Friday, 13 March 2015

The worst things about working in retail - alternate working title 'Kill me Now'

Don’t get me wrong, I love LOVE working in retail. This is my 30th year doing it (in some form or another). And I know we’re not doctors, nurses or teachers – but we are a huge workforce that work/have worked long hours and unforgiving shifts for very little thanks. This is for you lovely people!
As with all jobs, there are times, and situations, that leave you at best, uninspired, and at worst, wanting to kill. The ‘Best Things about working in the Beauty Industry’ – is coming tomorrow, first a little fun trip through our pain… J


Personally, I cannot walk past a Claire’s Accessories without thinking ‘Those poor people, STOCKTAKE HELL’. I’ve never worked there, I just feel their pain.
Counting, re-counting. Adjusting. *stabs self in eye with pen*

The Hours

If you work in a ‘normal’ store it’s not so bad. If you work in a shopping centre or a major City Centre store – especially the living hell that IS Oxford Street and Knightsbridge: May the Force be with You. 9-9 opening hours, extended during the summer for overseas visitors – sometimes 8am – 10/11pm and its longer during…


Or as retail peeps call it: ‘The first week of November onwards’. The hours, the busy shop floors, the thieves (God the THIEVES). Personally this was the best and worst of time for me. I love being busy, I love helping people buy gifts, I hate wrapping, I hated never having time for a break….and working Christmas Eve? No thank you.


The reason anyone who works/worked in retail never touches anything in Jo Malone.  You know someone just dusted it, lined it up and is ready to pounce with a replacement as soon as you touch it. Have you ever done that in Jo Malone? Picked something up, walked around with it, changed your mind, gone to put it back and THERE IS NO SPACE FOR IT WHERE DO I PUT IT NOW GOD HELP ME I’M GOING TO MESS UP THEIR DISPLAY!!!

But inevitably the best and worst thing about most jobs is the people. In this case, the customers. I asked my friends privately – all of whom are ex/current retail – for their ‘feedback’ on the people they have served over the years. To say I was inundated is an understatement. I present to you, the edited, PC version.

  • People who blatantly return something they've used a shitload of times. 
  • People who think that because you work in a shop you have never read a book or had an intelligent thought in your head. 
  • "I read in XXXX that this contains XXXXX"
    "It doesn't"
    "It does"
    *continue ad infinitum* 
  • ‘I need the gel version of this.’
    ‘There isn't one.’
    ‘ Yes there is.’
    ‘ I'm really sorry, there isn't.’
    ‘Let me speak to your Boss. Where is he?’ (HE!)
    ‘I AM the boss and you're shit out of luck.’
  • "I have an iPhone app that says I'm this (twelve shades too dark) foundation."
  • "Paula says..."
  • 6pm on a Saturday: ‘I'm looking for a lipstick - but obviously I'll need my whole makeup doing.’
  • "I'm just going to find my husband because he has my purse".  (never seen again)
  • "I read online the other day that you shouldn't use a powder brush with pressed powder because you have to press down hard and it ruins the brush."
  • "Oh I love it" *looking in the mirror* "Can you write it all down; I'm going to get it in duty free.’ (<---Special recognition award for most mentioned customer, the 'going-to-Duty Free person'.)
  • "I want someone to do my makeup because I'm going out but they need to be really good at it".
  • The Jealous Friend! Friend looks beautiful, asks friend, "What do you think"... "mmm...I'm not sure" *snidey side eye*
  • *Standing on counter/behind till, wearing a brush belt.* "Excuse me, do you work here?"
  • Me: "I'm really sorry, that product is out of stock."
    Customer: ‘Can you check out the back...’
    *Checks out the back*
    Me: "Sorry it really is out of stock."
    Customer: "Check again."
  • Whilst mid-cleansing a customer.....
    'So, what is your current cleansing routine?'
    ‘‘Well, I use a cream cleanser......blah blah blah......then I tone using my own fresh's wonderful.” *sneaky need to wash hands urgently*
  • The best ever was the lady who needed her 'personal (Lady Garden area) deodorant' from me at Clinique.
    ‘Well we do a roll on or stick but they're for underarms.’ My poor baffled 20-year old self not wanting to consider what she wanted it for...
    "Look here you silly girl, it says ‘push up bottom’..."
  • "What's your current cleansing routine?" Translation: "just wondering if you've ever washed your face?’
  • My favourite was observing my friend on another counter. He is a professional make-up artist and had spent an hour with this woman. She had pre-booked as well. She looked amazing. She turns around and says 'I’m unsure.’  So he then wipes it ALL off and says ' I wouldn't want you walking around town feeling unsure'. 
  • After spending an hour with them, "that's great, I want it all, but I'm gonna go buy it online"
  • On a Saturday late shift "Can you do my make up for me?" ”Sure, tell me what you want to buy and I will put in on you.”
  • I like it when people want to try on eight separate blushers. *face*
  • "I want a natural red lipstick." 
  • "Which one of your 90 lipsticks is my perfect colour?"
  • *applies under eye concealer* "Ooh yeah, it's really nice" *rubs with index finger until it disappears entirely* 
  • "I've used it for years and I don't remember the colour." 
  • "Can I have another A478954368 lipstick please?"
    "That's not the colour, that's the batch number.”
  • “Do you have a tester of this eyeshadow?” “No, because that would be the eyeshadow, wouldn't it. Then it's free.”
  • “Oooh, I might come in every morning and get my makeup done before work. “
  • "Can you come and live with me and do my makeup every morning?"
  • The ‘Oh so virtuous’ ladies with children. God forbid you recommend something like a primer. "I don't have time for that! I have children!"
    Of course. Wouldn't want to take that 5 seconds away from you running the UN either.
  • Customer tries on two identical nude lipglosses.
    "Which one is your favourite on me?”
    "I like the first one"
    "Why do you say that?"
    "It looks nice"
    "Yes but why didn't you say the second one?"
  • "Do you have a cotton bud?"
    *cleans ears*
  • "Is it in stock online?"
    I don't know.
  • When gift wrapping at Christmas, “Oh would you like to come & do all my others?!”
  • I'm allergic....
  • “I want a mascara that stays on all day and possibly through heavy rain and a marathon run, but comes off with water. “
  • "Is this hypoallergenic?"
    *rage face*
  • Highlight of my day, every day at XXXX store:
    6:30pm *Locks door, gets schematics out, starts cleaning*
    6:35 person knocks on door.
    All staff ignores persistent knocking for at least 2 minutes.
    6:37 weakest member of staff 'breaks' and acknowledges idiot at door.
    Idiot: "Please, I know what I need/ I only need a lipstick" *begging tone*
    Staff: "Sorry the tills are closed, you'll have to go to Selfridges.”
  • The Sunday afternoon 6pm/Christmas Eve 5pm/New Years Eve 6pm/ shopper that clearly doesn't have plans or a list.
  • Having to offer the store card at every opportunity in fear of being mystery shopped.
  • Returns without a receipt - 'but I bought it here!!! What do you mean there are 300 other Clinique counters in the UK?!!!' 
  • 'Allergic reaction' returns that were a quarter full or even better, completely used and then replaced with mustard.
  • Following you to a stock cupboard out the back.
  • "I would like the Diptyque baby's candle"
    "Do you mean Baies?"
    "No, not that one, the one that smells of fresh babies.”
    Customer wanted Baies.
  • "I'm 50 years old and never washed my face, why do I need to now?"
    "Because everyone has to remove the dirt from their face."
    "I don't have dirt on my face I live in the countryside."
  • When the customer picks up a cotton bud, licks it, wipes something off their face, puts it back in the pot of clean cotton buds. 
  • A certain brand I know of has customers that bite off the lipstick from the bullet and leave the store with it in their mouth to depot at home. FILTH.
  • 1 minute before store closing... “Hi, can you do a make-over? I don't know what I am looking for. You need to do it in 7 minutes because I am going to the theatre.”
  • “Your body is the same as my husband, do you think he will like this?” Dunno love BECAUSE #imnotyourhusband
  • And my personal fave: 

