Retail workers put up with a lot of annoying things at work, but there isn’t much worse than customers trying to scam them. In the following stories, retail workers share the ridiculous scams customers tried to pull–things like attempting to return items their store doesn’t even sell, trying to get a discount for being the last customer of the day, and claiming a cold soda burned them.
Here are 50 stories of absurd attempts at scams at retail stores.
50. He Even Had The Nerve To Ask For A Refund
I worked in a bottle shop. One afternoon a shady character entered and spent 10 minutes browsing the liquor section. I stayed at the checkout and watched him on the CCTV. He ended up shoving two bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue down his pants and walked out. Store policy is not to confront shoplifters; that’s what insurance is for. I called the police and burnt the footage onto a DVD for them to collect.
About an hour later, the same guy returns with the bottles demanding a cash refund because he “purchased the wrong type.” Just as I was telling him I can’t do a refund without a receipt the police walked in to collect the footage. He left with them in handcuffs.
49. At Least He Tried
A few years ago, I worked at a Walmart and this guy comes in trying to return his “Wii” that doesn’t work. He said, “I just bought this for my kids last week and it’s already broken but they won’t take it back because I lost my receipt.”
The “Wii” in question was the most beat up and disgusting looking GameCube I have ever seen, like he found it in a landfill or something. I should also point out that I wasn’t working on the return desk or even a cashier. I was stocking the food department. Turns out he was trying to talk to every employee in the store into either giving him a refund or a Wii.
48. Go Ahead!
A few years ago I worked at a small hardware store where they were constantly getting huge rolls of copper wire stolen. One day this guy and his girlfriend come in to return a roll. I was a few months in on the returns counter. They had no receipt and when I scanned the item for the return it was only doing the price per foot. I couldn’t figure out how to get the SKU or the price for the whole roll. I called the manager and he comes out and right away knows there’s no way these people bought a roll and returned it. So he asks when they bought it and they say two weeks ago (the common response) and my manager tells them: “Oh really? Because the last time we sold an entire roll was over three months ago.” The guy starts to get brave and tells him, “So you’re saying I stole it?!” And my manager says yes.
They end up leaving and left the roll behind. Before they leave the store the guy says, “I’m coming back and bringing the cops.” The manager says, “Go ahead that way you can explain to them how you stole the roll.”
A customer brought back a jumpsuit for a refund because it had poop in it. Apparently it had been like that when she bought it. It stank so bad that you could smell it through the taped up plastic bags that she had put it in. It’s impossible that it could go unnoticed by changing room staff, the customer, and the cashier.
The worst part is some idiot on the refunds counter downstairs actually accepted it and put it on top of the trolley full of other returned items for us to put back upstairs– complete with a note stapled to it that said “Warning: Feces inside.” One of the biggest “what” moments I’ve had in any job that I’ve worked at.
46. Remember Me?
I sold a guy a phone years ago when I worked for a wireless carrier. I spent an hour getting all his information transferred and set up his new phone.
He comes in the next day with a shattered screen. Apparently, he didn’t remember that I was the rep who helped him and proceeded to tell me that is how it looked when he left the store. Needless to say, the phone was not replaced.
45. Bring The New One Or Else…
I used to work at Best Buy. This guy came in and returned a laptop saying that the box had some old laptop in it. He was yelling and screaming that we don’t know how to do business. The manager gave him a full refund. We started to check that old laptop he brought in. It wouldn’t turn on and it looked like the motherboard was toast. We pulled the hard drive out and started checking the data. The hard drive was completely fine with everything on it.
We started looking for the clues and found the pictures of the guy who returned the laptop. It was his old machine. We had all his info. The manager called him and said he had 15 minutes to bring the new laptop back or he was calling the police. That guy came in and dropped the laptop at the front desk. I never saw him again in the store.
44. Even Used Lingerie
I worked retail several years ago, while in college. The store I worked for had a crazy return policy. We even took back things we didn’t even sell. I worked apparel, which included jewelry and some housewares like towels. Our manager would make us find a comparable item and use that UPC to give a refund. It was ridiculous.
I remember arguing with a guy who wanted to return a watch. He swore he bought it at our store. I kept explaining that was impossible. I call the manager who says, “Just refund it with a watch that matches the price he says he paid for it.” But the worst was how many times we took back obviously worn, dirty clothing like lingerie.
43. Well, I’m The Daughter
We don’t deliver the pizzas we make; it’s carryout only. I had a customer call and have a long/angry conversation with me because I wouldn’t deliver to her.
