As the weather gets cooler, holiday shopping season heats up. For retail workers, that means hell on earth is fast-approaching: Long days, short nights, and plenty of irritable customers to make the season miserable bright.
But retail employees — especially women — have to deal with much more than demanding patrons in December. Though 38.4% of retail salespeople are women, they make 64.3% less than their male co-workers, according to a study from the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
In addition to being overworked and underpaid, women must navigate a never-ending stream of sexist remarks from customers and all too often, their co-workers.
Revelist spoke to women in retail about their worst experiences with men while on the job:
1. Stephanie, 41, Alabama
"Years ago, when I worked at JCPenney, a male customer reached out and touched my breasts with both hands and said, 'I just wanted to see if the material's soft enough for my wife.'"
2. Anonymous, 32, New York
"I once worked at a maternity store and I had a male customer ask me, in front of his wife in the changing area, if I wanted to join them in a three-way. His wife was VERY pregnant at this point.
I was so young and so thrown off by this creepy dude (they were probably in their late 30s and I was still in college) and I didn’t know what to say. I literally just whispered 'no thank you' and left the area."
3. Monica O'Connor, 24, New York
"No joke, a 60-something-year-old man in assless chaps told me he liked young girls, specifically from 19-23 because they were 'easier to train.' He asked me how old I was, and when I told him 16, he responded 'close enough' and asked me out."
4. Jazzy Sinkoff, 22, New York
"When I was in high school I worked in retail and one of my co-workers called me 'whooty' as in, 'white girl with a booty,' instead of by my actual name.
I was 18 and didn't realize that my co-worker absolutely should not have called me that but I'm pretty sure my managers overheard him and didn't tell him to stop."
5. Kara C., 39, New Jersey
"I was assistant manager at Tommy Hilfiger flagship store in Short Hills, NJ back in 2000.
An impeccably dressed man in a suit came into my store with about 4 shirts under plastic dry cleaner wrap. I could tell they weren't our merchandise.
He showed me slight fraying at the collar and cuffs and demanded I return them. I asked how long had he had the shirts. He said SEVEN YEARS!
I explained that they looked to be in great shape for 7-year-old shirts, showing normal wear and tear, and unfortunately I could not return them due to being purchased elsewhere (and the fact they were 7 YEARS OLD).
I remained calm and repeated myself and even asked if he had the receipt. He said no, then proceeded to remove every shirt from the plastic bag and individual hanger and throw the shirts one by one, in my face while screaming, "YOU WILL NEVER BE ANYTHING. YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A DIRTY GIRL WHO WILL BE STILL WORKING AT TOMMY HILFIGER 10 YEARS FROM NOW!"
6. Liz A., 45, New Jersey
"I used to work at Victoria's Secret while I was in college and nearly every shift some creepy guy would hold up a bra and panties and ask me to model it for him in the fitting room to see if it was 'right' for his girlfriend."
7. Brittany Canovas, 26, New York
"One man decided to give me beauty advice. He said my eyebrows were 'too intense' and I should dye them.
He also said I should throw away my sweater because it was ugly."
8. Jennifer Davenport, 30, Indiana
"The most memorable ones are:
Co-worker a couple years younger than me (I was early-20s) asked if I had ever considered being a stripper because I had the body for it. Somehow in same convo he proceeded to give me details of his sex life. He was let go shortly after.
Once, a male customer called me a bitch and went on a rant that ended with me 'having a stick up my ass' all because I told his girlfriend I'd have to double-check price on a pair of baby shoes. They had switched price labels to try and get them discounted.
It was a group of six adults (four males) and all of them joined in laughing or egging him on. I was by myself in the front of the store."
9. Kelsey Beltz, 23
"While working in an (exclusively) women's boutique, I had a guy come in and repeatedly ask me to 'try on' the skimpiest items of clothing we carried, including bras, to see how it would look on his 'girlfriend.'
I kept repeating that it wasn't store policy for employees to try anything on, but he wouldn't stop until I called my boss to intervene."
10. Anonymous, 25, New York
"I worked at a Victoria's Secret in high school and can remember some pretty shitty things dudes said to me.
A manager of mine once said to me that I was 'clearly wearing the wrong bra' because although I was so young, my breasts 'looked saggy.'
I was 17 and this was in a staff meeting about properly sizing customers."
11. Sarah Malley, 21, Boston
"I was 16 and working in a gift shop around the holidays. An older man came in and asked if I could help him pick out some jewelry as a gift for his daughter, so I did. I went to ring him up and he says, 'So, do you want kids?'
And I start to go, 'I'm a little young for that,' you know, let it go, smile and wait for this interaction to be over, but he cuts me off to say: 'Because you have GREAT child-bearing hips!'