“When the customer knows more than you because they read Caroline Hirons' blog.”


  1. Fab post! I work in food retail (with angry AND hungry customers!!) but can definitely relate to all of this! One of my personal favourites is
    - 'can I order 3 meals please?'
    - 'yeah sure....'
    - '...oh... do I need to tell you what they are??'
    I ain't bloody psychic!!

  2. Oh god the lipstick thing is so gross! What gets me is when STAFF and customers both use the testers STRAIGHT onto their lips and always come back to re-apply throughout the day not knowing where it's been or who has used it! I work in two department stores at the minute on fragrance and for me personally it's rude customers that annoys me the most. We have to offer perfume samples to as many people as possible to hit our targets, but (mostly middle aged women for some reason) enjoy saying NO THANKYOU right in my face and even get aggressive waving their hands about. After a 9 hour shift this can wear you down! Or those customers that love to quiz you on all the perfumes with no intention of buying and literally will come into the store on a daily basis to do this.

    1. Regarding the lipsticks, I've had a couple of strange experiences that went a bit like this:
      "Excuse me, is it okay if I try this lipstick?"
      "Sure" *does nothing*
      "Could you maybe clean it for me please?"

      Um... I'll bring my own alcohol and tissues next time then!

  3. Ahhhh I cringe! I love the last one - I have been mentioning your name alot recently :p

    1. haha same. I was in Clarins recently and was talking to woman about serums and she mentioned that brown looking one with mineral oil in it and I was like "oh I don't want it if it has mineral oil in it" Lady: "What do you not like about it? Me: "Its just sits on the skin... and doesn't go deeper" woman:"its our best selling one" Me: "...yeah *Be STRONG!*"

    2. Haha it's brilliant isn't it? I feel like a pro, knowing what I know now!

      I can't even remember back to January, before I read your blog, and my skincare routine. Thank you for opening my eyes Caroline :)

  4. Having worked in retail for MANY years (although not beauty) I have just wet myself (pass the tena lady)!!!!!
    Thankfully, I now work in an office and have discovered the unadulterated joy of Christmas Eve off...BLISS!

  5. If I go somewhere and they mentioned you (usually TheBodyShop) I have immense respect, whereas I tend to not take skincare advice too seriously if they've never heard of you!
    Also guilty of duty free/online shopping! To be fair, I always feel so pressured to buy and then the foundation will oxidise/mascara will run

  6. Spat my tea all over computer screen after reading this. Can't stop laughing, can't be real!
    *A certain brand I know of has customers that bite off the lipstick from the bullet and leave the store with it in their mouth to depot at home. FILTH.*

  7. I don't think I've been guilty of any but I can sure imagine it happen! And the last one is classic! :-)

  8. Oh dear god... My friend is in the business too and some of these things sounds so familiar. Not the mustard one thought (?????).

  9. This is literally every day for me! My worst one was when a male customer waiting for his wife picked up a cotton bud, used it to clean his ears out and then (with the cotton bud covered in ear wax) puts it BACK in the pot with all the clean cotton buds. Some people are beyond disgusting!!

  10. What, exactly, does a fresh baby smell like? :-P

  11. I no longer work in retail, but when I did, one of my duties was to occasionally serve people lottery tickets. If they weren't telling me that they had the winning ticket (yeh, you and every other sucker), they were promising to remember me if they won. Yep, NEVER heard that before!