She proceeds to say (a couple of times): “You must be new here. I know the owner personally,” to which I responded, “Well, I’m the owner’s daughter and we don’t deliver.”
42. “I’ll Be Back!”
A customer came in for her one-hour facial appointment to try our skincare brand in a department store. It was $75, or you could purchase products to that value or above.
She came out from her facial, pampered, requested the whole range of products, then exclaimed she had left her credit card in her bag which she had left in the car. She quickly said, “I’ll be back in five”– and never returned. We cottoned on pretty quickly, but she had disappeared, and the phone number she had given us was fake.
41. A Chicky Pocket
Back in high school when I worked part-time at a KFC, there was this one fat man who would come in, order a two-piece quarter pack, and then claim we forgot his chicken. Like, when we turned around to fetch his drink at the end of the order, he would open the box, take out the chicken pieces and hide them in his pockets. Hot chicken. Right in his pockets.
I got so fed up with everyone just giving him extra chicken all the time that I demanded he turned out his pockets one day when he tried to pull it and WOW, LO AND BEHOLD this guy has his pockets full of drumsticks.
40. Her Magic Card
I used to work at a game store a little more than 10 years ago. We once had a woman come in dressed in trendy clothes and ask for two PlayStation Portables (PSP), two Xbox 360s, and a handful of games and accessories. My store was pretty slow so this would be a pretty big sale for the day and I was excited about it.
She goes to pay and hands me a credit card which was not laminated and appeared to be printed out on a home color printer. I told her it wouldn’t work and she said just scan it anyway. So I scanned her fake credit card which clearly did not have a magnetic strip and it didn’t work (of course). She told me to just “put the numbers in” on the computer. I refused and she asked why, seemingly legitimately confused. I told her I just couldn’t. She told me she would be back with cash. I put everything back on the shelves. She did not return.
39. Nice Try!
I was working at a place that has soft serve as a part of the menu. I was working one day and a lady came up to the counter and said something along the lines of: “Hey, I’m really sorry; my daughter dropped her ice cream and she’s really sad about it. Do you think you could give me another?”
I was about to then realized an important fact: the ice cream was broken that day and we weren’t selling any. I looked back at her and told her that it must not be from us because of the machine. She turned bright red and mumbled: “Oh then I guess it must be from the Dairy Queen or something…” and left quickly. Nice try, lady.
38. Do You Need A Hand?
I worked at a place that sold timber, roofing iron, etc. One Saturday morning, this guy comes in and wants a couple of bags of cement, so I ring up the sale and then go to load up the order. He tells me not to worry, and that he would do it, so I explain that it was my job to do it. Then when I reached for the first one he stood between me and the bag, so again I insisted that I had to load the concrete; it wasn’t an option. At this point he got quite aggressive, yelling and waving his arms, and so forth. So, I go inside to find the boss, and just as we come back out he reaches down, goes to pick up the bag…and throws his back out. He is writhing around on the floor for a while, then demands an ambulance and tells my boss that I refused to help him load the bags and now he is going to sue us for millions.
What he didn’t know is that a lot of people tried to steal the cement, so there were two security cameras pointing right at him the whole time, recording everything he said and did…including a long discussion with his wife about how we would pay him a stack of cash to keep this out of court and so on. The company didn’t say a word about the tapes until just before we had to be in court…to make sure that he spent as much money on his lawyer as possible.
37. Want Some Free iPhones?
I once had a dude try to score a free iPhone. He came into the department I worked in and started describing this vague iPhone to us, saying he’d lost it in here earlier. No other details were given, like phone case, or a specific color, just an iPhone.
Further questions were asked about where he thinks he might have left it in here and he just went quiet and said, “It’s fine, actually. Maybe somebody else has it” and left. Our opinion is that he knew that sometimes stores will keep people’s phones that they find until the owners come back and then they hand over the phone. He wanted to score a free iPhone.
36. The Flying Stilettos
One of my first jobs in high school was working at a discount shoe store. I had a customer come in once claiming she needed to make a return. A perfectly normal-looking woman, likely in her late 50s or early 60s; she looked like a teacher or something. I asked for her receipt, and she informed me she didn’t have it. Okay—technically I can’t refund them that way, but my manager was a bit more liberal and if the shoes were in perfect condition and in their original box, we might have been able to arrange an exchange. I then asked if she could put the shoes on the counter. She told me she didn’t have the shoes either.
