We've all worked a dead-end job before. Lousy hours, lousy pay, and even lousier clientele. They also call it a dead-end job because it makes you feel dead inside! Relive the dog days of retail and service with these stories from fed-up workers.
The Girl In The Cactus Scrubs
“Working in a psychiatric hospital (19F), an extremely psychotic, pregnant with twins young woman would only talk to the girl in the cactus scrub top (me). Naive me wanted to help this woman, the only way she said she would cooperate is if we were behind closed doors, which would NOT happen, obviously, but we did the best to make her comfortable within the protocol. She was also completely bare. Anyways, security in the door, two staff outside, and me trying to console this psychotic woman who LOVED my cactus scrub top. She decides she finally wants to get dressed and wear my shirt so she pushes me up against the way and tried to take it off. Security was on her quick and I was out the door. $15 entry-level job, pretty much fresh out of high school, one of many stories.”
“I used to be a counselor at a methadone clinic. Had a client who was going to prison for slitting the throats of his ex-wife’s beloved rottweilers because ‘I couldn’t kill her and it was the best way to hurt her. ‘
The day he was supposed to go to prison, he showed up at the clinic, after dosing hours, demanding his dose. He was no longer in the clinic so, legally, there was no way to do this. I stood behind the counter and tried to explain the situation to him. He grew more and more irate and then called his lawyer and put me on the phone with him. His lawyer explained that this dude didn’t show up for prison, was now a fugitive, and had pulled a knife on his own sister in her car just outside my clinic. So, the dude had a knife. The lawyer told me not to tick the dude off. He was violent and to call the cops.
By this point, every other therapist and office worker had mosied the heck out. So, I told the lawyer thanks, hung up the phone, and mosied the heck out of the front office and called the cops from the break room. The dude hopped over the counter and trashed the place and left.
The bosses asked why I didn’t stay and make sure he didn’t trash the place. I explained they paid me $10.50 an hour and refused my raise. I was the only man in the building and was left alone with an armed violent felon. Forget this.
I also worked at Blockbuster in college for chump change. A bunch of dudes shoplifted the heck out of us and when me and the other guy confronted them about it, they ran out of the door. District Manager asked why I didn’t put myself between them and the door to protect the merchandise, I told them for minimum wage I’m not putting myself in danger to keep a giant corporation from losing some Twizzlers and a copy of Friday and Armageddon.”
Wonder If That Guy Wound Up Having Rabies Or Not
“The first day at the health department, I’m left at the reception desk alone while literally, everyone else in the office went out to a farewell lunch for the person I was replacing. As I was on 90-day probation, wasn’t yet licensed, and badged, my pay was $7.96 per hour.
I’m sitting at reception, and some redneck comes in with a leaking garbage bag and drops it on my desk. It contains a newly beheaded feral hog head. His buddy had been bitten, and it needed to be tested for rabies ASAP.
I had no clue what to do with a leaking garbage bag with a severed boar head in it. He couldn’t wait for others to return, so he left a number and split.
Turns out, we don’t do that sort of thing at the health department. Guy refused to come back.”
Run, Billy Run!!!!
“I used to work at Old Country Buffet, and there were kids who would eat until they threw up ALL THE TIME.
This one case that is seared into my mind was when I was once fixing up the salad bar and I heard ‘Billy Run!’ screamed from an ignorant parent and then I see this 12ish-year-old boy running to the bathroom, only he didn’t make it. An unholy amount of undigested red Jello-O came exploded out of him like a volcano all over the Caesar Salad, the floor next to the cash register, and on about 5 or 6 diners waiting in line to get in. It looked like he had literally vomited his guts out in an arc about 10 feet in diameter. I had to sweep up the chunks with a broom until a dishwasher with a mop could take care of the rest.”
“Ya’ll Don’t Pay Me Enough For That Stinky Biz”
“I’m a plumber and got a call from a mobile owner complaining about a stinky yard.
The moment I pulled up in my van I could smell the terrible stench from the road.
It was a new mobile home and had only been set up for about eight months. But while setting it up, someone didn’t tighten a no-hub band of the toilet in the kids’ bathroom which caused constant leaks.