  12. “I want a mascara that stays on all day and possibly through heavy rain and a marathon run, but comes off with water. “

    Kanebo Sensai 38°


    1. And.. Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara (39°) and... some other tubing mascaras perhaps

    2. Yep there are many Japanese, and Korean film forming tubbing mascaras that will stay on even during a typhoon.
      I love the Blinc ones myself.

    3. My favorite one is Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Maskara "Jet Black")))

  13. One day I was scrolling through Clinique counter hoping to buy the mild clarifying lotion but the SA said my country doesn't bring in this product and she continued to ask me why I don't try the regular clarifying lotion. I told her even the clarifying lotion for dry skin dries out my combination skin because of the alcohol content. She looked at me with a horror expression: "how could alcohol dry out your skin? alcohol have anti bacterial properties and cosmetic grade alcohol definitely won't dry out your skin...." and continue pushing me to buy that lotion. I'm so frustrated.

    1. In a situation like this, if they're very insistent, I would POLITELY ask that they decant a small sample for you to try at home.

  14. Hahaha! I will be extra nice to retail staff after reading this, poor buggars. I don't work in retail but deal with people every day, my favourite comment is 'I'm not complaining - but ,,,,;;' Gah!

  15. Reading the list with slightly anxiety, 'am I guilty of some of the charges?' No. Or yes, the last one. Definitely the last.

  16. I can't believe someone would use their own urine as a toner??!! What happened? So funny!

  17. 'People who think that because you work in a shop you have never read a book or had an intelligent thought in your head.'

    THIS!!!! I'm a college student and although I don't work in retail I do waitress at the weekends and the amount of customers who talk to you like you're stupid just because you are a waitress is staggering! It is so infuriating! I think anybody who works with the public, in retail or some other form, can definitely relate to this.

  18. Brilliant. I cannot believe the biting off lipstick one - gag! And yeah I definitely blog-drop you all the time!

  19. Sorry, Caroline, I always read 'babies' on that damn Diptique candle!

  20. Having worked in a certain big Yellow department store for the past 5 years I completely agree with everything Haha! Ah the joys of working Christmas Eve, boxing day, new years Eve, new years day, weekends, till 11pm at night.... It does have its perks though and most of us stick at it purely because we love our teams who we work with. Also the perks help - god help the day I'll actually have to pay full price for things!

  21. I didn't think it was possible but this has made me never want to shop again haha! x

  22. I've only ever worked in food retail, so thankfully there were no returns issues but my colleagues elsewhere in the large chain store I worked in regularly told me that customers in the homeware and clothing sections were rude and cheeky as hell.

    And the universal truth of retail: it's ALWAYS the woman with the mink coat and posh handbag who is stingey to the point of trying to get something for nothing. She won't pay for a 5p flower bag for a £25 bouquet ('HOW DARE YOU ASK ME TO PAY FOR A FLOWER BAG?!' 'It's the law madam, not us. Also, it's been the law here for nearly two years, buy a reusable bag and get over it like everyone else.') And typically this woman will hold up a queue of 10 people just so she can get your manager to confirm that, no, there isn't a deal whereby she can buy Shiraz, steak and 100 percy pigs for a fiver and yelling at the young woman (me) at the counter and calling me stupid will not change this fact.

    1. Yep, and it's the "royalty" of some countries asking for a 30% discount on everything when they have enough money to buy the whole department store (probably the whole block). Ugh.

  23. I cannot stop laughing!!!! I worked retail for 10 years and there were fun times but I can relate to a lot of this. The times when you get so stressed out with nonsense from customers to the point you want to kill. I am totally respectful when shopping always. It's a tough gig. And I agree with Belle about the waiting tables which I have never done. But, I do not give people who wait tables a hard time ever! It is a high stress job and I want to kill some of the people when they talk down to servers or eat more than half their food and say "this was a little under cooked, I would like something else or not to be charged." Really! But, Caroline this was a great post!

  24. This is hysterical but you know the one about can I have you at home to do my make up every morning is really a lovely compliment - no? I do, I must admit, say this to my hairdresser every time she does a gorgeous blow dry - now you're making me feel guilty!! The cotton bud ear one is gross!!

  25. Hahaha oh my god this is all so true! I had a customer just the other day do the exact same thing with the under eye concealer, she then said "Oh well it's all gone now.", I said nothing, she then said "That's probably because I've just rubbed at it a little", me "Yes probably." - I mean what else is there to say! But it is the rude ones who get to me the most, I had a woman approach the counter and start browsing, I approached her as I would any customer and asked if there was something I could help her find, she said no thank you, I said that's okay and (because it's MY JOB and it's drilled into my brain everyday in our morning brief) said that just to let her know that we have these blah blah offers on, she just cut me off mid sentence, waved her arms around and said "You know it's very hard to concentrate when you've got someone being so annoying!". Speechless, I just walked away :| x

  26. Used to work in clothing retail, in a shop that didn't have a stock room. When things came in, they were put on the floor before we opened. The amount of customers who didn't believe that. 'Can you check though?' Yeah, grand, I'll have a look in the loading bay.

    ALSO, people who didn't put clothes back on hangers. GAH!

    The odd customer who didn't accept their dress size. Had a really curvy woman in, very large on the bottom half and large on top. The 12 didn't fit, after I spent ages trying to zip her in, she asked for the 10. 'I'll see if we have a *smaller size*, then?' She nodded. My heart broke.

  27. To be honest, I like your blog very much! I think that you do a great job! Everything is so beautiful! I know that blog requires much time, but keep doing it!

    I’ll be happy to see you in my blog!)