At this point, I was as confused as you, dear reader. Yes—she tried to come in and convince me to “return” a pair of shoes that weren’t physically present, and essentially open the register and give her cash out of it. Dumbstruck, I told her “Uh—we can’t do that.” She proceeded to get enraged and grabbed a pair of stilettos and threw them at me before stomping out
35. Thanks, Google!
I was working at a chain toy store about five years ago. I had someone try to search for coupons on Google image, and was confused as to why it didn’t work. The coupon had expired 10 years prior.
I told her I couldn’t do that, and the only one we had going at the time was not viable for her purchase. She yelled and stormed out cursing, and I felt good. She emailed corporate, and I got in trouble for making her upset.
34. Tuna Face Mask?
At my old job, they used to have sales pretty often and would also give out coupons for specific dates. For Boxing Day, they had a 30% off sale and we had also given out coupons that would start the next day. A lady comes in on Boxing Day and we worked out that she’d get more of a deal if she used the coupon instead, so I offered to hold her items for her. I explicitly told her that she wouldn’t be able to get the 30% off and she decided to use the coupon instead. She comes back the next day, goes to the cash registers to purchase her items and gets angry because they wouldn’t give her both the 30% off and let her use the coupon. She told the cashier that the person she’d spoken to the day before had told her she could do that. She sees me and says “It was that girl who told me!” I went to the registers to speak to her (I was a keyholder at the time) and her story changed about three times through the whole thing. First, she said that I told her she could combine the discounts, then she said that I never told her she couldn’t combine the discounts, and then finally it was “Well I don’t understand why I’m not able to do this.” Another manager came over to help sort it out and as I walked away I heard her saying that I was a liar.
Now, I work at Sephora and we always get people trying to return fake products. My favorite one was when someone returned a face mask but had put a can of tuna in the box instead of the actual face mask.
33. Stop Using Your Son, Man
A guy comes into my pharmacy to fill his son’s Adderall prescription. The guy is super twitchy and his son is chill as could be. For all controls, we are supposed to run a report that shows everywhere in the state they have filled any. Of course, the report is a mess: multiple pharmacies, multiple scripts, multiple doctors, all the red flags. To top it off, an Adderall script within that week had been filled so we really couldn’t fill this one.
The dad comes back and we tell him that we can’t fill it and he starts going on about how his wife must have filled it but they need some for today blah blah blah. We decline and his last words to us are: “My son needs them for a birthday he has to go to today; can’t you help?” No dude, we can’t help. You’re clearly taking your sons pills; get help and stop using your son to get high on prescription medication.
32. Do The Math
We had some members of the traveling community pull into our car park one summer. A guy comes to the till to buy two patio kits at $50 each. I tell him the total is $100 and he says he bought one for $50 the day before in another branch…I say yes but you’re buying two so its doubled.
He then starts to argue that I’m overcharging him. This went on for 10 minutes with me explaining that he’s buying two so it’s more expensive than one. His entire plan was to attempt to hold up the queue to a point where I’d give him one for free by acting like a dumb jerk. Once he realized the queue had disappeared (due to it being a freaking huge DIY store with multiple cashiers) it suddenly clicked and he paid up, never to be seen again.
31. What A Crazy Policy
I worked in retail for 12 years before I switched occupations. One retail store I worked at used to have a “return it for whatever reason” policy and you didn’t even have to have a freaking receipt. A couple tried to return a pot and pan set because the Teflon was coming off. Brand new cookware with the Teflon already coming off after only one single use? How odd. I have to see this.
Yeah, about that… There was badly burnt food in the bottom of the pans and someone had used something sharp to try to scrape it out hence the “Teflon peeling.” The store took it back.
30. Calling Security…
When I was working as an electronics cashier, I asked a woman if she needed help buying a TV. She said no thanks and placed a smart TV into her cart. I asked her if she wanted to make the purchase at electronics, and she said she wanted to pick up a couple more things in electronics. I went to help another customer when I realize the woman was rushing towards the front of the store with the TV. I immediately radioed loss prevention that someone was trying to run out with a TV, and they stopped her at the door.
Her immediate defense was: “I paid for this in electronics; I just left the receipt in my car.” I have no idea how that made logical sense in her mind, since of course, she couldn’t have the receipt in her car if she just bought the TV in electronics.
29. That’s A Different Picture
I’ve been in and out of retail for 10 years, and one time at a part-time gig that I had (I have a full-time job, too), this couple, a man and a woman, came in, looking sketchy as all hell– definitely had an addiction problem. They were scanning each and every register looking for gift cards, particularly those ones where they were prepaid like Visa or MasterCard. I knew their game; I’ve dealt with this before. The woman came to my register. Originally they wanted to go to self-checkout, but I told them they cannot purchase gift cards there (they can; I just wanted to catch them, LOL).
