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How Working in Retail Made Me Hate Humanity

"This woman ripped the changing room curtain open and then just watched as her toddler puked up his lunch. She then took one of the shirts hanging over her arm and cleaned the kid's face off with it."

by Juli Katt
Oct 30 2018, 4:30pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

"Excuse me," I said, "only one person in the fitting room at a time, please." The teenage girl looked at me defiantly while her boyfriend turned bright red. She replied: "Are you just jealous because I have a boyfriend?"

A few hours later, another customer tore a dress from a hanger, demanding to know if we had it in any other sizes. After I told her we didn't, she dropped it on the floor and turned away to leave without saying another word. I asked her to please hang it back up and she responded, "That's where I found it."

Later that same day, a guy shouted at me for moving the bag he completely forgot on the floor. I tried explaining to him that someone could have stolen it if I hadn't taken it to lost and found, but he just screamed that he didn't need to be "lectured by a cashier."

Days like that were all too common in the four years I worked in retail, across two major fashion chains. But it doesn't seem to really make a difference whether you're selling clothes, coffee, condoms, broccoli, or vacuums—it's all the same. I hated it, and have since quit.

I recently caught up with two former colleagues—who now hate humanity as much as I do—so we could share our worst experiences working in retail. Anna and Miriam are still working in retail, so we've changed their names to protect their jobs. And my names isn't Juli—I had to sign a confidentiality agreement back when I worked for these horrible hellholes.

Eine Jeans mit einem blutigen Tampon in einer Tasche hängt neben einem Mantel den Fliegen umschwirren

The Filthy

Juli: Once, a woman pushing a stroller tore through the store, knocking down everything in her path. Annoyed, I followed her all the way to the fitting rooms. I was sorting clothes while I waited for her to finish. She ripped the curtain open and then just watched as her toddler puked up his lunch. The woman took one of the shirts hanging over her arm, cleaned the kid's face off, and just held it out to me.

Miriam: The changing rooms are the most disgusting place because people feel like they aren't being watched. Someone once left a heap of clothes on the floor. As I tidied them up, I noticed there was something in the pocket of a pair of jeans. It was a bloody tampon.

Anna: I once found a used ice cream cup that was so sticky, I didn't want to touch it. Later, I came back into that same fitting room and the cup was full of piss. The cup was really small, so I looked around and realized the floor was also covered in urine. Then I discovered there was shit in a jacket pocket.

illustration

The Disrespectful

Juli: I'd been working the register for several hours and couldn't take a break because we were understaffed. When my replacement finally showed up, I closed down my register. An elderly lady from the back of the line then yelled at me; she was angry that I was leaving. I tried to explain to her that we have to stick to our scheduled break times, to which she responded, "You look like your entire life is one big break."

Anna: It was almost closing time and I'd just finished tidying up. I had such a sore back and was really looking forward to getting out of there. There was only one customer left in my department—a mother with her child. She was pulling at the clothes so vigorously that an entire stack fell to the floor. When her child pointed out that she had dropped stuff, the mother responded, "It's fine, that woman has to clean it up."

Miriam: A customer wanted to pay off a small amount with a very large bill. I asked if she had any coins and she didn't respond. I asked again and she yelled back "No!" so I put the money into the register. After I had counted out her change, she rummaged through her bag and slammed down some coins in front of me. I ignored it—my response is always the same in these situations: "Sorry, I've already put it through." She again shouted back, "Do they not teach basic math in school anymore?"


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The Shameless

Juli: The fire alarm went off, so we had to quickly clear out the store. A few people were sort of panicking, but not these two girls who I found in the shoe department. "We have to evacuate the building, please make your way to the nearest emergency exit," I said.

"In a minute, we're just finishing up here."
"This is not a drill. Please leave immediately!"
"Can we just quickly pay for these shoes?"
"What part of leave immediately don’t you understand?!"
"Sorry, you were mumbling."

Miriam: A woman wanted to return a jacket with a hole burned into it. She got angry when I politely pointed out that there's no way the outfit was made with a cigarette burn hole. She shouted at me to just give her money back. I was fed up with her at this point, so I remained firm in my decision. She wasn't letting up, so I got the manager in, hoping that he would sort it out. He came to the register, took a look at it and decided to take it back. He also made me apologize "for my impertinence." The woman looked at me with a satisfied grin and said, "Go on, then."

Anna: A very pregnant woman was trying something on in the corner of the shop. I was watching to see if she would just leave the unwanted items there. Then I noticed that there was something underneath her shirt. It was her husband, pleasuring her with his hand. They were in the children's department, too.

Ein Kind weint, eine Hand holt zur Backpfeife aus

The Aggressive

Juli: I hated having to ask customers whether they wanted to pay for a bag, but we had no choice. A lot of people automatically said no, but would then give me a surprised look when I slid their purchase across the counter to them without a bag. That's exactly what happened with this guy who just stood in front of me angrily, wanting to know where he was meant to put his stuff. When I repeated that a bag costs 15 cents, it really wound him up. He threw a few pennies at my face and yelled, "Now give me the damn bag!" He'd gone too far, so I had to throw him out.

Anna: A little kid was screaming throughout the entire store. His mother just left him standing there screaming. She came back after ten minutes and smacked him. I called up to the office and asked if we should call the police. Unfortunately, she caught on and cleared out of the store.

Miriam: A customer left a fitting room a complete mess. I was feeling courageous so I asked her to please hang the items back up. She got really angry and said that I was only asking her to do it because she was black. I responded that her skin color was irrelevant, but she had already thrown a sweater at my face. Before I could even react, she had thrown everything from the fitting room at me and run off.

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