    Diana Cloudlet

  28. Me; (out loud) sorry we don't have any left
    Customer; Seriously?!?!?! (with an indignant face)
    Me; (in my head) no i just said that so i could hear you moan at me!!!

  29. 'Do you sell Dermetalogica/Eva Loma/Chantecaaaly/Chanterelle?' Customer tells you 'it's a gift' Watches you peel the price sticker off & then asks 'did you take the price off?' 'Give me some samples, at my local branch they fill the bag!' :-D

    1. hahahaha! I get Dermatalogica all the time! We must work at the same store

    2. Sooooo true!!!!!!

  30. Im also a skintherapist and worked in retail before. You really become a person who knows exactly who the customer is before they have said any thing.
    I have read your blog a couple of days Now and today i bought a cleansing balm, clarins exfoliating toner . Indeed labs serum and Ole Henriksen advanced hydration creme! I have used Ole Henriksen before and i like it very much. Im looking forward to try your skin care tips! Hugs from norway

  31. I am the women who mentions you all the time!!and twice now in The body shop I have had lovely conversations about you 😄 x

  32. Oh god. It's Tom Ford, isn't it. The lipstick. Oh god.

    1. was just thinking the same! first guess Charlotte Tillsbury- 2nd Tom Ford!

    2. I was thinking MAC!

    3. I think MAC, the assistant at Tom Ford watch you like a hawk. MAC is busy and loud, nobody would notice hahah

  33. This made my day :) I've never worked on a beauty counter, but I have worked at Claire's Accessories (in Oxford St) and at another big retailer just across from Bond Street station, and all these sound very familiar. There are too many 'kill me now' experiences to count! Some of my favourites: a man yelling and snapping his fingers at me from across the store to get my attention, a woman screaming at me in anger because I asked her 'whether she needed any help at all', another woman demanding a refund without having a receipt (was later discovered to be a thief), a gang of Indian men armed with Primark bags who used to steal as much as possible (in Claire's Accessories...), a woman dismissing me with 'I can read' when I told her about our special offers advertised in the store and the list could go on. I feel for anybody who's ever worked or currently works in retail!

    1. Oh my god. I feel so.... bad reading your comment. I now endeavour to be nice to everyone who works in retail - EXTRA nice

    2. You know the ethnicity of the men is of no importance here, right? It's not like you're talking about Indian traditions.
      Gee, to have to point this out in 2015...

    3. Was just about to post that, their ethinic origins doesn't really bring anything to the story.


  34. Omg! I worked somewhere that sold Diptyque candles and I too had a lady say "I have to smell this, what do babies smell like?" I feel better knowing someone else heard a similar insane comment.
    That one of biting off the lipsticks is by far the most disgusting thing I've ever heard.

  35. Everything about this post was just EVERYTHING! I too CANNOT believe the thing about women biting off the lipstick, leaving the shop with it in their mouth and taking it home - that is just beyond vile and beyond ridiculous!
    Some customers get SO ridiculous about when an item is out of stock, especially when you've looked in the warehouse AND checked the system.
    I think all people who work in retail should one day group together and share their stories to compile them all together in a book, I've most definitely got a fair few to share!

    She's So Lucy

  36. Thanks Caroline, that was cathartic. Though I've never worked the same type of retail you're describing, I can definitely relate! I've worked food retail but right now I work at a cookware chain here in the U.S. I would like to submit the following additions:

    1) The customer who walks in, is standing directly next to what they came in looking for, but still finds it necessary to ask you to tell them where it is rather than use their damn eyes!

    2) The customer who rudely ignores that there are only two employees in a large store on a Wednesday night and proceeds to demand the undivided attention of one of the two of you for half an hour or more. And this is not a swanky department store we're talking about where an attention-hogger might expect a personal shopper.

    3) When a customer comes in looking for something VERY obscure. They describe it to you, you tell them that you're sorry but you don't carry it but you do have this similar item...and then they CONTINUE to describe it as if you'll be able to make it appear out of thin air if they just describe it some more.

    4) As an addendum to the one regarding people who think that you have no brains because you're behind a counter wearing some kind of uniform: the customers who make an ass of themselves in any number of ways and neglect to realize that we WILL remember them the next time.

    5) Yeah, we ask for your email because we have to, not because we're all dying to steal your identity. If you don't want emails just say "no, thank you" and let's move on. I don't really fucking care if you "get soooo many emails already, ohmygawd".

    6) Yes, we do offer giftwrap and it will cost you $5...because this is a business and it's going to take my time away from selling things to people. Get over it, or do it yourself.

    7) This is specific to cooking, but it gripes the hell out of me when the same people who come in and spend $150+ on single-use gadgets balk at the thought of spending $100+ on a knife or a piece of cookware that they would use everyday for 20 or 30 years!

    And that's just off the top of my head. It's a fascinating world, ain't it?!

  37. Lovely lovely people: I just accidentally deleted about 30 comments this morning. The phone slipped in my hand. Never again! *waits until stationary*
    I'M SO SORRY! Please do send again (if you can be bothered!) - I'm SORRY!!

  38. Hahahahahaahaa love this! I'm definitely guilty of the last one!!!

  39. Soooo guilty of the last one! Most recently was telling the SA that foaming cleansers can leave the skin feeling dryer and stripped, especially if they have dry skin. Caroline says so... (You don't know who Caroline Hirons is? Well...)

