Social Question

Carly's avatar

What was the most awkward experience you had while working in retail (or any other minimum wage job)?

Asked by Carly (4452 points ) April 24th, 2012

This happened to me today: I work at Joann’s Fabric store, and a guy came up to me at the cutting counter and asked if we sold any kind of fabric “that looks like a vagina.” After my initial response of “ummmm,” he then said, “oh nevermind, I should have asked the men who work here.”

I have so many stories, but I was wondering how crazy and/or awkward your experiences were. Mainly for laughs, but also so I don’t feel like I’m working in such an effed-up store.

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16 Answers

Nullo's avatar

I used to work at a car wash, though I was making $0.25 better than minimum wage, and everyone got a healthy (~$30) stack of tips at day’s end. The customer would pull up to the attendant, get out, place the order, then go inside to pay his bill and wait.
Well, one fine day I looked over and saw the customer making for the door without having placed her order. I gave chase, but was recalled; she was the passenger, and the driver had stayed with the car. In the day-to-day confusion that was the car wash, I hadn’t noticed. Then the driver, whose wife the woman was, started accusing me of being a horrible person – you see, he and she were blacker than I am, and he thought that I thought that she was going to do something criminal.
The customer is not always right, but you try telling him that. Anger grants him the certain knowledge of what’s in your head, even if you aren’t so sure yourself. The manager came over and tried to work things out, but ultimately it took the woman coming back and telling her husband to relax and get over himself for the situation to conclude.
This being my very first major mistake in a work environment,I was upset for the rest of the day.

ccrow's avatar

Have you ever checked out Not Always Right?

amujinx's avatar

I became friends with one of the middle management positions from another department. She would tell me fairly often how my sarcasm about the idiocy that occurred at my job reminded her of her teenaged son (she was divorced and didn’t have custody and her son, and he lived with his father several states away). I really didn’t think into the comments too much. Then one day she called me up and said she wanted to have sex with me. Needless to say, the last couple of months that I worked there had me a lot of awkward conversations and me ducking to avoid the ones I could. I still think the whole thing was creepy as could be.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I was a sales man for about a year in the UK with a company that sells beds. I can recall two experiences. One was an old man who came in looking for “the best bed for orgies”. The other is I was told to demonstrate how solid one of the pine wood beds was by sitting down on it quite hard and fast. I would say to them “It is a nice solid bed that will last for years” and then let my self fall down on the bed, to show how hard it was. I am 2 meters tall and over 100 kilos, the first few times I did the demonstration it resulted in a sale, but about the 3rd or 4th time I did it I totally destroyed the bed. “this is a nice sold bed and will last for years” followed by a demo of just how easy I can destroy the bed as I smashed through it was indeed awkward.

Blackberry's avatar

I sold women’s shoes. It was always awkward when women would get long boots stuck on and ask for my help. I don’t even know this person and I’m grabbing their leg to pull a boot off.

Kayak8's avatar

I was 18 and it was my family’s first Christmas after my father died. I was stuck working a two hour shift Christmas morning at the Pancake House (I really just wanted to be home with my family). We had no customers at all for the first 30 minutes of my shift. Then, out of the blue, 20 people in a group descended on the restaurant. Being Muslim and from some other country, the men sat at a group of tables pulled together and the women at another. The men insisted that I take their orders first—I complied. As I walked past their table, one of the men deliberately untied my apron. The second time it happened, I went into the back to regroup. The third time, he actually pinched me on the backside. I had walked past with him on my left when he did it and I turned and delivered an uppercut to his jaw, knocking him backwards out of his chair,

Gratefully the manager had seen the whole thing (all of incidents with the apron, and crazy orders, and running me ragged, and he saw the final gesture that provoked my wrath. He sat me in a booth on the other side of the restaurant with a cup of coffee and kicked the customers out.

Seek's avatar

I was working (for considerably more than minimum wage, thank the gods) at a retail establishment that sold fairy-themed products to children and nostalgic adults. Every product had a certain fairy attached to it – a total of about 20 fairies with different archetype-style personas. The products were mostly wings and tutus, but there were some “magic potions”, like a spray to scare away the monsters in the closet, or a homeopathic remedy for stress. It was a lot of BS, but it was generally a fun job dressing up as a fairy and dancing about, sprinkling random passersby with mica dust.

Then the owner of the company asked me to help her sort out her home office. Since I’ve held mostly secretary-type jobs, I was no stranger to the work, so I said okay.

She had a fucking shrine to the fairies she made up in her office. Not like a picture frame and a display case with her products, a fucking shrine, with incense and kneeling pillows and fairy Tarot cards. There was even an offering tray with sliced fruit on it.

I didn’t stay there much longer. I can take eccentricity, but that was just thinly veiled crazy right there.

Seek's avatar

@Kayak8
Bravo. I’d have done the same thing.

geeky_mama's avatar

3 minimum wage job experiences that were memorably bad:

1. Working at a Rax at age 14 and I was responsible for keeping the Salad Bar (an extensive one like a buffet) looking perfect and neatly filled, which included keeping the dining area cleaned up, too.
What the manager didn’t tell me when he assigned me this task for my shift was that they were expecting a giant bus of Special Olympics Athletes that afternoon and he had pre-arranged that EVERY one of them got the Salad Bar with their meal. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Special Olympics and find persons with Downs Syndrome to be among the kindest most wonderful people in the world—but the ratio of care givers to Athletes was horribly askew that afternoon..something like 5 care givers and 50+ Special Athletes.
They’d use the same spoon to put pudding on their plate then put it in the peas..they would have an animated conversation while trying to put carrots on their plate and end up flinging the carrots across the room. I just remember having to call my mom and tell her not to come pick me up yet, that I needed an extra few hours to clean—I couldn’t leave until about 2 hours after closing that night.

