My Big Fat Retail Gripe

I've not been blogging much lately, mostly because I've been living at work. (Which was going to go from 'exaggeration' to 'reality' on Black Friday night as I considered just sleeping in the store for the 4 hours between closing and the time I had to be there to open...but didn't.) Since my whole world has been work, I've not had time to think about anything else. So, in order to spare you a litany of retail-related gripes, I've not been blogging.

Which brings me to today... My Big Fat Retail Gripe session.

For those of you who don't enjoy gripes...retail...gripes about retail...turn back now. Also, if you are easily offended about your buying habits, save your hate mail and just click elsewhere. How about watching cat videos? I hear people like those. I'm sure there's a Kardashian doing something inane somewhere.

To the griping...

Black Friday

I have an apathy/hate relationship with Black Friday. Way back in the long, long ago - as my good friend, Velma Nightshade, would say - I used to have fun working the opening shift on Black Friday. I didn't necessarily want to be there that early, but it ended up being an entertaining shift that was over before I knew it. As my years in retail have gone on, and I've stopped working at big box stores, Black Friday is less of a crazy free-for-all insanity rush to get a $6 flat screen television (and hours upon hours of entertainment for me watching people act like absolute idiots for a few hours, running around like they had a moral imperative to buy as much sale crap as possible) and more of a general bitch fest from customers.

In fact... generally speaking, the entire holiday season has turned into a giant bitch fest from customers.

Why wasn't our sale bigger? Why aren't we doing the sale that that other store is doing? Don't you all have more people to run the registers? So what that you only have 3 registers and they're all in use? Don't you have a spare register? That's what they do at Big Box Retailer, they bring out these temporary registers. Can't you do that? Why can't you just sell it to me here with an iPhone scanner or something? Why don't you have more stock? You all should be better prepared next year.

Something that our corporate office is just tuning in to is that people aren't buying gifts on Black Friday anymore. They're buying for themselves. Why do people camp out all day and night, spending Thanksgiving on a sidewalk in front of Best Buy? It's not to get cousin Norman a new TV, it's to get themselves a new TV. It's to get a new TV for $100. It's because this economy is absolute gutter trash right now, and the only way many people can afford nice things is to give in to the ridiculous demands of retailers. But...they're not shopping for other people anymore. That's reserved for online business.

This, folks, is why retailers all around the country are now making Black Friday into Black Thursday - also known as the Non-Thanksgiving - or Black Wednesday - or Black Friday Week. (We did this, and I hate us/me for it.) For us retail drones, we're guaranteed 2 holidays off a year: Christmas and Thanksgiving. I might not be able to travel to Texas to see my family for either one, but I can count on spending a full day with Partner and our makeshift family here on both of those days. Not anymore.

Increased Big Box business combined with massive upticks in online ordering have now forced businesses to remain open on Thanksgiving if they have any hope of meeting the massive and uncompromising demands of corporate, and many are opening on Christmas as well. What they fail to realize is that there's only so much money out there. It's not that people aren't spending, it's that they're not spending in stores that aren't offering a 50" television for $6.

And what the customer fails to realize is that Black Friday deals are a myth. They're bologna. One of a few things is happening when you get a Black Friday deal:

  1. You are getting an off-brand item that is incredibly cheap, poorly made, and will probably break on you within a year - at which time you'll go out, camp in line, and forego another Thanksgiving to get another crappy television to last you through the next year. You're not getting the nice, new Sony television, or even last year's model for the ridiculously low price. You're getting an off-brand, generic model from 3+ years ago that's been bought in bulk and sold at a profit. Oh yeah...that company is still making a big profit off that item...which should tell you something about the real cost of things.
  2. You're wasting your time. Companies want to make money, and the Christmas season - which starts in September for some retailers - is the biggest time of year to make said moolah. I know for a fact that our Black Friday sale wasn't even as good as the sale we had the day after Black Friday. We actually increased our percentage off to draw in what is typically low business for Saturday. I can almost guarantee that our sale this coming weekend will be even lower than Black Friday by 10%. See, all year round you can get ridiculous deals. And every weekend from now until Christmas, you're going to get just as good, if not better, a deal as Black Friday. The only reason you think it's not true is because of the $6 TV or the $5 for 40 DVD deal or whatever.
  3. You're still paying more than if you bought it online. Hey, I want to keep my job. I like having a paycheck. But, I'll be honest. The absolute best deals are online, and right now they all have free shipping. They have no storefronts, nor do they have as many employees to pay, so their prices are much, much, much lower. If you have no computer skills, find someone who does and have them order for you. (Also, ask yourself how you're reading a blog if you don't know how to use a computer.)


