BEST OF 2023: 'Do you work here?': What do you do when you're always mistaken for staff?

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Chris Roe

Region’s Chris Roe is always being asked for help while shopping. Photo: Chris Roe.

Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Chris Roe shares a personal problem.

Have you ever been browsing at a local store and been mistaken for an employee? It’s always an awkward moment and for some reason, it happens to me all the time.

I’ve never worked in retail, but apparently, I’ve got a face for customer service and I am frequently subjected to questions and demands from fellow shoppers and, on one occasion, from the staff.

I was walking through Target a few years back when a manager approached and ordered me to move a pile of boxes. I was very confused as she huffily repeated the command to “move the boxes and then start unpacking aisle three”.

After a few frozen moments, the realisation dawned on both of us that her black polo with a red Target logo and her red lanyard and ID were the mirror image of my own company shirt and red SBS lanyard.

“Um, I don’t work for you,” I stammered.

“Oh, I thought you were new,” she replied with a red face and hurried away to harass a nearby teenager in similar attire.

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Wearing a lanyard with a key card is certainly a factor in some of the cases of mistaken identity.

I’m now in the habit of taking mine off whenever I’m in JB Hi-Fi after being accosted on my lunch break by one particularly cranky woman who insisted that I worked there.

“Well, why have you got that thing on then,” she asked, poking me in the chest and storming off.

Earlier this year I was walking past Lowes on and stepped aside to let a woman with a pram go past. I didn’t even set foot in the shop but was hit with a question by a man looking at the racks of jumpers on the street!

Perhaps I need to develop a more clever reply to deflect the socially awkward encounters, but they always catch me by surprise.

Why does everyone think I work here? Photo: Chris Roe.

Why does everyone think I work here? Photo: Chris Roe.

Last week, things reached new heights as I browsed through a large Sydney department store and took an armload of jeans to the changerooms.

The woman who had greeted me and issued a numbered plastic tab was not at the counter as I emerged and I placed the jumble of garments down to sort the keepers from the rejects.

“I have two!” declared an elderly lady, approaching the counter and waving a pair of shirts at me.

I was cornered. A middle-aged bloke with a face for retail, dressed in dark clothing and folding items on a counter. What else would I be doing there?

“Sorry I don’t work here,” I mumbled, but only succeeded in provoking an impatient glare and the repeated declaration of “two”, this time accompanied by the same number of fingers.

“No worries, head on through,” I said, giving in and gesturing to the women’s side of the changing rooms.

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But as she headed through, a second woman with a gaggle of kids arrived and held out a hand to me: “I’ve got five”.

“I don’t work here,” I repeated, my voice lost amid the children’s shrieks, and the beleaguered mum looked at me in confusion, hand still extended for her token.

“No worries,” I said again, this time handing her the plastic tab I’d been issued earlier and pointing after the first lady.

“Take the second one on the right.”

Now desperate to extricate myself from an increasingly awkward situation, I bundled up the chosen pair of jeans and turned to flee.

Too slow, I bumped into a third woman coming through the curtain but was relieved (and surprised) to recognise my former GP who I’d not seen since moving from Sydney to Wagga.

“Hi Dr Karen, I haven’t seen you for a while,” I said with a smile.

“Hi Chris,” she replied, before adding, “I’ve got three items to try on thanks.”

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

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cannedbeeria6:50 pm 30 Dec 23

Give them what they want, take their money and quietly exit the store…

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