I work at a retail store. I trust the managers a lot. Something happened the other day which I've decided I am going to raise with them. A supervisor told me that if I need to do another refund because of a mistake, I will be written up. What happened was I was working on a till and someone left an item they had purchased. I thought it belonged to the next customer and charged them for it. I try to guard against this by saying "I have scanned 10 items, is this everything?" but still this mistake happened. With COVID we're letting customers do their own bags. Also, there's a big screen facing the customer with a list of scanned items.

When the supervisor told me if it happened again I would be written up, he said it in front of many customers (and coworkers) and one of the customers I know from outside of work.

Also I'm relatively new so I find this rather harsh even if I wasn't. I've had to get a refund 3 or 4 times since I started a month ago, but the other times were caused by something different.

I had been expecting to work with the managers who hired me, but they are usually not in the store. I would like to send them the email of

Hi Manager A and Assistant B:

Something happened yesterday I would like to bring to your attention. Something was scanned in incorrectly and I had to get a supervisor (Bob) to do a refund. In front of the customers and colleagues, Bob said if it happened again I would be written up. I have several issues with this. First, in the hiring process getting "written up" was never discussed and I was led to believe this place was forward thinking with "level headed individuals". Second, I think it's the right thing to do to refund a customer if they mistakenly purchased an item, I made a mistake, or a machine malfunctioned (which often happens). Penalizing an employee for fixing a mistake seems counterproductive. Also, Bob said I would get written up next time in front of lots of people, one of which happened to be my friend from outside of work. Assuming he signed a confidentiality agreement, this would have been a breach.

Please confirm you have received this e-mail.


I'm afraid this comes off as overly demanding. Also, there's been other issues. Should I include anything else on, or is this enough? For example I notice everyone's trying to boss each other around and get into each other's work.

For example, a little while later, the security guard brought my some items and told me to include them in the next persons order. I did so. Then the person on the next till saw what I did, assumed it was a mistake, and called the supervisor to do a refund.

After the store cooled down I had a private talk with Bob. I felt we were both honest but didn't agree. He basically said his job, as defined by management, is to write people up when they keep making mistakes.

I don't mean to be defensive but I'm not sure if including the item is "my fault". I don't like playing the blame game but sometimes I think it's important to be realistic. If someone put an item in the wrong basket and the other customer paid for it, I don't think this would be the cashiers fault.

EDIT: I'm a bit surprised from some of the answers. No this isn't my first job, though it's been awhile since I've worked in retail. A lot of answers seem to assume management isn't interested in making things better. I don't believe this to be the case. According to here, it's the right thing to do to dispute a write up you don't think is objectively fair, but I guess this only should be done when the write up is finalized.

  • 6
    @TymoteuszPaul so basically he's told me if he decides I made a mistake again I'll be written up. I'm acting preemptively. Also I think the management would care because it encourages a culture of hiding mistakes which is bad for everyone, including the customers.
    – Yuftre111
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 10:38
  • 2
    What was it I said that made it sound like this was my fault? I'm curious why everyone here is thinking this. If a customer puts the wrong item in the basket, this clearly wouldn't be the clerks fault...
    – Yuftre111
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 20:05
  • 3
    So if you have to make a refund your supervisor considers it your fault? Huh, that sound ridiculous. What if someone buys something, and then decides they don't need it and asks for a refund? Unless the store features a no-refund policy, that is total nonsense. I would just say the customer changed their mind.
    – Wais Kamal
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 20:50
  • 3
    @scaaahu so you consider a customer forgetting something in the store the fault of the store employee? (to reiterate, given COVID protocols customers must put their items in the bags themselves)
    – Yuftre111
    Commented Aug 30, 2020 at 8:13
  • 2
    @Yuftre111 Speaking as a cashier who shouts "sir/madam, you forgot something at least once per shift", it kinda is. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 14:44

6 Answers 6


This is very tricky to offer advice on. On the one hand you want to protect yourself and show that you can't be bullied. On the other hand there are several ways that a complaint can go wrong. Managers aren't omniscient and don't always have the power to protect you, even if they chose to believe a new and junior employee over a supervisor.

There is no correct answer.

Here is what I would do...

Make a record of each incident. This should include the threats but ideally you should also record each incident where your supervisor has criticised you for making a mistake. Include as much detail as possible including date, time, the date you made the record, and any witnesses who may have been present. Don't record any details you aren't sure about or have forgotten. Try to record this information at the end of every working day, when you get home.

