52. Pretending You Care: The Retail Employee Handbook

by Norm Feuti

started 10/19 finished 12/6

Notice how long it took me to read this book. It is not because it was bad. Far from it. It was truthful, and funny. But I had to put it down because it hit too close to home. Norm Feuti is a former retail worker who now writes a comic strip called Retail.

The book is a handbook that follows the employee from the application process to surviving the Christmas holidays, and everything in between. I kept putting it down because it was too real and while it was funny, it also made me angry when it reminded me of the things that we who work in retail have to put up with.
The first chapter covers popular retail myths:
“I’ll Get a Good Discount” – I used to think that this was true. In our store full-time employees get 25 percent discount (and a $30 gift card every month – which, judging by other perks that have disappeared, will probably be gone in a couple of years) and part-timers get 33% off. Our customer rewards programs gives weekly coupons that offer a 25 or 30 percent discount. So, as Feuti pointed out, we are just getting a perpetual coupon.
“Working With People Will Be Fun!” – Working with people sucks!!! Any weirdo, psychotic, freak can walk into your establishment and require assistance and you have to interact with them. This includes people that in the real world you would cross the street to avoid. Now, I work in a relatively affluent section of Atlanta (Buckhead) – this just means that the psychotics are dressed better and they look down on you because you work in retail. Some of my all time favorites include:
  • The older gentlemen who came in for lunch in our cafe several times a week and would leave a trail of feces behind him because of a physical problem (I hope). My co-worker and I had to clean it up (there is no stand-by cleaning crew – if something gets dirty we clean it ourselves).
  • The deaf, homeless, prostitute who would approach men in the store and kind of mime for them what she was willing to do.
  • The mothers (and there are several of them) who would drop their children off first thing in the morning at the store and come back and pick them up later that evening. They then want to call our corporate offices and complain when we tell her that they can’t just leave children unattended in the store for 6 plus hours! There are men who stand in the sex section and read porn all day, for goodness sakes!
  • The gentlemen who bent down behind a woman who was browsing a display, stuck a camera between her legs and took a picture. (He cried when we took the film and threatened to call the police – that was fun! To this day, however, the woman has no clue what happened)
“Flexible Hours” – There is no such thing. The days of the mom who works a few hours in the afternoon and is home to meet her children at the door when they get home from school are over. Retail employers need people who can work nights and weekends, because that is when people with real jobs go shopping. Can’t work nights and weekends? Thanks, but no thanks.
I recommend this book for all retail drones, past and present. It would make a perfect holiday gift for your loved one who is currently toiling in the trenches this season (because, after 20 years in retail, I can honestly tell you that people are not nicer this time of year).
And for those of you who don’t work in retail, I leave you with this:
We put merchandise out as soon as we receive it (and that goes for all stores). There is nothing in the stockroom. When you send us by there to see if by chance what you need is there, we are really getting a drink of water, hanging out with the inventory employees, and talking about your shoes. Happy Holidays!!
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4 thoughts on “52. Pretending You Care: The Retail Employee Handbook

  1. Oh my goodness! You had me dying with the descriptions of the crazy things you’ve seen folks do. Unbelievable!People do look down on folks who work retail. I really hate when people leave clothes in the dressing room all over the place like they expect the maid to come clean up. It’s really a shame.

  2. Liz,And that is nowhere near all the stuff I have seen! There are lots of things that are either to disgusting to put here or are too recent to share yet!

  3. This book is very funny. The comic strip is like Dilbert but for retail workers. I would send a copy to everyone I know who works retail but since I work retail, I can’t afford to and sadly I only had two people in mind. Though I did buy my copy, supporting a former retail drone, who is keeping it real.

  4. I can see what you mean. Just this post hits too close to home and I haven’t worked retail for seven years. I remember:–the guy that wanted to buy condoms. (It’s a bookstore!–The germaphobic guy who wouldn’t want his change. But he would. But he wouldn’t. But he would.–The guy who would grab an NYT and do the crossword in ink and leave it behind without paying.–The time I had to help Newt Gingrich and try not to say anything too mean. Oh, I’ll stop. And like Toni said, those are the ones fit for consumption. There are too many to tell!

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