I love charities. I recommend giving to a charity if you can afford it. Even a donation of $1 can go a long way to doing good through a charity. But, I have a real problem with the way retailers handle charitable giving. Some force their employees to give a percentage of their paycheck to a charity. Others, like my employer, pledge to give a certain amount (let's say, hypothetically, over $4 million). The problem is that the money has to come from somewhere, which is where the store employees come in. We have to try to guilt as many people out of their money as possible in order to help cover the check that our overzealous overlords wrote.


My issue comes in that when we can't seem to get enough donations, our overlords come down on us...hard. We have to go on conference calls and get snide emails and get put on lists of "the underperforming stores" and get shamed because we can't seem to coax money out of people's pockets for a charity we may or may not care about. It's like police departments that have quotas. (Did you know that this was a thing?) If an officer is supposed to write 100 tickets in a month, you want to make sure you're not anywhere close to speeding in that final week, because you will most definitely get a ticket. Beginning of the month? Pretend like you're on some German freeway.


The point is that quotas, guarantees, pledges...they force an imbalanced approach to the situation. I don't mind asking if someone wants to give to a charity during the holidays, but I shouldn't be told by the upper echelons of my company that I should continue to ask, and continue and continue until the person is obviously upset. I'm also supposed to ask them to sign up for a credit card and pay for shipping, gift wrapping, and do an intra-district order for them... I don't want to add one more thing to the cashier's task list.


I love charities. But, I wish they realized what retailers put their store level employees through in order to get the big donations they receive. I've had discussions in which it sounded like my job might be in jeopardy if I didn't get enough donations...that isn't really the spirit of giving, is it.


Goal Setting

I don't have much to say in this category except...



There... I feel better.

The Customers

People. People are interesting. They're funny, fascinating creatures, and I love studying them. Woohoo Sociology and all that. But, there's an disgusting thing that happens in service industries. The busier it gets, the less customers see employees as human. You know, with feelings and families and lives and such. We're just the moron who isn't moving fast enough or dared to get your order wrong or had the audacity to be out of stock of the item you wanted. We're the ones who wrote the return policy that states you can't return your shirt from 8 months ago that you just spilled bleach on last week, and we're the ones saying you can't get any more discounts just because you think you should.

We're the people standing in the way of you getting everything for free. But, dammit if you don't try and get it by shouting at or belittling us.

Listen, the holidays happen to all of us. We're tired, too. I understand you had a long day at work, and that's why you're using the fact that I'm not going to give you a return on the coat you bought 3 years ago never took to the dry cleaner and now have an incredibly unsightly coat in your closet as an excuse to treat me worse than garbage. But, if you could realize for a moment that my day started before yours did and won't end until you're already in might be a little less rude. Retail employees are paid, generally, very little and forced to work incredibly awful, ever-changing hours. For managers it can be worse, because we have to cover the shifts that people don't want to work. We're salaried, so our company can have us work 50, 60, or 70 hour work-weeks, knowing that for 1/5, 1/3, or more of the time, they don't have to pay us.

Personal note: for the last 2 months, about 1/3 of my time has been for free or nearly free at work. Awesome.

So, I urge you, if you're not in a good mood, please just buy online. Please. I don't want to have to be treated to another 30 minute yelling session like the one I got yesterday from the woman who wanted to return her birthday present from last September, using a gift receipt, but wasn't getting back as much credit as she thought she should have gotten - despite the fact that the gift receipt doesn't show prices....and she cannot possibly know how much she was supposed to get back.

