We are in the final days of the Christmas shopping season. The last-minute shoppers are heading out and mixing in with those finding the final few items on their gift lists. Stores are staying open crazy hours. And the employees – oh, those poor employees – are tired of dealing with impatient and rude shoppers who have no respect for them.
Back in my college days, I worked retail and the holiday season was nuts – and that was before stores felt the need to stay open until midnight. During that time, I learned that the polite things retail workers say with a smile on their face often have hidden meanings.
Here are some common retail expressions, translated to English:
“Are you finding everything alright?”
The meaning depends a lot upon the store you’re in, as well as the time of day. For example, if you’re at Target 10 minutes to closing time it means: “Get the hell out”.
At a nicer clothing store, it means “I work on commission and am staking my claim on you.”
If you’re at Wal-Mart, it means “I’ve only worked here for two weeks, and I don’t know any better.”
“Can I help you find a size?”
I guarantee that if somebody is asking you this question you’re standing at a table of folded merchandise, because that sales associate is thinking “Quit rooting through that shelf of nicely folded sweaters looking for a size we don’t carry. I have to re-fold those before I can go home.”
Seriously, nobody is ever asked this question standing next to a rack of items on hangers, because you can find it your damn self without making a mess.
“Let me check in the back.”
The true meaning of this one ultimately comes down to the personality of your sales clerk. If they’re lazy, it means: “I’d really like to check my phone / get a quick drink / talk about you behind your back for a few minutes.”
But if they are passive aggressive, this one means “We don’t have it, but I want to make you wait with your hopes up, before I shoot you down.”
“Everything we have is out.”
“There might be some more in the back, but I don’t feel like checking.”
“Would you like to open a store credit card to save an extra 10%?”
“I could give a crap about saving you money, but I get $4 for every credit card application I submit. Besides, with the 23.9% APR on that card, you’re going to lose money anyway.”
“Go call the 800 number on your receipt to complete a short survey about your experience today.”
“Please take 15 minutes out of your day to suffer through an automated voice survey about a generic retail transaction. If you say nice things about me, I can get $4.”
“Can I start a dressing room for you?”
“I am paid based on how much I sell, so I want credit for that giant stack of clothes you’re carrying around.”
“Did you find everything you were looking for?”
“Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes. Because I don’t want to go exploring through the store for something we don’t carry.”