The 8 Shopper Habits That'll Get You On A Store's Sh*t List

What you say — and how you say it — matters, and you’ve most likely read your fair share of articles about how to better use your words at work and in your relationships to not only get what you deserve, but also to get what you want. It’s a small logical leap, then, to see that the strategy applies to shopping, too. Not only can your words inadvertently hurt fellow shoppers (like last week’s viral Old Navy Instagram showed), they can also work against you when dealing with store associates.

We spoke to Marcus Leung, the head buyer for San Francisco’s Acrimony and No.3 stores, who has worked in retail in various capacities over the past eight years. Having assisted thousands of customers, Leung is clearly aware of the types of people who make him excited to do his job, and the ones who make him hate the world — and it has very little to do with how much they’re spending. Says Leung, “The best customers are the ones who are honest and open about what they need, what they want, what they can afford, and look to us, as a retailer, to help figure out practical solutions for them.”

We asked Leung to share with us his biggest customer pet peeves, the behaviors that won’t win you any favors, and some retail myths that it’s time to dispel (hint: The backroom doesn’t look like you think it does). The eight shopping habits to check against, below:
Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
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If you demand that they check in the back…again:
Says Leung, “Now that everything is stored in databases and so much inventory work is automated, the backroom just isn't what it used to be. When someone is incredibly desperate (I'm looking at you, wedding guests who wait until the week before to shop), I totally understand when a customer pleads and begs and asks you to make sure you don't have what they need. That's a perfectly reasonable request. But the idea that I'm holding on to some item in some magic room is just downright silly. Why wouldn't I want to give you the item?”

If you catch yourself saying the words, “The customer is always right”:
“That is the single biggest lie ever spread,” says Leung. “I’m not saying that the customer can’t be right, but in my experience, they’re rarely right. If they were always right, they wouldn't need my help. The longest-lasting and more fruitful relationships we have are with clients who understand that we see a lot of stuff, we dress a lot of women and men, and that we probably have a few ideas that they might not come up with on their own.”

If you expect discounts, just because you asked:
“Stores that stock many brands have an individual relationship with each one,” says Leung. “A lot of times, there are things your designers ask you explicitly not to do, like mark things down too early, mark things down beyond a certain percentage off, etc. The real secret is that if you want to get the best discounts, just be a good, loyal customer. You might think you blend into the crowd, but I'll always remember someone who is super-passionate and very happy with a purchase, and the next time you stroll in, I'm might tell you that what you're thinking of buying is going on sale in a week and set it aside for you. I don't want to characterize this as a quid pro quo, but clients who shop a lot get to know me and my staff, and doing little things like that is no skin off our nose. And if you're really desperate? Start dating one of our team or marry in, and we'll be happy to extend our friends-and-family discount to you.”

If you’re talking on your phone:
“I don't appreciate when people come in wearing headphones, but it doesn't offend me, either. I don't expect people to suddenly change their strolling habits just because they've walked through a door. Talking on your phone is another matter. Our stores are located next to amazing public parks, and they have ample room and seating for you to take your time, luxuriate in the sunshine, and finish your conversation.”

If you get offended when associates try to help:
“One of the points I always drive home for my staff is to converse with customers, not interrogate. We never ask, ‘Can I help you?’; we ask, ‘How can I help you?’ And we're genuinely interested in the answer because that's how we make your and our lives easier. But if you really don't need any assistance, then just say so. I won't get mad if you browse, and I promise that I won't hex you if you leave the store empty-handed. A simple ‘No help needed. I'm just looking, but if I need anything, I'll ask’ works wonders.”

If you make a big deal about the price:
“I have very limited control in the numbers after the dollar sign on a tag, and it's easy to forget the huge chain of labor that goes into a dress hanging on a rack. Sometimes, customers ask about the price in a way where it sounds like they want me to justify the cost to them, and I just can't do that. Not every store is for every person, and if you don't have room in your wallet or your closet for a $600 silk crepe Rachel Comey dress, then that's totally fine. I'm not here to force you to love the dress or its price tag, but it's pretty thoughtless if you think that it "isn't worth" that, because if you knew the wonderful people that do so much amazing work to make sure your clothes are made from the right materials, cut the right way, and hung with care and attention, then maybe you'd understand why it costs what it costs.”

If you assume store associates are working a temporary job:
“My other pet peeve is when people assume that because our staff works in a retail environment that they're silly, uneducated, or couldn't get better work. I'm proud to say that our small team aren't just bodies on a floor. When a customer says, ‘It's just a retail job,’ they're discounting the hard work that my staff puts in every single day. We also make it a point to hire students, and if you think they don't work hard so that they can make money and finish their schooling, then you're dead wrong.”

When you hang things up again the wrong way:
“The only thing I don't understand is when people hang things deliberately backwards. Doesn’t it take more effort to turn the garment 180 degrees and then reverse the motion you used to take it off the rack? I still haven't figured that one out, but I feel more confused than upset.”

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