Retail Employees Share Their Holiday Season Horror Stories
"My manager took off running after the couple while I cried."
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
The holidays are known as the most wonderful time of the year, unless, of course, you work in retail. Frenzied shoppers, long work hours, and unrealistic sales goals come together to make December a miserable month for the people who sell toys and clothes. We asked retail employees to tell us about the worst and weirdest customers they've experienced during the holiday shopping season.
The Woman Who Hated My Voice
I worked in the shoe section of a department store that was always slammed during the holidays. Despite how crowded the shop would get, selling shoes is actually really intimate; you are literally crouched in front of someone, touching their feet. One day, I was with an older customer, helping her try on shoes. Every time I asked a question about the fit, she would just say, "Stop." Confused, I tried to continue my sales pitch, but she continued to say, "Stop." Finally, after trying over and over again to start my sales spiel, she put up her hands and said, "Stop. I cannot stand the sound of your voice. Stop talking now." I didn't know if she wanted me to continue the sale in total silence, but I decided it would be best to turn her over to a co-worker whose voice she found less upsetting.
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The Woman Who Thought People Were Cutting Cabbage Patch Kid's Hair
Years and years ago, I worked in a mall during the Cabbage Patch Kid craze. It had reached a fever pitch as it got close to Christmas, and people were doing absolutely insane things to get these dolls. One day, I was on a shift with a co-worker who was an absolute ditz and probably the most gullible person on earth. Someone came in from their smoke break totally amazed by the frenzy they had seen outside. "You would not believe it!" she told us, "But there are people out there scalping Cabbage Patch dolls in the parking lot!" We all laughed, but my dumb coworker's eyes grew enormous in disbelief. "I don't understand," she said, looking truly concerned. "They're cutting their hair?"
The Woman with the Drug-Addicted Boyfriend
I worked at an organic bath and body chain. During a packed holiday shopping day, a woman walked around the store and talked to me for 45 minutes. We were encouraged to build sales, and I stuck with her because she kept putting stuff in her basket. She was telling me very intimate details of her life, like how she had just gone through a breakup with her ex who was addicted to drugs. Finally, she held up a bath bomb that was covered in glitter on the outside. She looked at it forever before asking, "Is this sparkly all the way through?" I told her that it just had glitter on the outside, and she burst into tears and told me, "I'm not going to buy anything! I only want stuff that's sparkly all the way through!"
The Store with the Liberal Return Policy
I got a seasonal gig at an outerwear store known for its quality and its liberal return policy, which was supposed to assure customers the brand was high class. People abuse returns policies everywhere, but there's a big difference between returning a dress you wore out for one night and returning boots that you used to hike the entire Appalachian Trail or a tent that six stinky men slept in for multiple camping trips. Customers that came in multiple times were flagged, but for the most part, we just had to smile and accept moccasins that had clearly been worn around the house for 15 years, because the customer claimed the shoes "didn't wind up fitting."
The Women Who Needed Large Shopping Bags
I worked in an upscale women's clothing store, and we thought we had hit the Christmas sale jackpot when two girls came into the store each overburdened with enormous luxury shopping bags. They were clearly the type of foreign shoppers that came to America just to buy their holiday gifts, and from the size of their bags, it looked like they had both already spent thousands of dollars. When they came to check out, they each only bought one small piece of jewelry. We gave them the appropriate small bags, and they both flipped out, demanding that we pack their tiny jewelry boxes in the largest bags we provided. They probably hadn't spent much money at all that day, but it was important to them to look wealthy. From then on, whenever I saw similar luxury shoppers, I immediately packaged their purchases in the largest bags possible, and they were always grateful.
The Man Who Asked for Different Combinations of Change
One holiday, I worked a miserable job at a tourist-y chain of fudge shoppes. A customer came in with his wife. She chatted up my manager while her husband bought chocolate. He paid for $2 of chocolate with a $50 bill, and when I handed him his change, he asked for it in different bills. Rapid fire, I would hand him bills, and he kept asking for a different combination. I have really low confidence in my math abilities, so I took for granted that the combinations that he asked me for added up to $48. When he and his wife finally left the store, my manager and I mulled over how weird the transaction was until we recounted the register and realized we were short $200. My manager took off running after the couple while I cried and called my older brother, who told me it was probably useless to call the police. My manager never caught the guy. To this day, I consider their heist a huge violation of the Christmas spirit.
* Name has been changed