One Last Thing


Whatever it is. Whatever store it is. Could you just put it back where you got it, in the manner in which you got it. If I came to your place of work and threw your files around, turned over your water cooler, and placed all your chairs sideways...wouldn't you be upset about putting all those things back? Wouldn't it be nice if you realized coming in to my store and absolutely demolishing it is THE SAME EXACT THING?!

K... Thanks.

Also...allow me to blow your mind for a moment: THE BACK ROOM IS A MYTH!!! I don't have an endless Wonderland of merchandise in the back room, especially during the holidays! I might have a tiny amount of excess sizes in merchandise that's overflowing off a table, or things like spare parts or something in the back, but stop getting upset because we don't have it "in the back". Unless you're a big box retailer, your back room is just big enough for a tiny bit of overflow, a criminally small break area, an office, and a place to send and receive shipment. Many times, all of that is the same space with a computer sitting on top of a refrigerator with a microwave on a shelf above next to a stack of ready-to-assemble boxes.

So...yeah...nothing is in the back room. You know what we do when you insist on us checking? We go to the back and check our phones or drink some coffee. Many times that's my "Excedrin break", because you're giving me a headache.

Retail Rioters, feel free to add your own gripes in the comments section. I'm sure there are many.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte



  1. Firelyte:

    Loved this gripe! most of my time these days is spent on the phones working customer service for a major metropolitan cable company. and to top it off we are taking cable calls as well as internet calls. not like we don 't have separate departments for that kind of thing. you would be surprised how people will absolutely lose their minds if their cable is off for more than about 5 minutes, god forbid you tell them it may be 24 hours before we can get someone out. " i got kids, what am i supposed to do about them" is what i hear sometimes. I am often tempted to say " have you tried parenting?" or " perhaps you could introduce them to books, they're not just for school you know."


    1. I keep a handy supply of snark and library directions for such occasions.

      If a customer is very, very, very nice to me, sometimes I'll let their children watch Netflix on my iPad while she shops. It's a little bit of a break for the parent, earns me more money and a happy client. If not, I sneak them candy and soda and tell them where the mall's toy stores are - complete with hand drawn maps to build a bear.

      Yes I do this. Yes I'm proud of it. I'm awesome.


    2. sure, sick those things on the toy stores. how they deal with kids all day and then make the store look brand new by morning is beyond my understanding of quantum physics.

  2. Yes you are both awesome. I would love to use the parenting line at the school I work at but alas I can't. I know I have not got the ability to work in retail. It is a thankless, neverending job that I want to thank anyone who works in retail that they are there. I watched both my daughters do it and I nearly wanted to b*tch-slap that nasty person who was mean to my babies. I really couldn't shop there as it was hard to see my girls trying to help the customer and be as pleasant as they could. One lady as she was leaving I said out loud - I hope no one talks to your daughter like that. She turned red put her nose up and walked out.
    Anyway, I wish you well getting through this silly season of OMG shopping.
    Hugs and sparkles

  3. As someone who worked as a food server for almost 15 years, I feel you. I once had a drunk biker throw a steak at me. No, let me correct that. They threw a steak at my 7 month pregnant belly, because it wasn't cooked right.


    A little kindness and patience goes a long way.

  4. Amen!!!! "Black Friday" for me is about an extra day with my family and turkey sandwiches. I don't get the shopping craze that day. i truly don't.

  5. Retail rioters unite! Speaking of kids, don't you just love it when parents treat the toy isle like a day care center? We have one customer who is notorious for this. One time we heard her say to her kids who messed it up again, "Oh don't worry about it, it's their job to clean it up anyway." AHHHHHHHH!!! That makes me crazy. What a horrible life lesson for those children. Retail workers are people too. I just wish more people realized that.

  6. This absolutely reaffirms my position that I, as a customer, have an obligation to be as cheerful and supportive of retail employees as I can wherever I shop. So many times, when I sincerely wish a retail employee a good day/evening when I am departing, they act surprised. It's quite sad, really.

