Retail Horror Stories Needed

I'm working on an article on horror stories from retailers. Especially around the holidays. The more outlandish the better, of course. Share your stories with me? 

  • This could be anything. Knocked over displays. Order crises. Freak mishaps with mother nature during the busiest time of the year. Santacon invasions...

  • I once had a woman come in and pick out 12 bottles for gifts around Christmas. She wanted them all wrapped. Separate. Then after she paid she told us we needed to drop off each bottle at 12 different address's around town. We had offered free delivery at that store. She didn't tip. Maybe not horror, but just not cool, and no tip we didn't get paid to use our gas for the deliveries. She also got 12 btls to specifically get our case discount.

  • These stories are shared from both my husband and I, who worked retail for 11 years (I still do).  They're not particularly holiday related, but give a glimpse into retail mishaps nevertheless.

    We had a character in our part of town that traveled via a Rascal-type electric scooter.  He was known to come in and buy a 750mL of Cuervo Gold Tequila and empty part of it into his insulated coffee mug and scoot along his merry way.  We held tastings on the weekends in our Party Shop at the time (state-mandated separate store for non-alcohol items) and he popped in while he was picking out some juice or other mixer.  I indulged, trying to get him out of there as quickly as possible.  He finished and continued his shopping.  While he was standing at the bar, it was apparent that he was having a hard time keeping his pants up (not super uncommon with old guys that have mobility problems and have trouble getting belts on).  A short time later, I heard a commotion in the main part of the store.  I went over to see what the hubbub was, to find the man sprawled out on the floor, bleeding from a small gash on his head.  Apparently he had become woozy and fainted, hitting the counter on the way down.  We tried to encourage him to stay down, but he eventually got himself up before the paramedics that had been summoned arrived.  He wanted to complete the transaction, but was denied.  The still shot from the security camera of one of the managers with his hands on his hips looking at the poor guy with a SMH kinda look on his face was priceless and was the background on our office manager's desktop for quite some time. 

    The store that my husband worked at had a public restroom and was located within walking distance of a retirement home, so was the natural choice for the residents.  Apparently an older gentleman used the facilities and had the most explosive case of diarrhea a public bathroom has ever experienced.  Naturally, no staff was notified, but the smell announced the situation.  In situations like that, there is no recourse other than to roll up your sleeves and get to scrubbing.  Apparently it got on just about every imaginable surface, even up inside the paper towel dispenser.

  • I had an older couple come in and ask for a bottle of Sangiovese. I took them to the Tuscan shelf and explained that usually the label will show the region, Chianti, Brunello, etc., not the varietal: Sangiovese. I showed them a great Chianti Classico on sale for $10. They said thanks and would continue looking. As I walked away, I heard the wife tell her husband: “That guy doesn’t know anything about wine.”

  • Not holiday related and likely not what you're looking for, but it's still a retail horror story.

    I used to work for a retailer who did a lot of phone orders taken off e-mail offers.  Once, because they were needing some cash to pick up a big order, they thought they'd do an inventory reduction sale with graduated % off deals if you were to take the last of anything we had.  With that in mind, the entire inventory was released in the email.

    Problem 1:  This was in early March and the inventory had been done during the first week of the year, so it wasn't remotely accurate.  But the owner and tech person who was in charge of e-mails didn't seem to care and neither were even in the shop that day.

    Problem 2:  The inventory included a bunch of cooler back vintage stuff that they liked to keep in a back room for special customers to buy.  Stuff we absolutely didn't have to discount.  So, basically every other call was from people trying to buy the last 2 bottles of Clape Cornas 88 or what have you that we were allegedly trying to sell but really didn't want to..

    Problem 3:  Just before the end of the year, we'd gotten a big drop of highly sought after wines that were snapped up really quickly and, if I recall, didn't have enough of to satisfy demand for and turned a bunch of people away.  But, as of Jan 1, we still had plenty, so they too, were on the emailed list.  So, the calls that weren't from cherry pickers were from people pissed that we apparently still had plenty of these wines despite telling them not long ago that we were out.

    In short, it was mayhem.  Guys were on the phones all day, scribbling orders on little pieces of paper, handing them to us so we could run into the floor and see what off the list we actually had.  Which was usually not much given everyone was asking for the same rare shit. 

    I was actually already working out my notice and had half a mind to just walk out but for the fact that I'd just be screwing my friends who were dealing with this mess and neither of the people responsible for it were even there.

    Our sales for the day were about 1/3 what they normally were that day.  It was a total disaster.

  • One of my first jobs in wine was at a Boston retailer. It was an old store, and one particularly hot July the AC died. The store got extremely warm while waiting for the repairman. I was alone, wandering around and fussing about. The exact moment I walked by the rack where we had our Brachetto selection laying on its side, the cork popped out of one of the bottles and red liquid splashed the opposite wall. I dropped to the ground and honestly thought I had been shot. 

  • Just before the holidays, I had a storage shelf system collapse and destroy almost $50K worth of product. I was off that day, but was called in immediately after it happened. When I walked in and saw the damage, I just started crying. 

  • I've had customers literally get into fistfights over Blanton's, Pappy, and other allocated items. We'll be donating them to charity auctions this year. 

  • I sold some beer to a customer and they came back later that day to absolutely berate me in the middle of the store because the beer I sold them was expired. Thing is, the beer wasn't expired, they were looking at the packaging date...

  • A few years back I was working at a very busy wine shop/ tasting room. We were open on Thanksgiving day and it was always in our top 3 sales days of the year, literally a line out the door from open to close. My manager was a sweetheart and always made sure to pick up breakfast or lunch for all of the staff on busy days, but because of the holiday many of his normal breakfast joints were closed. The restaurant next to our tasting room had always had a reputation among the staff for not being very good, but they were open and right next door. We all scarf down our breakfast burritos while running around trying to stock the store and fix displays. 8 am rolls around and we're ready to open the doors when it hits us. Food poisoning. Everyone on staff, except me (yay for being a vegetarian!) was fighting over our two restrooms, running out to the dumpsters, anything they could find. We couldn't call anyone in since we had every staff member on the schedule that day, so we just had to take turns suffering through interactions with customers while regularly excusing ourselves. Lesson learned, we have never eaten there ever again.