Keep this information private. Keep the existence of the information private.

The purpose of keeping a record is to demonstrate that the supervisor has treated you unreasonably if (and only if) they choose to escalate the situation. A contemporary written record is a very strong piece of evidence which is much more likely to be trusted than an oral recollection of past events. This may or may not help your case, depending on the manager and facts of the case, but is a non-confrontational way to protect yourself if you feel under threat.

  • 2
    Just to add one thing: there is a very easy and reliable way to date the record you've created - email it to yourself. Especially when using popular services like gmail this will provide very much untinkerable proof of date for when the record was created.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 11:09

Complaining about this will come out very negatively for you.

Here’s the deal. It’s a retail job. Retail jobs can be filled by the next warm body to come along. They don’t expect you to be brilliant or innovative - but they do expect you to not make mistakes and cost them time and money. You will be written up for more of these kinds of mistakes and that’s how they manage their business. In fact, you've only gotten a warning about being written up in the future after multiple errors.

Complaining over your supervisors head will certainly get their manager to come down on them. But it won’t be for “you are treating Yuftre111 mean,” it’ll be for “clearly not explaining to your direct reports the importance of care and why it is vital to our business to guard against mistakes and why it can get you written up.” They will use your name in concert with this, and your supervisor will get rid of you at the earliest opportunity.

“Keeping records” and whatnot is advice for other jobs, not this kind of job. No one cares or will care. Retail jobs judge you against arbitrary targets on speed, mistakes, customer complaints, sick days - and they don’t care about the details because they don’t need to. You still replace someone who makes 10 mistakes a month with great excuses with someone who makes 2 mistakes a month because excuses don’t run a business. Anyone who has actually worked retail will tell you the same. It’s brutal.

Instead get your act together. Ask your supervisor what procedures to use to avoid types of errors if you don’t know. If he is somehow wrong about what you should be written up for, then either it won’t happen or won’t stand. But it likely is, because that’s the retail world, right or wrong.


Retail jobs are very high stress and difficult, back breaking work.

Supervisors often receive little to no training. Nearly everyone who has worked in retail has similar stories.

If you're getting corrected, it's going to be in public with people around unless you are going through a very VERY slow period.

Do not involve anyone else for the following reasons.

  1. Going over people's heads is bad form. You will lose any respect from the supervisor, as well as the managers.
  2. This is fairly standard for retail, which is why people hate retail. You are not being treated any differently than most anyone else.
  3. You made mistakes. That is the bottom line. Management is not going to want to hear about anything else. You cost the company money in the time it took to fix your error.
  4. Write-ups are a dime a dozen in retail. I have gotten them, most people do. The THREAT of a write up is nothing to worry about.

Your best defense is to stop making mistakes, and go a bit above and beyond. Excellence brings lenience.


Don't send that email. Most of it is complete nonsense. Getting written up wasn't mentioned in the interview? So what? Do you really think that means you can't be written up, or that level-headed managers don't write up their reports? Is it safe to assume this is your first job? Getting written up for not performing your job properly, especially with warnings, is completely normal. No manager is going to get in trouble for this, and no one is going to warn you it could happen during an interview.

Then you say customers should be refunded if someone makes a mistake which results in a purchase the customer didn't want to make. Of course they should, your manager isn't saying the customer shouldn't be refunded. They're saying you should stop making mistakes which result in refunds. Why are you arguing against a point no one is making?

Your last complaint about being publicly reprimanded is actually valid IMO. Although it's not all that strange for retail managers to do such a thing, it is unprofessional and unproductive. Whether or not higher management will do anything about it is another matter, especially if it's at the bottom of an email like your suggested one does. And even if upper management does come down on your supervisor, it's likely to make your life harder in the long run. I wouldn't recommend making a stink over it, especially if your performance has been poor and you're a new employee.

I think you're going about this all wrong. Clearly you're making mistakes more often than your manager considers acceptable. Probably most people are able to meet his standards, so complaining they're unfair and you should be allowed to make more mistakes isn't likely to get you far. You're just going to come off as a whiner making excuses, which will do you no favors.

Instead, I suggest you have a private chat with your manager and tell him you'd like his help in avoiding future mistakes. Explain to him what happened and ask what he suggests you do in the future to avoid it. After you get his suggestions on that and listen to them thoughtfully, you can ask him to provide future critical feedback in private. He may or may not agree, but it's far less likely to backfire spectacularly than your email is.

