Confessions of a Shop Assistant

Living in central London has crucified my poor bank account, so for the Christmas period I have been working at a clothes shop. I worked in retail before I went to university but when I left I actually began to miss going to work. That was until I started working again, surprisingly.

I am not actually contracted as a shop assistant but as a ‘Customer Care Expert’. Aside from the fact that actually I do not care for customers as a whole, as the majority are just a general nuisance, I have never been trained adequately enough to be considered an expert. But I will give it a go to the best of my ability all the same, although this is not good enough for some people. To be fair, not all customers are bad. My favorites are the really old ladies because they just want to chat and are always so friendly, I have time for them. The ones I do not have time for are the rude people – you get that a lot during the Christmas period, there is no Christmas cheer in retail – and the people who spend the entire transaction on the phone. Rage. But moving swiftly on…

It isn’t always the customers that baffle me. Some of the things the staff come out with are equally as perplexing. Where I work you establish yourself within a section and that is where you stay for eternity. I can be found in either a) the accessories section b) the office counting the money or c) the tills. The following anecdotes are genuinely things that have happened to me during my time pottering about in one of these areas.


#1 The woman that told me her woes
When working on the tills you have to make small talk with customers. As a consumer you would have experienced this and you will be 1 of 3 people. You either provide a decent conversation or response, one word responses or simply ignore us altogether as if we are not human beings. So the conversation with my female customer went as follows:

Me:Would you like a gift receipt for this jumper?”
Customer:No it’s ok, it’s for my daughter, I hope I have enough money on my card to pay for it.”
Me: *nervous laugh, hoping it will go through as it will be really awkward to take the jumper back out of the bag* “Spent a lot this Christmas then?”
Customer:Nope, my husband has just run off and left me for a woman younger than our eldest daughter and taken all of our money.”

Balls. What do you say to that? I went with: “Oh my God, that’s awful. I just want to give you a cuddle”. Two thoughts went through my head. The first was to just burst into tears on her behalf – I get very emotional about these things – and the second was, I hope her eldest daughter isn’t 16 or something because that would be wrong. Is it right that that was my second thought? Such a pessimist.


#2 The person who accepted a 50 euro note.
When counting the money I stumbled across a 50 euro note amongst one of the tills. So I searched the transactions for one that had been paid for with 50 euros but there was nothing. But there was one transaction that a customer had paid with a £50 note. The main differences between a £50 note and a 50 euro note is the size, colour and the fact that it says EUROS in big letters across it rather than STERLING POUNDS. Once I worked out whom the culprit of this crime was I asked her, why did you accept a 50 euro note? Her response?

“I thought it was a different type of £50”

There are no words.


#3 The person who doesn’t understand the concept of shop lifting or math.
Another member of staff was trying to explain to me a criminal’s mastermind shop lifting plan. She told me this story:
Girl: “A guy came in and stole a leather jacket. He then came back and bought a leather jacket and then came back again and returned the stolen one, so he got the money back for the stolen jacket.”
Me: “No he didn’t. He performed the pointless action of buying another jacket simply to return it so he got the money back from the jacket that he bought”
Girl: “No he didn’t, he got the money back for the stolen jacket it”
Me: “No, he didn’t, he got the money back for the jacket he bought and actually paid for. Whilst you were observing him steal the jacket did you not try and stop him!?”

This debate went on for about 5 minutes before she understood. I really thought I was going to have to whack out a diagram like when men try and explain the offside rule.


#4 The girl who tried to return worn jeans
I return a lot of stuff. I do it because I can’t be bothered to argue with customers and the few occasions I have stood firm, my supervisor comes over and tells me to put it through anyway leaving me feeling and looking like an idiot and the rude customer looking smug. It fills me with rage. However, there is one occasion where I have won one of these battles. When jeans have been worn for longer than 30 minutes they crease at the backs of the knees and this will never go away unless you wash them and obviously, once you wash a garment you can’t return it.

Girl: “I’d like to return these jeans”
Me: “I’m afraid I can’t return these jeans as they have been worn”
There were no labels on them, the bum was moulded to the shape of someone’s behind and the knees were so creased it looked like she had the jeans for a year. And she had no receipt.
Girl: “But I haven’t worn them. You can tell they haven’t been worn”
Me: “I will not be returning these jeans as they are not in sellable condition. You can tell by the knees and bum that they are worn, there is no tags on them and you haven’t got the receipt”
I would never, ever have the nerve to return worn clothes. Then came the usual line…
Girl: “Can I talk to your manager”
My manager also said no and then the girl kicked off. She stormed off, leaving the jeans behind, shouting her way out of the store. 1-0.


#5 The person who was vile in the changing rooms
Now this is the vilest story I have. I have genuinely never come across anything so disgusting in my life. Luckily I was not in the fitting rooms at the time, but we all wonder in and out to “get stock” which really means congregate for a chat. There was a horrid smell lingering in the fitting rooms but someone had been to check all of the changing rooms and nothing could be found. The smell was getting absolutely horrendous so we called a manager who came in to find the source. When she moved one of the stools inside the changing room she found someone’s faeces wrapped in a sanitary towel. What is life, when you need to go that badly that you would go in a changing room? I could maybe understand (but still not really) if there wasn’t public toilets right next to the door of the shop.


I thought I would leave you with the nicest story of all. Merry Christmas and happy shopping!

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