Work can be such a drag. Clock in. Do the same thing you do everyday. Clock out. Repeat.
But it's those rare moments when something completely wild happens that make the long days seem almost worth it. Here, retail employees retell legends about "the incident" that spiced up their workday and serve as warnings to new employees about the unpredictability of retail.
All content has been edited for clarity.
"When I was in college, I worked for a pharmacy/store in a small town. One of our regulars would stop in at the same time every day to buy lottery tickets to scratch off on his walk to see his mother who lived in a nearby nursing home. After years of this routine my co-workers and I got to know him very well... we thought.
It turns out that after visiting with his mother for a few hours, he would leave just in time to stop by a local middle school and watch children get on the bus from the bushes in a close wooded area. The authorities were secretly investigating him, waiting for the right moment to make their move and the day they did is burned in my brain forever.
On his walk to the store, he must have noticed the police were trailing him. When he entered the front door, he walked straight past the register, which I found to be odd because we always exchanged pleasantries before he headed to grab his Cherry Coke. Moments later, three cops enter the store. Two of them split off in separate directions to canvas the aisles while the other officer approached the register. He asked me if I had seen an older man in a yellow jacket walk in shortly before they had.
'Who, Bill? He headed toward the pharmacy,' I said, utterly confused. The officer in front of me spoke into a speaker on his shoulder: 'Pharmacy.'
Bill was the neighborhood nice guy who played cards with his mom everyday. What could they want with him? As the officer walked away I heard from his radio, 'He's in the bathroom. I'm going in.'
Yelling and radio beeping came from the back of the store as whispering began among other shoppers. They took Bill away in hand cuffs minutes later. My manager came and took me to our break room. He told me I would need to give a statement of what I saw that afternoon. Still in the dark, I asked what had happened.
Bill had gone to the bathroom in a last chance effort to ditch his belongings. In the ceiling tiles they found his backpack. In the bag were magazines with pictures of children cut out and pasted to blank sheets of paper, super glue, zip ties, and thin rope. In the trash can they found duct tape and a hunting knife. When my manager told me all of this, I flashed back to his face as they brought him out of the store. He looked at me with a stare of sadness, as if he wanted me to feel sorry for him.
"I worked in a grocery store. One day, in the seafood department, a customer started rooting around in the live lobster tank. The clerk stopped him, saying, 'Sir, for safety reasons, you can't go into the lobster tank.' He tried to argue that he 'was from down East, and grew up handling lobsters.' She persisted, and briefly turned her back on him to put on gloves. He apparently got annoyed by this and threw a live lobster at her head.
The police were called. He was charged with assault, given six months' probation, and banned from the store."
"One time at a Chick Fil A, we had a daddy-daughter date night, where father and daughters came and had a nice meal.
Well one random dude was eating with his mom there until 2 very large gentlemen came and and pulled out weapons. Apparently the dude hadn't paid his bail, and these 2 bounty hunters went after him. They began screaming and waving their automatics around and dragged him through the store (they came from the back door and out the front), scaring the ever-loving nuggets out of several dozen young girls."
"Our grocery store was about to close, so one of our cashiers bought the last whole cooked chicken we had. We kept it in the warmer oven so that it would stay warm, and put a big sticker that said 'SOLD' on it so that no one would mistakenly grab it.
Last customer of the day decided to ignore the sticker, and took it anyways. Our cashier tried to explain to her that it had already been purchased and was in the warmer to keep it warm. The customer was not happy about this, so she threw the entire chicken at the cashier's head and stormed out.
This is a story that we tell all our new cashiers when they ask about crazy customer stories."
"This happened at the mall I used to work at during the winter. A coworker and I took the trash out after closing. After throwing the bags in the dumpster, we hit the button to turn on the compactor. We began to walk away when we heard this scream.
It took a minute to figure out where it was coming from since the loud trash compactor was still running. Finally, we figured out it came from the dumpster and I hit the emergency switch to turn the compactor off. My coworker promptly called 911.
When they arrived they discovered a homeless man who had chosen that dumpster to sleep in that night. He survived but suffered two broken legs. A police officer told me that that was the second time that same man had been crushed by a trash compactor. The first time was a different dumpster at the same mall.
From then on, anyone taking trash out at the mall was told to be aware of the possibility of someone sleeping inside."
