Friday, January 14, 2011

Temper Tantrums, They're Not Just for Children Anymore

By working retail you get a view of humanity. You watch children grow up, you see couples feud, and see your elderly customers go through medical dramas. Quite often you are a witness to odd or bad behavior. Small children prance through the aisles tossing candy in shopping carts when parents are distracted. Occasionally one when denied a treat will throw himself on the floor for a full body temper tantrum.

You see a lot of wardrobe disasters as well. One young girl came into the store one night in a black push up bra, a black thong, high heals and a see through white tee shirt worn as a dress. If she was my daughter she would have dragged home and locked in her room. Years ago a woman used to shop in the grocery store each week wearing the same outfit. She wore a black one piece swimsuit with the sides cut out to make it almost a two piece. She also weighed more than three hundred pounds. She would walk through the store doing her weeks shopping while her extremely thin man sauntered proudly next to her. I'll never forget him walking along and holding one of her rolls that hung out the side of that stretched too far swimsuit.

You see a lot of men popping into the store with no shoes and no shirts. When asked to leave sometimes they resort to shouting. I saw one man run in to pay for a pizza. He stood at the counter in shorts, no shirt or shoes and handed the worker his money. Then he had an itch. It was a deep and personal itch. He then proceeded to stick his hand down the back of his pants and tend to his itch. I bet they were sorry they didn't send him back out but sometimes they just get quick service to get them out quickly with no argument.

There is one elderly lady who shops occasionally who shaves her eyebrows completely off and draws them back on in the middle of her forehead with a purple eyeliner pencil. I have to bite the insides of my cheeks to keep a straight face when I wait on her. Another lady comes in with a makeup disaster. I call her Marilyn Manson's grandmother. She has black eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner and the heaviest mascara I've ever seen. She also wears black blush painted on in a thick oval circle on each cheekbone and black lip liner. Whatever dark lipstick she wore that day is usually worn off. She is probably in her seventies so the overall effect is very shocking. One day she asked me where the restroom was. Later she came through my line and there was a terrible smell. She held out her hand for her change and there was poop smeared on her palm.

Speaking of poop, that happens too. On "Little Britain" there is a character that pees in public and doesn't seem to notice. She holds conversations in a store and pees on the floor, it really is hilarious I can't give it justice, however this happens in real life as well. We had an incontinent shopper who always rode one of the motorized shopping carts. She would ride it out to her car and expect a bagger to ride it back into the store. They would always have to clean and sanitize it first because the seat would be covered in pee.

A produce person in another store went into the back room to work and found a female customer squatting over the floor drain and using the restroom. She said she thought she was in the restroom. Really? You keep cabbages and carrots in your restroom at home?

In one large store someone was pooping in the sink in the men's restroom. They had no idea who until one day a manager walked in and found a little old man crouched over the sink caught in the act. I don't think they knew what to do because he was just obviously out of his mind.

A second hand store had a customer referred to as the poop pocket bandit. They came in weekly and put little chopped up bits of poop in the jacket pockets. They finally caught them one day and discovered it was a disgruntled former employee.

You don't think the world is this twisted? Think I made it up? You only see the retail world in fifteen minute glimpses. Stay for several hours, several days a week and you will be here long enough to catch the bigger stories, see the weirdness. We see the good and the bad.

Those temper tantrums the kids have? That's a normal part of life. How you handle it as a parent will help determine the character of the child for the rest of his or her life. Don't give in. I have a feeling some of my older customers throwing adult tantrums were indulged too often as a child.

One customer comes in and tries to cut in line every time. He feels I should run his lottery tickets before the other five people already in line are served. I remind him there is only one of me and therefore only one line for everything. One day before the holidays we were understandably very busy and lines were longer than normal. He was next in line but the woman in front of him was buying lottery for the first time and had some questions. I patiently but quickly waited on her but it wasn't good enough for him. He threw himself across my counter and shouted "Oh for the love of god, for crying out loud, what is wrong with people." I ignored him as he banged his head on my counter and finished waiting on the other customer. When it was his turn he stuck his finger in my face and said, "You are great, but you have some of the worst, most selfish, rude customers on the planet." I just smiled and ran his tickets quickly. I didn't tell him he just described himself.


  1. You have an associate of arts degree, right? Maybe you could obtain some additional education or if not, just work your way into any clerical job possible to get yourself out of this rut of retail cashiering. Clearly you can write cogently and you can type, which puts you ahead of many others, so you should be able to step into the white-collar world. There would be more room for advancement in that sphere than in retail. It seems like an improvement in career and possibly neighborhood would be a good step.

  2. Yes, I believe it! I used to know someone who worked part-time at Wal-Mart and the stories that she told me of people peeing in dressing rooms and leaving dirty diapers under bathtowels used to gross me out. She quit after a few months because she couldn't take it anymore.
    I've never worked retail and never want to. I really don't think I could hack it.

  3. I totally agree with the first comment, you are too intelligent, articulate and capable to on a till in a shop. You wouldn't need a single qualification to do what you do in the UK. Look out for teaching assistant jobs in schools, or any work in school where your talents can be used. Back to the topic.....I love 'Little Britain'and I don't envy the 'crap' both literal and metaphorical that you have to put up with! Keep your chin up, recessions never last forever and as soon as things improve for you......treat yourself to a holiday in the UK , of course I will put you up!! and come enjoy Cornwall! love Froogs xxx

  4. This reminds me of the olden days when I worked as a cashier for a utility company. One mom would bring her children in to pay the bill, set the baby, wet diaper and all, on my desk. The office reeked when they left, partly because Mama wet herself on the way out. EVERY SINGLE TIME. D'ya think it might have been related to the fact we could smell alcohol on her breath? Those kids grew up and became fine responsible citizens but it was not due to parental nurturing!

    I hope you get a big fat promotion SOON, dear one!


  5. You have got to be incredibly patient! Amazing stories.

    I'm wondering why the woman in the bathing suit was allowed to shop. Aren't shirts mandated for all?

  6. 444, I am planning on changes this year. You're right, I do need to move to find more work choices. Also, please don't think that all of this happens in a week. These are the worst bits from several years. :)

    catseye, I left out the person who pooped in a dressing room. It is amazing how some people behave in public.

    Frugal queen, thank you. I'm impatiently waiting for this recession to go away.

    Connie, thanks, I'll take a promotion with another company. This company isn't the kindest to work for especially for management.

    Bucksome, these stories were gathered over time. If they all happened in one week....I don't even want to think of that. Technically the woman had a shirt. The truth of the matter was the young men they had for managers were too scared to do anything. We also had a lady in her eighties shop in a bikini. That was interesting. You see a lot of this sort of thing in Florida.

  7. In my youth, back when dinos roamed the earth, I too worked retail. I worked in the personalized Christmas card department of a huge store in Houston. When those cards were either late or misprinted I heard words I can't write here. It was very Christmasy indeed.

    And what's with women going out in public dressed like hams? That looks terribly uncomfortable.

  8. There are signs up in the dressing rooms at my local Goodwill: "This is not a bathroom. Please see an Associate if you need a bathroom."

    I suppose a lot of these people are mentally ill...or exhibitionists...or something. Poor you!

  9. Bodaciousboomer, I think you have to have worked retail at some point to realize these stories are not made up. People don't believe it until they see it.

    frugal scholar, some are mentally ill, and a few are whacked out on drugs, but then there are others who really do know better. LOL, so are those signs helping? You see, the type of people that poop on the floor in dressing rooms are not the same sort of people to read signs.