The 5 Worst Kinds Of Customer In Retail


University can be summed up in many ways: exciting, interesting, life-changing, the list goes on. But the most honest word for it is expensive. With rent, food, books and those endless crucial nights in Jester’s, many students rely on part-time work in retail for financial aid. In 2010/2011, almost half of all students in the England were working in retail. 

However, to work in retail is to expose yourself to the general public, some of whom seem to leave both their manners and their brains by the door. As an employee of a rather large retail chain myself, I have come into contact with many a difficult customer of all different shapes, sizes and ages. These are the five worst types of retail customers I have ever had the misfortune of serving.

1. The Negotiator

We all like to nab a bargain every now and then. As a student, I understand this as well as anyone. However, there is a limit to what should be expected from a supermarket. There can only be two implausible reasons for them to do this. One, they have mistaken the store for an auction, and are waiting either for another customer to call a price or, for me to bang a gavel and declare the item “SOLD!”. Or two, they have been out of touch with the world of retail for the last few hundred years, and are in fact more accustomed to swapping various items and/or livestock for their goods. Either way, they always seem to get frustrated that their method of shopping always ends the same way; with them paying full price.

2. The Snob

The Snob sees a retail employee and jumps to one conclusion: bad grades. They may make remarks to their friends about how they “could never work in a place like this”, and those with children can often be heard saying “That’s why you have to work hard at school.” However, when given the knowledge that you are in fact a third year chemistry student at on of the country’s leading universities, they are often put on the back foot. They may attempt to recover their previous stance by starting a conversation about the drop in the number of post-grad students in work, despite the fact that they can clearly see that you actually have a job already.

3. The Billy Goat

These are customers that believe that the grass is greener elsewhere, and have no qualms in expressing this view to the lowly employee who’s trying to help them. This is annoying, as in the customer’s point of view the colleague is the troll in this analogy, which is obviously incorrect as the troll, at least at first, had control of the bridge. Being shouted at because another company’s prices are cheaper shows a distinct lack of control. But that’s just this man’s opinion.

4. The Connoisseur

The Connoisseur takes great pleasure in discussing their chosen addiction with another. This pleasure is only heightened by the opportunity to seize upon another’s lack of knowledge in their chosen field. They do this simply by asking a question to which they already know the answer. For example, “Which wine would go best with fish?” At this point, your answer is completely irrelevant, as they will disagree with whatever you say. This particular type of customer is particularly dangerous, as there is no way of telling  a Connoisseur trap until it has been sprung, at which point you can kiss the next half hour goodbye.

5. The Houdini

Possibly the most annoying of all customers, Houdinis are the classic hit-and-runners of the retail world. They have come to you, asking for your assistance, and you could have been gone for anything between 2-15 minutes. There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to try and help a customer, only to find that they have disappeared without the apparently vital item they had you digging around the warehouse for. The worst bit is traipsing around the shop floor, holding an item, searching for your lost customer, knowing full well that they have probably already left.

To be  fair, the cases of the above customers are a minority when compared against the hundreds of polite and friendly customers that fill stores every day. However, it only takes one sour grape to ruin a bunch, and it only takes bad customer to ruin a shift.

Feature image by Jessica Cox. 


English student, 21.

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