The woman comes up to me, purchases $400 worth of gift cards and when its time to pay, I ask her for her ID because she wants to use “her” credit card. The ID she had and who she was were two different people. The woman in the driver’s license had no tattoos on her face; this woman had stars below her eye. I told her this is not you, I will not sell these to you, and I will call the police. She booked it out of there. Unfortunately, the man got away with it, because he had purchased his at another register before the woman came to me. And would you believe, I got in trouble for doing that?
28. A Special Discount For The Last Customer? Nope!
The store was open until midnight the two last nights of the financial year calendar. Apparently the store thought someone might come in at 11:59 p.m., the last chance they had to deck out their entire office with new laptops and chairs and crap. After about 9 p.m. the store was pretty much a complete ghost town. By 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., the store was the cleanest it ever was since it was built. On this one night, the phone rang at about 11:30 p.m. The guy wanted to know if we were still open because he wanted to buy something specific. It turned out we had it in stock and he told me–several times–that he was going to get out of his pajamas, get dressed and come down to the store. I was, like, “Sure. The item will be at the front counter whenever you’re here to collect it.”
So he turns up and tells me again that he had to get out of his pajamas, get dressed and come down to the store to pick up this item. It was about 11:45 p.m. by this point and so I just told him how much it was going to cost and then he asked for a discount. I said, “Why?” he said, “For being your last customer of the evening!” I told him no, there’s no reason for giving out that kind of a discount and besides, we weren’t closed yet. There might be other customers, you know. He might not have been the last one that night and besides, it costs what it costs. He told me again that he had to get out of his pajamas, get dressed and come to the store to buy this item. He paid the full price for all his troubles.
27. “I Work Here!”
I work at an Italian deli/specialty market. It’s family-owned and has a super tight-knit cast of employees. It’s also in a rougher part of town. One day, a presumably homeless woman came into the store. No big deal, we’re by the shelter and a lot of the homeless folks are friendly and just getting something nice to eat. However, this lady was clearly out of her mind. She was in the store for an hour just harassing employees and customers. Eventually, the owner (the Italian man after which the store is named) had to intervene. He firmly asked the lady to leave, but she had a surprising response: “Oh it’s okay, I work here.”
Imagine the surprise on the owner’s face. HE certainly didn’t remember hiring her. Dumbfounded, he told her that was impossible, since he’s in charge of the hiring, to which she responded: “Oh, are you hiring?” Honestly, I’ve got to respect a good gambit. Unfortunately for her, it didn’t seem to pan out. I don’t have any new coworkers yet.
26. A Short-Term Memory Loss
When I worked at the service desk of a local grocery store we had this lady who was super skinny and wore sunglasses and long sleeves all the time. One day she came in with a friend and tried to return beauty items (we didn’t have a beauty/makeup section) and claimed she had no receipt due to “short term memory loss.”
It was so hard not to laugh in her face; she had attempted to return things this way numerous times. We all knew what she was doing.
25. Evidence Doesn’t Lie, Darling
Not traditional retail, but had a client swear she did not receive two packages from me and was refusing to pay the invoice for the second package from more than six months prior. I knew she was lying but she was extremely rude and insistent.
I was able to go back on all records and find both a photo of the first package on her front doorstep (super lucky as that’s not our normal delivery procedure to have photographed evidence), and a signature of receipt for the second one with her name very clearly signed, dated four days later. I emailed the evidence and never heard back from her again. Not even an apology email or phone call, which just confirms she knew she was lying.
24. Thinking Inside The Box
At my last job, someone called the store wanting to know if we had spare empty boxes for Xbox consoles, because he “wanted to prank his kid and give him an empty box.”
I know very well he wanted to try to stuff the box with who knows what, and attempt a return. Of course, the folks at customer service check such boxes for the actual product, and match serials to those on the box.
23. A Water Detergent?
I had someone try to return two bottles of laundry detergent. She dropped them off at the counter and said she didn’t like that brand. She walks off to do her shopping. I wonder how it smelled so I opened the detergent and smelled it. It was water. Both of these jugs were filled with warm water.
During the exchange, she tried to claim they were like that when she bought them. I explain I couldn’t return them and she would have to talk to the Day Manager (boss lady who has the final say.) She decided not to do that and left.
