Day 1: Don't call corporate.

Welcome to 12 Days of Retail. My last day (for real this time) at Old Navy is quickly approaching and this series serves as a sort of wrap-up to my time there. I've rounded up the worst customer offenses into 12 general categories. Some are truly terrible and some are relatively minor, but together they cover almost everything that is terrible about working retail, in my ten years of experience.

Don't call corporate. Don't ever call corporate. It's ineffective if you're trying to get us in trouble and it's possibly effective but very rude if you're trying to get around a policy.

If you're calling to complain about an employee

Customers who think an employee was rude to them (which really only happens when the customer is being rude and usually involves the employee being overly nice but telling them no in some way) will call corporate to give them the name of the employee.

And honestly, just, what do you think that's going to do? I mean, yes, I suppose if one employee had an inordinate amount of complaints called in, there would probably be some action taken. But before it ever got that far, the managers would know there was a problem and there would be internal action taken.

One of my favorite things to do is be really helpful when someone tells me they're going to call corporate on me. When someone says, "You know what? This is ridiculous. I'm calling corporate. What's your name?" I not only tell them my name, I write down my name, the store number and the phone number for corporate. This is disarming and they get confused. But I do it because I've been providing excellent customer service the whole time—as  always—so I know I have nothing to be concerned about.

I would love to see my file for these kinds of calls, if they even keep them. I've had about five people in the course of my entire time at Old Navy threaten to call corporate. I wonder if the actual number is higher or lower.

If you're calling so corporate will make a policy exception for you

The other reason people call corporate is to get around a policy, and unfortunately, the reality is that it sometimes works.

Here's the way this works: I'll be explaining a policy to a customer and why the policy means they can't get what they want in this case, and then the customer will ask to speak to a manager. The manager will confirm that this is the policy and we're not able to make an exception, and the customer will huff away, saying, "I'm going to call corporate then." Then they come back with someone from corporate on the line and they tell us to go ahead and make the exception.

So like, yeah, go ahead if you want to be a terrible person. It often works. But it's at the cost of being super annoying and throwing retail employees under the bus. It really gets back to the same thing that causes most problems with working retail—customers thinking they are more important than they are. Why do you think you are so special or that you deserve something other people don't?

It's this ridiculous entitlement of a person who won't take no for an answer. If a store employee tells you something, and you confirm it with their manager, that should really be where it stops. You should accept it as policy and just choose not to shop at that store anymore if it bothers you that much.

Today's pro-tip: Yes, obviously, if you've been genuinely discriminated against or something else along those lines, please call corporate. Right away.


  1. Okay, so of course I have worked retail and hate this too. So tell me if I am terrible person in this instance... I bought some thigh high panty hoes for a Halloween costume I think from Spencer's. They were thigh high panty hoes, but when I put them on, they immediately rolled down my leg. I tried to return them and they told me I couldn't because I had worn them. I explained that I didn't expect someone else to buy them. They were obviously defective. They still told me no. I called corporate to tell them they should not be selling these in their store and hoping to be able to return them just by shipping them in and getting a refund to my card or something. They said they would give me an exception but I had to return them to the store. I know the employees hated me. What's your take?

  2. You know, I was going to be on your side because it sounded like the employees were ignoring policy, because obviously defective merchandise should be returned, but it looks like their policy doesn't say anything about defective merchandise. So honestly, as annoying as it is, in that case I would just chalk it up to Spencer's having terrible customer service policies and resolving to not shop there again.