Confessions of a Retail Sales Associate

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A retail sales associate position offers a lot of flexibility as far as schedule and hours. The significant negative related to a retail position is you have to deal with people.

One of the things we did when working our way out of debt was to increase our income. For a family with three young children at the time who could not stay home by themselves are options were a bit limited.

We did not want to increase our liabilities by taking on childcare, so a retail position was the best option for my wife to return to work once I finished my nine to five. 

She began working as a retail sales associate back in 2010 and continues today. She comes home on many nights with stories to share when dealing with the general public. These, my friends, are confessions of a retail sales associate.

Retail Sales Associate Name Calling

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “the customer is always right,” but my wife tries to adhere to that policy working in retail. There are many times she has been complimented on her politeness, her exceptional service, even things like the cut and color of her hair, or the color of her eyes. 

Then, she has run into some ready rude people. Recently after a woman’s transaction was declined by her bank, she called my wife a “beast,” and on another occasion, there was an issue with a customer’s credit card, and my wife was called an “f@$&ing moron.”

It’s hard not to react when being called hurtful names, but my wife tries to remember these people mean nothing to her and calls for her manager.

Dirty Money

One of the other perils of working as a retail sales associate is exchanging currency with strangers, whether its cash, cards, or receipts. You never know how clean the person’s hands or items they are handing over to you are. My wife keeps hand sanitizer and moisturizer with her while working.

Here is a list of places people have pulled money and credit/debit cards from and attempted to hand over:

  • Bra
  • Back of pants (crack area)
  • Underarm
  • Mouth

In the case when it’s a card my wife will not handle it, only scan it or let the customer swipe it. When its cash she has not much choice but to touch it.

Cash is King

Customers still pay with cash often, which for us is good to see. My wife has shared stories of large purchases being paid for in cash. It’s always great to hear those stories as a cashier because at least on the surface, it seems like those people are managing money well.

Then there are the stories of customers who still use cash, but in unusual ways like the following:

Crumbled bills – more than one customer keeps their money crumbled up in their pockets. It takes extra work to flatten the bills out and organize.

Stripper Money – paying in all singles. A recent purchase was for over $250 all in dollar bills. When I suggested to my wife, maybe the customer was a bartender or ran a vending business. She replied stripper defiantly.

Quarters from a ziplock bag – Many customers pay only in change. A recent man paid his $40 check out in all in quarters from a ziplock bag.

Cash is cash, no matter what form or denominations. I don’t pass up a stray coin on the street myself, but I do try to keep my Benjamin’s organized.

Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

Now my wife realizes that not all customers are created equal. In the retail world, there are still some stores that have not transitioned over to the chip technology for credit/debit cards. Her current employer has made the switch. Even with the chip option clearly marked as available customers will misuses use it multiple times a day.

The smarter than a fifth-grader story I enjoy the best is she had a customer try to use a department store credit card to complete their purchase. Now, this department store credit card is not co-branded with Visa or Master-card and can only be used at the said department store, and my wife does not work for or at that department store. After several attempts of swiping the card, and it being declined, the customer finally used another card.

Technology Challenged

Answering customer questions about products is a standard task for retail sales associates. Unfortunately, not all questions are created equal, too. My wife was recently showing a customer a washing machine. After answer all of his questions, the man proceeded to lift the lid on the washing machine and look inside. He closed it and then asked, “where do the clothes go?”

On another occasion, my wife was answering questions from a couple in their 50’s about televisions. After showing them several models, the wife asked: “where are the real TV’s?” My wife wasn’t sure how to respond, other than to say these are real TVs. The woman pointed to the display sign and said: “It doesn’t say TV on this sign” My wife said okay and took the couple to a display sign that had the word “TV” on it. Finally, after showing the couple on television that had the word “TV” on them, the man asked: “Where are the ones with rabbit ears?” My wife called for her supervisor.

I give my wife a lot of credit. Her job in retail has helped our family financially. Although many people may not view a career in retail all that difficult when I hear the stories of my wife dealing with the general public all day, I think otherwise. I know many other bloggers have work in retail or dealing with the public like Gary from Super Saving Tips, and Shannon from Financially Blonde started her career in a bagel shop. God bless them both!

What stories can you share about cashier jobs, retail sales associate jobs, and dealing with the general public?

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Retail Sales Associate”

  1. Very entertaining post, Brian.
    I’m guessing this is just the tip of the iceberg. ????
    Personally I wouldn’t know what to do it someone handed me cash from their crack hahaha!

  2. Retail associates go through so much every day! It takes courage and strength to keep you dignity and cool in such a challenging job. Kudos to your wife for doing such a difficult job.

  3. I was once not smarter than a fifth grader…

    I tried to use a Lowe’s gift card to buy gas at a Kroger gas station… Cause, y’know, both Kroger gift cards and Lowe’s gift cards are blue.

    When I asked the attendant why my gift card wasn’t working, she pointed out it was a Lowe’s gift card.

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