22. Wild Roaches Have Appeared!
I used to work for a store that did trade-ins for old gaming systems. One day a man comes in trying to trade in his Xbox 360 to get credit for the (at the time) new Xbox one. We’re pretty lax about the condition of the product. As long as it turns on, we’ll take it. I’m talking to the man as I’m taking the Xbox box out of the bag he brought it in, and he’s pleasant. I open the box up and…cockroaches just come crawling out. I almost drop it, and I tell the guy we can’t accept this. Boy, does he get mad. He has the gall to ask where in our terms does it specifically say they can’t accept this?
The manager gets involved and he eventually leaves, only to come back the next day to try it on another employee. I radio the manager when I recognize him. The guy puts up a fuss again and the manager eventually tells him he’ll give him the trade-in credit IF he takes his bug-ridden machine with him and never brings it back. I still get creepy crawlies thinking about those cockroaches.
21. Patience Is A Virtue
I witnessed one. I was waiting to get my hair cut at my local barber and this woman hobbles in. She had a bandage on her head, a bandage over her eye, her arm in a sling, and a cane. She sat down and launched into this horrible sob story about how she had been in this terrible accident and had spent all her money at the hospital and her car was totaled and now she had no way to get back home, etc. And of course, asked for money.
My barber was entirely unperturbed and said: “Okay, just let me finish with my customers.” The lady, thinking she’d hit a score, sat patiently as he did five haircuts, then he calmly walked over to the phone and called the police. Boss.
20. I’m Not Buying That!
I worked at Arby’s as a teenager (this was around 1990). A guy comes in, orders a sandwich and fries and wants to pay with a check. This being the olden days, people paid with checks all the time. But this guy tries to tell me it’s “easier for the bank” if he makes it out to himself instead of to Arby’s because… well, he fired off some convoluted, off-the-cuff rant designed to fool me into buying the story. I was young and naive, but not that naive.
He got mad when I denied him and called me stupid. I asked if he’d like to talk to the manager and he agreed. Three minutes later, my manager is giving the guy stink eye and the dude leaves with no sandwich. Nice try.
19. An Inside Job
At the Kmart returns counter, had a guy try to return a CD (with receipt). The shrink wrap had been sliced and the CD has taken out. He claimed it was like that when he bought it. I told him I couldn’t return it for cash but could swap it for the same thing. He went to get a new CD and brought some other artists. I told him it had to be the exact same thing. I had the electronics employee bring up the right CD. As I checked that they were the same and told him I would give him a new one, a smile grew on his face…which quickly melted away when I took out a knife and cut open the plastic on the CD. No, you can’t return that one later.
Another scammer that I actually caught was this guy who was paralyzed on the left half of his body. He walked slowly around the store, dropping stuff and drooling. (Never did find out if he was actually paralyzed or just part of the scam). One day, I caught him bagging Oxy-Clean in his cart. I notified LP and she watched him. He went through self-checkout and told me he bought the Oxy-Clean in electronics. LP called electronics and no such sale was made. I think she let him go that time but the next time he came in, he got a police escort. This one was an insider job. This guy who worked in electronics also did layaway. One of the service desk girls would put a giant bag of dog food in layaway. Then the electronics guy would empty the bag and fill it with expensive electronics. Turns out they had been getting away with this for years then the LP staff changed and the new lady knew how to police the place.
18. The Jeweler Couldn’t Even Tell The Difference
I work in a high-end jewelry store that does jewelry repair on site. I had a lady come in and drop off an older 80s style Omega chain for a simple solder and fix. We have our customers sign the envelope with a description of the piece and then they sign the same envelope when they pick up their merchandise and are satisfied with the work. This woman saw what I wrote and then signed the bottom, no problem. When she picked up her chain she was ecstatic and said it was the best work she’s ever seen. She pays for the repair and signs the envelope agreeing that the work was all in order. She leaves.
Ten minutes later she calls saying we switched her chain. I’m like look, lady, we haven’t carried this type of chain in over 10 years because no one buys them; I wouldn’t even have a chain to give you. Also, we have cameras in the store including the jeweler’s room; please come in and take a look at the video surveillance assuring you that we didn’t switch your chain. She would not let it go and was insisting that we reimburse her the money for her chain that we switched. That any other store would have done it. I politely let her know that we would be doing no such thing since there is no way we switched her chain. She said she was going to write me the nastiest Yelp review. That was a month ago. I’m still waiting for her to come in and demand her chain. She was clearly scamming since she did not want to see the videotapes and was expecting us to just pay her out. But as a small privately-owned jewelry store, we can’t just accept the customer is always right like the big corporate stores do.