  40. One of my worst ones:
    I used to have a woman who came in with nearly empty eyeshadows that the packaging had broken on wanting an exchange for a new one. I did it twice for her but the third time ended up saying look, there's no way this packaging can break by itself, you have to bash it pretty hard for it to break. Which was met with 'ARE YOU CALLING ME A LIAR' 'No, but I've worked on this department for 4 years and I'm telling you from experience that these don't break on their own' 'GO AND GET ME A MANAGER!' So I find one standing on an adjacent counter and start telling him the tale, she storms over and goes 'I'M LIP READING EVERYTHING YOU'RE SAYING, DO YOU THING YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE FUCKING STUPID??' I stand there gobsmacked while she starts speaking to the manager, then she turns to me and goes 'Why are you still here?? I'm done with you. Leave!' And she got the exchange anyway. To say I was furious is an understatement!

    1. To say reading this story made my blood boil is another understatement. There has to be a special place in hell waiting for that psychopath with a nice broken bed she will want to exchange every day for eternity!

  41. Also:
    Customer: I'm looking for a nice brown-nude lipstick that will suit me
    Me: okay *shows her a few shades*
    Customer: (going through the shades) no, that's too brown; god no that's far too boring!; no that's to neutral, you wouldn't be able to see it on me! Maybe one that's got a bit more red to it'
    Me: *shows her some more*
    Customer: No, these are all still a bit dark, have you got any that are lighter but still have a reddish undertone?'
    Me: So you want a pink?
    Customer: Yeah.

    1. I bet when you showed her a pink it was too blue! :-)

  42. I also work in a big yellow department store on the fragrance department. I love how we sell around 2000 different fragrances and the customers still expect me to know every ingredient in every one and also all sizes and prices.
    My personal favourites are the Xmas shoppers that shop at 4pm on Xmas eve and say.... have you got XXXX in a gift set? No madam I am sorry, we have sold out. How can you have sold out? I need it! Well unfortunately madam you have had approx 90 days in which to buy said gift set.

    And the "No you definitely sell it here.... I had it here last time" and when did you last buy it sir? " about 8 years ago" yes well we don't sell it anymore sir. "So what am I meant to do now?"
    I also had a customer with her daughter just last weekend.... daughter - I want to work here when I grow up mummy, the lady looks lovely. Mother - no darling, you're very intelligent and will be going to university to get a degree. Me - well actually I graduated 2 years ago but work here for the love of my job and the interesting mix of people I meet which elevates my level of people skills. *big sarcastic smile

  43. I wouldn't be a blogger for quids. I'd be too irritated by the people who leave a comment just so they can include a link to their own blog. ;)

    Great post! I'll try to be more thoughtful to the SA's xx

  44. OMG the lipstick one is disgusting!!!!!! I admit I asked to have my makeup done but I bought all the products afterwards!! But it was just once!


  45. Urine toner, customers bitting lipsticks...!? I am horrified you had to go through that.
    My only one time bad retail experience was when the Dior shopping assistant looked at my thighs and told me they had a new cellulite wonder cream...I was anorexic at that time...

  46. I used to love when customers would bring in photo references, saying they wanted to look like so-and-so celebrity. Weathered, very lived in 49+ year olds showing me pictures of Misha Barton circa The OC days. "Yeah sure that shouldn't be a problem. Let's jump in my time machine and go back to a time when you didn't smoke a pack a day, sun bathe, and drink G&Ts every freaking night shall we?!"

    1. So funny! Some people need a dose of reality!

  47. You are so funny and this is complete true! I think my biggest hate of retail is the hours, I work until 10 at night even on Saturdays and Sundays, can't count on my hand the number of birthdays and events I've missed because somebody feels the need to phone and at questions at 9:30pm on a Saturday night!

  48. I am definitely guilty of the last one "But Caroline Hirons says..."

    I've worked in Customer Service and it definitely makes you worry about the fate of humanity...

  49. This was hilarious!! Poor retailers indeed!!!! I was all proud of myself as I read this that I had never done any of them, until I got to the last one... DEFINITELY guilty of that! Hahahahaha what can I say? I'm a convert and my skin knows what it likes! :) xoxo

  50. Oh my god Caroline, this cracked me up. I think I've experienced 99 % of these customers.

  51. I've worked in many different retail jobs, including Claire's Accessories and yes, the stock take (while the shop is open!!!) is hell on earth. So many thousands of tiny items, all getting moved around :( Easily the worst part of every retail job is the customers. It baffles me how some people even managed to get themselves dressed and out of the door in the mornings because they clearly have no brains! Love the end comment though. I've had so many retail staff that know NOTHING about what they sell and I literally have to educate them there and then with nothing but Caroline Hirons knowledge and an iPhone. Last one - woman tried to convnce me to buy SPF moisturiser to use as a night cream.

  52. I work in the states as a store stylist, helping women pick out clothing. It's fun to see the beauty side of retail. A lot of the same stories and laughs. Great share!

  53. To be fair, when someone asks you to come do their makeup every morning or to wrap all their presents, they are just praising your skills.

    1. I agree. It may be a clumsy way to compliment someone but it's still a compliment.

    2. Ah well it depends entirely on the tone and delivery of said comment! ;)

  54. I have friends in retail(cosmetic), how true is this article!!!! LOL

  55. Great - in a 'is the world completely insane?- kind of way - article!

    I have been so horrified by the horror stories that:
    a) I have posted my first comment here after years of passive Hirons-isation
    b) I have been overly nice and smily with all the shop assistants I encountered in Regent St/Soho this morning

  56. I totally can relate to this post. I work in Boots ( in a smallish store) and the worst one we get is "have you got that thing that was advertised on tv last night?"
    My reply "what was it showing"
    Customer: "I dunno, but it said you can get it from Boots????"
    Me: Is it make up, medicine, baby items?
    Customer: You know, that thing, that was on in the middle of Corrie...
    Me: I didnt see it Im afraid.
    Customer looks so mad like Im an alien "Oh forget it, I will go to Superdrug"!!!!!!!!