"I worked at an electronics retailer for years. We had a woman come in once, and talk to me. She said she had a good experience and wanted the names of the people she had worked with. Gives me some vague descriptions 'manager with glasses,' 'female trainer' etc. I give her the names, she thanks me and leaves.
A few hours later, there's an argument happening in the back of the store. This woman is back, and she's arguing with my manager. She's claiming that one of our employees dropped her phone while putting on a screen protector and cracked the glass. She says our manager told her she could come back after backing up her phone and we'd replace it for free. This is...unlikely, so my manager is probing further. I realize the names she gave him were the people she had asked me about earlier. And here's the thing. We had one female trainer at the time (this is who she's complaining broke her phone).
This trainer was GREAT at what she did. Awesome employee. Also, largely paralyzed from the neck down. She had limited use of her hands, but they were curled under and could barely grip. This woman is insisting that 'Sonia' helped her. We all know this is false, since Sonia is not physically capable of even trying. So we bring Sonia out. Sonia asks how she could have even tried to help. This woman, instead of walking away with some shred of dignity, doubles down, looks Sonia straight in the eyes and says, 'It was a miracle, God must have healed her.'
She was asked very strongly to leave and not come back."
"I worked for a thrift store for a few years. One incident in particular still sticks in my head.
Obviously, as it was a thrift store, theft happens. The entire staff is trained to not directly accuse anyone of theft, or really do anything about it but rather to follow the accused around the store to make them so uncomfortable they leave. On this particular night, I was being trained in closing the store (I was a manager in the back end, but it was required that we all learn how to run the whole store) and had had a relatively easy night.
About an hour to close, a rather sketchy looking couple with a young baby comes in. Nothing really seems amiss at all until after they leave and one of my fellow managers mentions to me that they left behind a purse in the fitting room. I take the purse into the office to hold it until they come back, only to notice while the thing is wide open that it is stuffed to the brim with merchandise they had intended on stealing. Still, not a huge deal as they have left.
Flash-forward about a half hour, when we have locked the doors and are counting tills to end the night. Big sketchy boyfriend is banging on the doors, demanding we let him in. We inform him nicely that the store is closed and he can come back in the morning for her purse, minus the stolen items. He then spends a half hour trying to break down the door and shatter windows, yelling that he is going to violate and gut every female staff member in the store. We end up having to call the police, who arrive in time to watch him stumble out of the bar across the parking lot, get in his car, and tear away.
This story is now used in my old store as an example of why they aren't supposed to engage shoplifters and was the most terrifying experience I ever had working in retail."
"Years ago, I helped out a cheap retail store with their security. In downtime I would help stock, but it was also my job to make sure kids weren't messing with party supplies, people weren't shoplifting, etc.
Part of my job at close was to check all the shelves and under them in case boxes were misplaced or stock went missing (customers would hoard a basket of things to look like they were shopping then ditch the basket under the shelf and leave with a single object, so it was necessary).
I was visiting family for a few days and received a text from my manager asking when I was coming back. I thought it was weird, but I thought nothing of it as I'd be back the next day.
When I arrived back at work they showed me the security tapes. A customer with a bag containing nothing but a sledgehammer walked into the store and slid himself under the shelf a few hours before close and then just waited perfectly still for close.
The staff member taking over my close duties did not do a shelf check that day. If I had not decided to take those few days off (and it WAS a struggle to decide as I was on minimum wage and needed money) I would have found myself face to face with a creeper and a sledgehammer.
He lay in wait, surprisingly (but thankfully). As the manager stood at the till counting all the cash openly at the counter (the store was locked at the front by now), he continued to just lay there.
The employees all left the store from the back warehouse entrance and that's when the guy came out. He bust down the office door where the safe was kept and then tried to use his sledgehammer to literally knock the safe off the bolts in the floor.
By this time the security alarms had been set off from him breaking the door, and my boss was coming back to the office through the back because he forgot something when they all locked up that day. He came face to face with the man who chased him back outside. My boss hid in some dumpsters and the man ran into the carpark and into the distance with his sledgehammer in tow.
After his entire 3 or so hour stakeout and operation, he left with nothing except, I'm assuming, sore arms.
If you're reading this - Thank you for choosing a day I wasn't working. Let's keep it that way. Sledgehammer man, wherever you are... let's not meet."