Eight months of toilet flushes were all over the ground, under the home, and was now making its horrifying way outside and all over the yard.
I told the homeowner to call the guys that set it up to come to fix it. I wasn’t crawling under there. Ya’ll don’t pay me enough for that stinky biz.”
“I’d Rather Crawl Through Doodies Than Snakes”
“Back when I did plumbing went out to a job that required us to crawl into the crawl space of about a 200-year-old mill house. I opened up the crawl space and shined my light in there across the crawl space to see all the rafters and pipes just draped in snakeskins and some snakes slithering away into the darkness. Noped the heck out of that one. I’d rather crawl through doodies than snakes.”
These People Love Diddling
“I was the manager of a well-known lingerie store. Our location was in a failing suburban mall. The store was giant and shaped oddly. There were dressing rooms in odd hidden corners and a few blind spots. The store was located at the end of the mall next to other stores no one really went to, so there wasn’t much foot traffic. We were also always short-staffed because no one wanted to work out there. All of those factors made us a prime location for thieves and weirdos.
I would have to do laps around the store due to its layout, and I would regularly come across people doing hanky panky in this one secluded little dressing room. The dressing room was in a sort of alcove and was the least visible spot in the store, so it was prime real estate for all kinds of shenanigans. The final straw was catching a man at closing time, diddling into a pile of cotton panties with the dressing room door wide open. I couldn’t take it anymore. I put in my notice the next day.
And what was crazy was that corporate always shrugged or laughed it off when I would call and complain that we needed a security guard. I was 21 at the time, and every woman that worked there was between 19-30; it was a safety issue, and they’d also blame us for all the merchandise theft, which we were unable to prevent because there weren’t enough bodies in that gigantic store to prevent it.
I was also dating a guy who also worked in the mall, and he told me that they finally closed up that one dressing room not long after I left. He said a lot of folks were ticked off because apparently that one little dressing room was a well-known open secret spot for hooking up.”
This Ain’t Your Fault But Let Me Be Rude Anyways
“Working $10 an hour in Disney World on an attraction. There’s one position called merge, where your job is to stop the stand by line and send the Fastpass line. Fastpass is normally based on reservation, but if another ride breaks down in the park, they’ll give out fast passes that can be used pretty much anywhere.
One day almost every ride in the park was broken except ours, which meant EVERYONE was coming to our Fastpass line. I was sending 150-200 people through Fastpass for every 10 I was sending through standby, for roughly an hour, and I didn’t even come close to clearing the line.
The people in the standby line were screaming at me, starting chants, taking pictures of me (and my nametag), and just generally being awful. My favorite was one guy repeatedly screaming ‘I KNOW THIS ISNT YOUR FAULT MAN BUT THIS IS BULL**‘, in front of his six kids.
I just calmly stood there and just kept saying to everyone ‘Sorry folks, but I really don’t have any control over this.’
I got off easy though. I know people that have been pushed, punched, and spit on amongst other things. A bunch of my friends ended up breaking down crying while they were working Merge.
If you go to Disney, do your research on how to avoid lines, and remember that the cast members are people too.”
Accident On Aisle 4
“Working at a large chain retail store and someone made a little poopsie in the toy aisle. Oh, look! A mess for me to clean! And what’s that over yonder? Another one not far away! A nice little trail of brown nuggets left behind and leading me on the worst scavenger hunt ever all the way across the store to the bathrooms. What do I find waiting for me inside? The mothership turd, sitting proudly in a small heap on the floor in the corner. Merely a few feet away from an actual, factual, functioning toilet.
Turns out a kid was in the toy aisle with their parent, and couldn’t hold it in any longer, followed by a mad dash to the bathroom. My supervisor literally said they felt bad for me, and I didn’t get paid enough by corporate. Raise? No. $5 gift card? Yeah.
The same place also came in for a routine bathroom check, go into the stall and find doodie on the wall. The strange part? It’s at shoulder height and streaking down the wall like doodie mascara from the stall crying after whatever-it-was had been done. I have no clue what happened, and to this very day, I still like to imagine someone doing a handstand inside this tiny stall and blasting a butt nugget against the wall.”