17. You Can’t Fool The Machines
I used to be a cashier at a local grocery store. We had a self-scan checkout. At night, very few employees were on. The store stayed open until 12 a.m., and after around 10:30-11 there were just two people working the front end. At around 11 p.m. one of the self-scan checkouts was blinking. There was a couple standing there waiting for someone to come assist them. So, I go over and ask them what the problem was. They immediately seemed nervous. I look at the items in the belt and compare them with the items on the screen. Something immediately doesn’t add up. Every single item was rung up for $1.20 or so, and was labeled as a marked down general merchandise item. But the things they were buying were all dairy, produce and grocery products.
Also, none of these items would ever be labeled as general merchandise, and I’d be hard-pressed to find they all rang up for $1.20. So, I tell them “Sorry, I need to void the transaction as there seems to be something wrong! Let’s take your groceries to the next check out so that you can get on your way and I’ll sort the problem out.” So we brought all their groceries over to another self-scan lane and I personally rang out each item. The total came out to like 150 or so dollars! They begrudgingly paid and went on their way. Apparently, they had ripped off a general merchandise tag from one of our discount racks and pasted it to their hand to just swipe it and send an item down. The machine realized something was fishy when each item came up at the same price.
16. Just Trust Her “Word”
I work at a movie theater and we received a call from a guest who had to leave because of a group of guys yelling and hurling insults at her and her friends, throwing popcorn and kicking her seats. She claimed that she just left didn’t want to cause a scene and wasn’t going to speak to a manager. Well since this has happened to me in the past with scammers, I ask the basic question, which is “Do you have your tickets and I’ll just give you a pass?” Of course, she paid only in cash, didn’t have anything else that showed she was here; she didn’t know where she was sitting and got her movie showtime wrong twice.
My scam detector went into overdrive but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, so I tried to figure anything out that proved she was here. When she just kept on insisting it wasn’t about the money; she just wanted a few free tickets and we could call it even, I had enough. I told her that since she didn’t have her tickets and the fact that she didn’t talk to anyone after the movie, there wasn’t too much I could do, sorry. The kicker was we have brand new recliners and when she kept insisting they were kicking her seats, I told her that wasn’t possible since there’s about a two feet gap from the back of a seat and a fully reclined chair. She got flustered and just said she couldn’t possibly explain how they did it; we should just trust her word. Not likely.
15. We Don’t Carry That Brand
A guy came in and said, “I’d like to return this unopened pack of cigarettes I purchased earlier today at your establishment.” I open the store every day, and I hadn’t seen this dude once that day. I looked at his cigarettes and they were a brand we don’t carry. I asked him for a receipt to “confirm” he purchased them here, but he obviously didn’t have one. “That’s fine! If you can just tell me what time you were in here today I can look it up on our cameras to confirm your purchase.” My god the backpedaling and stuttering. I grabbed his cigarette pack and fake examined them. “Wait a moment sir, are you sure you purchased these at this store? I don’t think we carry this brand.” He took the cigarettes back, came up with something like his brother must have bought them yada yada and then he walked out.
A tobacco store in town sells some of the brands we carry at a much cheaper price, so people like to try and do returns at our store to make a quick buck. We generally don’t take any returns on tobacco, but this guy didn’t even scope out his mark.
14. What Just Happened?
One of my embarrassing memories from working retail is falling for one of these scams. Some guy came in and wanted to pay for a cheap item with a $100 bill. I count out his change and am about to hand it over (let’s say $95.15) when he changes his mind and says, “Oh wait, give me that $100 back, I have exact change. I can give you the .85 cents so that you won’t need to give me the coins and you can just give me the $95.” And didn’t I just hand it over. He spaced it out just long enough that I was still holding the $95 and because I had to take time to put the coins away by that point I completely forgot that I had given him back his $100.
I had no idea it had happened until the next day when my manager brought me in to review the video and asked me if I remembered the customer on the screen. I did (because the guy was friendly and we had chatted while I started ringing him up.) I even told my manager “Oh yeah, nice guy” and then was informed of what had happened. It’s one of the few times in my life I can remember being honestly startled and blown away that I hadn’t realized what happened.
I work at a major cell phone retailer. I once had a man come in with his wife to do an upgrade to whatever the new iPhone was at that time. While they were sitting in the store working with one of my reps (I was in management at the time) the wife starts getting text messages from someone claiming to be her husband’s mistress. This did not go over well. They took it outside before it got overly nasty, and we all assumed they were gone for good. Not so, the husband comes back in. Alone. He finishes upgrading his phone (priorities) and left.
