Retail Employees Tell Stories About How They Were Scammed by Customers

Shannon Quinn - June 29, 2021
People try to use expired digital coupons all the time. Credit: Shutterstock

20. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished 

This next story comes from a retail employee called PoolAddict41. “I had a customer come to purchase some stuff, and they had found a coupon from 3 years ago on Google Images. This was for 50% off the whole purchase. I told her I can’t do that. The only one we had going at the time was not viable for her purchase. She yelled stupid loud, stormed out cursing, and I felt good. She emailed the corporate office, and I got in trouble for making her upset.”

Someone tried to return bottles of detergent filled with water. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Now It’s Bottled Water

In this story by TailesofMom, they caught a customer trying to scam them out of laundry detergent. This is one of those scams where you would never see it coming. It’s a good thing that they discovered the truth before the next customer got screwed. 

“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. Then, she walked off to do her shopping. I wonder how it smells, so I open the detergent and smell it. It’s water. Both of these jugs are filled with warm water. During the exchange, she tries to claim they were like that when she bought them. I explain I can’t return them and she will have to talk to the Day Manager. (Boss Lady who has final say.) She decided not to do that, and left.”

A woman tried to return makeup she had stolen from another store. Credit: Shutterstock

18. A Stupid Mistake

It’s a common scam that people will try to shoplift from one store, and then try to return that item to another place. But when they take forget to the security tags off like this next story from M37h3w3, that’s pretty funny. “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.”

“Also: Customer tries to return some makeup without a receipt. I look it over and tell her I can’t return it. She tries to say that we have to since we sell it here and what not. I tell her I can’t return it because it has a security label from the grocery store that’s five miles down the road. She books it out and leaves said makeup behind.”

This store had a stupid return policy. Credit: Shutterstock

17. The Standards Are Very Low Here

“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 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 the 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 it 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.” Gross! That story was from IWantAnlguana. This almost sounds like the manager was in on the scam, too.

Mobile retailers must deal with a lot of scams. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Everyone Wants a Free iPhone

Just like the other story we mentioned earlier, it seems like a lot of people try to get away with swapping broken phones. Valhallan1984 was not having it.

“Sold a guy a phone years ago when I worked for a wireless carrier. Spent an hour getting all his information transferred and setting 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. He proceeded to tell me that is how it looked when he left the store. Needless to say the phone was not replaced.”

A story of a man who tried to scam Best Buy into giving him a free laptop. Credit: Shutterstock

15. He Left Behind All of the Evidence

Never try to trick an employee at Best Buy, like vick7171. They actually know how to use technology! “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. Manager gave him a full refund. We started to check that old laptop he brought in. It won’t turn on. Looks like the motherboard was toast. We pulled the hard drive out and started checking the data. 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. Manager called him and said he has 15 mins to bring the new laptop back or he is calling the police. That guy came in, dropped the laptop at the front desk. Never saw him again in the store.”

A delivery service employee tells a story of a customer who tried to scam the company. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Delivery Services Get Screwed, Too

A delivery service employee named Jasmminne tells a story of someone who tried to cheat her way out of not paying an invoice. 

“Not traditional retail. But I 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. So I was able to go back on all records and was able to find both a photo of the first package on her front door step (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.”

Stealing credit cards to buy gift cards is a common scam. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Apparently It Doesn’t Pay to Do The Right Thing

A user called anonymous_trash caught someone trying to use a stolen credit card. “I’ve been in and out of retail for 10 years. One time at a part time gig (I have a full time job, too), this couple came in, looking sketchy as anything. Definitely high on something. 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.”

“The woman comes up to me, and purchases $400 worth of gift cards. When it’s 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. When I looked at the photo of the woman in the driver’s license, she 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!”

One super stinky story. Credit: Shutterstock

12. The Worst One Yet

Okay, this story by MateriaBubbles is so many levels of messed up. “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. The levels of how impossible that would have been to be unnoticed by changing room staff, to then be put on the shop floor, to then be picked up by the customer , to being bought via a cashier still unnoticed.”

“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: Faeces inside.’ One of the bigger ‘what’ moments I’ve had in any job that I’ve worked.”

A story about working at Arby’s in the 1990’s. Credit: Shutterstock

11. That’s Not How Banking Works

HawaiianBrian tells a story of working fast food in the 90’s. “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, called me stupid. So I asked if he’d like to talk to the manager and he agreed. Three minutes later my manager is giving the guy a stink eye and the dude leaves with no sandwich. Nice try.”

People took advantage of an online coupon from Petsmart. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Give an Inch, They Take a Mile

This Petsmart employee has deleted their Reddit account, but the retail story still remains. “I’m not usually at the register, but when the store I used to work at first opened, they would send out coupons to specific people if they had PetPerks. Well, someone shared their coupon online, which was for a free bag of dog food. What proceeded was a mass of people coming in the next few weeks attempting (and succeeding) to redeem the coupon, as we didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot after newly opening. Anyway, I get put on the register and this woman comes through with 12 bags of dog food and 12 coupons. We can’t actually do that on the same purchase, and usually when someone does that (having two coupons), we just do two different transactions. It’s whatever.” 