Bob You’re An Idiot
“I worked as a barista in a very touristy area. I’d say 85% of the orders were from people we’d never see again and 15% were people who came in multiple times a day every day. The locals we treated great, we’d start making their drinks the minute they walked into the store and give them little freebies like add shots or extra syrup. As a result, the locals treated us great too. The tourists we treated how they treated us.
There were multiple times I heard my big sassy gay boss not quite yell, but use a thunderously loud patronizing voice that the entire store could hear when someone grabbed the wrong drink.
‘Hey! This isn’t my drink!’
‘Sir, what’s your name?’
‘Well Bob, why did you grab Amy’s drink?’
‘How the heck was I supposed to know it was Amy’s drink? That girl set it in front of me!’
‘Well Bob, it says Amy in big black letters on the side of the cup and she announced it was a caramel late for Amy. Now I have to make Amy a new drink because you grabbed whatever was in front of you without reading it.’
‘Well, where the heck is my drink?’
‘It’s coming up after I re-make Amy’s drink that you took a sip of. It will say B O B in big letters on the side of it. Okay?’
I’m not sure how there weren’t more complaints. Nice people were treated great, but idiots were met with open contempt and sarcasm.”
Well Ain’t That The Truth Though
“I worked at Circuit City when I was 17. Heard a noise of packaging being opened in the movie section, found a guy crouched down cutting open DVD boxes & stealing the discs. He looked at me, held his knife out, and said ‘Got a problem?’
I just replied, ‘I don’t get paid enough for this job’ and backed off. I went to the back room of the warehouse area to call a manager to tell them what happened. Never could get a hold of anyone so I just chilled in the warehouse area for a half-hour to decompress.”
A Cashier With Nothing To Lose
“Grocery store cashier. The customer was angry because her cereal had rung up wrong. I called a price check and this lady berated me the whole time. I recall that she accused me of trying to steal from her. Said she was going to get me fired.
I looked at her and said, ‘I make $7.25 per hour no matter how much you pay for this cereal, so I do not give a care how this situation turns out.’
She stared at me in shock. The price check comes back saying the price scanned correctly. Silence.
I said, ‘So do you want the cereal or not?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ And that was that. She did not complain to the manager.”
One Word: NOPE
“I have a mildly irrational fear of spiders. I was asked to help clean out an old storage area/shed type building. It was covered in dust and a ton of these big black spiders but a big enough space that I felt fine. Until my supervisor handed me a leaf blower and asked me to go through a back hallway with it.
Opened the door to the hallway and it was cramped, just tall enough to be a little over my height and just wide enough for me to walk through. Except there was no light so it was pitch black until I held up my phone flashlight and saw the largest mess of tangled webs filled to the absolute brim with thousands of the big black spiders. Straight up refused to walk down that thing, especially with a leaf blower. Like no thanks, I don’t want to create a spider tornado.
My supervisor was irritated with me that I refused to do this, but I would rather be fired than walk through the arachnid nightmare hallway for $10 an hour.”
Doing It For Those Student Loans
“I’m a public librarian. I was helping someone in the computer room and turned to tell someone he needed to keep his exclamations at the video he was watching down. Just then, the woman I was helping leaped aside because the man I was shushing peed himself. It ran down onto the jacket he had tied around his waist, down the chair, onto the ground. Turns out he’d snuck in some spirits and was totally blackout wasted. I told him he had to leave. He put the pee pee covered jacket on and stumbled out.
As I returned with gloves and cleaning supplies, another patron decided this was a good time to complain about some kids who were making noise. I took a deep breath and said ‘This is a good time for us all to appeal to our higher selves and do our best at the moment. Please just adapt for a minute.’ Then I thought about the student loans I took out for the master’s degree as I scrubbed up this silly man’s pee pee.”
A Geniunely Heartwarming Story
“My first job was at a small-town grocery store when I was 15 in 1992. The store manager there was without question the best boss I will ever have. He empowered the part-time kids to make decisions in their department because we knew what was going on, he promoted women to management positions at a rate higher than any other store (at one time all major departments were managed by women – meat, produce, grocery, deli, cash), he never had a kid miss a prom because of work (on prom nights all the adults had to cover our shifts), he never raised his voice to a customer or employee, and the only thing you could do to really get fired was to steal – that he took personally.
