or “If You Don’t Want to Be Labeled an Asshole then You Shouldn’t Open Your Mouth”  (Alternate title was a co-worker’s contribution. Thanks, Leo!)

To the customer who came in toward the end of my shift and instantly inspired rage, I’m sorry. I was a little short with you. What you said was, in the grand scheme of things, pretty innocuous. It really bothered me, but I could have handled it better.

Allow me to explain: most people who work in retail have a number of annoying encounters in a day, and though it’s to be expected, it doesn’t always roll right off of us instantaneously. We are, contrary to popular belief, people, so even if we keep a stiff upper lip and continue doing our jobs in the face of customers getting rude/huffy/inappropriate with us, some of us are still raging on the inside. If you’re a woman (or read as a woman), and you work a retail job, you take a special kind of abuse: people constantly objectify you and say inappropriate things (as they are wont to do to women in all contexts), and because it is your job to smile and be nice to people, you have few ways of responding that are polite, yet effective at shutting down the inappropriate commentary.

I have a canned responses to all sorts of things that people say to me. “Please don’t comment on my appearance.” “That’s a rather inappropriate question to ask a stranger.” “Please treat me like a clerk, not an object.” “I’m just here to work.” “Don’t say things like that.”

Here’s a tiny handful of things people have said to me today, this week, this month, and repeatedly over the last year in my store:

This morning a man interrupted me, mid-sentence, and said, “Has anyone ever told you how pretty you are?” Yes. All the time.

Yesterday, as I sat behind the counter taking my first few sips of coffee, a man walked out of the store and said, as he did, “How’d you like the rain this morning?” Then he added, narrowing his eyes and looking back at me, “Did you get all wet?” It was 8:20 AM.
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