Retail Horror Stories: Catching a Con Artist!

Ladies and gentleman, the grind never stops for Karens. But sometimes it’s fun to catch them in the act! Especially this lady in particular.

BY: Jason Suerte Felipe

Yes I know, I know. I said I quit. But that does’t mean the retail horror doesn’t haunt me from time to time! 

It’s quite odd. The other day I found myself actually missing working retail. Can you believe that! I think being stuck at home has really messed with my brain. 

Today, I’d like to talk about con artists!

The thing about con artists is, they are really great at what they do. To a retail newby, it can be quite difficult catching them at your store. They’re not your typical hide away from the workers and cameras type of people. They get up close and personal.

Look, there’s a reason why they’re called artists. There’s an art to it. They play the field and when getting rung up by the right inexperienced worker, all is fair game. But what happens when you’re a veteran pro? You can see right through their sweaty palms and fake smiles!

One night the store was about to close and this lady comes in to return duvets. Just so you newbies know, if a customer comes in right before closing to return something- BE ON HIGH ALERT! This is a con artist’s open window to scam you. Little did this lady know, I’m a veteran. 

She comes in to return about FOUR sets of duvets. And if you know duvets, you know they do NOT come cheap. She sets the duvets down on the counter and asks to return them. I’m sure we are well aware by now that without a receipt we can’t run a return. And for something as high priced as duvets, no way in HELL can you try and get a refund. Not even for store credit.

What she doesn’t know is, the store is equipped with a massive book of security alerts. And having been a supervisor, we are trained to remember faces and descriptions of con artists that have hit our store as well as others. And what do you know, not a second later, my manager calls on the phone and tells me she’s hit our store before.

I’m already ahead of you, boss.

She plays the sweet and innocent card and I deny her transaction. While I’m doing so, one of my cashiers was doing a return by the register next to me, so I went on over and approved a receipted return using my keys. What we call a key turn in retail. All high priced returns need a turn by a supervisor or manager.

The lady sees and makes her move.

“Well look at you having your own set of keys,” she says. “Big Man on campus.” It doesn’t take me long to know what’s she’s doing. This is what I call the Swoon Play: when a customer tries to swoon you over by complimenting you in hopes to get their way. 

Sadly for her, she has barked up the wrong tree.

I tell her I can’t do the return and on cue she asks for store credit. Just to show her how ridiculous she’s being, I scan the item to show her the price. Each set is about 300 bucks. That’s about $1200 total worth of duvets! I act surprised.

“You can just turn your keys and make us both happy,” she says with a smile. A bold approach, but nice try lady. 

I tell her that I’m more than happy to bring a manager over if she’d like someone else’s help. That seemed to scare her off. She smiles under pressure, grabs the merchandise and runs out!


We called security and let them know as well as nearby stores what she attempted but failed to do: Scam us. But looks like the scammed just got scammed.

When it comes to retail, customers like this take you for granted. They think you don’t know better because for most of us, you’re just a kid working for minimum wage. But they don’t know just how smart essential workers are. And for those working the front lines right now, thank you. Thank you for all that you have to put up with. My hearts go out to you.

So Just a Recap For All You Newbies Reading:

1. Beware of last minute shoppers.

2. Always ask for the receipt.

3. Never trust a flirt.

4. Duvets are expensive as hell!

Do you have any retail horror stories? Share with us in the comments!

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