Working in retail is powerfully shit. If you've ever done it, you'll already know that. If you haven't, bear in mind the recent figures that suggest 115 shop workers are assaulted every day in the UK, and then consider that this number barely touches the surface when it comes to the amount of non-physical incidents of customers doing stuff that makes you want to set them on fire.
Two years ago, when I worked at a shop in a well known west London shopping centre, a customer launched herself at me because I "needed to fix my face". She then ripped one of my braids out and got "banned" from the shopping centre. I didn't get to go home, despite having literally just been assaulted, and although I'd like to say I stood up for myself, I did what I always did after those kinds of situations: cried while folding jeans.
Although you don't have any control over the hours you work or when you take your lunch, the one power you do have is choosing how to react to people who wrong you at work. Below are some stories from people who used to – or currently – work in retail or hospitality, who exercised their right to take revenge on their horrible bosses and entitled customers.
1. My manager was horrible, so I wrote a one-star TripAdvisor review of the restaurant I worked at. I wrote it in the voice of an old woman, saying something like, "Although the food was lovely, my husband and I were shocked at how disorganised the waiters were and how unprofessional the manager is. We will definitely not be going there again." What I didn't realise was that I was logged into TripAdvisor through my Facebook account and my face was next to the review. The next time I went in the head chef said that, although it was "very funny", I had to take it down.
2. All of the bosses at the restaurant I worked at are pricks who would steal the waiters' tips, so I worked out a method where I could steal about £50 to £100 each night by duplicating card receipts or putting cash payments through as "card" and just keeping the cash. I didn't keep track of how much I made off it, but it was probably more than an extra £2,000 over six months.
3. I was working in a garden centre, sorting out trees for customers over the Christmas period, and I served a really rude bloke with a BMW who was clicking his fingers at me and talking on his phone, while demanding that I cut his tree in a very specific way. I wrapped it and carried it over to his car, and he says, "Are you thick? The needles will go all over my car, get some bin bags!" So while he went in to pay, I keyed his car. I have no regrets.
4. When I was a young Irish backpacker in Perth, I worked in the bar of a snooty golf club. There was one obnoxious member who always gave me shit and called me "Lazy Irish". One night, he really pissed me off, so I went to the carpark, wrote down the registration of his Porsche and reported him for drunk driving when he left a few hours later.
5. I used to get revenge on the owners of the restaurant I worked at by getting my brother to leave fake TripAdvisor reviews which showed me in a good light. It meant I got an extra tenner on top of my pay for getting name checked.
6. I worked at a popular American food chain restaurant. A customer was being very rude during a really, really busy period. He ordered a full rack of ribs, and as I was rushing to get them to him I dropped his meal on the kitchen floor. I knew I'd have to reorder and that would annoy the chefs, as well as the already rude customer. Another waitress came and helped me put it back on the plate, and I served them to him. We never spoke of it again, but I don’t regret it.
7. I worked in Leon, and my boss used to make really horrible racist jokes, so I made an anonymous complaint about him to head office and was promoted above him.
8. When I worked at a cafe customers would always stay after we were shut, including one who started a Skype call right as I locked the doors. So I pumped the stereo all the way up and played "Leave" by JoJo on loop for half an hour until they left.
9. I mixed up a drinks order on a really busy night, and instead of politely asking me to bring her the correct drink the customer proceeded to call me a "fucking idiot" in front of the other 14 people she was sitting with. Needless to say, I spat in the dressing for her hot wings and she ate every last bit of it.
10. My boss used to try it on with me, and ask me to buy him drugs. I never actually gave him drugs, just a lot of sugar. I made around £120, which makes up for all the tips he stole from us.
11. When I worked in McDonald's the boss was such a jobsworth. He'd been annoying me all day, then had the nerve to ask me to make him lunch, so I did. I made him a chicken wrap, but before I put the chicken selects on it I gave each one a sloppy lick, told my workmates, and we watched him eat it.
12. I used to work in a horrible pub with an even worse landlord. He was sexist, rude and only about 5'5". One day, he brought in a framed picture of another one of my sexist co-workers and his university rowing team to hang up in the pub. After a few drinks, and united in our hatred for these two men, I took the picture down with one of my friends who also worked at the pub. We cut it open – as it had been professionally framed – and drew on the team's faces, then taped it back up. Lots of customers were frowning at it, but none of the staff or the landlord ever noticed, and it's still hanging there two years later.
13. Customers are always really rude in the changing rooms, leaving hangers everywhere and handing back the clothes in a huge pile. So, one day, I decided to tell one of the offending customers that we had a new security procedure that required us to count out every individual item in front of the CCTV cameras at the entrance of the fitting room. So I made the baffled customer stand there for a good ten minutes holding the bundle of clothes, while I counted and held each item up to the camera and put it back on its hanger. There's no CCTV camera in the fitting room; it was just a light fixture painted black.