Did I mention I was 16?"
12. Lisa Finn, 52
"When I was 16, a man forced me to kiss him in the backroom of the sneaker store where I worked and said I'd be fired if I didn't. Just a kiss, thank god. He was my manager."
13. Jordan Drafahl, 27, Texas
"It was about three years ago and I was working at Nordstrom.
I had on a blouse that showed no cleavage at all — I actually still have it. Regardless of how revealing my top was is besides the point.
I was chatting with a male co-worker and he interrupted me to say, 'I'm sorry I have to stop you, but I just need to tell you that your breasts look amazing today.' I was caught so off guard I said thank you, and walked away feeling really uncomfortable.
I pulled my manager aside and she said it was awful. I asked her what I needed to do, and she said not to go to HR because she would handle it. This manager and I didn't get along and I stupidly didn't go to HR because she made me feel like I was being dramatic.
She spoke to the co-worker, and I had to suffer through a humiliating apology from the guy. I left the company not long after."
14. Anonymous, 25, New York
As I was walking out of the dressing room a male stopped me and said, 'Oh no, that's not for you. You're way too broad to wear that. She (pointing at co-worker) could wear it, but not you.'
Then came back an hour later to tell me again not to get the sweater, in case I wasn't already insulted enough."
15. Genara Clay, 39, New Hampshire
"I had a male boss tell me 'A monkey could do my job.'
Also, I had a customer — male — tell me I was as wide as I was tall. I was probably a size 9 then. I thought I looked good. I was so upset."
16. Melinda, 33
He thought it was a big joke and he only stopped after I implored him to look it up in a dictionary and he saw the multiple references to prostitutes, lewd woman, slave women, etc.
Another time, I was working in an electronics store that has long rows of cashiers. One of the male cashiers walked down the row one day smacking selective women on the butt with a ruler. I didn't even understand what had just happened to me until I looked around and saw the male co-worker with the ruler walk down the line and smack another woman on the butt."
17. Amanda Hoffman, 24, New York
"[At a car dealership:] 'Baby girl, let me teach you how to drive a stick the right way.'
Working in a man's industry is so very fun."
18. Emily, 23, New York
"I worked at a hardware store and a drunk male customer was buying paint. His wife walked away as I was ringing him up and he said I should come over, have a drink, and help him paint but I should know that it will 'get messy.'"
19. Olivia DeRosa, 27, New Jersey
"I used to work in retail when I was in high school. A middle-aged man once gave me a dollar bill with a B and R on the back, so it said 'BONER.' He handed it to me after he paid and said 'I want you to grab my...'
I was 16 years old."
20. Nikki, 21, Pennsylvania
"I once had a guy LITERALLY reach his arm around my register, press the automatic feed button on the receipt machine, take one of my pens, write down his name and told me it'd be my loss if I didn't 'hit him up.'
I do not miss retail one bit."
21. Autumn Pastor, 23, Pennsylvania
"I was working at a soil company and we regularly deal with truck drivers.
One of my shifts I worked super early by myself and one of the truck drivers came in while I was working. After telling him where he needed to direct his truck, he came around the window and put his finger in one of the holes of my jeans and proceeded to say 'Oh, it looks like you have some holes in your pants.'
This same guy came back the next day and caressed my thigh while saying, 'Oh you these pants don't have holes in them.' They were leggings.
I was 21 and completely disgusted."
22. Alexis Vardakas, 25, New Jersey
"When I was 21 and working as a secretary at a car dealership I would get a bunch of unwarranted comments. It felt like I was in the '50s.
Male co-workers and customers were always flirting with me when they came to the desk, commenting on my outfits/figure, asking if I had a boyfriend or was married. I could be wrong but I feel like that does not really happen to men."
23. Anonymous, 38, Texas
"Years ago, I worked in a big box home improvement store that's no longer in business.
I was stocking shelves at one end of an aisle and a man was at the other end, just standing there, watching me. then he whistled, like you would for a dog. So I ignored him. He whistled twice more, about a minute apart, before finally storming halfway down the aisle and shouting, 'Hey?!'
That's when I finally acknowledged him and asked, 'Can I help you?' and he said, 'Yeah, I've been trying to get your attention for like five minutes,' and I said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I heard whistling, but I thought perhaps someone had lost a dog.' And he just about turned purple and demanded to speak to my manager.
So I picked up the phone and paged a manager, and when he arrived, the man immediately began telling him that I had 'just ignored him' and that's 'terrible customer service' and demanded an apology. My manager then asked me why I didn't acknowledge him, I said, 'he was whistling, and —' my manager cut me off, turned to the man, and said:
'You're right, I'm sorry no one taught you how to ask for assistance.'"