Perhaps on a normal day, this person would have someone to accompany them – a friend, significant other or their mum – but somehow they find themselves in the store alone. They just don’t understand how to shop, requiring constant reassurance about every single item. Yes, Greg, that plain white t-shirt looks fine on you. No, you cannot try it on in the middle of the shop floor. That’s why we have fitting rooms.

The Snooty One

If you work in a non-bougie shop, occasionally you’ll come across a wealthier customer that has drifted in, out of curiosity. You can recognise them by their large fanciful coats and David Jones shopping bags. This customer tends to think they’re too good for whatever store they’re in. I once served a mother and daughter who seemed as if they’d never met anyone who worked in retail before. “So is this like…your summer job? You’re a student though, right?” They often marvel aloud at the low-priced items and you resist the urge to welcome them to the world of workers who aren’t paid a decent wage.

The One that Thinks You’re Their Personal Shopper

Kind of like the helpless guy, but worse. This customer seems to ask for assistance simply because you’re there, not because they actually need it. Once they’ve established you’re an employee, they’ll lead you on a treasure hunt through the store to find a whole new wardrobe. Apparently, they haven’t gone shopping in five years. This is the type of customer that will wait until the end of the transaction to awkwardly address you by name. They’ll look you in the eye and say, “Thanks (insert name)”. *shudder*

The Smelly One

A little bit of BO never hurt anyone. That is, until you’re working the fitting rooms and a customer has left behind a mess of clothes and hangers. You walk in, and suddenly you’re overpowered by the smell of body odour, which has now spread across the clothes. In this situation, air freshener will only get you so far. This is also the customer that’ll try to return items they bought previously, but instead of the tags attached, there’ll be a nasty smell.

The Child

Usually accompanied by an annoying parent who treats the store like a playground specifically for their kid, and the staff as babysitters. If anything, the child is a safety hazard for retail employees. Screaming babies, pools of vomit, abandoned juice boxes and nappies – those who work in children’s wear deserve extra credit for the horrors they face. Maybe free therapy, too.

The Plain Rude One

This customer usually ignores you when you ask how they’re going. Not that you cared, anyway. Then, when it comes time to pay, they suddenly have a Very Important Phone Call to take. (Note: a polite customer hangs up before they approach the tills.) The Plain Rude One will flick their card across the counter, despite you indicating for them to tap themselves. While you’re bagging their items (that they chose to buy) they’ll drum their fingers on the counter impatiently. The way to deal with these customers is to fake a smile, hand them their purchase and hope they don’t come back anytime soon.

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