I learned more from working with him than 5 years of school and countless management training seminars.
He had a way of knowing when something was off about you and would always manage to find a way to have a chat with you in the break room. You could talk to him about life and love, your parents, college decisions, friends, and all the other things about your teen years that seem unmanageable. He doled out advice and life lessons in 15-minute increments. More than one person had a cry with him after a breakup, and sometimes that 15-minute break would need to be a 30….. then when he managed to get you on track, he would smack the table, laugh, and say ‘Well! That’s enough about that!’ And then get up and leave and never mention it again, unless of course, you did first.
He also had a knack for giving out lessons in passing. I remember one day he walked up to me and said with a straight face, ‘Luke, promise me that you will never make fun of a man’s shoes, okay?’ And I laughed and said, ‘Sure……why?’ He replied, ‘Because you never know how far he’s walked in them to get where he is today…’ There’s something so simple about that, that it’s stuck with me 25 years later.
One time at Christmas when the lines were long there was a bit of a commotion at one of the tills. One of the poorer guys in town didn’t have enough money to pay for all his holiday groceries. They were trying to figure out what to put back so he could afford it. Pat walked up and asked what was going on. The man sheepishly looked at him and said, ‘Sorry Pat, I’m a bit short this week…’ Right away Pat looked at the man and the cashier and said, ‘Take what you need and put the rest on my tab, pay me when you can.’ Then he walked away. Many years later, I shared this story in my eulogy at his funeral, I looked up and saw that same man in the back row. Our eyes locked and he gave me a nod. I like to think that small gesture meant a lot to his family.
When he was dying of cancer a few years back I went to see him in the hospital. We had a really long chat and talked about the good old days. His last life lesson to me was about stealing. He said that in the store we used to have thousands and thousands of dollars in merchandise, but there wasn’t a dang thing in there worth stealing. He said that there wasn’t anything in there worth losing your reputation and honor for… He said, ‘Look at me, I’m dying here and the only thing I have left is my reputation.’ I said I’d try to come back and see him again and offered him my hand. He told me that there wasn’t going to be any more time for another visit. He took my hand, looked me in the eye, and said ‘You were always a good kid, I’m going to miss you and I love you.’ I told him I loved him too and gave him a hug and then left.
He died the next week.
It was a real honor when I was able to speak at his funeral on behalf of all the part-time kids who worked with him over the course of his career.
Pat Jones, you were awesome, and now all these people know how awesome you were too.”
Yet Another Plumber Story!
“Had to do a tie for a 6” waste stack main to offset it for a boiler to go in later at a hospital. Told all staff and had maintenance shut down bathrooms from 6 am-8 am for us to do the offsets. Had everything measured cut and ready to move into place? Stupid staff on every floor ignored the signs because we got constant flushes of fresh doodies and shredded toilet paper. At one point I was holding the outlet side of a horizontal piece with my hardhat and trying to no hub band the fitting for it in place while doodie literally rolled down my back and into my shirt, down my pants, my socks were soaked in the waste. Took us a total time of 45 minutes but scheduled a two-hour window just in case. The worst part of this was that they had another bathroom option just down the hall. So inconsiderate… this trade sucks sometimes
Yes, we locked out tagged out as many valves as possible believed to shutdown the stacks. This “building” was really five different buildings built in different eras and tied together. The maintenance didn’t know enough to give us confirmation on which valves close which lines. We also discovered nearly two years later that multiple sections of the building were cross supplied meaning that water is able to flow into a line that it technically shouldn’t be able to supply.
It’s not just as simple as locking a bathroom door. Its multiple bathrooms over six stories and one of the floors happened to by a psych ward that has bathrooms that do not lock and we were not permitted to enter.
As an installer, you don’t get to schedule this kind of doodie when you want. Your supervisor tells you when it’s going to happen and gives you a timeline to complete it. They coordinate with a GC who coordinates with the staff and they determine what day, time, location is best. We barely get to weigh in on poorly engineered system designs without waiting weeks or months for decisions to be made.”