Retail Horror Stories: Karen “cAn i sPeAk tO yOur MaNager”

Before we begin, I should state that I was given verbal consent- heck, I was heavily prompted– by one of my own managers to share the joys of working RETAIL. Of course, without getting myself into any “legal” issues like a defamation lawsuit, or getting fired (which wouldn’t be all that terrible), I will be changing the names of the companies, employees, colleagues, customers, etc. in order to save face. Though, if you are one of those said distinguished characters in our story today and you think it’s about you- it probably is! 

So Karens, coupon hoarders, impatient line-waiters and the like- take a seat and pour yourself a glass. Because the tea is piping; and all shall be spilled.

Part 1: Karen “Can I Speak To Your Manager”

Let me preface this journey by saying that I 100% condone a new law stating: Every human being must undergo at least 1 year of retail work. Not to share in the pain and suffering, but honestly to teach people basic understanding of human decency and interaction. 

Let me explain. 

In the Retail World, you may or may not have heard of the name Karen being thrown around by snickering employees and staff. Now who or what exactly is a Karen you ask? Karen is the physical embodiment of the Devil himself. You may think that’s an over exaggeration but believe me, when you get a Karen entering through those sliding doors- all hell breaks loose! 

More often than not, Karen is a middle-aged woman sporting dark tinted glasses, tacky earrings, a what we call a “can I speak to your manager” haircut, and the fiery twinkle of death in her eyes. Now, watching them in the wild, they may seem pleasant and friendly. But once they don’t get their way, the teeth and claws come out to play!

Let’s give some examples shall we.

I work in a place my colleagues and I call: BedBathN’Bologna (I’m sure you can think of the substituted word we used for bologna). For our store, we have a pretty generous return policy. 90 days for electronics (with a proof of purchase), 180 for basic items like blankets or utensils and 30 for seasonal, baby and clearance items. Sounds like a reasonable time period right? Well cut to our previous return policy- 1 year. . . ONE. YEAR.  Yeah- not so reasonable. Reason for, people take advantage of return policies. People like Karen. Return policies is a whole chapter in itself but we’ll delve into that later on. 

So cut back to me starting my first few months in BedBathN’Bologna. My first interaction with Karen. A new cashier, babyface, excited to have landed a job and my energy still high and my soul not yet drained. It’s the holiday season, everyone is in a jolly mood, the same 5 songs playing on loop on the overhead, and here walks in Karen and her daughter, Karen Jr., coming to return a coffee maker. 

The Karens approach me asking to make the return. Now, as mentioned previously in the text above- electronic items can only be returned with a proof of purchase. I give my usual introduction and we greet each other with smiling faces as they plop their coffee maker on my counter. I state the policy. They have no card and no receipt (no brain either for that matter). I kindly tell them that I won’t accept the return due to the policy. They disagree and ask for my manager. At this point of the day it was my 10 minute break so my manager relieves me from my station and says he will handle it. 

Cut to 10 minutes, I figure the coffee situation would be well under wraps. . . I was sadly mistaken. The second I exit the break room, I as well as the whole store, is greeted with the loud shrieking and banter between my managers and the Karens! 

“Don’t call me stupid! How can you run this place! This is bullshit!”  “Get the hell out of my store!” 

The cops were involved to “escort” them out. I creep around the corner and I hear one of them say, “Where’s the other guy, bring him back here, he was nicer!” Eyes widened, I slowly walked backwards because hey- “that is NOT my job.” Once the Karens were hauled outta there, my managers come to speak with me and told me “there would be more where that came from and worse so be prepared.” I thought nothing of it at the time. But now, cut to only about a year later- they were right. 

We get Karens every week! And you could imagine what that does to a person’s mental state. You remember how I was excited to work and had hope? Well that river has dried up! This may have been a mildly tamed Karen interaction but believe me- there is much more to share.

Some people just don’t understand that companies and employees are just doing their jobs. That there are rules for a reason and we can’t break a rule because they are the ones that screwed up. So Karens, here is a personal mantra for you to read:

I understand that the employees that work for these companies just work here and that they are just doing their job. Asking for the manager will 9 times out of 10 solve nothing because the employee, believe it or not, knows what they are talking about. If I am denied my request for my stupid and careless mistake, I will not act like a shrieking hyena until I get what I want. I will not throw a hissy fit and be shocked when they call security on my ass. All I must do is accept defeat. . . Listen to the options the manager and employees give me. . . And not be a shitty human being. 

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