  57. Genius! The "natural red lipstick" is always my fave! Oh the memories of retail .... Spot on!

  58. Love this - especially the one about the stocktake and Claire's accessories. Man stock take was boring, especially the box of crap that had no tags and was left in the accessories stockroom to fester until you had to take it all out and make up codes for it. The horror!

    Some of those stories as well...the lipstick?!? that is beyond hideous.

    Faye x
    i wish i could wink

  59. Thank you for this post Caroline. You've made my day. I used to work in retail and I often used the phrase 'kill me now'. Even though it wasn't skincare/make up/fragrance, i could add to the list:

    1) The customer who asks 'Are you foreign?' when you're serving them (what has that got to do with anything?)

    2) 20% off promotion is on.
    Customer: how much is this item with a discount?
    Me: (looks at the price, calculates quickly in my head) £11.39
    Customer: are you sure?

    3) Promotion on a pram - get this pram at £499 and get a FREE car seat with it
    Customer: so how much is this pram with the free car seat?

    4) Customer standing next to summer hats. I ask him what he's looking for.
    Customer: do you sell summer hats?
    I point at the hats in front of him.
    Customer: do you have any in blue?
    I point at the third row down, all in blue.
    (on second thought, maybe he was colour blind)

    5) Customer asks me about an item on my department, it is out of stock. They ask me to check in the stockroom, which I do even though I KNOW it is out of stock (checked for a customer the previous day, there was NO delivery). I check and tell them it is definitely out of stock. 5 minutes later I get called to the tillpoint only to find the same customer asking for the same thing.

    6) Customer: I've seen this toy on TV do you sell it here?
    Me: Can you describe the toy? Maybe tell me what brand it is?
    Customer: I don't know. But it's that toy that was advertised before Coronation Street last night.
    or a variation of it:
    Customer: do you have this pram in stock? (exact words)
    Me: Can you tell me the name of the pram?
    Customer: No. I saw it on your website. It's the first pram on your website.
    Me; Do you remember the make or how much it costs?
    Customer: No, but it's the first pram on your website?

    7) and my favourite (happened at least a couple of times a week)
    Customer: Do you have (insert product) in stock?
    Me: (after checking) No, I'm afraid we don't.
    Customer: but your website says that you have 257 of them in stock.
    Me: No mam, the website informs you about the availability of the item in the warehouse not in the Blackburn store.
    Customer insists the website tells them how many of the particular item is in said store.
    Me: (thinking to myself: oh, really? did you go on

    Gosh, I am so glad I don't work in retail any more. And hats off to anyone who does. And I am that customer who puts things back exactly where I've taken them from. Because I know how annoying it is when you've just tidied, and some inconsiderate person messes it all up again.
    Have a happy weekend everyone!

  60. I love this - I really should write something about life in booksellling!

  61. Having worked in retail for the past decade + I find it sad that other retail persons seem forget,we get PAID to SERVE the customers. They shouldn't have to use their eyes, brains etc. We are there to help them. How would they know that the long number was the batch number not the shade? Why should they be familiar with every ingredient and take our word for every piece if information? We ARE trying to sell them things! I can honestly say that I (again as a person still working in retail) met many many times more rudeness coming from retail (customer services/front of house) personnel than I have ever done the other way around, and that includes a punter who thought it was ok to express his anger at being refused entry to the establishment by spitting at me. All the rest? Noone is FORCED to work in retail.....

    1. Of course they should have to use their eyes and brains (unless they physically can't)! And actually a lot of people are forced to work in retail, jobs ain't exactly flying out there you know?!
      And if you've never experienced the negative/crazy then you're one of the few. Besides which, this is all meant in good fun, see the post following it!

    2. Hello, truth be told rudeness is in people, rather than the position of negotiation. I always replace everything in a display, talk politely as a costumer, have experienced great assistance and politely declined assistance, on occassion have informed retailer in advance that I am researching, and I apologise for your time but I do not intent to buy this time (if that is the case). Sadly, I have also been told that the item is too expensive for me (!!!!) and was not told the price, excuse me, do you know my budget? Of course, went to another shop to purchase... On the other hand, have gone to another shop (clothes - high brand) saying I am just window shopping and the lovely lovely girl ended up bringing me their next season's catalogue to just show me the collection! Politeness, manners, showing true interest to someone's work and time, mutual respect makes you smile and happy both ways!!

    3. OP, I doubt you have ever worked in retail with that attitude!

  62. I work in a diy store, and a customer came in with his mum trying to return a lightbulb that was used, with no packaging and no receipt. Turns out he was a lawyer, and he was determined to intimidate the guys at the desk into giving him a refund . What he didn't know, as he launched into an agressive arguement, was that the two fellas working on returns that day were in their last year of their law degree. He didn't get the refund.

  63. This post was so funny and also an eye opener! The biting the lipstick and transporting it by mouth? unbelievably outrageous! But to be fair No 7 put small 'tester sized' eyeshadows into their buy with purchase gift bag- so No 7 do manufacture them,but probably only for this purpose rather than to customers asking for testers.

  64. I actually think there should be a law that says everyone has to serve two years in retail when they turn 18. It would teach alot of people a bit of respect.

  65. Yes bitch!!! My comment was your favourite!!! :-) ️xx

  66. Oh my goodness, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have just walked in from working a long 'day before Mother's Day' shift in a department store on a beauty counter. Your post filled me with joy, laughter and relief as I nodded in fellow-feeling with every other retail worker who has ever heard the familiar "yes, I love it...I'll get it in Duty-Free!" or "oh yes, it's my favourite perfume I have it at home. Can you give me a sample please?"

