Let Me Help You Find Your Manners

I used to work in retail.   I was employed by a great company that offered pretty good merchandise and an overly generous return policy.  There are a whole host of stories that could be told of the things that happened at work, but here are a few.

  • A middle-aged woman came in to apply for a job, introduced herself as Chief White Bear, and followed her online application by making a small purchase only to immediately return it.  Oh, and she ate her change.   She was a shoe-in.

Pizza vending machines also eat change. 

  • I once discovered a nasty, soiled diaper in a women’s dressing room.  Another time we found a poop stain streaked across the Men’s Department carpet.  Folks, this is rule #1 of shopping.  Accidents happen, yes, but try not to make us get out the biohazard kit.  No one looks good in safety goggles. 

  • An older woman perched herself on a slate coffee table only to have it cave beneath her like the Metrodome.  We lost a nice piece of furniture, but man, it was awesome.  She was fine, by the way. 

  • An irate baby boomer approached me to convey his frustration that the men’s belts were in a location that did not suit his liking.  I hardly uttered a word during our 90-second encounter, and he was flipping me the bird the entire time.  I could only think of his poor wife.  And how much his irrational rage reminded me of working with teenage girls in lockup.

Some of my favorite exchanges would take place when customers were returning items to the store.  Like I mentioned, the company has a ridiculously unwise and generous return policy, and would take [almost] any product back unless it had bloodstains.  And sometimes, accidentally, we even did that. 

Some advice for you when you are considering making a merchandise return:

  • If it’s polyester (like, I don’t know, a fleece pullover made of recycled plastic) and your campfire’s embers are fluttering onto your chest, you will melt holes in your fleece.  You can buy a new one and do this again, but if I’m here, I will have your car towed, just in spite, because you should know better by now.

  • Oh, you put on a few pounds?  Let me return those pants for you, because clearly they were deficient.  Slacks can be so malicious.

  • If you are returning unopened merchandise that you’ve had in your closet since 1985, and you still have the receipt for it, that does not make you helpful.  That sweater vest is unopened.  Twenty-five years later, does that seem strange to you?  Probably not.

  • DO NOT, and I repeat – do not – bring in your returns on Black Friday.  Bring cake.

The key to good shopping is the same simple key to life: Be nice.  And treat employees like you would treat your grandma: don't raise your voice, don't ask to be the exception,  and don't eat the change they give you.  


  1. Let me just verify that the woman eating change thing was not an embellishment. That really happened. And, no doubt, it really had consequences.

  2. I worked in retail as well and someone had pooped in a sweater and left it in the women's dressing room. Gross.

  3. AAAACK! Becky, that's nasty. I hope you took a shower in bleach.


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