Sometimes managers are unreasonable, especially in retail. They never want to hear why it's not your fault something happened, even if it really isn't. I still remember a conversation I had once that was along these lines:

Manager: Minor bad thing happened, you should have done X to prevent it.

Me: But I did do X.

Manager (exasperated): Then you should have done Y!

Even if you're right (and it's not clear that you even are in this case), there's no benefit to you in arguing about it or escalating it. Your best defense is to be seen as a valuable and cooperative worker overall so they don't have a reason to come after you. Retail workers are seen as expendable, so don't make it easier for them to replace you than to keep you.

I know it sucks, but it's the reality of retail and low-skill labor in general. Some stores and managers are better than others, but it doesn't seem you got lucky. If you need the job and don't have any marketable skills to get a better one, you're probably going to have to suck it up.


This manager of yours sounds like an egotist without a moral compass. Unfortunately, many managers are like that (just the way some people become after gaining power, however slight). In many countries, employment is at-will, and for folks like us working in the trenches, the only real solution is to find employment elsewhere.

You can certainly speak up and send the critique. I once did, reporting unethical conduct of my supervisor, to upper management; I never heard back and nothing happened. Sweeping things under the carpet, I learned, is actually a common and neutral outcome. At worst, whistle blowers are discriminated against indirectly, ostracized, or even let go. So, I'd have the right, realistic expectations before sending the letter.

But perhaps you should also be prepared for some of your own thoughts and emotions should you decide not to go thru with it. I once had a relative who experienced a more serious mistreatment, and kept silent and endured this for many months before finally being able to move on. He later regretted not reporting his supervisor, to the point that he needed therapy sessions afterwards.

Whether or not to speak up - only you can decide, as you know your situation the best, and how strongly you feel about it. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best, and that you'll be a better manager than him/her if one day you decide to take on a leadership role.


The way I read this question is "I've been messing up at my job a lot, it's costing the company money (more on this in a sec), and my boss has reprimanded me. I want to go over my boss's head to upper management to have them tell my boss to stop reprimanding me for messing up. How do I do this?"

Um...that's not quite how it works. The key here is, don't mess up. Attention to detail is important in a retail job. I'm sure you've been a retail customer before in your life (who hasn't?); how would you feel if you were the customer who thought they had bought a shirt and then arrived at home and the shirt wasn't there? Keep in mind, you didn't only make the next customer mad for charging them for an item that wasn't theirs, you also made that customer mad because they asked for a product and didn't get it. That's poor customer service, and it makes your store look bad because they're not doing business properly, which means customers might shop there less, and affects the bottom line.

Now, about that shirt that got returned. Under normal circumstances, when an item is returned, it is checked to see if it was worn or damaged, and then put back on the shelf if it looks good (or sent back to the warehouse for inspection and then shipped out with a future purchase order). Because of Covid, you don't know who has Covid; you might take a return one day from a customer, and then sell that item to someone else, and the first person had Covid and now you've infected the second person. So stores nowadays are not putting returned items back on shelves, which is why many stores have begun "no refunds" or "exchange only" policies to discourage returns, because they're messy and complicated. So even though the return was done immediately, there's probably now some procedure that someone has to do to make sure that item is not infected with Covid and is resellable. That costs money, so you've cost the company money.

So here's the answer: Stop screwing up. Your boss has told you. You're being unprofessional, because you are making the customers upset, you're costing the company money, and you're wasting your boss's time to process these returns. Pay more attention to what you're doing. Here's an idea: After each customer, check your cash station and make sure everything that needs to be there is there, and nothing is missing. It takes 5 seconds, and reduces the number of mistakes you make, and would have solved this one in particular.

As for your boss reprimanding you in public, that was probably uncalled for. But also, unless your store has a break room or something that your boss could have used instead, perhaps it was necessary. After all, it certainly got you riled up enough to come here and make this post, so I guess it worked in that it made you remember what happened, didn't it?

  • 2
    This is a bit too harsh. If I go to a store and forget an item at the register, it never crosses my mind to blame the cashier for it. I also don't get "mad" if the cashier makes a mistake that costs me a couple of minutes.
    – wimi
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 7:15
  • I say that every week when I go shopping and look closely at the receipt, at least once something is wrong (item not there, discount not given, etc.) However, neither I nor anyone else was ever mad for that against the cashier. Nor if I forget something in the store would I blame the cashier. If at all,.I blame the company for putting too much stress onto their people.
    – guest
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 9:25

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