Cringing at the Counter: When The Boss Goes Bad

So I was shopping at Muji yesterday, one of my favourite places to buy things and was really peeved when I realised all the staff had changed over and the new guys were the archetypal nightmare shop assistants; ignorant, unhelpful, disinterested.

That got my thinking all about my experiences in retail as a customer and when I was younger, as a shop assistant. God knows some nightmare customers exist but one thing I found from a very brief stint on a make up counter (when I was at University) was just how bitchy and awful the staff could be to one another!


I worked in a big department store (clue: HOF) and for a brand that wanted SA’s to push for sales like mad (clue: BNFT).

Customers could be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as the floor manager who stalked you constantly, the area manager that explained how each customer should be pushed at minimum of 3 items and if they didn’t yelp with pain, you kept on going, and the girls on other counters (the one on Aveda was especially evil) who deliberately wouldn’t help you with anything (like, how do you work this till?!).

Ok. I lied. It wasn’t a “stint” cos I lasted a day there. I did nearly faint after a whole day on my feet and got a free coffee out of it even if I didn’t get paid.

No make up allowance was worth that suffering.

Which leads me to a very specific question….

When you have been on a make up counter, or indeed any store shopping, have you witnessed staff bullying or harsh managers having a go at staff in front of you? (Told you it was specific!).


I ask this because it has happened to me a few times, once in my beloved Selfridges and it really put me off going back for a while.

It was a scenario where a member of staff serving me got told off unfairly by a scary bulldog of a managaer and I didn’t know whether to say something or not.

…because if you’ve ever worked in retail, you’ll know that bosses can take things out on a member of staff long after you’ve gone home. But at the same time what’s right is right.

I had an experience in Primark where a manager went nuts at a member of staff who was asking a question about whether something was ok to exchange or not. I mean, she freaked out completely in front of a queue of people, screaming at the top of her voice, calling the girl an idiot and a tame wasting *insert swear word*.

Yes it was a big queue and clearly she was stressed but that was no way to behave – ever. Nevermind in front of customers. I emailed Primark head office but never heard back. So…

What’s your take on this?

Would you stand up for a member of staff who was being harrassed by their boss in front of you?

Or would you leave them to it?

Any experiences of this yourself?

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. says

    I usually say something when this happens. And also when the customer before me is being a bitch to the SA and it’s not her fault. Because you know the poor SA can’t tell them to shut up, but you can 😀

  2. says

    I so totally would. Nobody likes workplace bullies but everyone recognises one when they see one! I like to think that even if it doesn’t stop the bully bullying a brief moment of payback from a customer might just make the assistant see that not everyone puts up with undermining behaviours and that bullies can be brought down to size. The worry of course is that the bully will escalate but still think swallowing that bitter pill in front of their assistant might be worth it all round.

  3. says

    I had it in Debenhams, Oxford Street at the New CID counter. The manager was fake smiling at the same time as talking sh*t to the SA serving me, like I couldn’t tell she was being nasty?? I asked the SA if the manager had any issues with her and she was professional enough to not say much and move on but the manager came back again and because I didn’t want the SA to get a b*ll*cking after I left, all I could do is give the manager ‘The Look’ while making a point of cutting into their conversation. There’s just no need for that kind of behaviour at any time, especially in front of customers. We’re not morons! We know what they’re doing. And so I won’t be going back to that counter either…

  4. says

    This has only blatantly happened in front of me once, and it was just ridiculous. The manager of a counter came up to the sole sales assistant who was in the process of ringing up my purchase at the till and told her off for leaving the counter ‘unmanned’. I called her on it, because really, want on earth could the girl have done differently? Handed me the (bloody expensive) perfume and told me to go and find a till on my own?

    There was one other person browsing the counter, the sales assistant had greeted and acknowledged them and told them she’d just be a minute.

    I said to the manager, “She’s ringing up my purchase from your counter,” to which the manager replied “Oh no madam, it isn’t your fault,” – I said back, “Well it isn’t hers either if you left her alone on the counter.”

    Yes she might have been even more horrid to the sales assistant after I’d left, but it was a ridiculous demand that the girl had no hope of satisfying, and it was bloody rude to me too.

  5. Kip says

    Well, I worked as the sale staff for almost a year and my senior staff came and shouted at me in front of the customer and my manager was screaming at my name too for no apparent reason.
    I didn’t say anything until the customer left and went to the backroom and asked the colleague what the f is his problem in front of all other staffs and who the hell did he think he was.I didn’t say anything to the manager but he saw me shouting at the other guy.
    I was the only junior girl staff they didn’t pick on afterward but they still do that shit to other staffs.