    1. I've been guilty of that deer-in-headlights look of shock when someone is pleasant and sincere when greeting or goodbying me at work. Thank you for being one of those people that make my and probably a lot of other employees days a bit brighter. :)

  7. Having worked in retail/customer service for 14 years I feel you, I really do. And every year it just seems people become more crazed, dramatic and mean around the holidays. It also seems like every year the decorations come out a month earlier so maybe there's a correlation with stressing out about the holidays for 6 months wearing people down even more? Who knows.

    For my part, I moved from retail to banking a few years ago where I am still treated as sub-human but at least I have better hours and holidays off. Wait, no. No I don't - not at the bank I work for now that the old company was bought out. *sigh* It's actually gotten so bad as a teller somedays that I've sincerely considered hiking it to the nearest retail store and going back to work there. At least come February the majority of people stop using extremely derogatory terms to describe everything from your face to your mom (who lives 800 miles away and they can't possibly know!)

    Now that I've exhausted my ability to rant in the comments, I'm sorry that people are so inconsiderate and hateful at this time of the year. They're really missing the entire point of the holidays.

  8. The quality of customer who chooses to get in line - or camp out! - waiting for 'deals' on cheap plastic merchandise made by someone in Asia working a job that was outsourced from .... that same customer, is going to be low by definition. Anyone who chooses to be herded by sheep IS a bawling sheep.

    Of course, that may be sour grapes on my part. Our Yule gifts are from the used book store, pants from Freecycle, socks/underwear bought during 'back to school sales', new fitted sheets (not full sets!) also from 'back to school' sales, one new cookbook, each person's favorite 'luxury' food (cans of olives for husband, Earl Grey tea for me, box of pop tarts for Spawn), etc. Both of our Mothers, now in nursing homes, are getting boxes of candy and I DID use Cyber Monday sales for those.

  9. thank you for posting this. i was just thinking the other night that i should get a part time temp retail job, at least until i can get my bills in order. i have a 5 year history at one location and an exemplory record. i know i could get any retail job i wanted, especially during this time. but because of this post i am remembering the hell that TJMaxx put me through to be the best, smiley, and gave a shit about putting the customers problems before my own, even during a time in my life when i didn't know if i should keep living; now i can't imagine putting myself throught that again to make what? maybe $100? yeah, don't think so. thank you for turning my idea around on this whole issue.

  10. That is amazing! I wish to see this!

  11. People like you guys are talking about... they annoy me. I hate the mentality of 'it's their job' or even worse 'I've had a bad day/job/life so lets take it out on people in the service industry.' I am a firm believer in that you learn a lot about a person by how they treat their waiter/cashier/etc. Screaming and yelling at someone because they got your order wrong is just an adult temper tantrum. I always try to smile and at least say have a good day to you fine people. Keep up the good work!

  12. So you're the person who's been sending all those rude a-holes to the library! Lol! I'm a librarian now, but I worked retail for years prior to that. And before that I worked as a clerk in a convienence store. I think some people stop seeing us as people, and just as things. The shirt/apron/hat we wear, or the things we sell. I still get it in the library, but not as bad. I'm not sure if it's the percieved education, or that we might withhold services from someone who needs it or what, but there is a small difference Sometimes very small! "No, I'm sorry I can't help you copy that cd on our computers, it would be illegal and not worth my job. Oh, and no, you're child cannot color in that anatomy book, and yes you do have to pay for the damages. And yes, you do have to have a picture ID in order for me to notarize your signature on you're child's lip piercing form, regardless if they have to do it tonight, and yes, we do close in one hour!" People sometimes take it too personally when you have to tell them no. Sort of like spoiled little kids.

    And I hate that people had to work Thanksgiving this year. I had both days off, and I stayed home. It was wonderful, although I felt a little guilty for the loved ones who did have to work. And thank you for confiming my suspicion about the lack of real deals of the black friday sales!

    Let's take the Holidays back!

  13. Working in the service industry in general is awful, but retail is particularly deplorable. Although, I think food service and retail are on the same level, as far as mistreatment goes. It shocks me how entitled customers are as soon as they set foot in a retail store. As if they suddenly own you. *sigh* I've spent the last 5 years in retail, and I gotta say, it's the pits. And unfortunately, you never remember the nice customers, you always remember the ones who made you feel two inches tall.

