Retail Rant #2: Stupid Answers To Stupid Questions

Once upon a time I heard someone say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”

To that person I say, “You have clearly never worked in retail. Because we get them all the time.”

The following list of questions are questions I have had to answer multiple times a day every working day for the past six years.

1. Do you work here?

No. I do not work here. I wear this navy blue shirt and these khaki pants to signify my solidarity with the mantis men of Sigma 7 and their struggle against the oppressive Clown Monster regime.

The name badge with my name on it and the word “Walmart” printed across the top is a fake that I ordered off of eBay. I’ve been walking around this department for eight hours a day five days a week straightening things and putting up freight over the course of the last six years just hoping I could fool someone into thinking I work here. Finally my patience has paid off! Muahahaha!

2. Do you have this item in the back?

Yes, as a matter of fact we do. See, somewhere around the mid-nineties Walmart decided that instead “selling things” and “making a profit” were for chumps and it would be much more interesting to hold items in the back of the store and not sell them to customers. Really we’ve never been out of an item in the history of the store. We just enjoy watching you be frustrated. Because that’s good business.

3. Can you hold this item for me?

Sure! Because the theoretical money you say you will pay me in the future is so much more valuable than the actual money the guy standing right in front of me wants to pay for it. It’s because of economics and stuff.

4. Will this item be going on sale?

Why yes it will. The home office will decide to mark it down by seventeen and a half percent on a week from Thursday. Also the stock market is going to crash again in June, and a guy named Vinny “Champ” Edwards is going to discover the secret to cold fusion and make the world into a wonderful utopia. Unfortunately, you won’t get to see it because you’re going to get hit by a bus two days before your thirty-eighth birthday. Bummer. But at least my psychic prediction will allow you to prepare for it.

5. When do you get trucks in?

On the third day after the blood moon four thousand eighteen wheelers will descend upon the store like a swarm of locusts. We ship in thousands of hobos from all over the country to help unload those trucks and when they are done we quietly slit their throats and feed their blood to the demon-god that lives in the drainage pound out back. We keep our enormous stockpile of merchandise in the back room until the next shipment comes in and then if we’re feeling generous we might let you buy some of it.

Once upon a time someone suggested that we should try a system where two or three trucks come in every night, but that person was fired for being a moron.


[To be clear, I really do believe that there is such a thing as a stupid question. This is my definition: a stupid question is one to which you could have worked out the answer for yourself with a minimal amount observation and reasoning. Some of the preceding are arguably not stupid questions by my definition. But I’m making fun of them anyway. Because I can.]


14 responses to “Retail Rant #2: Stupid Answers To Stupid Questions

  1. What I find amusing is how often I’m asked questions in a shop as if I worked there…I do not.

    I may still know the answer to the question, which I’ll share but I left being a bookseller & record shop clerk almost 20 years ago!

    Must still have that look about me…

  2. I love my job but I do hear some really dumb questions. The best so far is “What do you use these soaps for?” There is no way you can answer a question like that without sounding condescending. You are right though, most of the time people are just too darn lazy to take 3 seconds to think before they open their mouths. I am blessed that I love where I work, and I truly enjoy helping people choose products and get what they need. Were this not so, I’d probably go a little insane.

  3. There was once a doctor who had just been transferred after 2 years working in the OBGYN department to emergency department. After a really long day, just before getting off shift, a male patient came in with the complaint of blood in his urine.

    The doctor looked at the patient, blinked and then looked down at the card and the first question that was asked ?

    When was your last menstrual period?

    That doctor was me *face palm*. Thank goodness I recovered in time and quickly asked him to lie down on the examination bed and proceed to ask him the proper questions and examine him.

  4. I’m so glad I never worked retail, but we got tons of stupid questions in the deli I worked at. It was a Midwestern chain the owners thought would be a good idea to bring to Philadelphia, which is a -huge- sandwich town (we’re very particular about our hoagies–not “subs” and they certainly don’t use soft bread.)

