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I've learned not to be shocked by the fact the average crusty is not only oblivious to differences in uniform, but that they STILL expect you to bend over backwards on your time to help them.

Had it happen in Best Buy after my shift across the lot at Upchuck. After ignoring what I thought was a question directed to one of the guys in blue I got poke shoved in the shoulder while the crusty demanded to know why I wasn't answering her. Lets just say I am forever grateful that the one awesome manager we had was on duty when she decided to march over and complain about me failing to help her in a store I didn't work in and what my response to her was after putting her hands on me.


Thankfully my store doesn't have policy about helping people not in our store. If I'm still in the store and not on the clock, I'm supposed to give them the "it should be here, but if you'd like I can page someone over that can answer you more thoroughly" and the management is pretty good about extending breaks and lunches if you get stuck. However, if I somehow managed to do something that embarassed corporate (like arrested for something awkward, was seen by management while on drugs, that sort of thing) while in my uniform in any way, my butt would be in one hell of a sling.

The Last Archimedean

"I don't work here. If you want your question answered, talk to someone who works here."

Repeat as necessary.


I was shopping at a local grocery store a while back while in my McHell's uniform after work (blue polo with the Arch on it, nametag, black slacks), very obviously pushing a cart with my purse in it. I was looking at vegetables when a woman approached me and asked, "Do y'all carry [veggie I've never heard of]?" I was taken aback, but I answered her with, "I don't work here, but I'd imagine it'd be here." and tried to help her find it (turned out they didn't carry it). Funny thing is, if she'd taken more than a second to look, all the veggies carried by this store are very clearly labelled in big, multi-colored bold letters, and she would have seen that they didn't carry it. But, expecting custys to read and blah blah blah.


Unfortunately, I used to work for a completely unrelated business that happened to require the same uniform as Super Bulls-Eye: khakis and a red shirt. I would forget that I was wearing it when I would run by there after work, and would sometimes get approached by customers while I was pushing a cart with my purse in the front. I got lucky, though - no one insisted that I was just being lazy or incompetent once I explained that I was not an employee. People don't seem to notice what kind of uniform you wear, as long as it looks like a uniform. Case in point: at my last job, it didn't matter what you were wearing, as long as it was professional-looking and solid black. Corporate switched it over to the all-black years ago after customer complaints that they were having trouble locating employees, who were just dressed professionally. I ran into a number of cases where customers asked about employees, and pointed out that we were wearing all black with white nametags. Every person told this admitted that they'd never noticed that every employee was dressed head-to-toe in black!

Damn Yankee

I've been accosted by customers while wearing breeches and half chaps, covered in sweat and horsehair. Yup, that's professional... My default answer was to look at them like they'd lost their mind and say no.


I've only had it happen a handful of times, but my reaction has been to let them know I don't work there and then either let them know the last place I remember seeing an employee or the approximate location if I remember it, with a caveat that not working there means I can't say for sure.

I still find it funnier to be dressed in an obvious uniform and be asked if I work there.

Semi-related: I stopped by the Ranch 99 by my work the other day, among the things I picked up was a small bottle of sake. The cashier rung me up and gave me the total, so I asked if she needed to see my ID for the alcohol. She looked confused for a moment, then said that she did, and as I took it out to show her she told me that she saw my security uniform and thought she didn't need to ask me.

Kitsap Charles

Quite a number of years ago, I usually wore a three-piece suit along with a small rosebud in the buttonhole (we had a rose vine that flowered for eight or nine months every year), as this was long before casual wear was an everyday thing.

I was standing in a Large Department Store Whose Name Rhymes With Lacey's, minding my own business, when a random dude walks up and asks me where are the cameras.

Okay, at one time in the dim dark past, Large Department Stores had what was called "floorwalkers", who wore conservative suits and a *carnation* -- not a rose -- in the buttonhole. These gentlemen (always male) knew the store inside and out in order to assist random custys. So I can understand why I might have been confused for one. But anyone with two eyes and a functioning brain (i.e., not a custy) would have noted the distinct absence of a name tag.

Fortunately for him, I knew where cameras were ("down the escalator, turn left"), but I was bemused for quite a while.


This has happened to me so many times it's unbelievable - even dressed in things that cannot, in any way, be taken for any kind of staff uniform, far less the uniform of the store I happen to be browsing around. I can think of two possible ways to explain this:

1) When you work retail for a while, it shows in some subtle manner that many customers pick up on entirely subconsciously. Unfortunately, their subconscious is not too hot in distinguishing 'retail worker' from 'member of staff of the store you're currently in'.