2. Working at a family run Pizzeria in college..the owner would occasionally come in and run the register during my shifts. If he got talking it was better not to listen to the racist, misogynistic and all around hateful comments he’d make.
If there were girls working (as drivers or waitresses) for that shift he’d often demand we hand over all our tips so he could “keep them for safe keeping” in the register. At the end of our shift he’d make any of the female wait staff or delivery drivers sit on his lap to get our tips back.
After a couple of years of dealing with this crap I refused saying his big fat beer gut left too little room for me to sit there. He patted his beer belly and said (and I quote): “All turns to pecker after midnight, baby.”

3. Working retail at a department store. I worked in Men’s area. We sold some high-end (Ray-Bans and other $200+) sunglasses next to the Men’s Ties area. One day a woman came in and tried to return some knock-off Ray-Bans. They were clearly not glass lenses and the numbers on the frames didn’t follow the Ray-Bans numbering pattern or match any sku we’d ever carried. Moreover, they were WOMEN’S sunglasses and she was trying to return them in the men’s area.
I told her I couldn’t return them and she threw a fit calling me every nasty name in the book. I stood my ground and offered to get my manager. She kept on with her tirade and my manager happened to come by, drawn by the commotion & the woman’s yelling.
I stepped back, explained to my manager that we’d never carried these glasses, they weren’t mens and they were plastic knock-offs. She had also overheard the verbal abuse this woman had dumped on me, too.
My manager took the crappy knock-off glasses from the ‘customer’ handed them to me and told me to return them and give the woman her $100 from the register. I was absolutely dumbfounded.
The manager walked off, the woman kept going with the nasty comments the whole rest of the time I was looking for a SKU to use for the return and handed her cash from the drawer.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The hotel industry is notorious for awkward moments, and I worked in the field for 25 years. Most of the cases involve some sort of guest nudity. Probably the most awkward situation for me was when I was new and working the morning shift in the restaurant. The hotel offered a honeymoon package, which included breakfast room service when the newlyweds were ready for it. When one couple placed their order, I delivered it to their suite. The groom answered the door, opening it wide, and he had not one stitch of clothing on. Not even a towel. The protocol was to take the tray in the room, place it on the table, and bring the cart back. I left the tray and the cart in front of the door and scurried away.

There are more nekked guest stories, some fairly bizarre, but after that first incident, I sort of got immune to the shock factor.

Sunny2's avatar

A man came into the pharmacy where I worked for one summer and asked for a product by name. I didn’t recognize it. After a couple more tries asking me, he went to the pharmacist owner and asked. The owner went to a cabinet in the back of the store and got the guy his box of condoms and rang them up. Hell, I didn’t know condoms by name.

JLeslie's avatar

I worked in retail around 20 years, and I never was paid minimum wage.

I can’t think of many awkward moments that happened directly to me, but there are ones that happened in store that I was aware of. Like when someone let their dog crap in a dressing room and did not clean it up. I am completely against people bringing their mini dogs into stores and restaurants to show them off. There also once was a woman who really lost it and threw things at my manager. She was physically amd verbally abusive. She was taken away. Also, some of the returns that come back, worn underwear, disgusting.

fluthernutter's avatar

I used to work at the university bookstore. I can’t even remember how many times freshmen would come in and ask me either 1) what classes to take or 2) what they should major in.

We sell books, fool. I’m not your career counselor.

I do remember one particular incident where this older guy is making small talk as I’m ringing him up. Then he asks me if I speak Chinese. After I tell him that I don’t, he just launches off on this whole speech about how the youth of today are losing their roots and how ashamed my ancestors would be. And how I don’t appreciate my culture. Blah, blah.

After gesticulating wildly on his soapbox for nearly ten minutes, he finally finishes. I just look at him and reply “I’m not Chinese.”

Haleth's avatar

A few years ago I was working two jobs. Job #1 was a coffeehouse/ cafe/ bar kind of place, and it was open from very early to very late. This meant that we technically had drinks available first thing in the morning. We got a lot of customers who came in still drunk from the night before (last call was only three hours ago) when we hadn’t even had our morning coffee yet.

Job #2 was an adult toy store, and the most awkward part was that tons of people tried to shoplift. There’s no way to gracefully hide a dildo in your purse (or your man purse.)

Kayak8's avatar

I suppose volunteering can also count as minimum wage or below . . . When I was in my 20’s, I volunteered for the Epilepsy Foundation. On one three day weekend, we took a bunch of young adults with epilepsy on a camping trip. Everyone stayed in cabins with bunk beds (not the best choice for people who don’t have their seizures under control with meds). I was all tucked in my sleeping bag on a bottom bunk when I heard someone having a seizure.

The movement that was supposed to vault me out of bed (in my sleepy state), didn’t work too well as I forgot I was zipped up tight in my sleeping bag. I ended up vaulting myself onto the floor next to the bed at which point the large woman having the seizure rolled out of bed (from a top bunk) on top of me. I got pounded and ended up breaking a rib in the process.

wundayatta's avatar

@Kayak8 That does not sound well thought-out. Did they ever do that again?

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