A retail manager named Kaelin (@whatsinthekoolaid) went viral on TikTok with a recent clip that’s accrued over 917,000 views as of Friday. It is one of several clips she’s posted that detail her issues with retailer shoppers. In it, she detailed the infuriating interaction she had with a customer that ultimately influenced her to quit.
She says these types of interactions are the result of corporate American structures designed to have workers bear the brunt of consumer outrage that should be directed at the company.
The TikToker acts out her interaction with the customer, playing both the cashier she manages (and witnessed this happen to), herself (the manager), and the “rude” customer. The problems begin right from the outset when the customer slams a potted plant down in front of the cashier and demands she have it returned. She lets the cashier know ahead of time that she doesn’t have a receipt.
The cashier tells her that it’s no issue if she doesn’t have her original receipt to prove she bought it and that the customer’s driver’s license can be used instead. The customer isn’t too happy about that either and demands to know why the license is needed.
The cashier explains that the computer asks for the customer’s consent for their license to be scanned and that it’s used to track the customer’s return history. Presumably, serial returners might get flagged at a store as they might be constantly heading into stores to return items they never purchased in the first place.
The customer agrees and the cashier processes her return but informs the woman that because she doesn’t have her receipt she can’t refund her sales tax. While this may seem like a strange rule, there are laws that state businesses aren’t entitled to give sales tax back. In Connecticut, items returned 90 days after the purchase date “or without a receipt” means the customer is out of luck, according to the state’s General Assembly.
Upon hearing she is going to be shorted 47 cents, the customer starts freaking out stating that she “knew this was going to be a problem” and that she’s not going to walk out of the store without the 47 cents.
Kaelin then addresses the audience at this point in the video, stating that after hearing the customer flip out on the cashier, she decides to interject. The shopper rants about sales tax withholding as being against the law, to which Kaelin repeats the law: Anything after 90 days, and legally the business isn’t entitled to refund the sales tax to the shopper.
The customer makes fun of the store for being so pedantic over “just 47 cents,” while looking around at other customers to try and garner support. Kaelin (as the manager) then gets into a back-and-forth with the shopper who says that other employees in other stores refund her all of her money.
Kaelin says she suggests that since this happens to the customer so often she should just bring her receipt to avoid this drama in the future. The customer continues to rant, wanting to know Kaelin’s last name along with the name and contact information of the district manager. Kaelin passes a customer care phone number along with her hastily scribbled name on a post-it note. She walks away because, as she says, the cashier was more than “equipped” to handle the raging customer’s tantrum.
sorry for the yelling (and the rant at the end)♬ original sound – kaelin
With her back turned to the cashier and assisting other customers, Kaelin hears the customer arguing with the cashier about getting Kaelin’s last name. This soon devolved into a ping-pong game of the cashier being sent over to Kaelin stating the customer wanted her last name, Kaelin denying it, the cashier coming back and saying that the patron really wanted it, etc.
According to the shopper, she felt “unsafe” because the store had her ID, home, and address information and she just wanted to “level the playing field” by knowing Kaelin’s last name.
Ultimately, the customer asked for the cashier’s first and last name, who scribbled it down for her and the woman went her merry way. Kaelin explains why she was so reluctant to share her last name (even though it was on her name tag): She’s had “stalker” customers in the past who have followed her from job to job and would call up Kaelin’s managers to complain about her.
Toward the later part of Kaelin’s story, she highlights how the incident is a major problem in corporate America. She says that angry customers are only half of the problem and that companies intentionally design policies to get shoppers angry, which leaves employees to clean up emotional messes created as a result.
She says that “the company knows” employees who are working for “minimum f*cking wage” behind the register are the emotional kevlar for the company. As a result, employees are forced to soak up all of the anger by the shoppers for the corporate policies they can’t stand.
“The company does not care if you are abused by the customers,” Kaelin says.
Kaelin ends her video with a reminder for retail employees that at “every chance” they get in an interaction with an angry shopper, they should remind them it’s the company and the policies they’re mad at—not the worker.
Although Kaelin doesn’t indicate which store she works for, one TikToker had an idea. “Oh you’re def homegoods/tj maxx/marshalls right because this is me daily,” they wrote, which was a sentiment someone else echoed: “I’m so convinced you worked at tjmaxx.”
Another person shared their own return practices. “I’m so anxiety-ridden, if I lose the receipt, the item is mine forever,” they wrote. “No exceptions so far. I pretend that no receipt means no return.”
Others, like this TikTok user, were shocked that companies expected workers to put both their first and last names on name tags. “The last name on the name tag is absolutely unhinged, I’ve ONLY ever had my first name on a nametag???” they said.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Kaelin via TikTok comment for further information.