The very next day he tried to return the phone claiming that we had sold him one with screen damage. He brings it in, and it looks like someone took a diamond ring or something to the screen and scratched the heck out of it. Now, we have a strict “open the box and hand it to the customer before they leave” policy to avoid these situations. I was able to pull tape, show the customer where he held the phone for a good five minutes without pointing out any flaws, and tell him that my company offers no warranty on that brand even if it’s bad out of the box, and especially when he didn’t show it to us before leaving the store. I suggested he take it up with the manufacturer if he truly believed the phone was damaged out of the box. He did, right there in the store he called them. They also told him to kick rocks. The best part? I was new to management so I didn’t have a manager name tag yet. He asked to speak to the manager and I got to give him my best evil grin and say “I am the manager.” He left after that and we never saw him again.
12. There’s No Such Thing As Free Lunch
When I worked on a grocery checkout, a woman pulled a barcode label from a container of $4 tinned fruit and stuck it over the barcode of a $25 container of Medjool dates. She pretended that she didn’t do it. Another time a man carried a $30 bag of dog food to the customer service counter without paying for it and asked for a refund. My manager gave it to him even though we both knew he had stolen it while we watched him.
Oh, and another time a group of people were using fake credit cards to steal. Not sure exactly how it worked but they ended up typing in a different card number into the card terminal while another dude tried to distract you. These guys were super friendly and chatty and probably thought I was young and dumb but I caught them trying to take off with about $500 worth of groceries. They were all like, “Just let us go and get some cash out; we’ll be back soon to pay.” They never returned and my manager gave me a box of chocolates for picking up on it. It was the proudest moment of my retail career.
11. Burn Baby, Burn
A customer comes into the store and said, “I ordered a Fanta and the lid came off because you didn’t put it on properly, and it ruined all my food… and I want you to replace my order.” “When was this?” I asked. He explains it was last night and I ask what he ordered and it was two double quarter large meals. Mmmm, I am thinking… “So do you have the receipt?” “No,” he says. “Do you have food?” No again.
So I explain that there is, unfortunately, nothing I can do. He then loses it and starts screaming at me, “You ain’t going to replace my food when you didn’t put the lid on properly? It’s your freaking fault blah blah blah…” Nothing I can do, I repeat (maybe realizing he has met his match in this timeless battle of wits). Well, he then replies, “And I got burnt.” His face was priceless when I reminded him that he said he had purchased a Fanta and so this wouldn’t burn, and his walk of shame out of the restaurant empty-handed was a thing of real satisfaction.
10. The Missing $20
I had a guy come to the bowling alley I worked at wanting to play in our arcade. You have to put money on a card to play the games cause we have card swipers on all our games and tickets go straight to the card. He walks into the redemption store I’m in and goes, “Hey man I just put $20 in the teller and it took my money and is saying I didn’t put anything in; can you give me a card with $20 on it?” Well, that’s weird, let’s check it out.
I grab a manager and walk over to the teller and the manager proceeds to open it up and take out the cash box and would you look there? Not a single bill, hmm weird. “Uhhh, do these other tellers work?” Yeah bud, all the tellers work just fine.
9. Oh, Retail Life…
I had a guy try to return two Sega CD games for cash. The problem was they were wrapped in saran wrap. And then had the gall to exchange them for properly wrapped games so he could go across the street to Walmart and return them for cash there. He and his buddy must have really needed beer money. I have also seen people try on new shoes, put the old ones in the box, and walk out with the new ones.
I also had an old man act like he was pulling a weapon out of his waist just to get away from loss prevention. And one of my favorites, we had the two women grab a bag from luggage and put all these rolls of film in the bag. Then try to ditch the bag because we were following them.
8. That’s Not For You
I had a customer try to use a coupon on his phone. Several problems with this. It’s against corporate policy to scan coupons off the phone. There’s a sheet of paper taped to the counter with all of the rules and it’s like the sixth one on it.
When my stupid manager scanned the stupid thing anyways the system rejected the coupon saying that the coupon wasn’t issued to him. The offer that the coupon was for was different than the offer shown on his phone. There was an Instagram stamp on the coupon on his phone.
7. You Can’t Fool Me The Second Time Around
I worked in a kinda pricey BBQ restaurant. One night we had a couple come in when we had a new manager on duty and the couple said they bought food that day and it wasn’t good and wanted a refund. I knew something was fishy but manager panicked and refunded them under someone else’s ticket (he was later fired for a different reason). About two weeks later the same couple came in again with our main manager on duty and I instantly recognized them and told him don’t believe a word they say.