"I worked retail at a really popular computer and phone company. Some guy comes in peeved that his phone isn't working and gets told that his phone is out of warranty.
An out-of-warranty phone can still be fixed of course, but this guy didn't wait around to hear that. He storms out of the store, slams his fist down on a table near the door, causing everyone to turn and look at him. He then pushes the HUGE, completely glass door open so hard that it hit the door stop behind it, and just completely shatters. It was really really thick and just kind of folded up and fell on the ground outside.
He stopped walking, turns to see what he'd done, and then just walked off. Luckily no one was hurt. I heard the door cost $12,000 to replace. Insanity. We started using that guy for a scale of how angry customers were. 'Manager, can you help? This customer is Door Shattering Guy angry.'"
"There was an employee, let's call him Bob, who had retired from a good job and was working with us as a way to fill his days. He was basically the loving grandpa to everyone in the store, employees and customers. One day this customer who was known for getting royally peeved at us for no reason came in and took it all out on Bob.
Bob had a heart attack and died on the spot."
"This happened at my last theatre. I wasn't actually there, but I heard enough about it.
One afternoon a full SWAT team bursts into the theater, weapons drawn, and immediately evacuates the entire building. The management at the time was baffled because they had NO idea what was going on. Everyone starts filing outside and one of the customers wanders over to the staff to ask them what's happening.
Suddenly one member of the SWAT team flies out of nowhere and demands the dude get on the ground. He starts arguing with him and the dude drops him with a taser and cuffs him. The staff are floored.
Finally, after some digging, the story comes out about what happened. A woman called 911 and reported shots fired because she had heard the audio of shooting through the door of one of the auditoriums. She didn't bother to tell any one, she just pulled out her phone and dialed 911. Because this was right after the Aurora shooting, the full SWAT team was dispatched.
The dude who was tased? The woman pointed him out as 'the suspicious dude' who she thought had the weapon."
"I work at Barnes & Noble, and we have what we call 'The Volleyball Incident.'
So we have a typical 7-foot-high shelf with a bunch of 8" by 10" loose leaf college ruled notebooks for back to school. They are bendy, very lightweight, and sometimes they fall off, as their front covers bend from standing upright too long.
One day, one fell on the head of an older teenager. It barely glanced off her head and then it hit the floor. No employee actually saw it happen - she came up and said it had. She seemed fine, we asked if she was injured, she said no, she left, and that was that.
An entire YEAR later, an army of our lawyers troops in, measures the shelf and a typical loose leaf notebook, and deposes the entire store. The girl sued us for a head injury that has apparently affected her 'Olympic Volleyball career,' costing her her ability to go the Olympics. A couple months later, I was aghast to learn we had settled for an undisclosed amount."
"I worked at a small store in a not-so-great area. Products were stored in the dirt floor basement and you'd have to go down with a flashlight and really bend because the ceiling was only five feet tall. Creepy enough.
But one day a female coworker comes running up and is screaming about a rat she saw. There was major construction going on around us so we expected some extra vermin. But she said it was pretty big, so they go get Julio, the new, quiet, part-time employee.
The situation is explained and he grabs a baseball bat and garbage bag. He descends to the basement and we all go back to work. Minutes later we hear a few loud bangs followed by cursing. Everyone freezes as we hear footsteps coming up the basement stairs. Julio has a smile on his face and a bag in his hand containing a rat the size of a Maine Coon cat.
Needless to say, we never forgot about Julio and the giant rat."
"My husband works at a pet store. There is a lovable parrot there that the staff all interacts with and he is super sweet.
It was a very busy evening so all of his co-workers were dealing with things, and he was at the till, so he did not notice anything right away either. The parrot is gone.
Someone shoved a $3,500 African Gray parrot into their coat (later, when they reviewed the video tape, they saw this) and walked out the front door. Everyone was freaking out a little, as we were having a cold snap and they were worried about the poor thing's well-being.
About an hour goes by, and the guy's girlfriend came in and brought the parrot back saying that she felt guilty and that he was having a rough go lately. I have no idea if any charges were still pressed and what have you, but what the heck, people. Don't steal live animals."
"There was a guy that came in one night and was just bombed. He could barely stand up. He kept knocking displays over - luckily didn't break anything. He would have random conversations with everyone near him.