    I identify with every last one of the scenarios you mention and I find that strangely comforting. Sometimes I think I might just have 'stupid beauty consultant' tattooed on my forehead but evidently we all suffer the same highs and lows! As you so perfectly put it, the customers are the best thing about the job and thank you to all of those customers who do try to treat us with an ounce of respect and gratitude. We're all human after all.

    1. Oh, and just to add one last point... the thing that hurts and drains me the most about working in retail is the mistaken belief that the people who either choose to or HAVE to work in retail are of low intelligence and are 'paid to serve' so should not feel offended by poor treatment (see a few comments above!)

      Just for the record, on the department that I work (beauty) the VAST majority have degrees, not that it matters or should matter. I went to a top university, got a first class degree but I would choose to have manners and kindness over that piece of paper any day! The people (and customers) who I admire are those who are warm and grateful, polite and gracious, not those who feel entitled due to their 'higher standing!' This doesn't apply to many customers but to a select few who make retail life a living hell on occasion.

  67. Love this post. As a beauty therapist there's nothing more disheartening than spending ages explaining a new skincare routine to a client to have them then ask you for a list to see if they can find it cheaper online!!!!

  68. Fab post. I spent a lot of years in retail before getting a nice mon to fri office job so feel your pain. I remember a great sign in one shops staff room saying "this is not a shop - it's Hell with fluorescent lighting!"

  69. I work in customer services in Primark Oxford Street/Tottenham Court road and trust me when I say it's absolute chaos most of the time. Rude people galore!

  70. Is that biting lipstick one real? Who the hell does that?!! They should check CCTV, screen grab their pics & circulate them - like they used to do with PubWatch. Dirty bleeders...

  71. The last one especially!!! Today at a store which shall remain nameless but carries a lot of different brands I had a lovely conversation with the aesthetician about acid toners and why and how they work. At the end I was like (in my mind) "(sigh) she needs to read Hiron's blog. Why don't they make that mandatory!"

  72. This post resonates a great deal with me as a former retail worker. Some customers were an absolute delight and lovely to talk to; friendly, chatty and treated you like a human being. Sadly the vast majority were vile; incredibly rude, arrogant and entitled. The horrid experiences I had could fill a decent sized book. It was definitely being presumed to be stupid that upset me the most; I had always got good grades and worked hard, was killing myself to do well in a very difficult degree at the
    same time as working to be able to afford to do it, and it just crushed me when people very obviously presumed I must be a moron purely because I happened to be working in a shop for a while.
    The general retail experience was so miserable, stressful and generally wretched it drove me to suffer from depression and anxiety. It didn't help that my bosses were largely very unpleasant too. The day I left that awful place was just about the best day of my life.
    I have to say though, I've encountered some really shoddy treatment as a customer too; some shop staff are unbelievably rude and incompetent.

    Ye Gods, I need a lie down to recover. How disgusting.

  74. I hope I have never been guilty of doing any of these things!! I will think twice now before opening my mouth......

  75. push up bottom and its the same cocking lip gloss, best read all day loved it .That will keep me smiling all week!

  76. I have worked for various cosmetic companies for 15 years, but the on that broke me was a popular makeup store that I'll just call TAK. Here are some examples of why I haven't worked retail makeup since those two hellish years:
    1) Customers complaining about the lack of samples and free gifts and saying they would shop elsewhere (you want a gift for spending $14?
    2) Constantly being accused of racism/discrimination for helping a customer that was next in line instead of the one who was the meanest first.
    3) People getting nasty when told about the $50 purchase requirement, the trying to trick me by saying "well, how about trying some foundation, now try how about trying some eyes, I have never done a smokey!"
    4) Husbands/boyfriends saying right in front of me "I hate when women wear a lot of makeup - its disgusting."
    5) Cross-dressing men coming in for makeovers because it turns them on. Not kidding - we had to ban several since they were moaning/getting um...visibly excited. Men would call also, asking if one of us could come to their house to do their makeup. As if anyone who did that would ever be seen alive again!
    6) the threats. Customers would threaten to "meet us outside" for any reason. Asked them to stop their children from destroying things, be out of a color, not time for a makeover, etc. Our store eventually got a security guard.
    7) Shoplifting. People don't realize that retail employees can get fired for a store with high theft. My favorite thing n the world was a shoplifter takedown by mall security. Amazing.
    8) This actually happened while I was at Clarins in a department store that prides itself on customer service - a woman wanted to see how the new color collection looked on her, but didn't trust the sanitation of the testers. She wanted me to remove my makeup and apply them on myself while she watched!!! When I refused, she told on me to the store manager - WHO BACKED HER UP!!!! I nearly got written up for "bad customer service," but luckily the HR manager intervened.

    I could go on forever.

  77. haha I laughed at this so much I should have invested in a tena lady O.o

  78. HAHA! I can SOOOO relate to ALL THESE when I was working for Clinique *sniggers*

  79. clocking that paula begoun shade...ooooh gurl

  80. Maybe a post about "How to deal with beauty counter staff whilst being polite" would be helpful to readers?
    I've never worked in retail so this post has been really insightful. It would be great to have some tips for customers who are genuinely interested in a product but have to deal with the sales person trying to convince them to buy a shade that is clearly too orange, or telling you that you can't buy this balm cleanser because you have oily skin, or trying to persuade you to buy a load of other things and get offended when you only spend £20 when actually you have been saving up for a month to treat yourself to one particular product, or trying to give you made up scientific bullshit about why alcohol is good for your skin/how this product is going to make cellulite disappear overnight/how drying out your face will cure acne etc. (especially when you have a science degree/have read Caroline's blog and you're standing there absolutely incredulous at the lies they are telling).
    Obviously it's really important to be polite and friendly to people but it's really difficult when you feel like you're being judged, manipulated or worse by beauty counter staff. Sometimes I don't know how else to react other than to say "Sorry I've changed my mind" and leave without buying anything.

