An Open Letter to Retail Customers

Dear Customer,

Have you ever stopped to consider that the person on the other side of the counter is a living, breathing human, with thoughts and feelings of their own, and they were not created to serve your every whim? The old saying of “The Customer is Always Right” is not an excuse to bully, belittle, or otherwise harass the staff into giving you what you want.

Have you ever stopped to think how your snide remark of, “This is why you stay in school” that you direct to your children just loud enough for the employee to hear makes the employee feel? College isn’t free, and as the millennial generation currently has a debilitating amount of student loan debt, have you ever thought about the fact that the person serving you your burger or scanning your groceries might be working in order to pay for college?

Have you ever stopped to think that the reason you might be getting bad service is because you’re a bad customer? That the person you’re dealing with is a woefully underpaid current or recently graduated college student who literally cannot find a job in their field because of the unemployment statistics and so they’re stuck serving burgers to people who want to get in their face and scream about every small thing?

I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the side of the counter with people screaming at you over things that aren’t your fault, but it’s incredibly disheartening. You get enough people telling you that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never contribute anything to society, that you’re a horrible person because you dared to ask what sauce they wanted with their food (fun fact: I have had several people complain to management about me because I asked them to clarify what sauce they wanted when they just said “Yes” to the “Would you like sauce with that?” question), and you’ll start believing it. The millennial generation is the most depressed generation, particularly at work.

We don’t get paid overtime. We don’t get any health benefits, retirement benefits, etc., because our part-time employers will not allow us to work more than 39 hours a week (for the most part) because otherwise they’ll be forced to list us as full-time and pay us benefits. We are the lowest of the low, and we have no control over corporate policies, so stop treating us as if we do. 

Our jobs are real jobs. If everybody went out and got what you call a “real job” (and how do you define that, anyway?), who would be left in the customer service positions? Who would make sure you got your food? Your clothing? Your books? Anything in any shop, ever? Why do you think the only “real” jobs are the ones involving suits and offices? Trust us, we want full-time jobs. But nobody is hiring.

We are human. We have emotions and feelings, too. Please talk to us like we’re human. Don’t try and scam us. Don’t yell at us. Don’t tell us to smile. (I’ve got RBF; and the majority of the time when people say this, they aren’t smiling either!) And for goodness sake, don’t take out your anger on us. We try our hardest to give you good customer service. Why don’t you try your hardest to be a good customer?


Retail Workers


This is something I’ve been wanting to write for a while. I still don’t think I captured everything I wanted to say, though, so please let me know if I missed anything in the comments.

I have been yelled at, screamed at, had things thrown at me, been told that I’m “worthless” and “will amount to nothing in my life” several times since I started working in retail in February 2013. In those 4.5 years, I’ve also had several people tell me to die.

You might not think you’re a problem customer, but take a look at yourself. Do you get bad customer service? Or do the staff seem to fall over backwards to help you? (Trust me: if you’re nice and polite we will move mountains to help you. If you’re a serial offender or you are nasty to everyone, we won’t try as hard.)

What would you like to add to this?

Please don’t try and start fights, either. I get enough of that at work.

For those of you who would like more solidarity, check out Not Always Right and Retail Hell Underground. You’ll find yourself among kindred retail souls that have done their time in Retail Hell.

Here’s hoping we all get out of that hell sometime in the near future ❤

And as always, keep reading.


3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Retail Customers

  1. Bravo! Horrifying to hear this has happened to you, but thank you for writing this. I worked in a bookshop during sixth form (last two years of high school) and sometimes it was just awful. People think they can talk to you however they like, like you’re a complaint soundboard for them to take out all their frustrations on, relevant or not. I now have severe social anxiety (the kind where I struggle to go outside), and I know for a fact that working in retail was the first step down the road to this and other mental health problems. I think it should be obligatory for people to work in retail for a stint. If they can’t dig up any empathy, at least then they could find some sympathy. People can be vile, and it’s soul destroying. But just remember, you would never treat someone like that, and that makes you a far better person than they’ll ever be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I worked in a family arcade for 20 months, a bookstore for 18 months, did a summer of teaching, and now I’ve been in fast food for 13 months. I’ve seen the worst of humanity. I’ve also got social anxiety, but I don’t know if the retail stuff contributed to it or not.

      I go out of my way to make sure I treat retail employees the best I can. I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter, and I never want to be the cause of someone’s anxiety.

      Or have them mock me to their friends and family for the next several weeks. I know I do that to some of the worst of my customers. I hope I’m the one that gives the staff hope for humanity! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

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