  14. Oh my god, thank you for this. Although I've returned to college since then, I've worked in retail for 6 years (namely Big Electronic Boutiques, without getting into branding/names), and every year was exactly as you described it.

    Quick, quick stories for you re: humanity:

    Worst customer: Having a grandmother call me a c*nt because we didn't have Shrek 2 on DVD for her grandchildren.

    Best customer: Having a mother personally come back to the store and thank me with tears in her eyes. We had a Yu-Gi-Oh! video game in stock that her son wanted desperately from Santa, and her husband was looking everywhere for it. He arrived at my job and I knew we had it on hand as I just did inventory the day before. Luckily, no one grabbed it and I passed it off to the stunned man. A week passed, and the mother came in to shake my hand and give me a hug, because I made her son's Christmas.

    You really get the best and the worst around this time of year.

    Hang in there, Fire Lyte!

  15. Oh my god, thank you so much for this. It's difficult for people to see how truly terrible working in retail can be when you've never experienced it.

    Although I've decided to go to college to avoid working in retail anymore, I've done it for about 6 years; mostly in Big Name Electronics Store (before they closed everything down) as well as Target. Six Black Fridays were enough. Quick stories for you:

    Worst customer: A grandmother who screamed at me for about 30 minutes and called me a c*nt because we didn't have Shrek 2 on DVD for her grandchildren.

    Best customer: A mother who thanked me with tears in her eyes after we had a particular Yu-Gi-Oh! video game that her son desperately wanted for Christmas.

    You really get a wide variety of humanity around this time of year, and I have to say... I really don't miss it.

    I hope you hang in there, Fire Lyte!

    (apologies if this is a double post! I'm having some trouble with my internets)

  16. Several years ago I worked in a mall food court from summer till the following spring. As I like to say I miss the co-workers I had and I miss the food, they can keep the rest. How we fit six people in an area that usually held three and still managed to move, I have no idea. I always make sure to be polite to those working in the stores I visit these days and have a good relationship with those in the shops I frequent.

    I am still in a service job... just not retail. It is the very male dominated world of highway maintenance. I wont lie being a girl in a tractor has saved me from many a rant. I hear so many guys talking about being yelled at for a myriad of reasons. Every time I see some puffed up person stalking towards my tractor, I gear everything down open the door and ask "how may I help". With out fail their response is "your a girl" and it derails their train of thought.

  17. I find that doing something as simple as giving a retail employee a smile can go a long way. I've always remembered that retail workers are human, too. I've never shopped during a Black Friday, can you believe it? I've always thought it was ridiculous, and it's just gotten out of control the past few years. On more than one occasion I've actually stood up for a retail employee to another customer. Retail, hospitality, restaurant employees all work ridiculously hard for what little pay they get. Someone has to do the job. Otherwise, who would help us?

    On another note, I'm *still* ticked about companies opening up Thanksgiving day this year. Let people be with their families, folks. Those extra few hours aren't going to earn you the money you're hoping to make up for in the fat check you're writing to your favorite charity.

  18. PREEEEEACH! I just got a job at a local retail used-game store and I can relate to every last word--AND can add to the numerous of people insulted we aren't buying in their games for the SAME price we sell them OR that we only have ~used~ games (in the same condition as new mind you) OOOOR that we can't match Big-Retail-Goon's deal on a bundle -___-

  19. PREEEEEACH! I just got my first retail job the Monday after Thanksgiving and...agh. Brutal.

    I work at a local-only game store and we sell used games. I am SO FED UP with customers who...
    1) expect us to buy games from them at the same price we're selling them,
    2) are upset we only have used, event though we refurbish all our discs to be good as new and test everything to know it works,
    3) get angry when we can't do cash-back returns when we specifically say we only do in-store credit.
    And lastly, 4) who compare us to Walmart or Target or other Big-Retail when our prices are only -slightly- off -__-


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