    People would come in asking for cheesesteaks, pizza, fries, grinders (hot sandwiches,) and the like–all very reasonable requests at any other Philly sandwich shop, but clearly not listed on the menu. They’d also ask what was on certain sandwiches, also -clearly- listed on the menu.

    The worst, though, was when they’d ask what we sold. At a sandwich shop. I feel your pain, brother.

  5. Umm. . . . I’m guessing a lot of those stupid questions come from people over 40. For example, when I worked retail in my twenties, it was extremely common for stores to have extra stock in a back room. They even called it the “stock room.” Up until about ten or fifteen years ago, I could ask people if they would please check in the back, and, as often as not, they would have the item. It was just that no one had had the time to restock the shelves yet. That was true in almost any store.

    I could make similar points about numbers 3 – 5, but suffice it to say that WalMart and other big box stores have changed a great many things about all levels of retail in this country. Having lived half my life big box-free, I still ask people those stupid questions in stores because they’ve only recently become stupid questions.

    Glad to know why sales people give me those looks now. I wasn’t aware things had changed that much since I worked retail. I thought people were just getting ruder.

    Thanks for a great post, Albert. 🙂

  6. Peter Saint-Clair

    Haha, yeah. I can relate. I once worked at a gas stationed situated right across the street from a hospital and damned if someone didn’t come up and ask me where said hospital was as I was looking out the window at it.

  7. Can’t back your play on this one, buddy….
    Shopping For a lawn mower at Sears last night. Having already been informed online earlier in the day that a paticular model was out of stock, the Missus asked the saleslady “I know you are out of these, do you have one in the back”….Or something to that affect. Damned if the gal didn’t tell her that they did. They didn’t; apparently it had just been sold.
    Sometimes it pays to ask….

  8. *sigh* Oh retail. I got the “do you work here?” just today. I’m with you on the “No, I just wear all black professional dress because I’m training to be an international spy, but I’m not advanced enough to go without a nametag yet.” And my particular favorite is “This is the last one. Can I get a discount?” Again, if it’s selling so well we have only one left, why would I begin to barter with you and lower the price? We are a corporation, our prices are set by someone in Cincinnati or New York or Guam, it is not up to me to say, “Well, you’re wearing my favorite color so you get 10% off and I’ll trade you a stick of gum for just walking away and never asking me another question.” lol.

  9. Love this post.

    I had a customer at the ticket counter I worked at ask me if he could pay for his ticket to Vancouver from Toronto When He Got There ! This after he couldn’t get the cash, credit card was rejected, we certainly weren’t taking a cheque and no one would come down to front him. And after all that – I was the bitch and he wanted my name to contact my supervisor. I believe that places him at the front of the line for stupid questions that even he obviously couldn’t work out the answer to.

  10. I absolutely love this! So so so true. I love the customers who insist the item was on sale, make you call grocery to check the price, confirm it actually was scanned correctly and then the customer walks out in disgust because they do not want to pay an extra 15 cents. Retail makes you love people so much more doesn’t it?

  11. beyondthepaleblog

    Love it! So true 🙂

    Add: “Why haven’t you got my size?” Um, because it sold. Because you waited until the end of the sale to buy it. Because life isn’t fair. 🙂

    And the classic “I got this 3 months/weeks/days ago at [PRICE] and now it is [PRICE], WHY?!?” The answer to this is:

    “Because everyone in retail is out to trick you. The floor staff set the prices randomly, just make them up on the spot, and they really, really enjoy deliberately misleading you so that you can come and shout in their faces and call them liars.”

    And: “Because life really isn’t fair and if you wait long enough, most things end up in a sale or on offer. However, your size/colour/brand may not be left by then. That’s the risk you take, dear. You either buy the frigging thing at full price because you love it, or you cross your fingers and leave it to Fate that it will still be there later. You are not *entitled* to buy everything at the cheapest possible price. That is not your *right*. It’s called luck: you ran out of it when your cardigan went on sale 3 months after you purchased it. I ran out of it when you walked through the door.

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