Then he approached me as I was helping another customer, started telling me how pretty I was, asking if I was I married etc. I didn't really engage other than a 'thanks,' since I was busy. Well. He didn't like that and started getting loud, asking why I wouldn't answer him. Then he started yelling that he was going to bend me over the counter and take me against my will. I told the manager to call security.
He walked away when he heard that, but came over a few seconds later and was like, '...I wet myself.' Sure enough, he had. He was kicked out and one of the associates walked me to my car that night just in case."
"I'm not in retail anymore, but I used to work at Future Shop (basically Best Buy with employees that had to know what they were talking about). Over the holidays we needed to hire on a few extra people. We hired this young guy who wanted to take the initiative to clean ALL of the laptop monitors, which would have been great, except he used the industrial cleaner and if you know anything about computer monitors, it's that a lot of cleaners will completely ruin the screens. So he wrecked a lot of stuff.
Also Best Buy ended up buying the company so I lost my job suddenly. It was great."
"I don't work there anymore, but everyone I knew at this store who had worked there for more than 5 years knew this story.
There was a ledge with a 4-5 foot drop to the loading bays, clearly marked, and usually had a large roll-up door protecting it. Well, on hot summer days, my supervisor liked to open the door to get some air circulating through the stockroom so it wasn't just an oven. Well, this guy was driving around on the forklift, moving pallets and organizing the stockroom, when he discovered that he had backed up a little too far over the edge of the loading bay, and the forklift was going down.
Instead of staying inside the forklift, he unbuckled his seat belt and tried to jump out as it was falling. As you can probably imagine, it didn't go as well as planned. The forklift fell on his arm, crushing it. It had to be amputated, he was fired for failing to follow proper forklift tipping procedures and endangering people on the job, and no one at the store really heard from him ever again.
Lesson? Don't jump from a falling or tilting forklift. Assume it will crush you or part of you. Always wear your seatbelt, and just ride it out."
"I work at a One Stop retail store in a small town. This happened several years before my time, but it's still the event that happened.
So one day a weird device with tape and a blinking light is found behind a vending machine in the break room. Of course everyone instantly assumes it's a bomb, and the store is evacuated.
All the employees have to wait in one section of the parking in lot on a cold January day waiting for the bomb squad to get there. However, because it's a small town in the hills, the nearest squad is about two hours away.
So after a couple of hours of waiting, the store manager decides to go and have a look at this 'device;' Turns out it wasn't a device, it was just a home-built phone charger an employee had built.
The manager knew this because he was one of the ones that was checking out said phone charger when it was shown off just a few days prior."
"When I worked at a soap store, there were two incidents.
The first was an ongoing thing that was apparently established long before I got there, lasted as long as I worked there, and was still going strong after I left. Our manager was a young, attractive woman and she had attracted the attention of a man who was old enough to be her father. He would come and hang out at the store from open to close, would bring us all food, and would buy hundreds of dollars of products every time he came - which was why she kept him around.
She wouldn't necessarily flirt with him but she was definitely attentive to him, would sit and talk to him unless the store was super busy, and just generally teased him enough to keep him coming back for more. I remember being more shocked when he wasn't there. I have no clue who he was or what he did or what his story was, but I just know that he was incredibly creepy to talk to on your own. Props to the manager for keeping up with it for so long.
We also had people eat the products all the time, but that was partially our fault. We were told to hype the fact that the products are technically food grade and so ARE edible (to enhance their appeal, particularly to parents), and they were displayed in a way that was supposed to be reminiscent of food displays, per company policy. But still. Even if it looks like food, who just goes up and takes a bite out of something?"
"In high school I worked for Blockbuster. It was a Saturday morning and the manager decided to order pizza because it was so slow. Having just got my drivers license, I volunteered to go pick it up. I was gone for maybe 15 minutes and returned to find a car smashed through the window and into the video game section.
The driver was a girl from my school who hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes."
"At the old grocery store where I worked, before it closed down, one of the guys who get carts found a purse about the size of a cat. We opened it hoping to find some ID for whoever owned it. Lo and behold, another purse was inside. We opened that purse, and another smaller one inside. After opening 7 purses we found a small plastic bag full of illegal substances. Police were called immediately. No ID in the purse whatsoever."