They tried the same scam and when my manager didn’t fall for it, the husband realized he was caught and said “Let’s just go” while the wife said “We’re never coming here again” and “You’re gonna get a bad review.” Pretty sure they had an addiction habit they couldn’t keep up with. This was all over $30.
6. We’re Watching You
I worked at a Fossil store for a while and if customers brought in their Fossil pieces we would replace the batteries. So this guy brings in his watch, needs the battery replaced–no problem. I take his watch to the back and replace the battery. I bring it out front and hand it to him. He looks at it for a moment, then looks at me and says: “That’s not my watch.” I didn’t know what to say. I legit said to the guy: “I’m sorry, sir; I don’t know what to tell you. That’s your watch, it didn’t leave my hands from the moment you gave it to me.” He looks at it again and says, “No, that’s not my watch.”
We spent a painfully awkward moment just staring at each other (I had no idea what to say) and then just sort of repeated the above interaction a few more times. Eventually, I said, “I can ask for clearance from my manager to show you the repair station if you want to take a look back there.” My manager walks over and says “Everything okay?” and the guy just walks out the door. I still have no idea what he was trying to do.
5. You Can’t Manipulate Me, Sir
I worked at a supermarket and at certain times of the day, we do discounts on products that are going to expire soon. For example, in the morning they’ll be discounted by 20% and by the afternoon, 50%. I was stocking shelves one evening and a man brought something to me that was expiring the next day and had only been discounted by 20%. I put it up to 50% and say, “Thanks for letting me know; have a good night.” Less than five minutes later, he’s back with a whole handful of new products asking me to discount them by 50% also. I try to explain that we only discount products that are approaching their expiry date; he argues and says I just did one so I should be able to do all of them.
Usually, when customers try to talk me into doing extra discounts for them I explain that it’s policy blah blah blah and I can get in trouble and lose my job (not untrue). He then tells me he has a friend named Kate (changed for the story) who works there too and she does special discounts for him all the time. I know this is untrue but I tell him again that I’m not risking my job to give him more discounts and he eventually drops it and leaves. People try this all the time–this other person who works here has done that for me before! Cool, well I’m not that person and I know I’m not allowed to do it! It bugs me a lot because they think they can manipulate poor minimum wage staff into doing whatever they want. I got a lot of customers who pull the “the customer is always right” crap on me too.
4. Sadly, The Manager Gave In
Not super dramatic, but kind of sad. I was working the register in a mall department store and policy was to only take returns without tags if they had a receipt. A middle-aged woman comes up and says she wants a refund on some clothes. She dumps out what amounts to dirty laundry of clothes that haven’t been sold for at least a year and a half. I asked if there was anything wrong, and as being well-worn, the fit couldn’t have been the issue. The lady says, no, but that the owner, her son, is in jail now and doesn’t need them. She wanted a full retail price, which she was happy to tell me what that should be.
I tried politely enforcing the policy, but she wasn’t having it. I called for a manager, who, to my dismay, gave her what she asked for. That was more than I was going to earn over two nights of work. I guess they needed the money more than the store did but I couldn’t believe the gall of somebody to legally rob a store like that.
3. Stealing And Bringing Back
I work at a convenience store, and we sell phone chargers for exorbitant prices because they prey on the desperate who need a charger RIGHT NOW. People steal these chargers all the time and try to bring them back for a refund. We don’t take them back without a receipt with our store address on it anymore because this is such a common occurrence.
I also had a guy steal a fidget spinner (I watched him do it from the aisle) and try to bring it back for the whole refund of $6.
2. Yes, You Can, But First…
I actually had a situation at an electronics store that sold a lot of different things but most relevant was video games (PS3 at the time). A couple walked in and wanted to return 13 new-ish games, seven of which were actually same title. I was in charge of purchasing, boxing and restocking all of the games and of course I noticed the games suddenly “selling out” without actual sales behind the stock number drops (meaning I knew they were stolen).
It was pretty obvious to me that the games had been stolen and I checked the cams and saw that they used an empty baby-cart to carry the stolen games. They bought some small things like cables or low-end headphones with cash. The couple walked in and asked to return the games and I answered “Yes, absolutely! I just need your social security number, your address, and your credit card number.” Thieves really aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawers most of the time.
1. They Just Look The Same
The customer returned a fake ring for $100. They had a real receipt that physically described the ring they brought in. I didn’t recognize it, and I even checked for it. But I ultimately accepted the return because it seemed legit.
What they did was buy a real ring (or obtain a real receipt some other way). Then they bought a fake $5 ring that matched the description on the real receipt. Return fake ring, get cash. Actually pretty smart.