  81. Hahahaha the biting off the lipstick to steal it is insane. Who are these people!?

  82. I actually met one of my closest friends on a beauty counter, she served me a few times was always so smiley and came across as just one of life genuinely lovely people, no falseness what so ever. One day I popped in to buy a foundation but they'd discontinued my colour, she told me to sit down (I didn't even ask!) and that she would find me another one and told me about the one she'd stated using as she also used the same discontinued one, she had just taken my makeup off and began color swatching when a lady came over, looked at my face and in a very harsh tone said "excuse me I'm looking for a new moisturiser" looked at my face again and smirked "and it's looks like your going to be awhile" I suffer from acne due to PCOS so the latter comment really stung! But my friends come back was priceless "I'm in the middle of serving a lovely customer so you'll either have to wait your turn or XXXX do some great moisturises for dull, ageing... *looked horrible women up and down* skin". The women then turned on her heels and left but not before looking at my poor spotty skin and smirking again! For some reason I couldn't stop apologising, I think I was worried she was going to get in trouble for sticking up for me, but she then told me that she used to suffer from acne and had customers making snarky remarks about it all day the worst one being " why would xxxx employ someone with SPOTS they're obviously not very hygienic, gross!".
    It was after that incident that we became friends, I worked in an office around the corner and we would go for a coffee or lunch, this was around 10 years ago and she's now one of my closest friends.

    I used to work in clothes retail in my last teens and some on the comments above really made me chuckle; following you into the stock room, "check again" after checking the stock room twice, trying to get a refund for clothes warn at least a dozen times some even with food stains, cigarette burns and even a couple with what looked like dried blood on! I still work in retail but thankfully no longer customer facing!
    Huge, huge respect for anyone in customer facing roles!!!

  83. hahaha this is amazing.

  84. My favourite is when you ask them what kind of skin they have
    "is it oily? quite dry?..."
    "oh I have a sensitive skin"
    "yes but is it oily at all or dry in any areas?"
    "its sensitive!"

    Or the classic "oh I only ever use soap and water, all that cleanser mumbo jumbo is all a lie!"

  85. I worked for a lingerie company until the company folded a few years ago. We had it all. We offered a fitting service, like a proper consultation; not just throwing a tape around and giving out a number. We often spent upwards of 20 minutes advising on shapes and styles for that customer. Many would cheerfully tell you that they were off to primark to get their 5 euro bras. I totally empathise with the duty free comment! I mean, i have also browsed or asked a few questions knowing i'm in an airport the following week - but why would you not just keep that thought to yourself?!

    We had it all (look away now if you have a delicate constitution). Women who would try underwear on without their own underneath - often while menstruating. Women who left skid marks up the back of knickers. We stopped allowing it for a while as we had to write off so much stock and it badly affected our stock loss figures, except head office found out and because it was company policy insisted we reinstate it. We had a woman who lactated all over several bikini tops because she didn't want to take time out to feed her crying baby. Negligees returned clearly worn (presumably after a weekend away) that the customer swore blind had never been used. Again, company policy toward the end said never challenge the customer if an item is worn… it was no wonder they went under. My sister worked in a clothes shop where a woman took a sh1t in the corner of the fitting room and used the jeans she tried on as toilet paper, and a woman who asked for a size to be brought to her and when the assistant came back had her pants off, legs spread, and was masturbating in front of the mirror.

    To the woman upthread who said we were being paid to SERVE - no we bloody weren't. We were being paid to sell that company's product. We were not being paid to take rude, abusive or threatening behaviour that customers felt like subjecting us to. Customer service is a sales tool and nothing more. The sense of entitlement many customers had was astounding, and i blame those adverts back in the day about consumer rights. It turned into chinese whispers, people got a massively inflated sense of what their rights are, and god help you if you tried to correct them!

  86. Caroline, you are hilarious! Spot on...and then some.

  87. "I want a face mask"
    "Ok, for which concern?"
    ... *blank face*
    "I mean, what do you want the mask for? Deep cleansing, hydration..."
    "Oh, I want ONE mask that does IT ALL!"

    "Excuse me, do you know if these nail vanishes are natural?"
    "Err... No..."
    "Do you know if there's ANY natural nail vanish in this store?"
    "Hum... I don't think there are such thing as natural nail vanishes, to be honest..."

    "Hi. I want an ice cream."
    "You mean, an EYE cream?" (trying to not burst laughing histerically)

    "I want to return this shampoo, it was a gift. There's nothing wrong with the shampoo, I just need the money"

    "Hello sir..."
    "I'M FINE!" - interrupts you almost yelling, super rude.
    You step away smiling. Customer sprays SHAVING FOAM on his hand and walks away rubbing it on like if it was a hand cream.

    Dad (loyal customer) comes with teenage daughter to buy her some skincare. The girl doesn't seem interested at all. You recommend the basic of the basic: cleanser + moisturiser.
    "I don't want a moisturiser! I'll use the face wash, but not moisturiser! What's the point of cleaning all you face and then putting stuff on it again???"

    "I use an anti-ageing cream that costs me £120. Do you think I need a face wash? I haven't washed my face with water in the past 5 years, I use baby wipes"

    "Yeah, I've tried this eye cream, but I didn't like much... It made me sleepy"

    "Hi there, how are you?"
    "Oh pleeeease, I don't need your fake friendly greetings"

    "Excuse me... hi... do you guys sell cotton pads / wipes / paracetamol / MORNING AFTER PILL?"

    And yes, I work in Beauty retail as well :)

  88. This is the most accurate thing I have ever read! Holy crap hahahah x