“But this lady has 12. I’m lazy so I called my manager over to deal with it. The manager tries to explain to the woman that the coupons aren’t technically valid as it’s for a specific person for one bag. Woman keeps pushing on the fact that she physically has the coupons so they must work and acts like she doesn’t understand why they won’t. Eventually the manager says, you know what? We’ll do it but only for 6 bags. Woman throws a fit and leaves the entire cart. Coulda got 6 bags free but nope. Manager said she’d seen the woman doing the exact same thing at Dollar General the day before.”

A man tried to lie in order to get free games at the arcade. Credit: Shutterstock

9. No Free Games For You, Sir

PlutoCouldBeAPlanet tells a retail story about working at a bowling alley. It just goes to show that most people aren’t prepared for management to call their bluff.

“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. Tickets go straight to the card. He walks into the redemption store 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 where 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.”

In this story, a woman ran out after getting a free facial. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Beauty is Free

Ninjacat01 tells a story of how a woman got away with never paying for a facial. Honestly, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. “Customer came in for her 1 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, then exclaimed she had left her credit card in her bag which she had left in the car. Then she quickly said, “I’ll be back in five” – and never returned. We caught on pretty quickly, but she had disappeared, and the phone number she had given us was fake.”

A father stealing his son’s adderrall is probably more common than you think. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Tweaking is a Red Flag

This sad story by Moogula1992 is probably something that happens more often than you think. “A guy comes into my pharmacy to fill his son’s Adderall prescription. Guy is super twitchy and son is chill as could be. For all controls we are supposed to run a report that shows every where in the state they have filled any. Of course the report is a mess. Multiple pharmacys, 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.”

“Dad comes back, we tell him that we can’t fill it and dad 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 use 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 son’s pills. Get help and stop using your son to get high on prescription medication.”

This story must be old if it involves Sega CD’s. Credit: Shutterstock

6. This Must Be a Rough Neighborhood

KeetoJM tells multiple stories of retail nightmare scenarios. “Had a guy try to return 2 Sega CD games for cash. 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. Him and his buddy must have really needed beer money.”

“Also have seen people try on new shoes, put the old ones in the box, and walk out with the new ones. Had an old man act like he was pulling a gun out of his waist just to get away from loss prevention. And one of my favorites- Had the two women grab a bag from luggage and put all of the rolls of film in the bag. Then try to ditch the bag because we were following them.”

People lose their phone all the time, so this guy just had to try. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Lost and Found

HermesCat tells a story about how a customer tried to score a free iPhone by pretending about losing one. “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 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 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.”

This woman liked the TV so much, she stole it. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Logic

A department store employee called RocketSLC helped to apprehend a woman who was attempting to steal a Smart TV. “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 in electronics, and she said she wanted to pick up a couple more things. I went to help another customer when I realized the woman was rushing towards the front of the store with the TV. Immediately, I radioed loss prevention that someone was trying to run out with a TV. 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.

Large bags of dog food seem to be a common theme in these stories. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Caught Them Red Handed

“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 different card numbers 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. Proudest moment of my retail career.” Good job, PuddingandP1e.

When you work at a gun shop, stopping someone from buying one can save lives. Credit: Shutterstock

2. A True Hero

Supergazm literally saved two people’s lives in this story. “I ran the gun counter at a store. One day a sketchy guy came in to buy a handgun. I didn’t like the way he was acting, and the way he was answering my questions. So I decided that I was not going to sell him a gun. My store is strict about this. If I didn’t feel comfortable, I could deny the sale and there’s nothing he could do. He could call managers and HQ and complain, but they will always side with me. The man hands me his ID to start the paperwork. I always let them start the process so that I have names and addresses. His name was really familiar. I had sold a gun to someone with the same name the day before. But it wasn’t him.”

“I let him completely fill out the form and compared it to what I had from the day before, and asked him how he liked the gun he purchased yesterday. That took him by surprise, and I knew what was happening. I called the code words to have management call the police without suspicion. The man was using his father’s identification. When the police arrived, fear washed over his face. This guy already had a violent record, and is now in prison for lying on federal documents, violent felon in possession of a handgun, and identity theft. The next day, the police came back and told me that he admitted to trying to buy the gun to kill his wife and son. I had a little bit of a breakdown at work and sat in the breakroom for about an hour just thinking about the incident.”

A common retail scam is claiming they didn’t get enough change. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Stiffing teenagers for spare change

This next story from BakingJingo tells you that if you’re trying to trick a cashier, don’t do it in the early morning when the drawers are perfectly balanced. “I worked at a Jewel many, many years ago. A man comes through with two 24 packs of Pepsi. It’s opening shift, so at that time we count our registers and confirm they’ve got the correct. We didn’t carry too much cash, and we all know how much is in the drawer to start the day. He ends up paying with a $100 bill for these sodas. I counted back his change with mostly 20’s, and I don’t know how he did this, but he shuffled them in his hand, and showed me that I supposedly short changed him. Now, I knew immediately that he was lying.”

“I told him that I would call a manager over and have them double check the register. The manager came, counted down the register and explained that the drawer was balanced, which means I didn’t short change anybody. But, if for whatever reason the drawer turned up $20 over at night, we could give him a call. The manager tries to take his info down and he asks for his name and the guy thinks about it and says ‘Steve… Bush!’ He left. We never called him. Even if we had – Steve Bush doesn’t exist.”