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…


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. “ NO.
  • "Can you come and live with me and do my makeup every morning?" No.
  • 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?" IT'S THE SAME COCKING LIPGLOSS.
  • "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?!” No.
  • 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.”


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