2) A significant proportion of the general public are such self-entitled arseholes, they'll simply grab the first person they see and assume that person is there to help them.

The Last Archimedean

Zmid, I think your hypothesis #2 is much more likely than #1. People do seem to be getting more entitled by the day.


@Kitsap Charles - your comment has reminded me that I have not yet finished watching every episode of Are You Being Served? :D It makes me wonder if Captan Peacock was ever mistaken for an employee of other stores while out shopping.


You don't even need to be wearing something that looks vaguely like the business' uniform. ~20 years ago, I was in a local Fred Meyers to pick up a few things and I was accosted by a lady who was certain I worked there and simply refused to believe I didn't. What was I wearing?

A Metallica T-shirt and black shorts.

DeptStore Diva

I've started answering people. "Where's your baking soda?" at home in my fridge. "Where's the ice cream" In the freezer. "Do you have pickles" No (because I don't...the store might, but I don't).


Zyffyr; I've had the same thing happen while wearing a black and orange striped shirt with a huge snarling tiger face on the front. Apparently I just give off 'helpful' vibes...

NC Tony

I got that once while in a (now closed) supermarket... while I was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

Crusty: Can you help me?
Me: No, I don't...
Crusty: Well why not?
Me: If you'd let me finish, I was going to say I don't work here.
Crusty: Well why didn't you just say that?
Me: I was trying to but you cut me off.
Crusty: You know, you're really rude. If you worked here I'd get you fired.
Me: Well I guess it's a good thing I don't work here, I'd hate to have to deal with idiots like you.

I walked off before she could say anything else. To answer the question, like Zmidponk said it's like we give off a "retail vibe", and crustys gravitate towards it like moths to a flame.


In high school, I had a school uniform (it's been the same for over 100 years, as my school was very traditional, so think turn-of-the-century British). Once, a friend and I headed over to a bookstore after school to pick up some texts for a class. Another customer cornered us, and screamed at us for chatting and browsing on the job when she was obviously wandering around confused. Our school had us trained to "madam" or "sir" everyone while in uniform, so we apologized: "We're very sorry, madam. We don't work here- these are school uniforms. The information desk is just over there, though, or the staff t-shirts say 'Exclusive'." Lady walks off to the information desk, so we think all is well, but then she brings back the manager, screaming about how employees obviously in the store's uniform were refusing to help her. The manager gave her an odd look, and then pointed out that he was wearing something completely different to what we were, and that what we were wearing was very standard school uniform (we even had badges on our blazers saying things like "Computer Monitor", "Academic Colors" and "Debate Head", about 10 each, so they didn't look like name tags). That manager, however, was white, and male, while we were two black girls, so the lady said we were only wearing different uniforms because we were "darkies", and besides, she "knew we worked there because we had called her "madam", and only staff were that polite". He waved us back to our browsing, but when we went to the registers a good while later, she was still trying to get us fired, and he was still trying to explain we were high school students and customers.


"nope, we don't sell that."

"Oh, THAT'S in the aisle with the adult diapers."


I think forcing people to wear uniforms is a way of catering to idiots who can't figure out who is shopping and who is working.

deli slice

I once made the mistake of going to a Kinko's (remember Kinko's?) while wearing a dark blue polo shirt with my company's name in white on the upper left.

Sure enough, about eight people asked me for help. Won't do that again!


I once went to a store with the kids later in the evening during the summer. We were all sporting our PJs because we were getting ready for bed when I realized I needed diapers if I didn't want my baby to have a saggy, wet bum. I was looking over the diapers because my normal choice was missing in the correct size and I didn't feel like tracking down an employee. An older lady came up and started asking me where the baking soda, pans, cooking oil, and stuff were at. I just looked at her funny and said, "Um...I really don't know."

Her: Well, you're one of the most laziest employees I ever laid eyes upon.

Me: Well, ma'am, you should get yours eyes checked then because I do not work here. I am in my PJs with my two kids in this shopping cart right here that I am holding on too. Find someone with a blue shirt and a name badge.

She mumbled and grumbled and found a manager to try to get me fired. He told her, "Ma'am. This is a customer. Please stop harassing her and her children. I will be more than happy to help you if you leave her alone." I don't know if she took the help or left. I had selected my diapers and headed towards the movies for a movie night.


I'm lucky to have only had this happen to me once so far. I was in a store one day in my green-polo "Money Bush" uniform (purse and jacket, too - and my name tag with my work's name on it: Not the store I was in), and was asked if the store I was in had any choppers. The only thing I could say was, "uhhhhh," because it caught me so off guard. She stormed away, muttering about how I was useless.

The employees of the store I was in wear black polos and khakis. :p

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