The ‘Staff Only’ Door

I recently returned a pair of sneakers without a receipt. A sign above the store counter read: No Receipt. No Refund! But I persisted. Unsurprisingly, the sales assistant was reluctant to speak to their manager. I’ve worked in retail before, so I couldn’t blame her. But I was not leaving with these hideous sneakers my sister thought would suit me.

I knew what I had to do. I had to pull out the age-old line that sends shivers down the spine of anyone in retail. You know the one: ‘The customer is always right.’ Nobody knows where the fuck this came from or how it became sacrosanct. The sales assistant was furious, but conceded defeat. After a heavy sigh, they stomped towards the ‘Staff Only’ door. Knowing that I was in for a long wait, I made myself comfortable on the stool reserved for trying these hideous sneakers on.

If you haven’t worked in retail before you probably can’t understand why it takes the sales assistant so long to return. What could they be doing back there? What’s going on? Let me explain.

The ‘Staff Only’ door leads to a small passage that links to a rickety bridge connecting to a flight of a thousand stairs. The sales assistant must climb the narrow stairway to reach a giant door that requires 100 correct variations of a password before it can be unlocked. Once inside, the sales assistant carefully runs their hand along the wall to find a hidden button that grants them access to a secret elevator. The elevator doors opens to an isolated platform surrounded by a vista of water. The sales assistant now must swim for roughly 5km before reaching a sandy bay. Crawling to shore, the sales assistant begins their trek through an amazon forest where they’ll be forced to defend themselves against an array of dangerous wildlife. Pending survival, the sales assistant heads towards the center of the forest to discover an open cave. Deep within the cave is a cavity no bigger than a fox hole. The sales assistant defies dimensions to squeeze through to the other side. Here they are met by two burly men wearing rubber gloves. An invasive inspection occurs. Once cleared by security, the sales assistant then crawls through a damp dark tunnel. Tired, sweaty and barely able to stand the sales assistant reaches a stale little office with cream walls. They gently tap on a door that reads: ‘MANAGER’. A voice yells ‘Come in.’ The manager sits slouched on a swivel chair throne. His collection of half empty styrofoam coffee cups clutter a cheap plywood desk. The remnants of a Subway sandwich sit beside his Dell computer. The sales assistant gulps: ‘I have a customer out there who wants to return some sneakers without a receipt.’ The manger spins around and proclaims: ‘No receipt. No refund! You know the drill.’ The sales assistant begins their long journey back to the store.

It’s been approximately 8 minutes since the sales assistant first left me standing there. A long a time to keep a customer waiting, sure. But knowing what the sales assistant’s just been through I’m actually surprised they’re back so soon.

‘Well?” I asked, what did the manager say? The sales assistant wiped the sweat from her brow. ‘Sorry, we don’t refund without a receipt.’

I didn’t want to do it, but I did. ‘Can you ask them if they’ll do an exchange?’ The sales assistant now dead in the eyes, says ‘I’ll check,’ and slunks back towards the ‘Staff Only’ door. I’m prepared to wait.

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