what shop assistants want you to know

I think, towards the end of last year, I was 88% super bitter lemonade. I absorbed all the lemons 2016 threw at me. There were a lot of them. To be honest, working the Christmas period in retail  compounded the bitter and had it bordering slightly on resentment. I was counting down the hours to 2017, and the ability to return to my sunnier disposition and not be exhausted after a 4 hour shift. 

It's a little sad though, because I really do enjoy working in retail most of the time. You meet a lot of really interesting people, the staff discounts and uniform are fab perks that take the edge off a little, and I'm lucky enough to have worked stores where I get on with the rest of the staff really well. 

But christ almighty some types of customers seem like it's their life mission to test us. I'm a firm believer that everyone (and I really do mean everyone) should work as a shop assistant or waiter/waitress at some point in their life, because it definitely changes your outlook on your own shopping behaviours

Though if you don't fancy that, here are a few - tongue in cheek - tips on how to be a better shopper, from shop staff to you. 


#1 if shop staff come up to you to ask if you're ok, please don't look at us like we're carrying the plague. Generally we don't really want to interrupt your browsing, it's just line managers being on the shop floor and we're supposed to ask/potentially drive a sale. We get that it's a really awkward situ if you're just browsing.  If you don't want to talk you can just say you're fine or that you're Ok and we'll leave you be. If you do actually need help we're more than happy to do that. 

#2 please don't ask us to discipline your child. 
If your child is doing something that's messing up a display/product/arrangement, don't use us as the bad guys. We really don't want to yell at your child, that's your job. 
If you notice your child messing up a display/product/arrangement and don't do anything about it... well. 

#2.b please also don't ask us to watch your kids. We're a shop not a daycare. 

#3 if you pick something up and it falls off the hanger, don't leave it on the floor. 
If you don't want it that's fab, but someone else might, and the longer it's left on the floor (we try to get round everything but a lot of people have this mentality...) the more likely it is to get damaged. 

#4 if you don't have a valid reason for a discount, don't ask. (This does depend on the shop. But for most high street clothing stores it applies).
Valid reasons: student discount, damaged/marked/discoloured item, store price matches to other online retailers, friends & family discount, nhs staff discount. 
Regardless of what the supershoppers may have said in their bit about not having to pay full price for full price items and 'if you don't ask you don't get', please, just don't unless you're a discount-card carrying person, or the item is clearly not in perfect condition. Chances are, the person you ask won't be able to authorise a discount, or you're inadvertently pressuring young shop staff to make a sale at lower price that may count against them. If you're desperate for the item, save up, wait for sales, buy a less expensive dupe elsewhere. If you're lucky, you might get 10%, but it entirely depends on the cashier you get, if the planets are correctly aligned...

#5 don't tell us the price is too high/expensive etc. 
We already know. Also, there's nothing we can do about that. Give Head Office a ring if you're so inclined. 

how to be a better shopper
#6 don't switch sale tags/markdowns. 
We spend a lot of time writing out multiple sale tags, so generally, we know when things have  been switched. If we don't, the actual price will come up on the till, and then we're going to have the fun conversation of where you got it from and why it's incorrectly priced. (Spoiler: it isn't a fun conversation.)

#7 don't answer your phone at the till
You might be the worlds best multi-tasker, but with the music, you talking and listening to whoever is on the other end, me asking you questions about whether or not you'd like a bag/gift receipt/how you'll be paying... something is going to get lost or hold up your transaction and wow look at that queue. Fab.

#8 sale stock is stock too
Treat it with respect. Full price is almost always treated better - just because it's marked down doesn't mean that's a sudden free pass to toss it around the shop. 

#9 don't leave stock in random places
Sure, walk around with it and make up your mind, be our guest. If you end up not wanting it please just hand it to one of us, or take it back to where you picked it up from, rather than leaving it randomly around. Or hiding it. 

#9.b please don't hide stock. 
If you really want to make sure no one else takes it, we can hold it for you. 

#10 don't huff at us angrily if the store layout has changed
Head Office / Merchandising do all the general store layouts, not us. We have to put them into place. It sucks for us too, especially if on our days off everything has changed and we have to put stock back out. Like I'm honestly not wandering around aimlessly I am trying to find which stack of black jeans migrated to the wrong side, or where this particular set of khaki blazers have mysteriously disappeared to.

#11 if you're looking for something specific, have a photo
THIS HELPS US HELP YOU. You can describe the 'black ribbed sweater' or whatever other generic item and we'll help as much as possible, but it's way easier to say 'I'm looking for this'. If it isn't on shop floor yet generally we can see if we have it in the stockroom waiting to go out, or we can place orders for you. 

#12 don't comment on the state of the store when you're actively destroying the rails some more
Sales are horrific times. Everything is a mess. We're trying our damndest to make that mess a little bit bearable, but since #2, #3, #6, #8, #9, and #9b are happening constantly, it's hard. The number of times I catch mutterings of 'it's like a jumble sale in here' / 'this is why I never come into this store' / 'wow this is awful' / 'doesn't anyone tidy' when customers are rooting through sale and pulling things out/from hangers and then just setting them down anywhere, I die a bit inside. We can only tidy as fast as people destroy, and things pile up. (Literally.)

#13 please don't leave your rubbish in store
I've had to clean up some really weird discarded rubbish on shift before, and honestly hanging on to it that bit longer until you find a bin isn't that hard. We often don't have bins in store, and leaving things precariously balanced on displays is just asking for trouble. Also hiding it in pockets or bags or behind things is just bad manners please don't?

#14 please don't try and return stock from over a year ago, which has been clearly worn and damaged in wear. Or things that have been clearly worn with hygiene stickers missing. Or items that are in clear breach of return policies. 
Store policy dictates to us what we can and can't take back in terms of products. For clothing, if items have been clearly worn and are missing things like hygiene stickers, that's a strong no from us. Likewise, stock from years ago, regardless if it's still tagged. Electronic goods often have additional warranties if anything breaks or goes wrong, but again it depends   Policies are in place so everyone's on the same page.

#15 sign the backs of your cards!!!!!!
Often with returns, a signature check or some form of identification is required so we can make sure we're no refunding (sometimes very, very large) amounts to people who have stolen items, cards, or access to your details. Simply signing the back of a credit or debit card - which you're supposed to do anyway - can eliminate an awful lot of hassle, as it's then a question of checking the signatures match. If you haven't signed, don't be alarmed or arsey if the person on the till asks for another form of identity verification so we know you are who you say you are.

#15.b  if you're returning an item and you paid on card, please have the card you paid with on you. 
It's just all around easier.

#16 manners cost nothing, and really mean a lot to us
I'm way more likely to search the entire shop for something for a customer if they're nice to me. Trufax. Shop assistants are people too, base salaried and on our feet for the entire shift, usually. Also, working in places that are artificially lit, with no windows (especially if you're in a shopping centre) isn't all the fun of the fair, so if you're feeling ansty and tired from shopping, we're probably feeling the same.

how to be a better shopper
Working in retail makes you a much more conscientious shopper. I always find myself subconsciously putting things back or tidying in other stores, and peak-time Primark makes me want to cry. You also feel far less impatient waiting at the tills, and wince a little when you have to return items yourself, or get the spiel about store cards and if you'd like a bag.

Just the little things.

Here's to a better 2017.

If you're a retail worker, do you agree with these points, and are there any you think I've missed? 


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