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Let me preface this by saying I have worked my share of retail jobs. I’ve worked at Macy’s (Casual Sportswear and Careerwear) and have folded (and refolded) my share of endcaps and display tables. I’ve dressed, undressed and redressed many a mannequin. I’ve cleaned out dressing rooms, rung up customers, and dealt with the special glare that only comes when your register runs out of receipt tape.

 During grad school, I worked at Laura Ashley on posh Newbury Street in Boston, where well-heeled ladies came in for drop-waist dresses they had no business wearing past the age of 14, and I gladly waited on them (they amused me, what can I say?) with a smile on my face as they bought said dresses or gorgeous fabrics from the store’s home furnishings department, at $40 a yard, so that they could create a pleasing environment for their dog’s interior play space.

As many of you know, I also worked at my dad’s bagel bakery from the time I was seven through my college years, doing everything from stocking shelves, selling bagels, helping to make them, and dealing with the craziest of customers—the Jewish mother types (I say this, now, as a Jewish mother), who would point to a five foot high by eight foot wide basket of 500 identical plain bagels, look me straight in the eye and say, “I’ll take that one.”

I’ve also worked in a pharmacy and for one brief six-hour stint in the summer of 1989, I was a cocktail waitress at a local watering hole in Boston. The latter ended pretty poorly, and I concede spectacular failure in this arena. Holding a tray of Sam Adams bottles, Heinekens and assorted mixed beverage cocktails over my head while getting goosed by guys in altered states who’d just stumbled out of other establishments, was not my area of expertise. Especially while having to make change in my head and be charming at the same time. Too much math and balance required.

In any case, I consider myself fairly qualified to judge when someone in a retail capacity is out of line or simply bad at their job.  Such is the case that happened yesterday.

I was at the register of a large, well-known, upscale department store, about to pay for a beautiful scarf I was buying as a gift for a friend. 

I handed over the scarf and my store credit card to the saleswoman at the counter. Without so much as glancing at my card, she said, “May I ask whose card this is?”

“It’s mine,” I replied, wondering what was wrong. “Why are you asking?” I asked her.

“It could be your husband’s” she replied.

No joke.

“It’s mine,” I repeated, now annoyed. My name is on it. “I said, wondering why she hadn’t even bothered to look at the card yet (!) or turn it over to see my signature. “Would you like to see my ID?” I offered.

“No” she replied,” and she began to ring up the scarf.

I couldn’t stop myself.

“May I ask why you asked me this?” I asked. “You didn’t look at the card when you asked me whose it was. You didn’t check to see whose name was on it or if it was signed. Why would you assume the card wasn’t mine?”

She repeated: “Well, it could have been your husband’s and we have to check.”

Check what?

“Why couldn’t it simply be my card?” I asked. “Do you ask men if their card belongs to them or if it belongs to their wife?”

She turned bright red.

“I would suggest you first look at the card to see whose name is on it when someone approaches you, then check to see if the card is signed,” I said. “Then if you are concerned about security, ask them for an ID. All I did was hand you a scarf and a card and you never looked at the card. You simply asked me whose card it was. That’s completely unprofessional.  Perhaps I should wait here until a man comes up to make a purchase and see how you treat him.

So much for holiday spirit. This gal really frosted my Christmas cookies.

Until Next Time,



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