Retail workers get a bad rep from unhappy customers. But the thing is that your problems and their problems are remarkably similar. They don’t get why management does the weird things they do any more than you do. They’re just doing their best to serve you and make you happy while simultaneously following the rules set by their employers.

Next time you see a frazzled customer service team member, give them a smile and remember these eight things that they desperately want you to know.

1. They’re Not “Happy to Help” Two Minutes Before Closing Time

Imagine this scenario: It is 4:58 on a Friday afternoon. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and Netflix is calling. You’re in the starting block position and looking directly at the door. Then, your boss saunters in and casually asks you to take care of an assignment that was due three hours ago. Goodbye sun. Goodbye Netflix.

This is what it is like when you rock up to your favorite store two minutes before it closes. That overwhelming dread as the automatic doors open just before the freedom bell rings is something retail workers experience every day.

Make everyone happy. If you have to go into a store at closing time, move like there’s a ticking clock. For the love of the weekend, don’t touch anything you don’t need.

2. They Don’t Care If You Want to Shop Somewhere Else

The take-your-business-elsewhere routine got old on the employee’s first day. The truth is that it won’t get you anywhere in a box store unless that employee has been miraculously granted stock options.

That particular threat has also been undermined by all the people who came before you who made that same threat and then came back the next day.

3. They’d Rather You Asked for Help Than Dig Through Piles

There are few things more satisfying for a retail worker than managing to sort through a giant pile of clothes from a dressing room. Having those folded clothes laid out neatly on the table, according to size, is like producing a work of art.

Imagine creating a beautiful painting and watching as some kid tripped and punched a hole in it. That is how it feels when customers dig through their freshly-made clothes piles.

Rather than punching a hole in their art, ask employees if they have your size. They’ll be happy to check. The two seconds it takes to help you saves them 20 minutes of pain at the end of their shift.

4. They’re Not in Control of Stock

It is annoying when you go to a store for a sale item only to find that the store doesn’t stock it. But don’t take it out on the employees. The people running around the floor have no control of the stock; head office makes those decisions.

In fact, sometimes head office creates sale items that the store never had in the first place. It sounds just as silly to retail workers as it does to you.

5. They Can Spot Shoplifters a Mile Away

Shrinkage is a huge problem in retail. In fact, shoplifting and other types of fraud cost retailers around $44 billion in 2014 alone.

Most shoplifters feel like they are sly, but the truth is that they aren’t. That much merchandise does not disappear without anyone noticing. In fact, it is pretty obvious when someone is shoplifting; especially because employees are trained to deal with it. And no, you can’t just use the excuse that you’re taking loans.

However, minimum wage is not enough to entice retail workers into being pleasant and helpful to customers with sticky fingers. It’s too awkward for everyone involved.

6. They Can’t Make an Exception Because You Asked Nicely

Retail workers, particularly those in big chains, cannot make exceptions. Making that exception could cost them their job because they have to play by the rules. They’re not going to risk their job because you play nice. You should be nice to them whether they can help you or not.

7. They Can’t and Won’t Share Their Employee Discount with You

Employee discounts are for employees. It is that little token of appreciation that provides a sliver of a reward for the labor they do and the weird things they put up with. They have no reason to share it with you. Not if you wink, nor if you flirt.

In fact, an employee will get in serious trouble if they get caught sharing their discount. They’re not going to risk their job to give a stranger a 5% discount.

8. They Are Human and Their Feet Hurt

That person in the misshapen polo and khaki pants has feelings. That person also does not get paid enough to deal with the old lady that intentionally hit them with her cart. Don’t pile on the hurt by treating them like they’re corporate robots.

Have some empathy for your fellow human beings. Play nice and you’ll find that your shopping experience will end on a positive note.

Featured photo credit: UFCW Local400 via flickr.com

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